We have an approximately 8-year-old Southern Magnolia tree that has done well in the past. This spring, it has lost almost all its leaves, and I don’t see any buds or new growth. We live in northern Kentucky. The leaves turned brown and fell off. We aren’t sure if the bitter cold this winter has killed it or if there is a chance it will come back. We hate to lose it, as it is about 25 feet tall and a great addition to our landscaping. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
The Gardener’s Answer
Even established trees can be injured during extremely cold winters. Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) is no exception. We had prolonged periods of no snow or moisture combined with freezing temperatures, and for evergreens, this can be a recipe for disaster. This is especially true if your magnolia went into winter without sufficient moisture.
Even though magnolias thrive in full sun, they benefit from being planted near a structure for the reflected heat. It is also best to avoid planting them in low-lying areas of your yard where they will be exposed to the coldest air. Intense winter sun can cause the foliage to burn and drop. I think you are correct in your assumption that the winter hits damaged your tree. At this point it will be a waiting game, but if it does not put on new growth in the next few weeks it likely will not at all. I wish I could give you more optimistic news.