My White 'star' Magnolia tree

bosgal(6)June 6, 2009

Anyone know if this needs a lot of sun?

It has been at a sunny corner of our front yard since we moved in three years ago and every spring it has the WEAKEST show of small white buds that I have ever seen. This is the type of Magnolia that blooms even before the leaves on it do! After bloom time, it becomes a very bushy - green tree. I am thinking of cutting it way back this fall and finding a new home for it...but I need to know why it is failing to give us more blooms. Should I be feeding it?

Thanks !

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siennact

Have you pruned it at all? Maybe you are cutting off the buds by accident.How tall is it?

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 8:31PM
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NHBabs(4b-5aNH)

Many magnolias take time to flower. I'd make sure it has adequate and even moisture by giving it a layer of mulch if it doesn't have one (but keep mulch a few inches away from the trunk), get a soil test done to be sure its nutrition needs are being met, and then just be patient. If you need more pizazz in that part of the yard you can make a larger bed and add other plants or you can move it, but moving it may set it back a year or more since it will need time to settle into the new spot. I've seen research that says that cutting back a plant when you move it does more harm than good, so you probably want to skip cutting it back.

Another possibility is that the flowers can be damaged by frost, since it blooms early. If that is the case, move it to a more sheltered location where it may have some protection from late spring frosts.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 9:08PM
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WendyB(5A/MA)

maybe a soil test would help? It might need fertilizer.

Just how sunny is your sunny corner? 6 hours of direct sun is considered full sun.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 10:45PM
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diggingthedirt

> Another possibility is that the flowers can be damaged by frost, since it blooms early. If that is the case, move it to a more sheltered location where it may have some protection from late spring frosts.

Some plants that are prone to frost damage to early flower buds benefit from being placed away from morning sun, into morning shade and afternoon sun. I don't know if that works for the early magnolias, but it supposedly delays the formation of the flower buds somehow, maybe by having the overnight low temperatures linger a bit longer into the daytime.

However, since moving mags is problematic, and since this tree is apparently otherwise healthy, i.e. has good green foliage later in the season, it could be a problem with too much nitrogen or some other soil problem, but I'd shy away from fertilizer, unless you have a test done first.

Hey, here's a study (just the abstract) on how frost tolerance of flower buds in apricots varies with different fertilizers. It's a little wordy, but it looks like you may really want to do a soil test and keep nitrogen fertilizers away from this tree.

Potassium and phosphorus fertilizers had significant effects on the frost tolerance of flower buds. Potassium fertilizer played the most important role on frost tolerance, compared with nitrogen or phosphorus fertilizers. The results indicated that, the frost tolerance of flower buds following K2O applications was higher than that of buds treated with other NPK doses. Lower survival percentages of buds were found with nitrogen applications. The frost tolerance ability was found to be lower following fertilization at the higher doses of nitrogen. In all the investigated NPK doses, the level of K and Fe increased from January to February, in parallel with the frost tolerance ability of the flower buds, but decreased in November and March.

Here is a link that might be useful: abstract:EFFECT OF NPK FERT ON FROST TOLERANCE

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 9:13AM
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bosgal(6)

Hello garden Web-ers:
I am following up about my original post because we are now in Spring and I have noticed this White Star Magnolia is getting ready to bloom. Before it does, there are small grayish-fuzzy buds all over it. They almost look like large pussy-willows! I did break down and give the tree (it stands more than feet at this point) some fertilizer. After reading and re-reading the Hollytone bush-fertilizer bag, I decided to give it an early spring feeding.
So, now I will wait patiently to see whether food allows this lovely tree to have more than one or two blossoms on it this season! Thank you for the advice ! I am going to wait anther seaosn vefore trying to move this large specimen.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2010 at 5:41PM
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NHBabs(4b-5aNH)

Since it already has its flower buds for the season (they were formed last growing season) you won't find that the fertilizer makes a difference to how prolifically your magnolia blooms this year. I don't know how it will effect next year's blooms.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2010 at 9:15PM
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amysrq(5)

Are all those little fuzzy buds flowers, or leaves too? I have a ton on mine, all of varying size. Some quite large....most rather small. I'd be thrilled to hear these are all going to bloom!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2010 at 1:56PM
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NHBabs(4b-5aNH)

On my magnolias the fuzzy buds are the flower buds, so it should be a good year if there aren't late frosts.

By the way Bosgal, thanks for the follow-up. I always like to hear how things turn out when someone has asked a question.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2010 at 6:42PM
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tree_oracle(z6b MA)

Fat, fuzzy buds are flowers. Small, narrow fuzzy buds are going to be leaves. If most of your buds are small then this is not going to be your year for flowers.

The flower buds are formed in the fall of the previous year. Fertilization won't get you any flowers this year but it may help next year's crop of flowers. I would recommend a fertilizer high in phosphorus and low in nitrogen. A good 10-10-10 fertilizer would suffice. A healthy dose of compost around the tree would also provide the phosphorus that it needs among other nutrients.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2010 at 7:12PM
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amysrq(5)

T.O. I had a feeling it was too good to be true! But lots of leaves is fine with me. This will be year-two for this plant...time to creep. I'll look for the leap next year.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2010 at 9:52PM
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bosgal(6)

Hello again!

Great news! The tree has had a TERRIFIC blooming season and is now winding down. I managed to shoot this photo so you can see just how much better the blooming performance is this year when compared with Spring 2009.
I am looking forward to what the fertilizer will do in the future !
BosGal
Search for Magnolia ...OR .....
Follow the link below to see a photo in the Garden Web "garden Photos" section:

http://photos.gardenweb.com/garden/galleries/2010/04/white_star_magnolia_march_2010.html

Here is a link that might be useful: White Star Magnolia Spring 2010

    Bookmark   April 11, 2010 at 3:09PM
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diggingthedirt

Thanks for the follow-up, the tree looks very happy - really pretty!

I'm glad you didn't move it; they DO take time to become established, and they don't like being transplanted.

But .... why didn't you get a soil test? I think it was the unanimous advice of the forum.

There will be lots of soil testers at upcoming spring plant events, like your county extension agency sale, or other benefit plant sales. Take a scoop of soil from near the tree and get it tested! (please!) It's either free or very low cost, and only takes a few minutes. Besides nutrient analysis, you can have the ph checked, and then you'll have a much clearer idea of what this tree would like in the way of supplements.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2010 at 7:21PM
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