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How to Grow a Magnolia Tree From a Cutting

By Sarah Morse ; Updated September 21, 2017
Magnolia trees grow best from softwood cuttings, taken from new growth.

Magnolia is more than a single type of tree--it includes about 80 species of trees and large shrubs native to Asia and the eastern Americas. These evergreen trees are known for their large flowers, which bloom in purple, green, yellow, pink or white. They grow in both temperate and tropical areas, depending on the species. You can propagate them with air layering and seed planting, but rooting cuttings will guarantee an attractive canopy and flowers within a few years.

Look for a flush of new growth on an existing magnolia tree and wait three to four weeks after that point. Test a couple branches by bending them between your fingers--if they snap, it is the perfect time to take cuttings. Measure 5 to 6 inches from the tip of a healthy stem, making sure to include three to four leaf nodes (the raised area where the leaves join the stem). Cut at a 45-degree angle with a sharp knife, right below a node.

Fill a small pot with mixture of half peat and half perlite. Strip the leaves from the bottom one-third of the cutting, as well as any flower buds. Dip the bottom of the cutting in rooting hormone. Stick the magnolia cutting about one-third of its length into the potting medium. Remove any leaves that touch the medium.

Water the medium deeply. Place a plastic bag over the magnolia cutting, making sure it does not touch any of the leaves. Use sticks for support underneath the bag to help keep it off the cutting. The bag will increase humidity, which the magnolia needs for rooting. Place the cutting in a dark, warm area.

Keep the medium moist and look for new growth on the cutting. When you see this, remove the plastic bag. When you start to see vigorous growth, transplant the magnolia cutting into a larger pot. Cuttings should root in six to 12 weeks.

Transplant the magnolia tree outside after the danger of frost passes. Look for an area with moist, well-drained soil and full sun or partial shade. Provide moisture for the plant until it adapts to its new home and takes root.

Water the magnolia during dry periods, as most cultivars are not all that drought-tolerant. Fertilize the plant yearly when it leafs out in the spring with a slow-release fertilizer marked 10-10-10. This will provide the nutrients it needs to keep it healthy throughout the year.

 

Things You Will Need

  • Sharp knife
  • Rooting hormone
  • Small pot
  • Peat
  • Perlite
  • Plastic bag
  • Sticks
  • Larger pot
  • Fertilizer

Tip

  • Take multiple cuttings, as magnolia can be difficult to root on the first try.

About the Author

 

Sarah Morse has been a writer since 2009, covering environmental topics, gardening and technology. She holds a bachelor's degree in English language and literature, a master's degree in English and a master's degree in information science.