The Q&A Archives: Japanese Maple From Seed

Question: I have a packet of Japanese maple seeds left from last year. I tried following the directions on the packet, but none of the seeds germinated. I understood that pre-chilling meant planting the seed in moist soil and putting in the fridge, still moist for a few weeks. When I did this I discovered a soft grey mould had formed on the top of the soil. Can you please tell me the correct procedure?

Answer: Seeds of your Japanese Maple need special treatment to help break their double dormancy and make them sprout. They can take anywhere from 30-365 days to germinate if the seeds are viable and you give them the conditions they require. Japanese Maple seeds need three months of warm, moist treatment and three months of cold, moist treatment. This is best accomplished by planting them outdoors and exposing them to the elements. If your seeds have been stored properly, they should germinate. First, soak the seeds in warm water for 24 hours. Then plant the just on the surface of moistened growing medium and press in with your hand. Place the pots outdoors in a protected area, sinking the pots to the rims in the ground. After the winter cold and the warmth of spring weather, the seeds should begin to sprout. They can be erratic in germination, and can take up to a year to show any signs of life, so exercise some patience here! If you want to try growing them indoors, soak for 24 hours, then place in a plastic bag of moistened growing medium, but don't seal the bag. Leave the bag in a warm area, but check frequently to make sure the potting soil is moist. Agitate the contents occasionally to incorporate some fresh air. After three months, seal the bag and place in the refrigerator for three months. After the warm and cold treatments, sow in individual pots as above. Good luck with your second batch of seeds!

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