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How to Propagate Magnolia Trees

By Ma Wen Jie ; Updated September 21, 2017

Several options exist for propagating a magnolia tree. Although you can grow them from seed, you won't know the color of the flowers until the tree blooms because of genetic changes during fertilization. In some cases, simple cut propagating works, but air layer prorogation tends to give more consistent results.

Select a branch or stem that is at least a pencil width in size. On magnolias, the stem can be much larger.

Make two cuts around the entire stem 1 1/2 inches apart. Cut through the bark and cambium layer.

Make a long cut between the two circular cuts. Peel the bark away to leave the inner wood exposed.

Apply wet sphagnum moss in a ball around the entire wound. Soak the moss for a few hours before use and squeeze out any excess water. Tie the handful of moss in place with string.

Wrap a piece of polyethylene film around the moss. Roll the connecting long edge of the film together to create a good seal.

Reinforce the rolled joint with electrical tape to ensure that it is sealed. Tape the top and bottom edges of the film to the branch with electrical tape to prevent air from drying the moss.

Watch for roots. Wait for the roots to be visible on all sides of the moss.

Cut the newly rooted stem or branch from the plant using a sharp knife or pruning shears.

Remove the film. Be careful not to disturb the moss or roots.

Plant the new plant in a container filled with good potting soil. Thoroughly water the newly potted plant.

Cover the potted plant with a polyethylene tent for 4-8 days to prevent evaporation. This will allow the root structure to develop more fully. Keep the plant in light shade for a couple of weeks, or until the root system is fully developed.

Harden off the new plant by making a series of small cuts in the polyethylene to reduce the humidity of the plant's environment over several days.

Transplant the young plant in the desired location.


Things You Will Need

  • Sharp knife
  • Sphagnum moss
  • Water
  • Polyethylene film
  • Pruning shears
  • Pot
  • Potting soil


  • If you prefer to try getting cuttings to root, you can try placing four to six cuttings in water with rooting hormone. Although not as successful, using more cuttings can help improve the odds of propagating a magnolia tree.
  • Magnolias can be grown from seed. Remember to wash the seed with soap to remove its protective barrier. Trees grown from seed flower much slower than on trees propagated by other methods.

About the Author


Although he grew up in Latin America, Mr. Ma is a writer based in Denver. He has been writing since 1987 and has written for NPR, AP, Boeing, Ford New Holland, Microsoft, RAHCO International, Umax Data Systems and other manufacturers in Taiwan. He studied creative writing at Mankato State University in Minnesota. He speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese, English and reads Spanish.