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February 3, 2018
I read your IN THE GARDEN weekly and love it! I live in NWA, Fayetteville area, I
would like to plant an evergreen screen that will have West exposure. Suggestions?
There are a number of possibilities. You could plant either a one variety hedge or
a mix of evergreens for more diversity. Choices include: hollies (Nellie Stevens,
Foster, Burford or American holly are some choices), some of the smaller southern
magnolias (Little Gem, Bracken’s Brown Beauty or Teddy Bear), and some needle-type
evergreens include cryptomeria, Green Giant arborvitae or Eastern red cedar.
August 26, 2017
I have a magnolia tree that is about 25 years old it a very good size tree but it
has never bloomed I took soil samples to the local extension office and had it checked
and followed. Their instruction regarding adding the lime they told me too last year
however it has stilled not bloomed. Any suggestions that you might have would be appreciated.
How much sunlight does the magnolia get? It would need at least 6 -8 hours per day
in order to set flowers. How is the tree growing? If the tree is still small after
25 years, I would say you might have a problem with soil nutrition, but if the tree
is growing well but just not blooming, my guess would be a sunlight issue.
June 1, 2017
My southern magnolia tree is 5 or 6 years old and 4 feet tall and it has never bloomed,
although new leaves appear and it seems quite healthy. Are some magnolias capable
of producing flowers while others are not? Are there separate male and female plants?
Is it a question of cross-pollination or will fertilizer help?
Did you plant this magnolia from seed or plant? A five or six year old southern magnolia
should be taller than four feet. If it was seed planted, it may have gotten a slow
start. If it was planted as a container plant, I would guess that something is impeding
its root growth. In any case, a standard southern magnolia tree can take six to eight
years to come of age before blooming (some of the “dwarf” types bloom sooner). I
would say your tree is in a juvenile stage, and needs to grow more. See if there
is some reason for the lack of growth, and correct if possible. .
September 3, 2016
I have a very healthy, but young, Jane Magnolia. In the last two weeks, two blossoms
have appeared but before they could fully open, the entire blossom turned brown and
fell off. What's happening?
It is not unusual for a spring blooming plant to set some odd blooms in late summer
to early winter, especially if we had an early spring. Jane is one of the early blooming
deciduous magnolias and they tend to set their flower buds quite early in the summer
for the following year. We typically see these errant blooms when we get a warm spell
after a cool spell in the fall and we get to enjoy a little bonus color. I would
assume that something triggered yours to try to bloom and the heat and rain took their
toll. Wait and see how well they do next spring before you begin to worry.
June 18, 2016
I have a tall beautiful Japanese magnolia that is probably over 10 years old and has
never bloomed. It seems healthy. It put on lots of new leaves but no blossoms. Can
you help me? Is there a chemical or fertilizer I need to put on it?
Is the tree in at least 6 hours of sun? Does it set flower buds that just don’t open?
Usually Japanese magnolias bloom at a relatively young age for magnolias. The flower
buds are fuzzy buds which form in late August or September. Sometimes they begin
to bloom before winter is over and the flowers get frozen, but we had no such troubles
March 5, 2016
Our Star Magnolia started showing problems in late August and September last year.
The leaves started dying. It is blooming now, but the blooms seem to be about half
the size as in the past. I think that this may its last “hurrah”. Is there any hope
for our Star Magnolia? It has always been the first thing to bloom in late winter,
and it is beautiful.
Did you water it during that time period? September was the driest September we have
ever had. If the plant got too stressed, that could have caused the leaves to die
back early and would have impacted the bloom this spring, since that is when spring
flowering plants set flower buds. This season, fertilize it after bloom, then water
as needed all summer and see what happens.
February 1, 2016
We have a lot of plants planted in the corner of our yard and the utility company
needs to come in and do some new pipes. I will have to move a 10 foot southern magnolia,
a crape myrtle trees, along with numerous perennials. When should I transplant these?
