Gardening Q&A: magnolia cuttings

Horticultural advice from the experts at the RHS
Question: My grandfather planted a magnolia in 1964. It is very important to me but I have moved house and I would like to take a cutting for my new garden. Could you advise me please?

Answer: Magnolia cuttings are not the easiest to root, so the first piece of advice would be to take lots of cuttings. At least then, you’ll be able to share them proudly around the family if you get good results.

You need to take vigorously growing shoots 8-13cm long to make what are known as softwood or greenwood cuttings. Late spring to early summer is the best time to do this, so now is ideal. Cut just above a leaf joint (node) and trim all the leaves off except for the top two.

Cut the lower leaf in half to reduce the amount of moisture lost through the leaf surface and pinch out the bud nestling at the tip. Place the cuttings into pots of proprietary seed and cuttings compost in a shaded, but warm place.

Keep moist and they should have some good roots and growth on them after 8-12 weeks, but you’ll still need to keep the young plants in frost-free, cool conditions over their first winter.

Send your questions for the RHS to: gardenproblems@standard.co.uk.

Only a few questions per month can be answered. For further advice on handling problems in your garden, visit www.rhs.org.uk/advice/index.asp.

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