How to plant a magnolia tree from seed

How to Grow Magnolia Trees from Seed


Home 4 Seasons How to Grow Magnolia Trees from Seed

Magnolia trees produce seed cones in the fall which litter yards and sidewalks. The gorgeous red seeds serve as a delicacy for squirrels and migrating birds, and they can also be collected to grow more magnolias!

Growing magnolias from seed is a practice of patience – not only will you need to wait a few months to see signs of sprouting, but the seedlings may take as long as 15 years to bloom! Nevertheless, if you’ve ever seen a Southern magnolia in full blossom, you know it’s worth the wait.

For best results, collect seeds from standard species (like Southern magnolia) rather than hybrids or special cultivars. Hybrids are specially pollinated to mix two varieties together, and their seeds will likely revert back to one of the parent varieties, rather than producing the same type of tree you admired.

How to Collect and Plant Magnolia Seeds

Follow these five simple steps to grow magnolia trees from seeds for your yard.

Step 1: Collect Magnolia Seeds

Look for magnolia cones that are already opening up and releasing the seeds. If you can’t find any, pick up fresh cones and set them aside for a few days until they dry and open. Gently shake the red magnolia seeds out of the cone.

Step 2: Scarify Magnolia Seeds

Scrub magnolia seeds with a paper towel to remove the red pulpy coating. If the seed coat doesn’t come off, try soaking the seeds in water overnight to soften them – throwing away any that float.

Once you’ve removed the seed coat, rough up the surface of the seed a little (called “scarifying”) by lightly scrubbing the seed with a piece of sandpaper, screen wire, or steel wool. This removes protective oils and makes it easier for the seed to break open and sprout.

Step 3: Stratify Magnolia Seeds

Allow the seeds to rest for 3-6 months at around 40° to 45° F, without drying out. There are three ways to do this:

  • Refrigerator: The easiest way is to mix the seeds with moist seed-starting mix or peat, place in a plastic bag or container, and stick them in the fridge for the winter.
  • Cold Frame: Alternately, you can plant the seeds about 1/2″ deep in a seed tray or small pot, and put it in a cold frame. Be sure to keep the soil moist all winter, and protect it from freezing temperatures.
  • Outdoors: If you prefer nature’s approach, you can plant the seeds outdoors, about 1/2″ deep, with a layer of mulch to hold in moisture. If you plant them outdoors, keep in mind that they may not survive if they freeze or dry out, and they’ll be an easy snack for hungry squirrels!
Step 4: Plant Magnolia Seeds

When temperatures reach around 70° F in the spring, plant your magnolia seeds either in the ground or in pots, about 1/2″ deep in a light planting medium. Keep evenly moist until the seeds germinate, which usually takes a few weeks or longer.

Step 5: Grow Magnolia Trees

Transplant seedlings to their permanent homes, or grow them in pots until they’re a little bigger. Keep the seedlings evenly moist and protected from direct sun for the first year.

Further Information

  • How to Grow Magnolias in Your Yard (article)

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How to Sprout a Magnolia Seed | Home Guides

By SF Gate Contributor Updated August 05, 2021

With their spreading growth habit and fragrant flowers, magnolias (Magnolia grandiflora) add year-round beauty to landscaping within U. S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 to 9, says Floridata. Although more commonly grown from grafts or cuttings, magnolias will also grow from fresh seeds sown in autumn. The seeds require some light processing to aid germination, but they sprout reliably once cleaned, sown in acidic soil and chilled for several months. Magnolia seedlings put on significant growth each year and will be ready for transplant by the following spring; however, even under favorable conditions, they can take up to 15 years to bloom.

  1. 1. Gather Some Cones

    Gather magnolia cones in late autumn after they split open to reveal their large reddish seeds. Pluck out the seeds and place them in a bucket of warm water. Soak them overnight.

  2. 2. Remove the Fleshy Seed Coat

    Rub the magnolia seeds with a piece of stiff wire mesh or steel wool to remove the fleshy seed coat. Rinse the seeds thoroughly after scrubbing them and lay them on a sheet of newspaper to dry.

