Southern Magnolia Tree help

Asked August 11, 2020, 9:14 AM EDT

Hi there! I have a southern magnolia and the top of it is dead. I’m afraid to trim it back. There were very few new leaves on it earlier this spring and the others were dead. I read somewhere to fertilize it and made sure it was getting adequate water & then it got really beautiful again at the bottom. It has been planted for 4 or so years and flowered the last 2 years. I’ll include a few pictures for reference. Please let me know the best way to handle this tree!! Thank you in advance. There are 2 photos. The one with less leaves was in late May, then fertilized and the photo with more leaves in from August. So, do I leave it alone or trim the dead parts? I just don’t want to kill the tree. Thanks for any help! Katie Reeves

Bracken County Kentucky

1 Response

Hi Katie,
Unfortunately, the tree is not going to make it. With the top dead, or what is call crown die back, something has caused the tree to die. There could be a disease that has infected the tree, but the healthy suckers that are coming out at the bottom do not appear to be affected. Without on site inspection, it is hard to say what the cause was. If you replace it, here a few things to keep in mind.
Do not plant back in the same hole
Be sure and remove the burlap and wire from a balled tree before planting and do not plant the tree any deeper than it was at the nursery. Do not pile mulch above the soil line (nursery planting depth). Dig a planting hole in the shape of a bowl, to allow the roots to go outward, do not plant in vertical hole, tends to hold water. Be sure and keep string trimmers away from tree. If the bark is removed around the tree, it will die. If you have any further questions, please let me know.