Planting Magnolias from Seed

The other day while on a shopping trip I sat in the car with my daughters while my wife ran into the store for a few things. In front of our parking space was a magnolia. I doubt it was the full sized magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), as the placement of such a large tree in a limited growth area like a parking lot would not be wise. Then again stranger things have happened! It's probably the smaller magnolia known as the 'Little Gem' which generally grows 15-20 feet tall. As I was sitting there waiting in the car my eyes spied a single cone (which is actually a woody fruit) laying on the ground. Being the complete plant plant propagation nut that I am, I casually went over to the tree and peered over toward the store to see if my wife was coming, then picked up the cone. What really attracted me to this cone is that it was the only one laying on the ground and it had little bright red seeds poking out from it!

When I arrived home I consulted my cleverly named book on plant propagation from The American Horticultural Society and edited by Alan Toogood called Plant Propagation and figured out what I needed to do. (I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in propagating plants whether from seed, cuttings, or division.)

Here's how I began the process of growing magnolias from seed:

1. Gather the cone and let it dry out to get the seeds extracted. The cone will open up and let the seeds come out. I was able to find a cone that already was releasing some seeds.
2. Gather up the seeds.
3. Admire the pretty red seeds...oops, I'm getting sidetracked.
4. Soak the magnolia seeds in warm water for 24 hours to soften the red outer coating, also called the aril.
5-6. Remove the aril from the seeds, which will come off very easily after the soaking.
7. Then either plant the seeds in the fall or stratify them in a potting mix placed in a plastic bag.
8. Wait for spring and see what happens!

As the saying goes "The waiting is the hardest part." This is my first attempt at planting magnolia seeds and it will probably be many years before they are developed enough to flower. I'll update their progress in the spring. Hopefully at least one out of the eight seeds will emerge as a new magnolia!

Labels: , ,