  3. 3. Fill the Pots With a Growing Medium

    Prepare pots after cleaning the magnolia seeds. Fill 6-inch pots with a mildly acidic mixture of 2 parts milled peat, 1 part compost and 1 part perlite. Pour water onto the mixture to collapse any trapped air pockets.

  4. 4. Sow the Seeds

    Sow one seed in each pot at a depth of 1/4 inch. Spread a thin layer of thoroughly rinsed medium-grit sand over the peat mixture. Drizzle water onto the sand to moisten it.

  5. 5. Cover the Pots

    Cover the pots with plastic wrap. Store them where temperatures stay close to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, such as inside a refrigerator or outdoors against a heavily shaded north-facing wall. Chill them for four to five months.

  6. 6. Follow a Watering Schedule

    Water the magnolia seeds frequently while they chill. Allow the sand to dry out slightly, but keep the underlying peat mixture slightly moist at all times. Avoid making the peat mixture soggy, however, because the seeds might rot.

  7. 7. Set the Pots in a Warm Location

    Move the pots to a warm sheltered spot after the chilling period has ended. Choose a location with extremely bright, indirect sunlight and temperatures around 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

  8. 8. Remove the Cover

    Remove the plastic wrap after moving the pots. Continue to water the magnolia seeds whenever the sand dries out. Allow the top 1/4-inch layer of the peat mixture to dry out slightly, as well, to prevent rot.

  9. 9. Watch for Germination

    Watch for germination in three weeks, instructs the University of Florida Environmental Horticulture. Decrease watering slightly so the top 1/2 inch of peat dries out before adding more. Grow the magnolia seedlings under dappled shade for their first summer.

  10. 10. Transplant the Seedlings

    Transplant the magnolia seedlings into 10-inch pots filled with acidic soil mix in late summer. Grow them in a cold frame or on a sheltered porch during their first winter. Transplant them into a very large bed the following spring once soil temperatures hit 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Things You Will Need
    • Bucket

    • Wire mesh

    • Newspaper

    • 6-inch pots

    • Milled peat

    • Compost

    • Perlite

    • Plastic wrap

    • Cold frame

    • 10-inch pots

    • Acidic soil mix


    Wear gloves when handling magnolia cones or seeds since they sometimes cause skin irritation in sensitive individuals.


  • Floridata: Magnolia Grandiflora
  • University of Florida Environmental Horticulture: Magnolia Grandiflora


  • Wear gloves when handling magnolia cones or seeds since they sometimes cause skin irritation in sensitive individuals.

How do I grow magnolias from seeds. At home. Step by step description. Photo — Botanichka

“The sea splashes in the land of magnolias…” The words from the once popular song are not quite relevant today. The magnolia family is very diverse. There are magnolias deciduous and evergreen, they are in the form of small shrubs and tall trees. But all of them are united by one thing - the incredible beauty of flowers that can fill your garden with an indescribably pleasant aroma, even if you do not live in the subtropics. Yes, today magnolia is increasingly turning into a resident of temperate regions. In this article I will tell and show in the photo how I grow magnolias from seeds.

How do I grow magnolias from seeds

Where can I get a suitable magnolia seedling?

The only question is where to get it - magnolia, and how to choose the right one for your region? The easiest way is to go to your local botanical garden and/or garden center and check out their range. If magnolias grow and sell them, then they can grow with you.

True, there is one difficulty here - the cost of seedlings is high, and not everyone can afford to risk money with an unpredictable result (after all, magnolias may not survive the first harsh winter). It is advisable to play it safe by learning how to propagate magnolia on your own in large quantities, in order to have a supply of your seedlings in case of a particularly harsh winter.

Propagation of magnolia by cuttings

An excellent way to fully preserve the varietal characteristics of the plant, but this is difficult and not for everyone. It is desirable to take cuttings in the spring and from young plants. That is, you should already have such a plant at home or with friends. Yes, and the temperature regime should be strictly observed (+ 22 ... + 25 degrees).

Propagation of magnolia by layering

The method has the same advantages - all varietal features are completely preserved, but even here it is necessary to have a mother specimen "at hand". And there are not always branches that are convenient for bending them to the ground and fixing them in this position for the entire time of rooting.

Propagation of magnolia by seeds is not a fast process, but, in my opinion, an interesting one. Let's talk about it in more detail today.

