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Grafting Magnolias

The Martha Stewart Show, May 2008

Grafting is a method of vegetative, or asexual, propagation that is particularly useful for the production of woody plants that are difficult to produce from stem cuttings. Grafting is a way to create a beautifully flowering specimen on healthy roots. Use a healthy flower rootstock to grow a flower whose roots may not be vigorous.

There are several methods of grafting. Bud grafting is distinct from other methods, in that it uses a single bud rather than several along the course of a segment of branch. It is particularly effective because grafts take hold quickly and produce substantial amounts of growth quickly. It also allows for the economical use of stock plants.

Grafting magnolias may be done from late winter through late fall. This method works well if done in mid to late summer. Remember, you're gathering buds or scion wood from branch growth that has most recently occurred, making September an ideal time for collecting it. Grafted plants should be producing new growth for you the following spring.

Grafting Magnolias How-To
1. Select understock. Collect scion wood. Make incision in trunk of understock, near the base of the tree, removing a sliver of bark.

2. Cut back scion wood leaf to petiole near bud. Slice bud away from stem in similar shape to incision made on understock. Place bud on understock wound. Secure bud to scion by carefully wrapping with grafting tape.

3. Once bud is secure, cut back scion top to a level just above the bud. Remove any understock suckers that appear in the first year.

Special thanks to Patrick Cullina, vice president of horticulture and science research at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, for demonstrating how to graft a magnolia and showcasing different types of magnolia tree branches. Special thanks to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for giving tickets to the garden to everyone in our studio audience.

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