While the weather outside resembles that of the arctic I spent a few minutes starting Japanese maple seeds. I had two varieties of tree that I saved seed from this fall, 'Sango Kaku' and 'Bloodgood' (Acer palmatum). Both types of Japanese maples are fairly common and can make good root stock for other, more unique Japanese maple varieties. One of these days I'll get around to doing some tree grafting but before I do I need some root stock maples.
Starting Japanese Maple Seeds
There are several good ways to start Japanese maple seeds so please note that what I do here is just one possible way. I began with a presoak to determine the best viable seeds. The way the seed soaking works is that the viable seeds tend to sink while the less viable ones float. Unfortunately I had a bunch of floaters. I had over 15 seeds from the 'Sango Kaku' that sank but pretty much all the rest floated. This wasn't great but it's an opportunity to do a test. I decided to place seeds in three cups based one which ones floated and sank.
The 'Sango Kaku' that sank are in one cup, the floaters in another, and the 'Bloodgood' are all in their own. Many of these seeds may not germinate but I thought it would be interesting to see if they did or not. I'm sort of testing the test!
After soaking the seeds for a while I put them in the half full cups of soil. I put a hole in each cup and just used regular soil. I set the cups in the bottom of a plastic container to catch the excess water then moistened the soil. I separated the seeds, put them in the cups, then sprinkled a little more soil over them.
Last I covered the plastic container with a duplicate container to create a mini-greenhouse similar to how I start seeds. Now I just need to wait and monitor to see if I have any germination. In the past I've used the plastic bag method to germinate Japanese maple seeds which is another great way to do it!
Don't forget to label the cups in some way so you know what you planted. Also keep in mind that Japanese maple seedlings are not genetically identical to the parent and you will have some variations in color. A purple leaved Japanese maple plant may produce green leaved offspring. Some of the fun in growing Japanese maples from seed is seeing what grows!
Japanese Maple Seed Tips
Cold Stratification of Japanese Maple Seeds
Japanese maple seeds benefit from cold stratification. Place your saved seeds in the fridge for 3-4 months over the winter or direct sow in the fall for spring germination.
Collecting Japanese Maple Seeds
Collect Japanese maple seeds when they are just about to come off the tree to maximize the viability.
What to Expect from your Japanese Maple Seeds
It is very likely that the seeds you germinate from cultivars will not grow into exactly the same type of tree. Variegation may not transfer, colors may be different, and leaf shapes as well may be different, but it can be fun to try these for root stock and grafting or just to see what you end up growing!