From Seed pod to Magnolia
Have you ever noticed those big pinkish/brown pine cone looking things hanging from an old established Magnolia Tree in the fall?
Well, they are seed pods! I see them every year on my giant Magnolia that is at least 50 years old.. last fall I decided I would try to grow some of these seeds, the tree is generally loaded with these long pods often reaching up to 12 inches and rather heavy. So after much google research I went for it – the entire process seemed rather daunting and complicated after reading upwards of 15 different HOW TO websites and you tube videos. So here is my easy version explained.
The red seed in the pod is what you are looking for, collect as many as you can. I started off with about 60 red seeds, at the end of everything about 35 sprouted enough to transplant. Some sites will tell you to collect your seeds once the pod has dried in September-October and not to force open the pinkish/brown flesh. I however did not have the patience and forced open the pinkish pods to get to the red seed.
You will now need to remove the red or reddish-orange flesh. Remove the seeds from the pod and place them in a bowl of warm water for 24 hours. This will soften the flesh so that you can remove it with your fingers. It is easiest to do this in the water with several seeds in your hands at a time – I kept the kitchen sink running while completing this step. You can also rub the seeds on hardware cloth or a metal screen to aid in the flesh removal. Any seeds that don’t sink to the bottom after soaking for the 24 hours should be discarded. The seeds will also be covered with an oily residue; rinse with warm water. The red skin tends to have a slight rotting smell, this is ok.
You will now have small hard black seeds which you will need to slightly break open or scar: Nick each seed with a sharp file or rub several together between 2 sheets of sandpaper to scar the hard seed coat. This will help in the germination process. This step can seem daunting and almost impossible. I used a small paring knife and held down the seeds between cloth – otherwise you will find them shooting all over the place. (Different varieties of Magnolia may produce a beige/brown seed)
Now place the black seeds into a moist bag of seed starting mixture or sterile potting soil in the refrigerator for approximately 4 – 6 months , I used a small ziploc sandwich bag. This process is called stratification. Do not let the bag dry out, no need to manipulate it during this time, the seeds will slowly start to germinate. Once all your seeds have sprouted go ahead and plant them in a sterile potting soil mixture into small pots, 6 packs or seed starting trays, remember to keep moist and warm, not overly wet. Once the true leaves have appeared you can then transplant into larger pots.
Magnolias prefer a slightly acidic, well-draining loam. For the first few years, maintain a layer of mulch 3 inches deep around the roots to protect them. There are over 80 types of exotic magnolia varieties ~Enjoy!