I have a large magnolia tree; it has sprouts from a downed limb, some 5 feet tall. How do I separate these from the tree to start a new one, or is this a project that has any hope of a positive outcome?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Linda: Propagating a magnolia from a cutting is possible and worth the effort if you are a very patient gardener. It is a long process and it does not always have a successful outcome. Rooting potential varies depending on the species as well as cultivar of each magnolia. It can take up to 12 weeks for the cuttings to root and up to seven years before you will be able to enjoy any flowers. Sometimes it is easier to leave this task up to the professional growers and purchase a more mature tree from your local garden center. That being said, if you are up for the challenge it is best to take soft to semi-hardwood cuttings. These cuttings are taken from new growth usually during the growing season, so you will need to take your cuttings soon if you do not want to wait until next summer. Use a clean, sharp pair of pruners and make your cuttings between 4-6 inches long. Remove all the foliage except for the top inch or two of the cutting. Dip the end of the cutting in a rooting hormone that you should be able to find at your local garden center, and then plant about 1 inch deep into a small container no bigger than 4 inches. Make sure the container has plenty of drainage holes. It is best to use a mixture of half sand and half peat or perlite. Ideally you want to have your containers ready to be planted before taking your cuttings because you do not want them to dry out. After they are potted up, water them well and cover them with a clear plastic bag to create a mini greenhouse. Use a bamboo stake or a stick to make sure the bag does not touch the cutting. Place in an area with filtered light, avoiding direct sun. Do not let the soil completely dry out but you never want it sopping wet either. If there is condensation on the bag you will not need to water. The cutting should root gradually and then you can plant it in a larger container or directly into the garden.