I planted my magnolia tree approx 7 years ago and it has bloomed almost all year long. I live in zone 8A. My Maggie has never been dense in leaves. The leaves are dark green on top and fuzzy brown on the bottom. Maggie has grown approx 1 to 2 feet yearly and stands as a tree not a bush. I fertilize with ferti-lome acid loving water soluble plant food 31-11-11 four times a year. People always say she has beautiful flowers but looks bad because of the lack of leaves. What can I do to make her grow more leaves?
Maagnolia Tree Leaves
Certified GKH Gardening Expert
Young magnolias have very thin bark that is easily damaged by lawnmowers and string trimmers. To protect tree trunks from injury from yard care equipment, spread the recommended 2 to 4 inch layer of mulch or plant groundcover plants around them out to at least 2 feet. This will both discourage weeds and grass from growing near the tree trunk in the first place and prevent equipment from coming to close to it. This can be a reason for stunted growth.
The best time of year to fertilize trees is in the late fall after all of the deciduous leaves have dropped. For evergreen varieties, try to fertilize three or four weeks before the soil is expected to drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Roots continue to grow in the cool earth until this point and will store nutrients in a form that can be used in the spring. Fertilizer can also be given in the spring before any new growth begins.
Magnolias are easily damaged by overfertilization. Salt damage from fertilizers is recognized by leaf edges that look brown and burned. Trees should only be fed if growth is weak. Indications to look for would be slow twig growth of less than 6 inches per year, leaves that are progressively smaller from year to year or leaves that become faded and yellowish in midsummer. Magnolias regularly shed leaves every day even when healthy, so this is not an indication of a need to fertilize.
An appropriate fertilizer for a magnolia tree would be 12-4-8 or 20-5-10. The amount of fertilizer given is based on the amount of nitrogen required. A general guideline to use for a magnolia tree would be 1/10 pound of nitrogen for every inch of trunk diameter.