How to Start Magnolia Trees From Cuttings & Seed


Majestic, low-maintenance magnolia trees stand out against the landscape and add interest to your property with its scented blooms. Although you can purchase a young plant from your local nursery, it's easy to start magnolia trees yourself by seeds or cuttings. Cuttings produce stronger plants, but the process of encouraging softwood to root is harder than sprouting seeds. Seeds, on the other hand, are easy to sprout, but take 2 to 3 years to establish.

From Cuttings

Step 1

Fill 2-inch seedling pots with moist peat moss or vermiculite as a rooting medium. Use 1 pot per cutting. Make a 2-inch deep hole in the center of each pot and place aside.

Step 2

Inspect an established magnolia tree for softwood (young shoots with soft bark that you can easily puncture with your fingernail) in early spring or late winter. Make a straight, diagonal cut with gardening snips to separate 4- to 5-inch softwood twigs from the magnolia tree. Strip leaves from the lower 2 inches of each cutting, leaving the leaves at the tip on.

Step 3

Plant the lower 2 inches of the cutting in the rooting medium. Cover each pot with clear plastic and place in a sheltered, mostly shaded spot indoors. Remove the plastic only when watering, and make sure the medium remains moist.

Step 4

Inspect each pot for signs of rooting, such as emergence of new leaves, after 4 to 6 weeks. If no leaves appear, remove the rooting medium from the lower half of the cutting and look for roots.

Step 5

Transplant the cuttings outside for immediate planting, or to a larger pot if transplanting to the permanent spot after a few months.

From Seed

Step 1

Collect seeds from the cone-like fruit of magnolias immediately after they mature, which is between September and October. Spread the cones on a paper towel in a shaded area and allow them to dry. Shake the dried cones gently to release the seeds.

Step 2

Soak the seeds in a bowl filled with warm water overnight to clean them. Gently rub between your hands the next morning to release the seeds' coat, and spread the seeds on dry paper towels. Plant the seeds in indoor pots in the fall, or refrigerate the seeds and plant them outdoors in the spring.

Step 3

Plant the seeds in pots by filling each pot with good-quality potting soil. Sow each seed 1/4-inch below the soil. Water the soil to ensure that it is evenly moist at all times, and spread an even layer of mulch on top. Transplant the seedlings outdoors in the spring.

Step 4

Refrigerate the seeds by filling a clear plastic bag with sand and moist peat moss, and placing the seeds in it. Tie the bag and refrigerate at 40 degrees until spring, or for 3 to 6 months. Keep the medium moist at all times.

Things You'll Need

  • Seedling pots
  • Moist peat moss
  • Established magnolia tree
  • Gardening snips
  • Plastic sheet
  • Magnolia seeds
  • Paper towels
  • Bowl
  • Warm water
  • Sand


  • Texas A&M: Southern Magnolia
  • United States National Arbotetum: Magnolia Questions and Answers
Keywords: magnolia tree, starting magnolia trees, magnolia tree cutting

About this Author

Tanya Khan is a freelance author and consultant, having written hundreds of thousands of words for various online and print sources. She has an MBA in Marketing but her passion lies in giving her words wings.