How to Clone a Magnolia Tree

Overview

Cloning a plant means growing a new plant from an existing plant rather than by seed. Magnolias are commonly propagated this way. Indeed, propagation by air layering has been used by the Chinese for many centuries. When cloning a magnolia, patience is key since it takes one to two years to get a new tree.

Air Layering

Step 1

Choose a stem about the thickness of a pencil on the plant you want to clone.

Step 2

Strip about a 6-inch section of its leaves.

Step 3

Beneath a node--a place where a leaf emerges--cut through the bark all the way around the stem. Make an identical cut about 1 ½ inches below the first.

Step 4

Make a vertical cut to join the first two cuts. Remove the bark.

Step 5

Scrape the exposed inner wood with the knife.

Step 6

Soak a large clump of moss for at least an hour.

Step 7

Brush the stem's exposed inner wood with root hormone.

Step 8

Squeeze the excess water from the moss, then wrap it around the exposed inner wood, securing it with twine.

Step 9

Wrap the film around the moss, sandwiching the ends together, then rolling them down as you would a lunch bag.

Step 10

Gather the top of the film against the stem, then tape it closed around the stem. Do the same with the bottom opening. The moss should now be completely sealed.

Step 11

Cover the film with foil.

Step 12

When roots have worked their way through the moss on all sides, prune the branch off beneath the plastic to separate the new plant from the old. It will take 1 to 2 growing seasons for the roots to get to this stage.

Step 13

Prepare a permanent home for the young tree by shoveling out topsoil to accommodate the root ball.

Step 14

Mix the topsoil with an equal amount of coir or moss.

Step 15

Remove the film.

Step 16

Plant the tree. Fill the hole with the soil-coir mix.

Simple Layering

Step 1

Bend a low-growing stem until it touches the ground.

Step 2

Dig out a 2- to 3-inch trench in the soil about 6 to 12 inches from the end of the stem. The trench should continue to the point where the stem first comes in contact with the ground.

Step 3

Strip the leaves from where the stem first touches the ground to about 6 to 12 inches from the stem's end.

Step 4

Cut a diagonal notch into the stripped portion of the stem, a bit below a node.

Step 5

Brush rooting hormone into the cut.

Step 6

Slide a toothpick into the notch to keep the cut open.

Step 7

Put the stripped area of the stem into the trench, covering it with the soil-coir mix. Leave above-ground the 6- to 12-inch end of the stem, with leaves still attached.

Step 8

Put a stone atop the soil, if necessary, to keep the stem beneath the ground.

Step 9

Stake the 6- to 12-inch end of the stem so that it stands straight up.

Step 10

Keep the area watered so it stays moist.

Step 11

Cut the new plant from the old in early autumn or early spring after roots have formed, which will take one to two growing seasons.

Step 12

Plant the new tree as you would for an air-layered plant.

Things You'll Need

  • Sharp knife
  • Sphagnum moss or coir
  • Soft-bristled paintbrush
  • Rooting hormone
  • Twine
  • 6 by 12 inches polyethylene film
  • Electrical tape
  • Aluminum foil
  • Pruning shears
  • Spade
  • Toothpick
  • Stake

References

  • NCSU: Plant Propagation by Layering--Instructions for the Home Gardener
  • Texas Agricultural Extension Service: Air-layering for Difficult-to-Root Plants
  • Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service: New Plants from Layering
Keywords: cloning magnolia trees, propagating magnolias, how to clone magnolias

About this Author

S. Johnson is a freelance writer and editor of both print and film media who specializes in making the complex clear. A freelancer for over 20 years, Johnson has had the opportunity to cover many topics ranging from construction to music to celebrity interviews, learning a lot and talking to many interesting people.