Cloning a plant is nothing more than making another one just like it — from it. Unlike seeds, which often produce offspring that aren’t very much like parent plants of many species, clones are always exact replicas. The beautiful tulip tree, a member of the magnolia family, lends itself well to cloning babies from the current year’s stem cuttings.
- Moderately Easy
Things You’ll Need
- Peat moss
- 2-½ inch clay pot
- Unsharpened pencil
- Powdered rooting hormone
- Clear plastic bag
- Water soluble 20-20-20 fertilizer
- 1-gallon clay pot
- All-purpose potting soil
- Take your softwood cutting from an appealing young tulip tree during the summer. Choose a healthy new shoot with at least 2 or 3 well developed leaves on its tip. The stem’s bark should be soft enough to poke a hole in with your fingernail. Make a diagonal cut with clean, sharp shears about 6 to 8 inches from the shoot’s tip. Keep the cut stem moist and cool, and get it planted immediately.
- Mix equal parts Perlite and peat moss and fill a 2-½ inch clay pot. Clay is best because it facilitates good drainage. Set it in a shallow bowl of water until the surface of the soil feels evenly moist. Remove it from the water and let it drain well. Make a 2-inch deep hole in the center with an unsharpened pencil.
- Trim the cutting down to a length of about 4 to 5 inches. Cut all of the leaves from the lower half. Moisten the bottom 1 inch with water and dip it into powdered rooting hormone. Plant it in the pot and press the soil gently against it. Water just enough to evenly moisten the soil surface, but not enough so that it’s soggy or wet.
- Put the pot in a clear plastic bag and close it up. This forms a miniature greenhouse which will help retain moisture and humidity. Poke a few holes in the plastic to allow for adequate air circulation. Set the cutting in a bright, warm location out of direct sunlight. The top of your refrigerator or above a hot water heater are good choices. Your cutting will root sometime in the next 6 to 12 weeks.
- Open the bag every day to check the surface of the soil. The cutting must not be allowed to dry out. Keep the soil evenly moist at all times. Members of the magnolia family love humidity, so mist the cutting daily.
- Tug gently upward on the cutting’s stem about 4 weeks after planting. If it resists, it is rooting. Carefully pull the cutting and its rootball from the pot and look for tiny white roots showing through the soil. Feed the cutting when you begin seeing those roots. Mix up a water soluble 20-20-20 fertilizer at half strength per the packaging instructions, and apply to the baby plant weekly.
- Transplant the cutting to a clay pot of all-purpose potting mix when plenty of roots are growing around the sides of the rootball. Set it outside in partial shade, protecting it from hot overhead sun and high winds. Keep it evenly moist and continue weekly feedings for the rest of the growing season.
- Move the baby tulip tree to a brightly lit indoor spot out of direct sun in a cool location before the first predicted frost for your area. Don’t put it where it may be exposed to freezing temperatures. Water only when the top 1 inch of potting soil has dried out, and then just enough to barely moisten the surface. The tulip tree clone will be strong enough to plant outdoors permanently the following spring.