I am not sure when they will be doing the work, so I may have some lead time to plan.
We are in prime transplanting season for your trees. With the perennials, you may
or may not know where they are until they begin emerging. If you plan to replant
them back in the corner after the work is done, you can heal them in a shady area
in the yard—mounding soil over the root system until you can replant. If you are permanently
replanting, dig and replant immediately. While they are dormant, there is less stress
to the plants.
November 28, 2015
I had two trees removed from my back yard early last summer; a Bradford Pear (Fire
Blight) and a Maple (Slime Flux?) Now I'm looking for replacement trees. I really
don't need shade as this is in the East yard, therefore, I would prefer something
not to exceed 20 - 25 feet tall. I'm leaning towards a holly but will consider other
evergreens. The soil I'm dealing with is heavy orange clay. In fact the Maple I removed
had a lot of surface roots. Thank you for any suggestions?
The maple would have probably had surface roots even in decent soil—that is the nature
of maples. I am assuming you want something evergreen. Some options include: Little
Gem magnolia, Foster holly, Burford holly, deodara cedar, cherry laurel or one of
the larger junipers. If it doesn’t have to be evergreen, I love the sweetbay magnolia
or even one of the tulip magnolia trees, redbuds or dogwoods.
November 14, 2015
I would like to plant privacy hedge/shrubs that will screen the property next door.
I read your response recently about thorny eleagnus but I will need these shrubs to
reach a height of 15-25 ft. and get thick. I don’t think the thorny eleagnus will
reach the height I desire. Do you have any advice on what I should plant? The area
gets about 6-8 hours of sun. Is a willow hybrid or non-spreading bamboo a consideration?.
A hybrid willow is fast growing but probably will get too tall and be somewhat weak.
It also is deciduous and most people prefer a screen to be evergreen. If you can
find the clumping—non-spreading bamboo, that is an option, but I think there are better
choices. You could go with one of the smaller growing southern magnolias—Little Gem,
Brackens Brown Beauty, etc. They will eventually get that tall, and they are dense,
but they may be slower growing than you want. Consider some of the hollies—lusterleaf
holly, Nellie Stevens and Burford holly will all grow at least 15-20 feet tall and
are evergreen. Cryptomeria, Deodara cedar and Green Giant Arborvitae are other choices.
- We have a large magnolia tree at each end of the house and they have gotten too
large and overhang the house. I had our other trees trimmed in September and the tree
guy said not to trim the magnolias at this time. He said February was the right time
for them and he could cut the tops off and trim them so they wouldn't be so large.
What do you recommend?
Many magnolias were damaged with the recent snow storm, so you may have no choice
but to start pruning. Normally, I would recommend waiting until after they bloom before
pruning--May is the normal bloom period for a standard southern magnolia. I never
recommend topping a tree, since it will cause the internal wood to decay and ruin
the natural shape of the tree. If the height is an issue, you might consider replacing
the magnolia with another tree. Standard southern magnolias can easily grow 60 feet
tall by 30 feet or more wide. One pruning is not going to stop their growth. There
are numerous dwarf magnolia varieties on the market that are better suited to a standard
We have a Magnolia tree with a sucker/shoot at the base. We've had these before, but
this one is a foot tall and has its own leaves. Can it be cut and rooted?
You can root it, but it will be a slow process. What you may want to do instead, is
lay it down and cover a portion of it with soil. This is a propagation method called
layering. It will root while it is attached to the mother plant, and you can cut it
off and replant next spring.
About five years ago I planted a rooted magnolia that was about a foot high. Today,
it is about 10 feet high and healthy...except it has never blossomed! Before I cut
it down, I wanted to check with you to see if t here is any way I can make it bloom.
There is a huge magnolia tree across the street from me so shouldn't that take care
of any necessary pollination?
