Thursday, March 8, 2012

Magnolia Tree Propagation

You will need a lot of patience to propagate Magnolias.  Seedlings will sometimes appear under trees, but most propagation is done through seed, cuttings taken in the summer, or from grafting.  Cutting grown plants are vastly superior to most seedlings because they begin flowering two after propagation while seedlings may take 15 to 20 years to bloom. 

Rooting magnolias is not easily done.  Even with intermittent mist systems and rooting hormones, the percentage of successfully rooted cuttings is often very low.  Evergreen magnolias such as southern magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora and sweetbay magnolia, Magnolia virginiana are best planted in early spring. Deciduous magnolias can be planted in autumn or early spring.

Autumn is the better time to plant in the south, while northern gardeners should opt for spring planting. Apply some mulch after planting to moderate soil temperatures and moisture conditions.

Magnolias are beautiful and relatively pest free. Most have large showy flowers and attractive large leaves. Many are evergreen and attractive year round. There are lovely shrub-sized magnolias for the smaller garden too.

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 will need a good root hormone for this project.

  • 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.

Dr. William C. Welch, Professor and Landscape Horticulturist at Texas University writes:

Growing magnolias from seed.
The seeds should be collected as soon as possible after the fruit is mature which is usually mid-September or early October. The cone-like fruit should be spread out to dry for several days until they open. The seeds can then be shaken from the dried cone or fruit.
If the seed is to be kept for any length of time, the red pulp should be allowed to dry enough to lose its fleshy character, placed in sealed containers and stored at 32 to 41 degrees F. If stored over winter at room temperature seed will lose its viability. The seed should be cleaned before planting or stratifying. To remove the fleshy seed coat, soak the seed overnight in warm water. Remove the seed coat by rubbing against hardware cloth or window screening. After cleaning, the seeds should be sown immediately or stored for 3 to 6 months at about 40 degrees F and planted in the spring. An excellent way to stratify seeds is to use a polyethylene bag and place alternating layers of a moist medium such as a sand and peat mixture and seeds in the bag. Tie the top of the bag and place in a refrigerator at about 40 degrees. The medium should be just moist enough to stick together but not so wet that it will drip if squeezed by hand.

Whether sown in the fall or stratified in the refrigerator and sown in the spring, the seeds should be covered with about l/4" of soil and mulched to prevent drying. Seedbeds should be kept moist until germination is complete. Partial shade should be provided the first summer for seedlings.