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Magnolia Alive Or Dead?

Ask the Expert: Newly planted magnolia trees looks dead?
I just bought 3 magnolia trees from a nursery last May. 7 ft, 5 ft. and a 3 ft. in height. The trees didn’t have flowers and leaves when I bought them but I thought that maybe it’s because it’s still early spring. It’s is now June 10 and they have less than 10 leaves on each tree. Is it dead? how long should I wait for leaves to bud?

Plant Expert Reply:

I assume you have purchased a type of deciduios Magnolia like Magnolia soulangeana (Saucer Magnolia) and not Magnolia grandifolia (Sounthern Magnolia).   Southern Magnolias should always have leaves.  However decidious magnolias will drop their leaves in the winter.

When you say you bought them last May do you mean May of 2008 or 2009.  If you mean 2008 and the trees didn’t have leaves all of last year, the trees are probably not going to make it.  However, if you mean May 2009, then trees have a good chance and may be slow in forming leaves.  Usually by this time, your magnolia should be fully leafed out.  To see if your tree is still alive take your finger and scrape the branches.  If the tissue underneath is green or has a green cast to it, the tree is still alive.  You will need to prune off any dead till you reach the green tissue.

When you planted the magnolia trees, did make sure not to plant them too deep.  The original top of the tree root ball should have been even with or slightly higher that the top of the ground.  If the trees are planted to deep, the tree will be stressed and may not produce leaves correctly.  You will need to raise the plant if it is planted too deep.

You can give the tree Vitamin B1 and fertilize to help it thrive.

Good Luck and Keep Me Posted.


  1. Victoria Hamilton says:

    Hello I just moved to a home with a magnolia tree on the property. The tree has a few leaves in some areas and none in other areas. I scared the bark and it is brown. Does that mean it’s dead or can it be treated for its infestation. Can you help with with the name for a shrubbery type of Bush for year round climate changes.

  2. Victoria,

    To me it sounds like the some of your limbs are dead and some are alive. Go ahead and prune off the branches or portions of branches on your magnolia trees that are obviously just dead limbs: they can no longer be of any service to your tree and may actually invite pests and/or diseases. When you see green, stop pruning. You can also cut into the bark of the magnolia tree to look for green. Also, here is a link to an article that lists 15 different hardy shrubs. I would suggest reading this article to find the right plant for you.