Germinating Japanese Maple Seeds in a Plastic Bag

I love a nice Japanese maple! Who doesn’t? There are Japanese maples  with variegated leaves, ones with deep burgundy colors, others with interesting shaped leaves that are highly dissected and many other kinds. The fall color on a Japanese is almost always guaranteed to be something special.  Their highly ornamental nature makes them very popular trees in the landscape. Last summer I gathered up quite a few seeds from a ‘Bloodgood’ Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) located in my mom’s garden with the idea that I would grow more Japanese maples from seed.

Collecting Japanese Maple Seeds

I collected the seeds from the tree when they had turned reddish in color which was on July 10, 2012. I placed them in a plastic bag with a slightly damp paper towel (important: not soaking wet, just slightly damp).  Then I put the bag of Japanese maple seed in the refrigerator to stratify.  Stratification is the cold treatment process that allows natural growth inhibitors to break down inside the seed and trigger germination.

Storing Japanese Maple Seeds

I put the bag in a plastic box container where I keep several other kinds of seed.  Since I’ve been seed starting a lot lately the box has been removed from the refrigerator repeatedly over the last few weeks which has triggered their germination.  Today I separated out the germinated seed and found over 80 Japanese maple seedlings emerging!  I put the Japanese maple seeds that were sprouting into three little pots, covered them with a small amount of soil, then put plastic wrap over the top of the pots to keep the humidity inside where the seeds need it.

Planting Japanese Maple Seeds After Germination

Once they get a couple leaves I’ll pot them individually into some small pots and grow them on to planting sizes.  These Japanese maple seeds should resemble the parent plant fairly closely but if you do this with other types of Japanese maples the results can be quite different from the parent. Most unique cultivars are grafted onto a different root stock from another Japanese maple variety. You can use this method to germinate lots of Acer palmatum to use as root stock for grafting unique varieties of Japanese Maples.

One of these days I hope to try my hand at grafting and these Acer palmatum seedlings might be a good rootstock to use.  Have you grafted Japanese maples before?

If you have a Japanese maple and toss the foliage in your raised beds you may end up with some volunteer seedlings! Check out the video below.

Volunteer Japanese Maple Seedlings

4 thoughts on “Germinating Japanese Maple Seeds in a Plastic Bag”

  1. The major drawbacks to grafting mostly involve the experience necessary to produce successful Japanese maple tree grafts, and the facilities that are needed.

    1. Norma,

      A weeping maple will probably not come from seed. Mostly they are grafted onto another root stock. It would still be fun to try. Pick the seeds in the summer when they are ripe, just before falling off the tree and store them in a refrigerator for at least 3 months. After that you can sow them outdoors in a bed, in wintersowing containers, or just in plastic baggies like here.

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