What can I do to make these magnolia seeds germinate?

Neiva, Viana do Cast, Portugal

I have just collected them. Shall I let them dry or sow them now? The tree is a white-flower magnolia.

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I've started seed from Magnolia grandiflora here but I'm not sure if the requirements are the same. The first thing to do is to soak the seeds in water to soften the coating. Change the water every day for 3 or 4 days and the coating will get really mushy. Use your fingers or rub between paper towels to wash the coating off. Once that's gone, you can plant the seeds. For the M. grandiflora, I stratify the seeds in the refrigerator for 3 months in a damp medium (sand, peat moss or damp paper towels) in a plastic tub or bag and then bring them out into room temp. 70 degrees F should do fine. Or plant them outside. I'm not sure that your variety requires the cold treatment though. Once sprouted the young seedlings/trees need protection for the first couple of years from weather extremes and critters. If you're planting outside, I'd wait until after winter. You could also try popping them into the ground now and see if they sprout but it will take a while for the coating to dissolve on it's own.

Neiva, Viana do Cast, Portugal

Thank you, CindyMzone5, for your long clear explanation. I'll do as you say. I've hundreds of seeds as usual and think it's a pity that I cannot distribute seedlings of a really beautiful white magnolia among my neighbours who keep telling me that they would like to have one in their gardens. It is a sort of seed that must be extremely difficult to germinate naturally because my tree has dropped lots of seeds on a soil that is practically untouched, and I've never seen a seedling coming out.

Many thanks,


PS - I'm posting a photo taken last spring.

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megete - That is one gorgeous tree! I hope the technique works for you. I'm no expert horticulturally and the little I know is about our southern Magnolia. Good luck!

Neiva, Viana do Cast, Portugal

Thanks again. In due time I'll let you know how successful I was.

Dayton, OH(Zone 5a)

hi cindymzone5, i'm also doing this and was going to start a thread but found this one. may i ask at what temperature you stratify your seeds? i gathered my in georgia recently and will be trying to grow them. thx!

Morph - I started some TN magnolia seeds for daughter's in-laws. Sadly, I can't grow them here.
I stratified them in some moist seed starting mix (you could use a little peat or sand, maybe even a paper towel) in a baggie in the refrigerator for 3 months. So probably around 40 degrees? I didn't freeze them. I brought them out and planted about 1/2" to 1" deep at room temp (70 - 72) and they sprouted within a month.

Dayton, OH(Zone 5a)

thank you... i have relatives in a few southern states and was thinking of trying these as gifts. i had hoped i could try here, too, but i guess i must have misunderstood. i thought i had read in another thread that someone from illinois had success. perhaps a different strain/variety?

anyway, i appreciate your info. i wasn't sure if exposing southern seeds to same stratification temperatures would be okay.

Morph - There are a few varieties of Magnolia that are supposed to be hardy in zone 5. One of the local garden writers is trying the variety Magnolia grandiflora 'Edith Bogue'. It's supposed to hardy but needs to be sheltered from the winter wind and there's a possibility of "marginal leaf burn". Forestfarm lists that one as hardy to zone 6. There's also a variety called 'Brackens Brown Beauty' that's supposed to be hardy to -18 but I would guess that the same conditions would apply. These also may completely shed their leaves but could regrow them in the spring. There's also Magnolia sieboldii, the Ogama magnolia, that's supposed to be hardy as well. There's a book called "The World of Magnolias" by Dorothy J. Callaway that you might want to check out. That's about all I know about Magnolias but I'm sure there are far more knowledgeable gardeners than I that could offer more information. I've always wanted one myself. If you're successful get some seed started (I ended up with10 or 12 seedlings on my first try), you could experiment with some in your own garden. I would leave them in pots though for the first year or two since they will need some TLC, protection from critters (rabbits, etc) and protection from the harsher elements while young. I think it's recommended that they should only get partial sun while they're babies. Hope this helps.

Dayton, OH(Zone 5a)

wow ~ thanks for all this info! i had no idea there were so many varieties. and, our local libary has the world of magnolias book so i can't wait to get that this weekend. i'm still into trees and magnolias certainly qualify. have a good weekend & thx again..

Your welcome, Morph. I'm interested to see what you find out from the book as I haven't checked it out yet. If you have any relatives down south that can get your a "cone" or two with the red magnolia seeds still intact, it's kinda fun to experiment over the winter with them. I was fascinated with them since they were the first tree seeds I ever tried.

