Magnolia Grandiflora
Photo: Eric Crichton/Corbis
It's possible to grow a southern magnolia tree with cuttings from another tree, but the process is tricky and time-consuming.
Q: We have a 7-year-old Magnolia grandiflora in our yard that's over 10 feet tall and doing great. A friend would like to take a cutting to start a tree of his own. Can this be done safely? If so, how and when should we do it?

—Gloria Saldiveri, Forked River, N.J.

A: Roger Cook replies: Growing a tree from a cutting is a tricky, complicated process that does not always work, but here's what's involved.

Take a number of 4- to 6-inch cuttings from fresh, juvenile wood between July and early September. Dip the cut ends in rooting hormone, stick the cuttings in moist perlite, and mist them constantly. The rooting hormone, naphthaleneacetic acid or NAA, is available dissolved in alcohol from nursery-supply companies. Blend it 50-50 with water before use. If all goes well and the perlite is never allowed to dry out, the cutting will grow roots and be ready to transplant in 6 to 10 weeks. But it'll be at least seven years before it develops flowers.

Knowing this, I think your friend will find it much more convenient to buy this variety of magnolia in a nursery than to propagate yours. And he or she will be enjoying its magnificent blooms a lot sooner.
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