Growing Magnolias from Seeds – A Complete Guide

This article is for you if you want to know how to grow magnolia from seeds! Magnolia is a beautiful tree that any plant lover will love. This tree is considered one of the symbols of spring. The flowers are very small and range in color from milky white to purple and yellow. They bloom around April. Our tree and plant identifier tool can help you figure out which tree you are looking at if you’re having trouble. The range of magnolia varieties is impressive – about 240 evergreen and deciduous species.

Magnolias are one of the most majestic flowering trees you can grow With their huge, fragrant blooms in various shades of white, pink, purple, and yellow, they are true showstoppers in any landscape

While magnolias are typically purchased as young trees or container plants, you can also grow them yourself from seeds with some patience and care. Here is a complete step-by-step guide to successfully grow magnolia trees from seeds.

Harvesting Magnolia Seed Pods

The first step is collecting fresh magnolia seeds. Look for the cone-shaped seed pods on your magnolia tree in fall after the flowers fade.

The pods will split open when ripe revealing red berries inside. The berries contain the seeds, usually one to two seeds per berry.

Pick the ripe berries and remove the pulp and outer coat from each seed. Soak seeds overnight in lukewarm water to begin the germination process. Allow seeds to air dry for a few days afterward.

Storing Magnolia Seeds

Like many tree species, magnolia seeds have a dormancy period built in that must be overcome before they will sprout. This ensures seeds only germinate when ideal growing conditions arrive in spring.

To break dormancy and trick the seeds into germinating, they require a period of cold, moist storage called stratification. Here are two methods:

Refrigerator Stratification:

Mix seeds with damp sand and store in a plastic bag or jar in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 months. Check regularly and remoisten if needed.

Outdoor Winter Stratification:

Plant seeds outdoors in a protected spot in fall and allow them to experience the natural winter conditions. Retrieve in spring once the ground thaws.

Planting Stratified Magnolia Seeds

In early spring after stratification, you can begin the planting process:

  • Fill starter trays or small pots with loose, well-draining potting mix. Moisten the soil before planting.

  • Plant seeds just below the surface. Space multiple seeds at least 2 inches apart.

  • Cover trays or pots with plastic to retain moisture and humidity. Place in bright, indirect light.

  • Maintain even moisture in the top 1-2 inches of soil. Water when the surface begins to dry out.

  • Remove the plastic once sprouts emerge in 4-8 weeks. Allow seedlings to grow until they have 4-6 leaves before transplanting.

Transplanting Magnolia Seedlings

By mid to late summer, your magnolia seedlings should be ready to transplant into larger containers or directly in the garden:

  • Harden off seedlings first by slowly introducing them to outdoor conditions over 7-10 days.

  • Select a site with full sun to part shade and fertile, well-draining soil. Magnolias dislike soggy soils.

  • Dig holes twice as wide as the root ball and slightly shallower. Space at least 8 feet apart.

  • Carefully remove from pots and place in holes. Backfill with native soil, tamping down gently.

  • Water thoroughly after planting and as needed for the first year to establish an extensive root system.

  • Apply 2-3 inches of mulch around base to regulate moisture and temperature.

  • Stake for support if planting in windy areas. Remove stake once magnolia is established in 2-3 years.

Ongoing Magnolia Care

With proper planting and care, your magnolia trees grown from seed can thrive:

  • Water young trees weekly during first year, then reduce frequency. Mature magnolias are quite drought tolerant.

  • Fertilize in spring with a balanced 10-10-10 formula or planted tree fertilizer to encourage growth.

  • Prune only to remove dead branches, ensure a strong structure, and shape if desired. Avoid heavy pruning.

  • Monitor for pests like scales, borers, and mites. Apply horticultural oil or insecticidal soap sprays if infestations occur.

Be prepared to wait 5-10 years for magnolias started from seeds to reach maturity and produce their first signature blooms. But the wait is worth it when you get to enjoy a tree grown through your own effort!

Troubleshooting Magnolia Seed Germination Issues

If you are having trouble getting magnolia seeds to sprout, here are some tips:

  • Ensure seeds went through the full stratification period of 2-3 months in cold, moist conditions. This breaks the dormancy.

  • Check soil moisture levels and water regularly to keep the soil damp but not saturated.

  • Move pots/trays to a warmer area about 70°F to encourage germination.

  • Cover with plastic domes to increase humidity around seeds. Mist foliage daily.

  • Try bottom heat by placing seed trays on top of heating mats or warm surfaces to boost soil temps.

  • Check the viability and age of seeds. Older seeds often lose germination ability. Get freshly harvested seeds each season.

  • Have patience, some magnolia seeds can take 10-12 weeks to germinate. Avoid disturbing them.

Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor

Starting magnolias from seeds requires more time and effort than buying young plants, but it can be extremely rewarding. You’ll get to nurture your trees from seed to sapling to their first eye-catching blooms over many seasons. The time investment will pay off each spring when your homegrown magnolias put on a spectacular floral display!

How fast do magnolia trees grow from seed?

The process of preparing seeds for germination takes several months. You will receive the first sprouts two months after planting magnolia seeds in the soil.

Are Magnolia Trees Easy to Grow?

Even though the process of growing magnolia is pretty complicated, it will still be worth it. Youll only need to follow the growing guide very carefully.

Although there are many types of Magnolias, here are the most popular ones:

Magnolia Denudata

The flower is about 4-6 in (10–15 cm) across and is a creamy white color. It may look like lily blossoms. However, the trees smell nothing like lilies: the flowers have an unusual smell of lemon!.

Magnolia Stellata

You can grow magnolia trees with star-shaped flowers. These plants smell nice and sweet, and the flower heads can be any color from soft white to bright pink. The seedling looks like an overgrown bush or a small tree when it grows.

Magnolia Liliiflora

It is considered one of the most luxurious types of magnolia. The tree blooms with crimson flowers. The seedling itself practically does not emit odors. This species doesn’t get very tall—no more than 16 feet (5 m)—so it might be perfect for a small garden.

Magnolia can be propagated in two ways:

None of the methods, however, is easy. The nominal seed method is often used, as this helps preserve species characteristics.

How to grow a Magnolia tree from seed


How long does it take to grow a magnolia tree from seed?

Even if they germinate, it will take at least 10 years for a tree to reach a decent flowering size. Growing magnolia from seed is a long and uncertain game but the tree has gifted me these seeds and I feel it’s worth a go.

Are magnolia seeds hard to grow?

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.

How do you harvest magnolia seed pods?

Most magnolia seeds are found in large cone-like fruits called follicles. Once the follicles open up and reveal the seed which is often red and covered in a waxy coat, the seed can be harvested. After the seeds are harvested, they are soaked in water for three days in order to loosen the seed coat.

How do you start growing a magnolia tree?

Scarify the seeds by lightly rubbing them with sandpaper. Place the seeds in a plastic bag with moist peat or seed-starting mix and put them in the refrigerator for three to six months. Bring them out in spring when the temperature reaches about 70°F and plant them in a lightweight planting medium.

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