Magnolia blooms very early, before most trees. © Igor Bilevich There are deciduous and evergreen magnolias, they are in the form of small shrubs and tall trees. © Igor Bilevich Magnolia blooms for a whole month. © Igor Bilevich

Gathering magnolia fruits

Magnolia blooms very early, earlier than most trees, in April, and some species even in March. Although magnolia grandiflora blooms in summer (but this is a very southern version). In recent years, due to climate change, re-blooming can sometimes occur around the end of summer.

Magnolia blooms for a whole month. The flowers are large, bright, up to 20 cm or more in diameter. Depending on the cultivar, flowers can be white, pink, purple, red, lilac, plain or bordered and striped.

By autumn, the flowers are already forming fruits. In some species they are cylindrical, in some they resemble cones.

These are the fruits we will collect. The easiest way to do this is in botanical gardens or parks, in the area where they are grown. True, it is worthwhile to understand that, having collected magnolia fruits in the southern regions, there is no guarantee that the plants grown from them will survive your colder winter.

Preparing the seeds for stratification

Now you need to extract the seeds from the fruits. In magnolias, the seeds are surrounded by a red oily shell (scientifically - sarcotesta). This shell protects the seeds from drying out. Dried magnolia seeds lose their germination. That's why do not buy dry seeds, they must be either in their natural shell or packaged in something moist.

The next step, perhaps not entirely pleasant, is to clean the seeds from this very juicy shell (sarcotesta). The easiest way to do this is with your nails.

Cleaned magnolia seeds should be washed in water with liquid dish detergent. This is necessary in order to wash off the remnants of the oily liquid that protects the seeds (it prevents their germination).

Magnolia fruit. © Igor Bilevich We clean the magnolia fruits. © Igor Bilevich We wash the cleaned seeds. © Igor Bilevich

Stratification of magnolia seeds

Fully prepared seeds are sent for stratification (here we will describe in more detail). The seeds of some plants contain substances that prevent their premature (autumn) germination. But these substances gradually - under the influence of low temperatures and humidity - disintegrate by spring, and the seed gets the opportunity to germinate. Such a process can be entrusted to nature, but in the case of the seeds of rare plants (and magnolia among them), it is better to carry it out under control.

Sphagnum is well suited for the stratification process (you can use sand, perlite, vermiculite, neutral peat). Sphagnum should be soaked for 20 minutes in water, and then squeezed well.

We place the magnolia seeds in moist sphagnum or other moist and loose substrate, trying to cover them from all sides. All this “mixture” is placed in a plastic container with a lid (a plastic bag is also suitable) and placed in the lower (vegetable) drawer of the refrigerator.

With proper adjustment, the temperature there is constantly kept at +4 ... +5 degrees, which is ideal for magnolia stratification purposes. We forget for three months ... no, of course, we don’t forget, but periodically, about once every 2-3 weeks, we open and inspect the seeds (that’s why the container is more convenient than the package).

Read more about seed stratification in the material 6 rules for seed stratification at home.

If they are dry (although they shouldn't), slightly moisten, if moldy, then rinse in water (possible with potassium permanganate). If you start this process around mid-October, when the seeds are collected, then after the Old New Year, the seeds should already show readiness for germination, their outer shell will burst. It's time to move on to the next stage.

Magnolia seeds in sphagnum moss on stratification. © Igor Bilevich

Sowing stratified magnolia seeds in the ground

Around mid-January, prepare a container or box (depending on the number of seeds). Do not forget that it should have holes for draining excess water. Fill this container with a good loose and fertile mixture. Additives from biohumus (for nutritional value) and vermiculite (for moisture retention) are welcome.

Sow stratified magnolia seeds in this mixture to a depth of 3 cm and send the crops to a light and warm windowsill. Although light - not necessarily yet. In fact, the seeds will need another two months to appear "into the light of day." And do not forget to water the empty-looking container all this time.

Already by March 8, the first shoots of magnolia should appear, here the light is vital for plants, so they want a southern window sill and artificial lighting.

At this stage, differences in growth rates between species are clearly visible. My Sulange, Lebner and obovate, large-flowered magnolias sprouted the fastest. Although this may be due to differences in soil mix and location (this issue is poorly understood).

