Magnolia - little gem Magnolia tree health

Asked June 18, 2018, 2:52 PM EDT

Hello, In NW, Washington, DC , my building had 4 little gem magnolias planted in Oct. 2017. They didn't look too good when they were planted; they look worse now. Bare branches, darker than normal mottled colored bark (images4 and 5). They are planted in a bedding circle surrounded by a driveway which faces south. Can you tell me what might be the issue? Images attached... Thank you in advance for any help!

District of Columbia County District of Columbia

1 Response

Many broadleaf evergreens, including magnolias, suffered winter damage this year. Reports of this problem have been widespread. In addition, you mentioned that the plants did not look too good when they were installed last fall. It takes time (1-2) years for newly installed trees to establish a good root system and they need regular watering during this time period. Our area was in a drought last fall, and then we had some extremely cold weather in the winter. When the ground is frozen, evergreen plants can't take up moisture to replace what is being lost from their leaves. This can result in a drying and scorched leaves. Couple that with a root system that was not well-established yet, and the trees can't take up the water and nutrients they need. All that said, we do see some healthy green growth and flowers on these trees. Don't give up on them. Make sure they are getting watered regularly when we have dry periods.

Adrian Higgins of The Washington Post wrote an article last month about what a tough winter it was for Southern magnolias in our area. His advice: don't give up on them. You may see them recover in time.