Why is my magnolia tree shedding its leaves?

Written by marlene affeld
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Why is my magnolia tree shedding its leaves?
Magnolia trees produce small leaves and delicate white or pink flowers. (Nickolya/iStock/Getty Images)

Magnolia trees are now cultivated as landscape specimens in gardens, parks and arboretums across the UK and around the world. There are over 80 different species and hundreds of hybrid varieties of this magnificent evergreen tree. Although the magnolia is fairly easy to care for, each individual type of magnolia tree has different care requirements and can drop leaves from a variety of threats or conditions.

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Magnolia tree flowers

Often featured for their showy display of fragrant flowers, magnolias are used as landscape plants The flowers are waxy, long lasting and aromatic, adding a delightful vanilla scent to the garden. Magnolia flower colours vary in beautiful shades of pink, peach, ivory and vivid white. Magnolias like moisture and may present wilting flowers and dropped leaves when deprived of water.

Magnolia diseases and pests

Drought tolerant, disease and pest resistant, magnolia trees make a proud statement in any landscape design. However, if infested with aphids or spiders, magnolia trees will present curled and dropping leaves. Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) drops some leaves all year long, continually growing new ones.

Magnolia food source

Song birds love magnolia trees. The seed of the magnolia is tightly wrapped by vividly coloured meaty aril that has a very high fat content. The calorie dense flesh provides migrating birds with a source of energy as they head south. Evergreen magnolias also provide shelter for wildlife and birds that do not migrate. Because they do not shed their leathery leaves in the same manner as deciduous trees, magnolias provide wind protection and shelter from the rain or snow.

Shedding magnolia leaves

Large, lustrous and evergreen, magnolia trees hold their leaves throughout the winter, shedding old leaves in the spring to make way for new leaf growth. This is their normal pattern and not evidence of disease or pest infestation. Crushing and using the leaves for mulch under the tree returns rich nutrients to the soil as the leaves decompose.

Environmental stress

Growing to heights of 25 metres (80 feet), magnolia trees sometimes shed leaves when they are under stress from industrial pollution, dust or herbicide contamination. It is normal for several species of magnolias to continually shed some leaves. However, if the leaf drop is extensive at an abnormal time of the year, environment stress is likely the problem.

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