Easley, SC

One thing not mentioned, ~ collect ripened magnolia seeds and place in water. Floaters are not viable. Sinkers are pollinated viable seeds that will germinate. Once you have the cleaned seeds, I wash off once more in a mild detergent or very weak Clorox solution to prevent mold. (Magnolia Society member)

Boris - I always wondered about floaters vs sinkers. Thanks for that tip!

Tortuga, Trinidad and Tobago

Dear Friends,
I live in the Tropics, Trinidad, 11 deg North, 24-35 deg C.
As far as I am aware, there is only ONE Magnolia in our small country and that is at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine (Trinidad) campus. This plant is suposedly M.grandiflora, variety "Bull Boy" or is it Bull Bay?. It must be a very old plant. possibly 40-50 years, but is healthy enough and the flowers are beautiful and it regularly produces fruit. Flower size is about 5 ins diameter, smaller than what I have read about.
I have tried over and over again to germinate - without success. The last seeds I collected, I soaked and removed the red skin/pulp and put in hot water (probably 50-60 deg C). I planted them about 2 weeks ago and no sign of germination. I suppose that I should wait several months?
I read this forum with interest and noted that maybe I should be freezing rather than heating!!
I just got a new fruit with about 20 seeds and would like to again try to germinate. Please advise how I should proceed to get success. Help is much appreciated.

geobar - I'm only familiar with the technique at the top of this thread but I'm sure there are others far more experienced than I. See Boris' note above about cleaning the seed. Once the fruit around the seed has be removed by washing it for several days, place the cleaned seeds in a plastic bag with clean peat moss or sand (leaving it open slightly for air exchange) and place in the refrigerator (approx 35 to 40 degrees F) for about 3 months. I'm not sure that I would put them in the freezer. According to Norman Deno, the seeds need an oscillating temp between 40 and 70 but I've had success with leaving them in the refrigerator. After 3 months, bring the seeds out into room temperature (approx 70 degrees F). You can leave them in the bag or plant the seeds in small pots. Keep the soil moist but not wet. For me, they usually germinate in about a month. According to Deno, the germination rate runs about 50%.
Good luck!

Tortuga, Trinidad and Tobago

many thanks for your advise. I really appreciate and will follow the instructions. I presume that the test for floaters and sinkers is done on the fruit before removing the red skin.
George from Trinidad.

George - not sure when the "float" test is done. Maybe Boris will check back in and let us know.
Good luck!

Bargersville, IN

Hi, I live in Zone5b. Several years ago I brought a Little Gem M tree to my neighbor. She planted it near her house on the north side of the house. It is now very tall and blooms well. She gave me some seeds the other day, and I have been preparing them for planting. The red covering has now been taken off and I am going to plant them outside in pots that are sunk into the ground. Hope this works.

Good luck! I've always avoided letting seeds freeze probably because years ago when I first started sowing seeds, the rule of thumb was never to freeze the seeds when stratifying. Theories change as you can tell by the winter-sowing folks. I'm interested in what your results are next spring.

Reading, United Kingdom

Excellent thread, thank you. My 30 year old Magnolia Soulangia has just produced its first seeds and I'll be trying all the methods to germinate. The tree is a lovely 20 footer, nice conical shape, and smothered in white flowers with pink/purple colouring (is that Soulangia? that's the normal variety in the UK.) I don't know whether it has just got to the right age or whether last winter's heavy snows (for the UK) prompted the 25 seeds. But I'll be starting with the floating test then trying batches of five seeds in the slightly different methods. Again, many thanks.

Thumbnail by Mel_B

Beautiful specimen. Here, we call that a tulip tree although our state tree is also a "tulip tree" but it's really a yellow poplar. Ah - common names.
Good luck with your seeds!

Tortuga, Trinidad and Tobago

Hi Everybody,
I have not reported on this for about a year. The advice of putting in refrigerator fpr 2-3 months worked fine. They started germinating in a matter of days after I took them out. Got about 75% germination. Gave away about half to friends. Some died due to rot or other disease. I now have 2 plants in good shape, about 8 inches tall in 6 inch pots. Will try one in the ground soon I think. My friends say that their's are doing OK. The scarifying at refrig. temp definitely worked for me!

George - So glad to hear that the stratification worked on your magnolia seeds! Earlier this year, I got to view one of my first magnolia babies down in TN in bloom and it was pretty cool! The trees were at least 10 ft tall already at about 10 years old.

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