The Q&A Archives: grafting a magnolia tree

Question: Is it possible to start a magnolia by grafting? If so, please explain how to do this. thanks for the help.
Jennifer Reeves

Answer: There are a number of ways to propagate a magnolia; Seeds, cuttings, layering and grafts.
Magnolias grown from seed often vary in crown structure, size, vigor, and flower and foliage characteristics. Seed-grown plants usually take much longer to flower than asexually propagated plants. Magnolia fruits are 2 to 6 inches long and ripen in late summer to late fall. When mature, individual follicles in the fruit split to expose red or orange seeds. Fruits should be promptly harvested when seeds are mature. Alternatively, fruits with immature seeds may be ripened in a warm room. Seeds should be macerated in water to remove the red seed coat and fleshy pulp. Soaking macerated seeds in water for a few days may help in pulp removal. Freshly cleaned seeds may be sown right away but germination may be improved if seeds are stratified at 40?F for 2 to 4 months. Seeds may be stored for several years in sealed containers at 32 to 40?F.

Cutting propagation is preferred for most magnolias. However, rooting potential of cuttings varies considerably among cultivars as well as among species. Magnolia denudata, M. acuminata, and M. grandiflora are considered difficult to root from cuttings. Soft to semi-hardwood cuttings should be taken from juvenile plants whenever possible. Wounding may be beneficial. Cuttings should be placed under intermittent mist. Cuttings usually root within 6 to 12 weeks.

Layering is the ancient, traditional way of propagating magnolias. In its simplest form, branches are bent and pegged to the ground in late winter or early spring. A slit or cut is usually made in the buried portion of the stem. The terminal portion of the bent branch should be staked vertically. Magnolias may also be air-layered. Layered plants can be cut from the mother plant 1 to 2 years later.

Grafting and budding are effective ways of propagating large numbers of a desirable magnolia. Understocks should be 3 to 4-year old plants. Many different magnolia species may be used as understocks. Grafting is possible from late summer through early spring. Side and veneer grafts are commonly used.

Magnolias may be chip budded at any time of the year. The buds should be tied and waxed or wrapped with polyethylene film. A warm, humid environment will speed callusing. After budbreak, the stocks are cut back. Magnolias may also be T-budded.

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