And then - regular watering and, if desired, top dressing with fertilizer for seedlings. Magnolias are quite tenacious and, with good care, grow well even in the first year. In different species, their height for the first season is from 10 cm to 30 cm.

Of course, the described process can be simplified by immediately sowing the seeds, without cleaning and washing into the soil mixture, and put in a refrigerator or cellar, but, as practice shows, germination will be lower. If you need 1-2 magnolia seedlings, do so, but if you are aiming for a large number, then it is better to use the proven technology described above.

What to do at the end of the growing season with grown magnolia one-year-olds? In the southern regions with rare and not severe frosts, they can be safely planted in the ground, only sometimes when the temperature drops below 0, making them an easy shelter. In the northern regions, where frosts are constant in winter, it is necessary to postpone planting until spring, or better, another year, so that the seedlings get stronger. Wintering seedlings of deciduous magnolias should be at a temperature of + 0 ... + 5 degrees, it is possible without light (in the basement).

This year's magnolia seedlings. © Igor Bilevich

Planting magnolia seedlings in open ground

When planting magnolia seedlings in open ground, carefully choose a place. Magnolia has fragile roots and transplants from place to place she does not like and experiences them painfully.

The place should be chosen protected from winds and drafts, with a lot of sun, and in the southern regions, on the contrary, slightly shaded.

Magnolia does not like heavy, clayey, sandy, waterlogged and calcareous soils (capricious, but beautiful), so prepare the planting hole and soil mixture according to all the rules, taking into account its requirements.

Magnolias usually grow actively not in summer, but in late summer-early autumn.

The magnolia seed propagation method allows you to grow plants that are resistant to the winters in your area, especially if the seeds are collected from parents growing in colder climates.

Me and my 4 year old magnolia seedlings. © Igor Bilevich

Of course, this method of reproduction of magnolias also has two significant drawbacks.

  • If you like this or that variety, and you managed to find and collect its seeds, unfortunately you will not get varietal features as a result. With seed propagation, only the species characteristics of this plant are preserved.
  • Magnolias grown from seeds will bloom not soon, in 10 years (but time is fleeting!)

But still any magnolia is beautiful! And even more so - grown by yourself!

Growing magnolia from seeds - photo and master class + video

In spring, when the leaves on the trees have not yet opened, fancy magnolia branches adorn snow-white, like huge moths, or pale pink, like strange birds, flowers. An unforgettable sight!

This plant is unusual, very ancient. Scientists say that magnolias were already in bloom when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, and pterodactyls circled in the air. At least, archaeologists have found fossilized magnolia flowers during excavations, which are more than 100 million years old. This genus of plants appeared at a time when there were no bees yet, so their flowers are adapted for pollination by beetles.

For a long time magnolia saplings were very rare , they were extremely expensive, so the tree could only be found in the estates of aristocrats. Thanks to its luxurious flowering, magnolia has become a symbol of wealth, aristocracy, and good taste. Over time, it began to be planted in city parks. Now magnolia trees are a fairly common decoration of urban landscapes, botanical gardens and parks, as well as collections of amateur gardeners. And yet you can’t call it a common plant. One of the reasons is the difficulty of acquiring and the high cost of planting material. So the topic of reproduction of magnolias is of interest to many gardeners.


Magnolia is propagated by seeds, grafting and cuttings And although the flowering of grown plants will have to wait a little longer than with other methods of reproduction, the plants obtained in this way grow more hardy and adapted to local conditions. In addition, each such plant is always a surprise, since it may differ in many characteristics (size, color and shape of a flower, resistance to diseases, etc.) from the mother plants from which the seeds were taken.

So, if you decide to propagate magnolia seeds, the first thing to do is to get the seeds. They can be ordered from amateur gardeners. But the best way is to collect the seeds yourself in the fall, if, of course, you have access to fruit-bearing trees. Seed germination is quite high - up to 90%, and they germinate best in the year of harvest. The seeds are covered with an oily shell - sarcotesta.

See also: Magnolia - planting and care

Magnolia seeds. Magnolia.

