En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - September 19, 2010

From: Hedron, NE
Region: Midwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Planting, Transplants, Trees
Title: Newly planted magnolia in Hedron NE
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We planted a Magnolia stellata 'Royal Star' in our landscape about 2 weeks ago. It is approx 7' tall. My question is should the leaves on it all be turning brown and crisp already or are doing something wrong? We purchased it from a very reputable nursery. Thanks for your help!!

ANSWER:

You probably answered your own question when you said (on September 13) that you had planted the tree 2 weeks ago, which would have put the planting on about the first of September. We understand that it's cooler in Nebraska than it is in Texas, but summer is not the time to plant a woody plant anywhere. The tree is probably suffering from transplant shock; in Thayer County, we would imagine it is recommended that you plant woody plants in early Spring, after (hopefully) the last frost, while the tree is still semi-dormant. However, you also shouldn't buy one and hold it in the pot for that many months so, having bought it, you did right to get it in the ground right away.

We'll tell you what we know about your plant and see if we can help you keep it alive. Magnolia stellata is native to Japan. The name 'Royal Star' is no doubt a trade name given to the tree for additional sales appeal. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the growth, protection and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which the plants are being grown, so your tree is really out of our range of expertise. There are several magnolias native to North America, but none are listed as growing in Nebraska. Your USDA Hardiness Zone is 5a to 5b, and the magnolia is hardy from Zones 4 to 8, so the temperature is not the main culprit. We don't know what your soils are, but the fact that none of the native magnolias are native to Nebraska is a clue. The magnolia likes moist, organic, fertile soil and full sun. It is prone to damage from heavy snow and ice.

We hope that, whatever your soil, you dug in some organic matter such as compost to amend the soil texture and make nutrients and water in the soil more accessible to the tiny rootlets on the tree. If not, at least add compost or shredded hardwood mulch to the surface soil. This will not only protect the roots from heat and cold but, as it decomposes, it will improve the texture of the soil. Beyond that, your best bet is to insert a hose as deep into the soil around the roots as you can push it, and let it dribble slowly, until water reaches the surface. If the water remains on the surface more than 30 minutes instead of soaking in, you probably have clay soil, which magnolias don't like but will tolerate. The best treatment for a clay soil is, again, organic material in the soil, which helps with good drainage. As long as it is still hot and especially if you are not getting regular rains, repeat the "dribble" treatment at least twice a week.

After that, the best you can do is protect the roots with mulch and wait for Spring. If it doesn't leaf out in the Spring, it's a goner. Sorry.

See this Washington State University County Extension article on Magnolia Stellata 'Royal Star.'

Pictures of Magnolia stellata 'Royal Star' from Google.

 

More Compost and Mulch Questions

Will Habiturf thrive in Houston?
July 31, 2012 - Will Habiturf grow in partial sun? My lawn is surrounded by trees so that there is only about an hour each day with direct overhead sun. The rest of the day there is a light shade.
view the full question and answer

Oak leaf hydrangeas from Edwardsville IL
August 13, 2012 - Hello, I live in West Central Illinois (across the river from St. Louis) and I am considering planting several Oak leaf Hydrangea's in my yard. The location where I would like to plant them is und...
view the full question and answer

Use of free cedar mulch in Round Rock, TX
March 17, 2013 - Round Rock provides city residents free mulch to pick up. It is all cedar apparently. I am turning my now dead, mostly clay, very alkaline and rocky thin soil front lawn into a bigger flower bed of mo...
view the full question and answer

Planting a tulip poplar in Virginia Beach VA
November 10, 2009 - Hi. I would like to plant a Yellow Poplar, 'Tulip Tree' in my front yard. I will not be able to plant this tree until after November 15th. The tree will receive direct sun and will be exposed to hea...
view the full question and answer

Non-native, invasive bermudagrass from Memphis TN
August 17, 2012 - I live in central Memphis and have well-drained clay soil. I have converted much of the front yard from turf grass to beds of native plants, which survive our hot humid without supplemental watering e...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center