Chinese magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana) is also known as tulip tree, Japanese magnolia and saucer magnolia. This deciduous tree produces 5- to 10-inch, light pink blooms in the spring. Chinese magnolia grows in full sun to part shade and is cold hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 5 through 9. Chinese magnolia is a semi-hardwood that can be propagated from cuttings collected from mid-July to early fall.
Sterilize the pruners to reduce the potential of transferring bacterial infection. Mix 2 tbsp. bleach in one cup water and then dip the pruners into the mix. Wipe dry.
Make a straight cut about 6 inches from the end of a branch of new growth on the magnolia tree. The cutting should not have blooms or buds. Early morning is the best time to make the cut.
Snip off leaves above the cutting edge and up 1/3 the length of the cutting.
Clean a flower pot that is about 6 inches tall and wide and has drain holes. A pot of this size can hold up to three cuttings. Scrub the pot with a brush and a portion of the bleach solution used to sterilize the pruners. Rinse the pot with water.
Prepare the potting mix. The mixture in which the magnolia tree cutting will root can be an even mix of peat and perlite, or an even mix of perlite and sand. Water the potting mix until water comes out the drain holes.
Transfer some rooting hormone from its bottle into another container, like a saucer or sandwich bag. By transferring the rooting hormone to another container, possible contamination of the bottle of rooting hormone is avoided.
Moisten the bottom 1/3 of the cut stem with water and then roll the cutting in the rooting hormone, covering the sides and cut tip.
Make a hole in the potting mix, using your finger or a pencil, equal to 1/3 the height of the cutting (the part now covered with rooting hormone). Place the cutting in the hole and then water lightly around the cutting to settle the soil.
Sunlight and Moisture
Place clear plastic supported by sticks or other devices over the cutting. A large food storage bag can be used and may stand upright on its own with no support. Pull the food storage bag around the lip of the flower pot and secure it with a twist tie or office binder clip. A large, clear glass jar could be used instead of plastic.
Place the pot where it will receive indirect sunlight. The room temperature should be in the mid-70's Fahrenheit.
Provide continuous moisture. Moisture from the wet soil will form on the inside of the plastic. When the moisture level on the inside of the plastic (or glass jar) declines, lift the plastic and spray water inside the bag, then reseal the bag to the top of the pot. Roots should form in four to eight weeks.
Leave the cuttings in the pot through winter. The cuttings can be planted outdoors in the spring after danger of frost has passed or transferred to a larger pot, minus the plastic canopy.