A traditional southern magnolia can take 8-10 years before it begins blooming, so
I think patience is in order. The stately Magnolia grandiflora is a huge tree at maturity
and often gets too large for a common landscape. For that reason, many are planting
the smaller ‘Little Gem’ magnolia or ‘Bracken's Brown Beauty’. The leaves and flowers
are about 1/2 the size of the standard, but an added benefit, besides the smaller
size is that they bloom at a very young age. For your tree, just enjoy the evergreen
foliage. Once it begins to bloom, provided it has plenty of sun, you should have flowers
I was inspecting a house in Eureka Springs this week and saw this cluster on a tree
that I never noticed before. I was told it was a magnolia tree, but it didn't have
the glossy leaves. I couldn’t find it in my tree book. What are your thoughts?
I think it is a slightly deformed seed pod on a Magnolia soulangiana--the tulip or
saucer magnolia. It should have light pink to purple flowers in the spring before
the foliage. This magnolia is deciduous, losing its leaves every fall, thus it doesn’t
have the thick, glossy leaves of the evergreen Magnolia grandiflora.
We would like to screen our yard from residents of a motel next door to us. We need
the fastest solution but will have to weigh the cost factor when making a decision.
I’ve read that Blue Spruce grows well in Arkansas and has a good conical shape when
planted as a screen, but it is slow growing and doesn’t transplant so well when more
mature. Do you have suggestions for us?
Colorado blue spruce is ok in the most northern tier of Arkansas, but even there can
struggle with the heat and humidity of our summers. It is relatively slow growing
and I would not think inexpensive. For fast growth, and a mature large plant, consider:
Thuja plicata ‘Green Giant’ - arborvitae or Prunus caroliniana ‘Bright ‘N Tight –
Cherry laurel. Another tall growing albeit slightly slower growing evergreen is the
Japanese cedar Cryptomeria japonica ‘Yoshino’ or ‘Ben Franklin’ are two large cultivars.
Then there are several hollies which make nice screens: Ilex cornuta ‘Burfordii’ –
Burford holly, I. x attenuate ‘Fosteri’, ‘East Palatka’ or ‘Savannah’ and Ilex x ‘Nellie
R. Stevens’. Depending on space, you could also grow the southern magnolia- Magnolia
grandiflora. The standard variety gets massive, both in height and width but there
are several slower growing smaller cultivars including ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’ and
I have a tulip tree that is 4 years old and has never bloomed. It is supposed to have
yellow blooms. The leaves are beautiful, but the tree never blooms. What is the problem?
This is where common names can be misleading. There are two trees commonly called
tulip tree. One is the tulip magnolia—Magnolia x soulangiana and the other is the
tulip poplar Liriodendron tulipifera. The magnolia tree has beautiful blooms before
the foliage comes on in the spring. The most common color is a shade of pink, however
there are some crosses today with a yellow flower— ‘Elizabeth’ and ‘Butterfly’ are
two choices. Most of these are crosses between M. acuminata and M. denudata, but are
still commonly called tulip trees. The tulip poplar on the other hand is a large tree
at maturity, with leaves shaped quite like a child draws a tulip. The yellow and orange
flowers are quite pretty, but are usually borne on the interior of the tree and masked
by the foliage or high up where no one notices. The resulting fruit is a cone like
pod. Liriodendron trees can easily reach 80 feet or more at maturity, while the magnolias
mentioned rarely exceed 30- 40 feet. Both trees prefer full sun to bloom. For both
trees, age does make a difference. In some cases it could be 6-8 years before blooming
begins depending on the cultivar and whether it was grown from seed or cutting.
What part of a Magnolia tree is planted to grow another tree? What time of year?
