Why do magnolia leaves fall off?

Magnolia leaves fall for various reasons

Image – Wikimedia/Fernando Losada Rodríguez

Although the magnolia or magnolia is a type of widely cultivated plant, doubts sometimes arise as to why its leaves fall off. It may be that one day we see it well, and the next day it begins to lose its foliage, first little by little, and then faster and faster as its situation worsens.

Leaf drop can be quite a serious problem if it is caused by some external factor that the plant cannot cope with. So let's see why do magnolia leaves fall off and what we must do to avoid losing it.

There are several reasons why the magnolia tree it can be left without all its leaves and/or only a few. Sometimes, as we said, it will be due to one (or several) conditions that exist in the place where it is located, such as:

  • Weather too hot or too cold. For example, if it is very hot in summer, with temperatures exceeding 35ºC, most magnolias have a hard time.
  • The land stays dry or very wet for a long time. These plants do not tolerate drought or waterlogging.
  • The air humidity (or ambient humidity) is low or very low. When it is less than 50% every day and many days a week in a row, the leaves dehydrate.
  • The wind blows almost constantly. Although the humidity of the air is high, if the wind is very strong it also dries the leaves; and if it is low, then the life of the magnolia will be in serious danger, since it will dehydrate very quickly.
  • Lack of availability of some soil nutrients (ie they can be there, but "locked", inaccessible to the roots).

Furthermore, we can see that the leaves fall off for no apparent reason. The magnolia is fine, healthy. So why does it lose leaves? The answer is the following: because their life has come to an end. And it is that, although our tree is evergreen, like the magnolia grandiflora for example, that does not mean that it does not renew its leaves. It will, little by little and throughout the year.

The case of deciduous magnolias (which are mostly of Asian origin, such as the Starry magnolia), they are left without any leaves in autumn or winter, depending on when and how much temperatures drop in the area, and renew them in spring.

Now, let's dive deeper into each cause:

Weather too hot or too cold

The magnolia stellata is a deciduous tree

What is the right climate for magnolia? Well, a temperate one, without having extreme temperatures. In fact, the ideal temperature range for it is around -7ºC minimum and 30ºC maximum.

Although it supports moderate frosts of up to -18ºC, if it is an evergreen tree it will prefer punctual frosts; namely, it is more important for him that during the winter the temperatures remain low (above 10 and 0ºC) that there are many frosts in a row. Only the deciduous ones will need, yes or yes, that frosts be recorded several times throughout the winter season.

If we talk about high temperatures, the magnolia grandiflora it will withstand a heat wave with a maximum of 38ºC if it is in the shade; but one magnolia liliflora for example with such a high value it could run out of leaves.

To do? Well, you can't regulate the weather, but we can take measures to make the magnolia better, like, for example, protect it from the sun by taking it to the shade, or indoors if we are interested, in addition, that frost does not harm it (This is especially interesting if the plant is very young, as it is more vulnerable).

The land stays dry or very wet for a long time

As we said before, no magnolia tolerates either drought or having "wet feet" permanently. That's why, the land where they are going to grow has to be light, fertile (that is, rich in organic matter), and spongy to the touch. When this is not the case, the leaves will fall either because the roots are almost always dry, or just the opposite, that is, because the soil remains moist for a long time.

To do? Well, if possible, for example If we have the magnolia in a pot, we recommend planting it in a new one with a quality substrate, specific for acid plants., like the one from the Flower brand, or if you want with coconut fiber, which is also acidic.

If it is in the ground, it will depend on how long it has been since it was planted:

  • If less than a year ago, it will be extracted -carefully-, with a good root ball. For this, it will be good to remember the diameter of the pot it was in, since that will be the diameter that said root ball should have. Then, a larger hole is made, 1 x 1 meter wide and deep, and it is filled with some substrate mentioned above, such as coconut fiber, and finally the tree is planted.
  • If it has been taking root for more than a year, it will be better to readjust the irrigation, or install a drainage system in case it is a land that has a hard time absorbing and draining water. It can also be useful to install a drip irrigation system, since this way more water is used, preventing it from being lost.

The humidity of the air (or ambient humidity) is very low

The magnolia can run out of leaves

A magnolia will be magnificent if, in addition to enjoying a suitable climate for it and growing in light and fertile soil, it is located in a place where the humidity of the air is greater than 50%. When it is lower, especially if it remains low daily or almost daily, the roots have to work faster to absorb the water they find in the soil and push it towards the leaves…and yet sometimes these leaves drop, because they lose water faster than the roots are capable of sending them.

What to do to avoid it? The first thing is to make sure that the humidity is really low. To do this, I recommend purchasing a home weather station, as this way you will have this data and others (such as temperature, date and time, for example) at your fingertips. Once you know that it is low and that it stays that way for a long time (days), you will have to spray its leaves with water without lime daily., and always in the late afternoon, when the sun is no longer in the sun (if it's in the shade, you can do it at any time).

The wind blows almost constantly

This may be related to the previous point, because in the end, no matter how high the humidity is, if the magnolia is in a particularly windy area, it will have the same problems as one that is in an area where the humidity is low. But, here the procedure would be different:

  • If the humidity of the air is low, of course we will have to spray its leaves daily.
  • But if the wind also blows strongly and constantly, we will have to protect the tree from it, for example by planting nearby plants that resist the wind better and that can cut it a little; or take it to a more sheltered area if it is in a pot.

Lack of availability of some soil nutrients

The magnolia is a tree

Image – Wikimedia/Mateo Hernandez Schmidt

Sometimes, leaf fall is caused by the lack of some nutrients. In the case of the magnolia, It is important that you know that if it is planted, for example, in clay soil, it will have significant iron and manganese deficiencies., so its leaves could turn yellow and even fall directly. In very acid soils, there may be a lack of calcium, an essential nutrient for the proper functioning of all parts of the plant, since it is part of the cell walls.

So, for the magnolia tree to be well again, The first thing we will do is check the pH of the soil with the help of a soil pH meter.As this for instance. In the event that it is 7 or higher, we will proceed to pay it with a specific fertilizer for acid plants (for sale here!). And in the case of either acid but has a pH of 4 or less, it is best to add a little football, or pay it with a fertilizer of algae (for sale here!), since this is alkaline and little by little the pH will rise.

But in any case, the instructions for use on the container must be followed.

The magnolia tree can be without leaves for no reason, but if it loses them when it should be growing (ie, in spring and summer), as long as it is not evergreen, it could be that you have a problem. We hope that the advice we have given you will help you to relive it.


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