Teddy Bear Magnolias Have Leggy Branches That Break Easily

Question From: Mukilteo, Washington, United States
Q: Our 3 Teddy Bear magnolias have leggy branches that easily break. Instead of dense foliage, they are quite spread out and leggy, perhaps because of being on the north side of a tall house. We are in the Seattle area, zone 8b. If I prune the leaves off of the ends of the woody branches, will leaves grow back? I'm afraid they might remain as bare sticks. (The tree has also not flowered until this summer, its 8th year, perhaps because I fertilized it in spring.)

A: Magnolias are full sun lovers, but will tolerate some shade. A northern exposure in Seattle is not a good location for these trees. Lack of sun reduces the plant's ability to nourish itself and no amount of fertilizer will make up for this. That is why your trees are spindly and do not flower well. If you shorten a branch, it will normally produce leaves. Best to do this in late winter or early spring. If the trees are not too large consider relocating them. Best Nancy