En Español

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
2 ratings

Saturday - June 25, 2011

From: Round Rock, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Magnolia Not Doing Well in Round Rock, Texas
Answered by: Mike Tomme

QUESTION:

I have a Magnolia grandiflora in my back yard, planted on May 20th of this year. Located on a western exposure with no shade and about 18' tall x 10' wide. I've been watering it every 3-4 days or so, but with the hot wind and dry spell we are going through, I am worried about it. The leaves seems smaller and look dry. It was blooming when first planted (only one flower though). Now, the leaves look smaller, some curling and seem dry. Any recommendations? I live in Round Rock, west of I-35.

ANSWER:

Many people try to grow Magnolia grandiflora (Southern magnolia) in central Texas. Most fail completely or end up with short, chlorotic imitations of what this magnificent tree should be.

Take a look at the USDA County Distribution map. You will see that magnolia's native range is mostly east of the Brazos River. Now take a look at the Growing Conditions for this tree from the page in our Plant Database:

"Growing Conditions

Water Use: High 
Light Requirement: Part Shade 
Soil Moisture: Dry 
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low 
Cold Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Rich, porous, acid soils. Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam Clay, Acid-based, Calcareous

Also, from that same page, here are the normal habitats of this tree: "Native Distribution:Coastal Plain from extreme s.e. VA to FL, w. to e. TX."

I'm betting these soil conditions (except the dry part) don't describe what you have on the west side of IH-35 in Round Rock. Your soils are probably thin, rocky and alkaline. A magnolia is not likely to do well in that kind of soil.

This demonstrates again the desirability of using plants native to the area in which you are trying to grow them, which is the goal of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The magnolia has adapted to growing on forest floors, with a rich humus from centuries of fallen leaves beneath them, in part shade and with plenty of moisture.

You are fighting a real uphill battle trying to grow a magnolia where you are. Mr. Smarty Plants best advice is to start over with a tree more suited to your area.

 

From the Image Gallery


Southern magnolia
Magnolia grandiflora

More Trees Questions

Need suggestions for a replacement tree for Hackberry tree in Austin, TX in Austin TX.
May 25, 2013 - We have a large hackberry tree in our front yard. We are cutting it down this fall. I would like to replace it with a tree native to this area..preferably something fast growing. What are your reco...
view the full question and answer

Survivability of birch trees in Texas
August 16, 2006 - Is it known whether Gray birch (Betula populifolia Marsh) will grow in North Texas? It seems like the only birch variety which might - and how short is a "short lifespan" for a tree?
view the full question and answer

Heat tolerant arborvitae for Spring TX
September 20, 2012 - Is there an arborvitae that would be heat-tolerant to Spring, Texas (north of Houston) and amenable to neutral clay soil?
view the full question and answer

Amelanchier arborea (common serviceberry) native to Ohio
March 25, 2007 - I want to plant a row of serviceberries for the fruit. I will plant a variety that attains 6 to 10 feet. I was about to order amelanchier alnifolia var. Smokey, as it's described as having very tasty...
view the full question and answer

Fast-growing tree for Houston
January 19, 2009 - Please suggest me fast growing tree like Eucalyptus for Zip 77099 to protect building with its shade. I understand Eucalyptus is not good for our area and is flammable. Any other with similar fast gro...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center