Growing Magnolias

bernadette_gourder(5 from Newaygo, MI)December 15, 2008

I collected about five seeds from a deciduous pink/white flowering magnolia tree in the fall. I forgot the name of it, but that isn't my question (my dad I'm sure knows). Does anyone know how to plant the seeds? Do I need to scarify them, stratify them, soak them, when to plant them, plant them in what, etc?

Thanks for any help!


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Store seed at 40F for 2-4 months then lightly cover the seed soil temp 65-70F taking 120 days + to germinaate.
Slow to flower from seed & will not EXACTLY like the parent.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2008 at 7:15PM
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The seeds need to be cleaned of the red pulp that covers them as it inhibits germination. They should NOT have been allowed to dry out. They should be placed in moist peat moss, vermiculite, or on damp paper towels before putting them in cool temps (cool, dry treatment won't work, they need to be moist) for 3 months (fridge works well), then sow warm.

I've started hundreds of magnolias this way.


    Bookmark   December 17, 2008 at 11:40PM
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bernadette_gourder(5 from Newaygo, MI)

I had the red pulp on them for about a month and had them stored in the refrigerator. Recently, earlier this month, I scraped the pulp off and placed them back in the refrigerator. Did I ruin them?

    Bookmark   December 18, 2008 at 8:41AM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Maybe not, you'll only know by trying. And that red pulp can leave an oily residue that takes some scrubbing in dish soap to remove if you didn't know that.

For years I've kept a great article on magnolia from seed in my documents, sorry - it's long, but the original link to Penn State ag no longer works...I'll take out some of the dull stuff, and the text is not mine...

Seed Progagation of Magnolia

"attractive, but fragile seeds will quickly lose their viability if they are
not handled properly in the fall of the year. Temperature appears to be the
major factor during any storage period. Ideal storage conditions are a sealed
container and temperatures between 32 and 41 degrees F. It is possible that
the seeds will lose their viability if stored at air temperature too long.

The seeds of Magnolia can be handled in one of two methods to assure
germination: fall sowing as soon as the seeds mature, or stratification prior
to spring sowing. The chances of seed loss from birds and rodents is greater
with fall sowing. If this method is used, the seeds should be cleaned of
their bright red outer coat as soon as they come from the pods. Gentle
rubbing of the seeds on hardware cloth, followed by washing will remove the
pulp. The seeds should then be sown in a good, rich and well-drained soil
with about one quarter inch of firmed soil over them. The bed area should be
mulched with straw and leaves to prevent the seed from freezing the first
winter. Germination should occur the first spring if the seeds were not
frozen. During the spring, keep the seed bed moist at all times.

The use of stratification removes a good bit of the risk involved with
over-wintering the seeds in the ground. Stratification is the storage of
seeds under cool and moist conditions for a given period of time. During this
period of time in storage, certain biological changes occur within the seed
which enables it to germinate once it is sown in a suitable medium.
Basically, the same changes occur in the ground with fall sown seeds.
However, in stratification the environment around the seed is controlled more
closely than in the ground.

The most common conditions for the stratification of Magnolia seeds uses a
mixture of acid peat moss and sand in equal parts and a constant temperature
of 41 degrees F. The peat moss should be moist but with all the free water
squeezed from it and a constant temperature of 41 degrees F is possible in
most refrigerators. Plastic food storage bags can be used to fold the seed
and medium during stratification. The exact amount of peat and sand used is
not critical but it should be enough to completely surround all the seeds
being treated. Generally 1 to 2 pints of medium will accomodate several
hundred seeds.

To initiate the stratification process mix the seeds into the moist medium,
place it into the plastic food bag and seal it with a wire or string. No
further water should be needed in the bag under most conditions. Excess water
in the bag and moss may result in rotting of the seed. As long as there are
small droplets of water on the inside of the bag, the medium contains adequate
water. Place the sealed package into the refrigerator for a period of 5 to 6
months. If the process is begun at the proper time in the fall, about
October, the seeds will be ready for sowing around April when the ground can
be worked.

Spring sown seeds also require a good, rich and well-drained soil. Cover
the stratified seed with one quarter inch of firmed soil. A light mulch over
the seed bed will help prevent drying out of the ground until the seeds
germinated. Do not allow the soil to dry out even the slightest or the seeds
will be injured.

In addition to adequate moisture, the new seedlings should be given about
half shade during the first summer. The seedlings should grow rapidly the
first season. Do not transplant the new plants too frequently since this will
retard their development. It would be best to keep them in the seed bed until
the spring after they are sown. At that time move them to a permanent
location or into container for additional growth and development.

Remember that successful seed propagation of Magnolia involves the use of
fresh seed or seed that has been stored properly. It is very possible that
those seeds carried in your pocket or glove compartment of the car for several
weeks or months are no longer alive and will never germinate no matter how
well you treat them. If this is the case, gather fresh seeds next season and
try again.
Author: J. Robert Nuss, Asso. Prof. of Ornamental Horticulture
Horticultural Department, Penn State

    Bookmark   December 19, 2008 at 12:13AM
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bernadette_gourder(5 from Newaygo, MI)

Thanks for the info! I'll see next spring/summer if I did something wrong! :)

    Bookmark   December 19, 2008 at 8:43AM
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I think if you add an extra month to your cold treatment (after removing the red stuff) you might still have a good result. By the way, I never washed my seeds in dish soap, simply buffed them with a paper towel, then placed them in moist stratification. Always has worked well for me, 90% plus germination.


    Bookmark   December 20, 2008 at 2:25AM
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bernadette_gourder(5 from Newaygo, MI)

Okay, today I will put the seeds in a potting mix in a plastic bag and put it back in the refrigerator. Right now I have them in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel. I didn't have enough time to do anything else . . .

    Bookmark   December 20, 2008 at 8:52AM
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I winter sowed fresh seed. I just wiped off the red pulp and put them in regular potting soil. They sprouted in the spring but are slow growers. I think it's easier to propagate magnolia from cuttings.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2008 at 5:02PM
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bernadette_gourder(5 from Newaygo, MI)

I would think cuttings or layerings would be easier to propagate magnolias, but I collected the seed and I love to try out different techniques. . . .

    Bookmark   December 21, 2008 at 11:27AM
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