Magnolia Care/They Shed Leaves in May, Lots of Leaves

Photo Credit: Randy Lemmon

If your Magnolia is shedding leaves - DON'T PANIC!

For the record, I have an intense Love/Hate Relationship with Magnolias.  I’ve never met a Magnolia tree over 20 years old I didn’t just love, and I’ve never met a Magnolia tree under 20 years old I didn’t just hate.  I love their big leaves but hate how they’re a struggle to compost.

Now, when I get about a dozen or more of the same exact question (via email, Facebook and on the radio show) in a span of about 48 hours, I know it’s time for a tip sheet for these email blasts/blogs.
Here’s a version of that question that started rolling in the first of May, like they do each and every year.

“Randy, my Magnolia tree is dropping brown leaves like crazy. What’s going on? What can I do to fix it?”

Let’s start with the best news of all; this is completely normal for Magnolia trees at this time of the year. And I’ll bet it’s going to be even more pronounced because of the February 2022 Freeze. But it’s not life-threatening, and technically there’s nothing that has to be fixed.  If you’ll read on, I’ll will offer up some advice on how to sooth the Magnolia’s weary soul with our Focused Feeding protocols, since that freeze.

First, let me explain the ‘normalcy’ of the present situation. Usually, from April through May, Magnolia trees are pushing a lot of energy into making the much-sought-after blooms. They often “rob Peter to pay Paul” so to speak, by taking energy away from the leaves of the tree and pushing that energy towards making that flush of blooms. So, maybe 5-10 percent of the leaves are, in essence, shut down and shunned during that transaction.

I promise that this is normally a short-lived problem. And while on one hand you don’t necessarily need to do anything to heal it or fix it, I think you can and should employ my Focused Feeding Rules

This protocol Aggressive (Focused) Feeding of Plants for Recovery should be applied right away using azalea food, followed by the proverbial liquid organic drench, detailed in the aforementioned tip sheet. While that won’t understandably stop the ‘normal’ shedding of leaves, it will help support healthier new ones to come on later this year, and it will definitely help push out a few more of the highly desired Magnolia blooms.

I did a piece two years ago on the Little Gem Magnolias that are being planted way to close to home foundations. It’s worth the read if you’ve ever wondered why so many “new builder home” landscapes or “new tract home” landscapes seem to have these trees Little Gem Magnolia.