Magnolias can be started from seeds, cuttings or layering. You should be seeing mature,
ripe seed pods now. The cones containing the seeds will begin to darken and dry, and
the emerging red seeds will be visible. Try to harvest as soon as they are ripe, and
begin the process as soon as possible. Don’t store the seeds for later use. Take the
seeds and remove the outer pulp. TO help break the hard outer seed coat, lightly rub
the seeds between a sheet of sand paper. Then place the seeds in a plastic bag filled
with moist peat moss or potting soil. Place that in your refrigerator for several
months, then pot up and wait for growth. The combination of scarification (the abrading
of the outer seed coat) and stratification (the cool, moist storage period) should
result in seedlings. Of course, this happens naturally outdoors. You can create a
“nursery” bed outside, and plant numerous seeds in the ground, and then wait for them
to grow next spring. Cuttings are best taken in June to July from new growth that
has gradually hardened off. An easier method than cuttings is to layer some of the
lower limbs of the tree. Take a low hanging branch and lightly wound it on the bottom
and mound soil over it. Weight it down, and wait until next spring. By then it should
have sprouted roots.
We have a very large magnolia, over 50 years old. We keep the limbs trimmed around
5 to 6 feet from the ground but still have no grass under this tree. There is a dogwood
nearby that also has no grass. The roots of the magnolia are now coming above ground.
What should we do for these problems of no grass and roots above ground?
Add a layer of mulch or try a groundcover. I never recommend limbing up magnolias
for the very reasons you mentioned. Surface roots are common--and you can't cut them
without damaging the tree. Dense shade prevents grass from growing, and typically
you have a lot of debris under a magnolia since they tend to shed old leaves seemingly
year-round. A nice layer of mulch covers up the roots and is preferable to bare soil.
Mulch will also aid in moisture retention which should help your dogwood.
My mother lives in NW Arkansas and has had a magnolia tree for a good number of years.
It is on the north side of the house and sits in a well lighted area. It is more than
20 feet tall and healthy, except for one thing: it has never bloomed. We are wondering
why it has never bloomed. Should we prune it or do something else?
How much sunlight would you say the tree gets? It needs a minimum of six hours of
sunlight a day to bloom. There is quite a bit of variability as to how early a magnolia
tree will bloom--especially if it was grown from seed. In most cases, it can take
up to 5-10 years for a standard southern magnolia to bloom, and some can be 15-20
years before beginning to bloom. The good news is that once it starts, it will bloom
annually from then on. Some of the newer cultivars--Little Gem and Bracken's Brown
Beauty can bloom at a much younger age.
My magnolia tree is looking sad, the leaves are all turning yellow and falling and
I don't see too many new ones coming. There is limited new growth. It is not looking
very healthy. What can we do?
Magnolias can shed old leaves year-round. However, you should be seeing signs of new
growth to replace those falling leaves. Pay attention to watering--it has been extremely
dry for this early in the season. We have also seen an abundance of leaf spot diseases
on a variety of plants. Monitor the plants for insects and diseases. If the yellowing
is primarily on older leaves further down on the stems, don't be overly concerned.
Try a light application of fertilizer to spur on new growth, but do monitor the situation
this growing season.
We planted a magnolia tree nine years. The tree has done very well but now surface
roots are shooting out into the lawn. Is it harmful if I cut these surface roots.
Also can the lower branches be removed?
Magnolias are known for their surface roots, as well as leaf droppage throughout the
season. For that reason, I believe in leaving the lower limbs attached. This masks
the surface roots, plus the debris. Since it is virtually impossible to grow anything
under the trees anyway, that is another reason to allow the limbs free growth. Removing
surface roots could damage the trees, plus won't be a long lasting solution.
My tulip magnolia had quite a few open flowers and many buds showing color before
it finally turned cold. Now they are brown. Should I prune them off and if so, how
far back should I prune. Do you think it damaged all the flower buds?
I was worried this was going to happen! Many plants were moving ahead of schedule.
Do not prune any damaged growth off yet. We may have more cold weather to come, and
we want the extra protection. Any buds which were still tight should be fine. I expect
to still have flowers this spring, and hopefully the weather will cooperate. Wait
until after the plants have finished all flowering before pruning later this spring.
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