The success rate for rooting a magnolia is not as great as if you started one from seed, but it is possible to root a magnolia tree from a cutting. The best time of year to take your cuttings is between July and September when the terminal bud has set. You’ll need a good root hormone for this project; you can find a selection from your local garden supply store.
Sterilize your knife and glass with rubbing alcohol before you take your cuttings. Cuttings are susceptible to fungus and disease before they root, so give them a healthy start.
Fill small planters with perlite and moisten it. Planters measuring 3 to 4 inches in diameter with an overall height of 3 to 4 inches will suffice. You’ll need one planter for each of the cuttings. Pour some of your root hormone into a shallow container.
Select the sections of the magnolia tree for your cuttings. You’ll need a growing tip of the plant, from 6- to 8-inches long. Cut the clone from the stem with one quick motion so as not to harm the mother plant. Take several cuttings from a mature, healthy magnolia tree to optimize your success rate. Place each cutting in the drinking glass to minimize the amount of oxygen the clone will receive between cutting and planting. Make your cuttings as quickly as possible.
Remove all but the top few leaves from each magnolia cutting. To remove the leaves, slice them at the base of the leaves where they meet the stem. Cut a 2-inch slice vertical slice at the base of your cutting to further improve the chances of rooting the magnolia tree.
Dip each of the cuttings in the root hormone according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If you are using a powder hormone, dip the ends of your cuttings in water first.
Insert the tip of a pencil into the center of the perlite to make a hole for your cutting. The hole should only go about 1/3 of the way down into your planter. You need to leave room for the roots to grow. Carefully place a cutting into the perlite so that the root hormone stays put. Gently fill in around the sides of the cutting with the perlite.
Place the planters in an area where they will receive indirect light. You can tent each one with a plastic bag to maintain moisture levels. Mist the cuttings often and make sure that the perlite stays moist. Your magnolia cuttings should root in about eight weeks, when you can transfer them into larger 8- to 10-inch pots filled with potting soil.