Few trees embody the southern United States like the magnolia. With its sweeping branches and sweet scented blossoms, it evokes memories of hot summer days. You can start a magnolia from a cutting or even from seed. Magnolias are so long lived that your grandchildren and their children will enjoy the fragrant blooms on the tree you started using these instructions.
Gather seeds. Collect as soon as possible after they mature in mid-September to early October. Spread the cone-like fruit out to dry for several days. Shake the seeds out of the dried cone.
Store seeds over winter. Place seeds in a plastic bag containing sand and peat moss. Store in the refrigerator at 40 degrees or lower for three to six months before planting.
Plant seeds. The following spring, plant the seeds either directly in a seedbed in the ground or in individual starter pots filled with rich potting soil. Sow seeds ¼ inch deep and firm soil gently over the seeds. Keep moist until they germinate.
To grow magnolia from cuttings, gather pieces of softwood in later winter or early spring. Softwood is new wood whose bark is still soft enough to be easily pierced with your fingernail. Cut pieces that are 4 to 6 inches long, and try to include a couple leaves at the top. Make a clean diagonal cut at the bottom of the cutting. This is the part you will insert into the soil.
Place in rooting medium. Use either vermiculite or peat moss to root cuttings. Fill starter pots with rooting medium. Place cutting into rooting medium, leaving about half of it above the soil line. Cover each pot with its own plastic bag. Humidity is vital when rooting softwood cuttings. Keep the plastic over the pot, except when watering. Place the pots in a protected spot in the shade. Check for roots in four to six weeks. Another sign that the cutting has "taken" is if it starts to grow new leaves.
Transplant seedling or cutting where tree is to grow. Transplant seedlings when they are about a foot high and cuttings when they have a small root ball and their leaves are actively growing. Add some regular garden compost to the hole when transplanting. Set the magnolia so the soil is at the same place on the trunk as it was before transplanting it. Water well and feed with liquid fertilizer every two weeks until late summer, then stop feeding until spring.