Watch this video on YouTube

Harvest when fully ripe. You can find out that the fruit is ripe by the color of the berries - they should be brightly colored, depending on the type - from bright orange to maroon. Seeds are clearly visible in those places where the fruit is cracked. We first ripen the collected fruits - we leave them in a dry, cool room for one to two weeks so that the scales of the ashishki open up as much as possible. Then many of the seeds themselves will separate from the cone and it will be easy to extract them.

Then we place the seeds for a day (or a little longer) in a container with water so that the shell of the seeds (sarcotesta) is better separated from the stone. Although if there are few seeds, you can remove the peel without soaking. After separating the sarcotesta, carefully wash the seeds from the pulp. so that during storage they do not become moldy and do not deteriorate. Well-peeled seeds look perfectly black and shiny. Immediately after separating the sarcotests, they must be washed with a strong solution of potassium permanganate, rinsed with clean water and placed in storage (for stratification). Long. 3-4 months, stratification of magnolia seeds at a temperature of 1-4°C promotes seed germination and good germination.

The best way to store magnolia seeds is in a damp substrate in the refrigerator [in the vegetable drawer]. Seeds are placed in a bag with a lock (the so-called zip-package) or in any glass or plastic container) and covered with a substrate in a ratio of 1:2. Perlite can be used as a growing medium. - it holds moisture best and dries out more slowly. In this case, it is desirable to take a not very small fraction, this provides air access to the seeds. If there is no perlite, it can be replaced with sphagnum moss, coconut fiber, coarse sand or sawdust (they are pre-scalded with boiling water and allowed to cool).

Magnolia seeds should not dry out during storage, so we regularly (once every two weeks) inspect the substrate, ventilate, shake (for better air exchange) and moisten. Humidification should not be excessive so that the substrate is moist, but not wet (when clenching it in a fist, water should not flow). If you find that the seeds are moldy, replace the substrate. and wash the seeds themselves with a pink solution of potassium permanganate or a fungicide. We start sowing as soon as the roots are hatching.

Magnolias can be sown in February-March in a greenhouse or in containers on a windowsill, because they take a long time to germinate - from one to three months. For sowing, you can use any container with drainage holes in the bottom. We prefer 9 x 9 cm containers. They are 15 cm high. They occupy a small area, and the depth of the pot allows drainage to be poured into the bottom, which is necessary for the good development of the seedlings. As a drainage, as a rule, we use walnut shells.

They can be replaced with purchased expanded clay or free improvised materials (sawdust, pieces of wood, Christmas tree needles, cones, sunflower husks, etc.).

The drainage layer should be up to 1/4 of the height of the pot. I always take purchased land (universal soil for seedlings), add a little perlite and long-acting mineral fertilizers (Basacote Plus 6M) to it. then I sow the seeds. I sprinkle them with earth on top (a layer of at least 3 cm) so that the seedlings can get rid of the seed coats. Otherwise, shoots will appear in the "caps". which can lead to a high percentage of seedling loss. If all the rules of stratification have been observed, the germination of magnolias will be quite high. Now you need to monitor the soil moisture so that the earth does not dry out too much in summer, because magnolias like fairly moist soil and react very poorly to overdrying. As soon as the first shoots appear, I water them with Previkur (the new name is Magnicur. - Ed). since tender seedlings in warm and humid greenhouse conditions are prone to blackleg.

Propagating magnolia is simple and profitable, because surplus planting material can always be donated, exchanged or sold. All the technique I have described for inexperienced gardeners may seem too "tricky". Therefore, I will try to illustrate everything step by step with photographs. - not in vain they say. It is better to see once than to hear a hundred times.

Young magnolia seedlings need shelter during their first years of life. With age, their frost resistance increases, and they can not be covered for the winter.

I would like to note that growing magnolias is a fascinating depot. Having decided one day to plant a magnolia in your garden, you will no longer be able to stop and will look for more and more new species, hybrids and varieties. I wish everyone who has not yet decided to plant their first magnolia, take this step to enjoy the charm of magnolia blooming in your garden. Let your magnalia bloom magnificently!

See also: Trees and shrubs with unusual bark, cones and fruits - photo, name and description

Magnolia from seeds

Watch this video on YouTube


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