En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Problem with magnolias and yaupon in Prosper TX

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 - May 13, 2012

From: Pearland, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Problem with magnolias and yaupon in Prosper TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Problem with Little Gem magnolia - 3 little gems planted next to a fence, in Prosper, TX. Planted 3 years ago, 2009, one of the trees is now withering. The other 2 are doing fine, the one has leaves that are withering. Has been getting plenty of water from rains. Also, a yaupon in another area of yard is withering the same way. No evidence of bug infestation. Can you suggest some help? Fertilzation of some other treatment? I am submitting this question for my in-law in Prosper.

ANSWER:

Since the Magnolia grandiflora 'Little Gem" is a cultivar of Magnolia grandiflora (Southern magnolia), it will not appear in our Native Plant Database. However, we feel it is closely enough related that we can use data on the native magnolia to try and figure out what is going on. First, this USDA Plant Profiles county map of Texas, with the green counties being the one where the Southern Magnolia grows,  you will see that the closest county to Collins and Denton Counties where that tree grows naturally is Van Zandt County, with the other counties being farther south and east.

If you follow the plant link above, you will learn that the first choice for this tree is a rich, porous, acid soil. Under Condition Comments:

"Conditions Comments: Southern magnolia is a relatively fast-growing tree. It casts a dark shade, making underplanting difficult. Prune after blooming during the growing season because dormant magnolias do not easily heal. Fallen leaves are messy and never seem to decompose. They can be chopped with a rotary mower and blown back under the branches to recycle nutients. Must be given protection from winter winds and sun in northern part of its range. Relatively pest free."

Please see this list of plants native to the Blackland Prairies of Texas, and read the description of the soils; the plant list for that area does not include Magnolia grandiflora (Southern magnolia). We suspect that the soil not being what the magnolia does best in and possibly the way the soil was prepared when the trees were planted has something to do with the problem. Also, even three years after being planted, the chance of transplant shock is still there. We always recommend that woody plants, trees and shrubs, be planted in Texas in late Fall or Winter, while the plants are dormant and will be less likely to suffer damage. We also recommend that you amend the soil when digging the tree to provide better drainage.

From the Blackland Prairies list cited above, we found this comment: "The upland blacklands are dark, calcareous shrink-swell clayey soils, changing gradually with depth to light marls or chalks." Again, pure conjecture, we are wondering if either some damage was done to the roots of the tree when it was planted, or rainwater could not drain away sufficiently in the clay soils to protect the roots from rot. In answer to your question about fertilizer: no. The purpose of fertilizers is to encourage the plant to grow new leaves. That stresses the tree; a tree already under stress does not need that.

Many of the same answers pertain to Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon). You will see from this USDA Plant Profile map that it is native to Denton Co. From our webpage on that plant:  "Moist or well drained, sandy, loamy, clay, limestone, or gravelly soils.  Yaupon is a versatile plant that tolerates drought and poor drainage." This plant does appear on the list of Blackland Prairie plants.

We can only conclude, in both cases, that the decline of the plants does not have to do with anything that is happening now, but something that happened (or didn't happen) when the plants were being put in the ground. It is difficult to put compost or some other amendment to good drainage in a hole dug three years ago. The fact that the 'Little Gem" is a cultivar also complicates the situation as there could be factors we don't know about involving the cultivar.

Our suggestion, in both plants, is to give both plants a chance to recover. Unless it gets very dry again, don't water either tree. You could try mulching the roots of all the woody plants with a good quality organic mulch. This will help keep down weeds, hold moisture, protect the plant roots and looks and smells good. Particularly, the yaupon is a tough plant, native to your area, and more likely to recover. We suggest that any time you plant garden selections you research first, on our Native Plant Database, whether the plant is native and get good planting instructions, particularly in reference to drainage.

 

From the Image Gallery


Southern magnolia
Magnolia grandiflora

Yaupon
Ilex vomitoria

More Planting Questions

Low maintenance replacement garden in Ashburn , VA
April 30, 2009 - We live in Ashburn, VA (Northern VA). Our house is 10 years old and the contractor grade plants have died. We are planning on digging everything up and re-doing the landscaping in our front yard - r...
view the full question and answer

My newly planted Redbuds are not doing well.
June 24, 2009 - I ordered and received 2 Red Bud trees from one of the popular ordering houses. They explained that they were dormant and not dead, and gave us instructions on how to plant them, which we followed. Th...
view the full question and answer

Baby mountain laurels are ready to move, in Lockhart Texas
October 19, 2011 - I want to harvest the baby mountain laurel plants which are growing under a large bush. What height would be best for the young plants survival? Please recommend a soil mixture for the pots.
view the full question and answer

Steep slope from Charlotte NC
May 03, 2012 - I live near Charlotte, NC and I have a very steep sloped area from the edge of our front yard down to the road. It's a huge eyesore mainly because it is red clay dirt and has nothing growing on it. W...
view the full question and answer

Schedule for planting perennial wildflowers from Asheville NC
March 22, 2013 - When is the best time to plant perennial wildflowers?
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