Magnolia looking Wilted?

We just bought a house and one of the deciding factors was the huge Magnolia tree in the front yard. Over the last few weeks we have been watching with much anticipation the fattening buds, waiting for them to bloom. I am growing concerned that the tree looks wilted and droopy (like a house plant needing watering) and there seems to be a lot of leaves turning brown and falling off.
Is this normal? Is the tree using it energy to blossom? or should we be concerned?
TIA, Dawn
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
My experience is that Magnolias (especially the 'large-leaf" group) is tough to transplant well in the northeast. I have had large M. ashei, M. macrophylla, M. fraseri all stall once they have been dug. The stall sometimes lasted for 4+ years.
As for the wilting, this is to be expected...but managed. Do not let the tree stress for adequate moisture. I would use a soil-moisture measuring device such as a tensiometer to determine when to actually water.
If soil moisture is OK, you may to try an overheard mist system to reduce the rate of evaporation from the foliage. During the hot part of the day, mist the foliage for 15 min. intervals a few times per day. The idea is to keep the tree from reaching internal wilting point until it has time to grow new roots to provide it with soil moisture.
Good luck.
--
Mike LaMana, MS
Heartwood Consulting Services, LLC
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Mon, 10 May 2004 17:01:51 -0400, "Mike LaMana"

Container-grown magnolias also tend to suffer from girdling roots. When roots reach the side of the pot, they turn and circle around the outside until they completely surround the trunk and root flares. When the base of the tree gets bigger, these circling roots strangle the tree. If the soil moisture seems adequate, you need to examine the root crown.
The safest and fastest way to do this is with an air spade, air knife. or similar tool. A large compressor pumps air at high speed which blasts the soil away from the roots with little damage (call around to arborists in your area to see if anyone uses this method). Pressurized water can also work, but it tends to be much slower because you have to stop and wait for the water to soak in/evaporate. If neither of these appeals, get a hand trowel and screwdriver. Carefully scrape/dig away the soil (you will probably scrape and nick roots, but try to minimize this).
Once you can see the root system, identify the major root flares where they begin at the base of the trunk. If they are below grade level, you have found a large part of your problem. Leave a wide, shallow bowl around the trunk to compensate for the deep planting. Now that you have identified the major roots, look for any other roots that cross over (girdle) them. Cut the girdlers out. Be merciless. If the flare or trunk has started to grow around them, it will be harder to get them out. Do it carefully to minimize damage to the root crown. Cutting along the length of the offending root can be helpful (with the UNDERSIDE of a chainsaw tip {BE VERY CAREFUL IF YOU TRY THIS TO AVOID KICKBACK} or a hammer and chisel {slower but safer}), but it is tricky. After you start the longitudinal cut, leave it alone awhile and see if it starts to shrink away from the crown. As the homeowner, you have the luxury of doing this a little at a time over several days, if necessary. Take advantage of this--you can do a lot of damage in a short time if you get too carried away. You may be better off hiring a professional arborist who is familiar with these methods. You can search for a certified arborist in your area at www.isa-arbor.com
If the tree was not too deep to begin with, replace soil and mulch the area to a depth of 3" over as wide an area as you are willing. Be careful not to heap the mulch against the trunk--you should still be able to see the major flares above the surface.
good luck,
Keith Babberney ISA Certified Arborist For more info about the International Society of Arboriculture, please visit http://www.isa-arbor.com/home.asp . For consumer info about tree care, visit http://www.treesaregood.com /
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Good post. I didn't realize the tree described was long extant on the property - I assumed it was new. Sounds like an accumulated root stress - if the load of flower buds was huge, that in itself is good indicator of stress and consistent with a girdling root.
Need more details on where the tree is growing, how big, history of construction and trenching etc...
--
Mike LaMana, MS
Heartwood Consulting Services, LLC
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
The tree is probably 30-40 feet tall in our front yard, the house was built in 1969 and the tree may be from that time period. The street is only about 10 feet away. The other thing I noticed is the previous owner had used "Root Be Gone" in the sewer line. There is another smaller magnolia on the street that looks just as wilted.
wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.