Magnolia tree is dying? Brown leaves falling

Asked May 17, 2018, 6:31 AM EDT

Our beautiful big Magnolia tree looks like it is dying with many brown leaves falling off. I don’t know if it’s a disease, insects or what. Any suggestions would be appreciated. I’ll try to go to a nursery and see what they suggest.

Howard County Maryland magnolia winter damage tree

4 Responses

This looks like winter damage on the magnolia. Many broadleaf evergreens were subject to this due to our cold winter, fluctuating temperatures and dry periods. Dry soil in winter is tough on plants--especially on evergreens, and broad-leaved evergreens most of all. That’s because evergreens continue to lose moisture through leaves and needles all winter, then suffer when they can’t replace this moisture from dry frozen soil. Don’t let your evergreens enter winter in dry soil.

All you can do is wait for new growth as the weather warms up this spring. If the leaf buds were not damaged, new leaves will develop and the old ones will drop off. Be patient. Give them plenty of time to be sure they are dead before pruning. One test: scrape a bit of bark and look for green underneath, a sign of life. If it does not produce new growth, the top will be bare.
You can send us additional photos if you notice more symptoms.
Here is more information on winter damage https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/winter-damage-trees-and-shrubs

mh

Thank you for the response. In the ten years we have been here we have never seen anything like this on the tree and thought there was some disease. I estimate 1/3 of the leaves are all damaged and brown. Waiting for these to fall off and be replaced could take some time? Would it help to prune the branches where we can see every leaf looks dead, allowing the remaining branches with green leaves to do better? Please see new pictures, a quick call would also be appreciated. 978 987-6527 Thank you,
Joe

Thank you for the response. In the ten years we have been here we have never seen anything like this on the tree and thought there was some disease. I estimate 1/3 of the leaves are all damaged and brown. Waiting for these to fall off and be replaced could take some time? Would it help to prune the branches where we can see every leaf looks dead, allowing the remaining branches with green leaves to do better? Please see new pictures, a quick call would also be appreciated. 978 987-6527 Thank you,
Joe

No, we wouldn't suggest pruning until a new flush of growth is evident, or you may be pruning out live branches.
Once branches are growing well, you will be able to see what is dead, and any dead branches can be pruned.

cm