Japanese Maple Seeds

So the other day I was wandering the yard and I discovered that our Japanese Maple was starting to drop its seeds.

This is a great tree.  It has been in our back yard since long before we moved in over 20 years ago at this point.  This picture does not really do it justice.  The light is catching the leaves in a way that makes them seem much more gold than their usual red.   I will try to get some better pictures of it in the future.

Anyway, I saw some seed clumps on our deck and started picking them up.  An hour or so later I had a huge pile sitting on my desk.   After spending some time removing the stems and whatnot so I had nothing but seed (plus their little wings) In the end I had probably a few hundred.  So I thought, what am I going to do with them?

It turns out, Japanese maple seeds are not all that simple to grow. Some seeds need to go through certain experiences in order to germinate. Interestingly, some seeds have a coating that inhibits germination.  In nature this coating is stripped/degraded when the seed passes through the digestive system of an animal.

Fortunately, I do not need to eat all of my maple seeds and wait a few days to start planting. Japanese Maple seeds need to go through a process called stratification. Stratification is the process of putting the seeds through a false winter.  This process takes approximately 90 days.

Steps for growing your Japanese Maple Seeds into a beautiful tree are as follows.

  1. Figure out when you would like to plant your seeds and count backwards 90 days.  This is the day you want to start the stratification process. 
  2. Soak your seeds in hot tap water over night and let the seeds continue to soak for 24 hours. Do not worry about the water cooling to room temperature over time, this is not a problem.
  3. Take your soaked seeds and put them into a freezer bag along with some kind of substrate.  Some guides I read suggest sand, peat, or vermiculite, if you have mister spray the substrate down a bit with water.  You want the substrate to be damp but not too moist. Now punch a few holes in the bag and toss it in the fridge in a place that is not going to be too bothersome but can be accessed relatively easily so you can check on the seeds now and then. Be careful not to put the bag too close to the back of the fridge where the cold air comes in or you might accidentally freeze the seeds.
  4. After about 60 days you want to begin checking the bag ever few days.  Check for seeds that have begun to sprout. If you find any you can remove them and plant them wherever you want. Continue to check the bag for sprouts every few days and continue to remove sprouting seeds for planting. 
  5. When planting the seeds you want to just barely cover the seed and the sprouted root with soil.  It should take root and the rest is just standard plant maintenance. 
Or you can be like me and just toss a few in a pot right off the tree and see what happens.  /Fingers crossed!
I will probably give in and actually go through the process of stratifying seeds in the near future. When I do I will try to remember to take step by step pictures for the blog.
Good luck!

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