Southern magnolia trees are gracefully elegant focal points on any landscape. Growing southern magnolias from seed has a much higher success rate than propagating them from a cutting. To propagate southern magnolia, it's best to take the cuttings between July and September. The terminal bud has set during these months, so your success rate increases. Propagating a magnolia tree requires a sterile environment and a bit of patience. If you're successful, the results are worth the efforts.
Sterilize the drinking glass and a sharp knife with rubbing alcohol. Cuttings are susceptible to disease and fungus; it's important to begin with a clean environment.
Fill several small planters with perlite. Terra cotta planters with diameters of 3 to 4 inches will work. You'll need one planter for each cutting. The more cuttings you take, the greater your chances for success. Moisten the perlite.
Pour a small amount of a quality rooting hormone into a shallow container.
Take several cuttings from a mature, healthy magnolia tree. Look for 6- to 8-inch long tips growing from healthy stems. Cut each tip from the stem using one quick motion. A sharp knife is crucial so you will not harm the mother plant.
Place the cuttings in the drinking glass immediately to minimize the amount of oxygen they will receive between cutting and planting. It's important to make the cuttings as quickly as possible.
Remove the leaves from the base of the cuttings, leaving a few leaves at the top of the stem. Slice the leaves with one clean cut at the base where the leaves meet the stem. Cut a 2-inch vertical slice at the base of the cutting. The slice will increase the chances of propagation.
Dip the sliced end of each cutting in the rooting hormone. If your rooting hormone is in powder form, dip the ends of the cuttings in water before dipping them into the hormone.
Insert a sharpened pencil tip into the center of the moistened perlite. This is the hole for planting the cutting. The hole should only be about 1/3 of the depth of the planter. Carefully place the hormone-covered end of the cutting into the perlite; make sure that the rooting hormone does not scrape away from the cutting. Gently fill in the opening around the cutting with perlite.
Place the planters in an area that receives indirect light. Tent each cutting with a plastic bag to help maintain humidity and moisture levels. Make sure that the perlite stays moist. Mist the cuttings often. The magnolia cuttings should take root in about eight weeks. After the cuttings root, transfer them into 8- to 10-inch pots that are filled with potting soil.