Question of the Week: June 17, 2021

Magnolia leaves are dropping moment by moment.

“Why are my trees dropping so many leaves? I’m having to blow the drive and walk almost every day.”

To a large degree this leaf drop is normal. It happens every year when relatively cool, moist spring weather switches over to hot, dry summertime. That transition is underway right now.

This past February’s extreme cold is probably involved, too. Red oaks, for example, have been the subject of a lot of the questions I’ve gotten about leaf drop in late May and so far in June, and they were hurt badly by the cold. It’s hard not to assume that one played a part in the other.

Leaves of southern magnolia are replaced in May every year, so leaf drop with them is normal. But it started later and is taking longer this year.

Magnolias are another story. They’re evergreen trees, and most years they go through their complete leaf changeover in May, but this year it started a couple of weeks later, at least it did at our house in rural Collin County.

Fast-growing, large-leafed trees like silver maples, sycamores, cottonwoods and catalpas put on a lot of luxuriant growth when it’s cool in the spring. They seem to “forget” that summer is coming. When it hits, they start shedding a bunch of those leaves rather than trying to keep up with them – they just can’t pull the water through fast enough. Autumn always starts about mid-July beneath these trees in Texas.

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However, to boil it all down to a quick answer: most of this is normal, and there isn’t anything you can do about it anyway. Take good care of the trees. Be sure they don’t suffer for lack of water as soils dry out over the next 10-12 weeks and everything should work out just fine.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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