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How to grow and propagate magnolia from cuttings

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Magnolias are stunning trees to have in your garden. Most people admire their glossy foliage and fragrant flowers in an array of colours from white to purple and pink as well and even yellow. The best part is if you have a successfully growing magnolia you can reap the benefit of more magnolias by propagating and growing more plants from cuttings. 

When to take a cutting from magnolias

The best time to take a cutting is early in the morning when the magnolia stems remain plump and hydrated. 

Another variety is the Magnolia Susan which reaches a full mature height and spread of around 3 meters when grown in the ground and much smaller in containers.

How to take a cutting from magnolias

Start by sanitising your tools. You should always work with clean, sharpened tools to help make cuts easier. If you don’t clean the tools, or you have to try multiple times to get a cut, it can leave behind damaging pathogens. You can do this with a 10 minute soak in a mixture comprised of 1 part water to 9 parts bleach, household disinfectant, or rubbing alcohol. With the rubbing alcohol, you can just wipe down the tools before you work. 

Tip: if you plan to take cuttings from multiple trees, single-use alcohol wipes can help you clean the blades of your gardening tools in between cuts. This will go a long way toward minimising the risk of infection and improving your success rate. 

Before you take the cuttings, always sanitise the pots too. Each pot in which the cutting will be placed needs to have proper drainage. If you are using plastic pots you can always add holes to increase drainage. 

Wash each pot in a mixture of hot, soapy water and then rinse them and set them out to try. 

Taking the cutting

The cut should be made about 15cm from the tip of the stem. 

Semi-hardwood cuttings have the biggest leaves and they lose moisture faster than they can replace it, so the leaves from the bottom half of each cutting should be stripped away. Only leave those near the tip. 

Given the challenges of rooting a magnolia cutting, you should cut the base bark off with your blade, scraping away around 2cm of bark at the base until the inner green layer is exposed. Cover this open section with rooting hormone which is often available as a powder or gel.

How to propagate magnolias 

Before you start preparing your cuttings, remember that the rate of failure is high among magnolias, even with otherwise perfect conditions. To that end, it is recommended that you have multiple cuttings you propagate simultaneously so that you can choose the most successful of the bunch to grow.

Get everything ready before you start taking cuttings

When preparing for cuttings, you should simultaneously prepare the environment in which you plan to propagate. 

There are, for example, propagators designed for this purpose, with slight differences in layout, but otherwise quite similar in purpose; these are made with a bottom tray inside of which sit different pots or containers, each with a lid that sits on top and has adjustable openings for ventilation. 

The idea behind this is to create a greenhouse. Now, you do not need a propagator to do this, and can just as easily invest in small plastic pots or root trainers and then cover each cutting with a tented plastic bag or plastic lid, secured in place. Whatever gives you a greenhouse effect without touching the cutting directly will work fine. 

Haxnicks 12 cm Rootrainers Set
  • Deep Rootrainers are the workhorse of the range - suitable for propagating and cultivating nearly all plants, trees, shrubs, herbaceous, fruit and vegetables; especially those that have deep fast growing roots such as sweet peas and beans.
  • Each pack contains: 1 holding tray, 8 books x 4 cells 12cm deep and a clear propagating lid.
  • Rootrainers encourage vigorous & strong root formation; roots grow straight, avoiding root balls and pot bound plants.
  • Opening the Rootrainer up in a book-like fashion allows for easy inspection of moisture levels and root progress, as well as satisfyingly easy removal of the young plants.
  • Tray Size: Length 36cm (15") x Width 22cm (9") x Depth 9cm (3.5").

Potting compost and inserting the cutting

The pots should be filled with a fast-draining mixture of 1 part sand and 1 part peat moss or even just multi-purpose compost. The hormone-treated end should be placed in the medium halfway up the cutting. Firmly pat the remaining soil in place.

Place cutting outdoors

Either way, place the pots outdoors, but protected, where they can get sunlight but not direct sunlight so ideally a little shade. Monitor the compost to ensure it remains moist, without being too wet; too wet and it creates fungal infections which ruin the chances of propagating. They should be somewhere that does not get exposure to midday sun or heavy wind. In a cold frame or in a greenhouse will work as well.

Potting on cutting

As the cuttings take root they will become larger and stronger, at which point they will likely need to be transplanted a handful of times into larger and larger pots to accommodate their changing size. 

It can take an average of 4-8 weeks to start rooting, but warmer temperatures can expedite this but it can also take longer. 

As mentioned, they will need to be transplanted as they get bigger. So, those cuttings that are successful should be transplanted to a 1-litre pot with regular potting soil, and put back in its original place, for the duration of a full growing season. You should only transplant them into the ground in early Autumn once there have good root systems.

Last update on 2022-01-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you this was a great informative blog. I never knew magnolia could propagated from a cutting. I love magnolia

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