The Reasons for the Yellow Leaves on your Magnolia Tree

7 Min Read

Magnificent trees, such as magnolias, bloom in the early spring and have shiny green foliage. During the growing season, there is a problem if you notice your magnolia leaves turning brown and yellow.

This season, does your magnolia have yellow leaves? There are several reasons why magnolias may develop yellow leaves. The most frequent reasons and the most effective solutions for each are examined in this article.

1. Seasonal Change

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Deciduous magnolias spontaneously change colour when the autumn weather arrives. This colour shift usually affects the spectrum of colours, which includes yellow, gold, and bronze. The nearly finished leaves of an autumn tree indicate that the tree is ready to go dormant.

After the leaves have fallen and changed colour, the tree will reappear with fresh, healthy green foliage in the spring. When you see this starting to happen, you truly have nothing to worry about.

The Fix: There’s nothing wrong here that needs to be fixed. Despite your concerns, looking for buds could indicate that the colour shift isn’t the only cause.

If the buds on your magnolia tree are still there and seem healthy, even though the tree is losing leaves, you should be fine. If there are injuries to the buds as well, you can have a bigger issue.

2. Natural Leaf Dropping

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Evergreen magnolia trees occasionally shed their leaves to make room for new growth as the old leaves near the end of their lives. As the tree transfers nutrients to the fresh growth, it is normal for the leaves to turn yellow.

This is also typical of the tree in the run-up to bloom. As the expanding buds receive more nutrients, some of the older leaves will eventually lose their position.

The Fix: Your magnolia will look its best all year if you maintain the proper ratio of water to nutrients. Fertilizing will preserve the most quantity of both new and old growth during the growing and flowering seasons. Just watch for buds, and don’t freak out if a leaf drops in the middle of summer!

3. Soil Alkalinity

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The main cause of nutrient deficiencies is poor soil quality. Mamalias prefer somewhat acidic soil. A tree’s ability to absorb minerals like zinc, iron, and manganese will be hampered by excessively alkaline soil.

To the extent that magnolias can best absorb and use the nutrients, acidic soil breaks those nutrients down for the plants.

The Fix: These minerals are present in most soil in appropriate proportions, but if the soil’s acidity isn’t high enough to encourage their breakdown, the tree won’t be able to absorb them. Acidifying the soil will help to remedy this issue. The best sustainable and natural remedy is to enrich the soil with organic matter.

Leaf litter from nearby trees is also an excellent addition, as are pine needles and mulch. This is also the function of commercially available soil acidifiers.

4. Under Fertilization

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If your leaves appear underweight, you may still need to add fertilizer even when you know that your soil is appropriately acidic.

While they don’t require frequent fertilization, magnolias benefit from additional nutrients, especially when there are significant fluctuations in the water. Your magnolia may not be able to absorb adequate nutrients from the soil if there has been either too much or too much rainfall.

The Fix: Your magnolia will stay lush and healthy by being fertilized three times a year with a high nitrogen content fertilizer. Just apply the fertilizer to the trunk and give it a good watering if rain is not predicted.

5. Under watering

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Your magnolia will notify you of its thirst in those leaves first. If your tree’s leaves are yellow and drooping, you may be positive it needs a long drink. Younger trees are more likely to cause you trouble in this regard.

Established magnolias can survive very long droughts. Young magnolias need regular irrigation to aid with root formation. Because a shallow root system is a weak root system, establishing roots is essential.

The Fix: One excellent strategy to encourage this organically is to plant during the wet season. Watering newly planted magnolias twice a week is a good idea if you don’t receive enough rain to keep the ground moist.

A good soaking of the earth should result from setting up a hose at the foot of the tree and leaving it running for ten to fifteen minutes.

6. Overwatering


Magnolias dislike damp roots, with the possible exception of one or two additional M. virginianum types, including the “Green Shadow.” Wet roots expose the tree to fungus infections, which collectively result in root rot.

Usually, the first sign of a fungal infection when root rot occurs is yellowing leaves. The leaves are the part of the tree that is closest to the roots; hence, they are the first to sustain injury or lose nourishment from the roots.

The Fix: Don’t plant magnolias in places with inadequate drainage. Magnolias can withstand a wide range of soil types as long as they have enough drainage.

Refrain from watering your magnolia if it is already established in a wet area. To ensure that there are enough of those nutrients for everyone, be sure to fertilize sufficiently. An excessive amount of water dilutes the nutrients in the soil, which might make it challenging for a plant to absorb enough.

7. Late or Early Frosts

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This is the main issue that affects spring-blooming plants’ blossoms and new foliage; it predominantly affects deciduous species.

When growing magnolias in colder climates, a late frost is a persistent danger. Many varieties bloom in late winter and early spring. On them, leaves will emerge simultaneously or very shortly thereafter.

Thankfully, there are hybrid cultivars that bloom 2-4 weeks later than their parent plants, specifically developed to overcome this problem. One excellent solution to this problem is to plant a variety that possesses this trait.

The Fix: If you are set on a magnolia that isn’t bred to withstand the winter, you can still take some measures.

Avoid planting in a southerly orientation since this can encourage a tree to break dormancy several weeks earlier than it normally would. Furthermore, shielding your magnolia from blustery winds is a great method to shield it from winter damage.

8. Sun Exposure and Excessive Heat

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A magnolia can suffer harm from both extreme heat and drought, as well as from cold weather. It can receive too much heat or sun if your magnolia appears dry and crunchy, with yellow, brown, and dropping leaves. Magnolias generally enjoy the sun, but too much sun can make leaves and blossoms prematurely wilt.

Magnolias will display signs of excessive sun exposure and heat stress by developing sunburns. Instead of their typical brilliant to deep green colour, the leaves will appear bleached and withered.

The Fix: If your magnolia is in an exposed area, your first instinct could be to move it. A grown tree makes this relatively impractical, yet it might be doable if your tree is still young. An excellent way to give your magnolia a little break would be to strategically plant larger trees.

In the warmer months, if there is minimal rain, you can also water more frequently. Spread a layer of mulch over the roots to help retain moisture. Magnolia root systems are extensive but somewhat shallow.

9. Not Enough Sunlight

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This problem is more detrimental to flowering than it is to leaf yellowing. However, you will experience a reduction in leaf vigour and a lack of flowering if the absence of light is severe enough.

The majority of magnolia cultivars prefer lots of sun, while some may tolerate slight shade. They are usually paired alongside plants that need six or more hours of direct sunlight every day. While a younger magnolia needs sunshine to grow and thrive, an adult magnolia can survive most situations to some extent.

Your magnolia tree may require more sunshine if its leaves appear lighter than they should and it is not blooming during its usual blooming season.

The Fix: If the tree isn’t getting enough sun, you might be able to prune back any larger branches that are preventing it from getting enough sunlight. Plant your magnolia in a location that receives lots of sunlight overall. It will be encouraged to produce the most flowers of the highest caliber and quantity as a result.


Try not to panic the moment you notice the leaves turning yellow. Examine if the leaves’ changes have a natural cause. If not, proceed to the consideration of environmental issues. There isn’t much you can do to repair weather-related damage to your tree. However, your tree can focus its energy on new development if damaged tissues are removed and given some TLC.

There’s also no need to fear if the cause of your leaves’ colour is a persistent problem like poor soil, improper irrigation techniques, or improper fertilization. It’s simple to fix each of these problems. Your magnolia should turn green again quickly with a little know-how and attentive observation!

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