Growing Acer palmatum (Japanese maple) from seed

Peter Chan from Herons Bonsai offers a ton of great information. In one of his many videos he talks about Acer palmatum and how easily you can grow Japanese maple from seed. I often read that people will store certain seeds in the fridge for a few weeks or even months to break dormancy (cold stratification). Peter Chan recommends to plant the seeds shortly after you gather them from the tree and just leave them outside all winter. After discovering a Japanese maple tree in a local park I planned to try that. In October I visited the tree to gather seeds from the low hanging branches. It’s best to wait until the seeds turn brown and are easy to seperate from the branches.

I planted the seeds straight away in plain garden soil and left them outside all winter. I also saw that some people remove the wings of the seeds before planting. I didn’t bother to do that and I don’t think it’s worth the effort. In March the first seedlings showed up and in the end of March you could already see the first true maple leaves emerging. The germination rate seems pretty good and while this might take a little longer it’s definately less hassle than storing the seeds in your fridge. One year later I’m trying the same process again just because. I don’t really have a need for more maples, it’s just fun to watch them grow.

At some point in summer the leaves started to curl and some plants had deformed leaves. I don’t know the cause but they did recover a bit by the end of summer. It will be interesting to see how well they survive the first winter. It’s also worth noting that there’s quite a big variety in leaf color and speed of growth. Some of the small trees didn’t grow much during their first year while others are already 20 cm tall. It would probably be best to only keep the strong trees but I can’t push myself to throw away the small ones. I will give them some more time and see if they catch up. Besides Japanese maples I’m also trying a different type of maple and some varieties of crab apple this year.

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