How to grow a Japanese maple from seed…



  FRESH SEED HARVESTED IN THE FALL PRIOR TO SOWING  is the first rule to success

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           This article is not quite as long as “war and peace”  but if you are still interested after reading , please visit our “seed shop”

  • I have collected seed myself, from countless ‘local’ sources over the years with very little success. The season for viable seed production here in the U.K. in most years is not long enough. Even with a good seed stand the crop vitality / viability  is cyclic, with the same source we have achieved from 20% to 0% germination
  • We recommend you should purchase from any of the reliable sources of which…  themapleman is only one.
  • Our seeds are in stratification and only need to continue the regime until successful germination.

Fresh Seeds
  • It is inevitable that you will tweak this method to suit  your needs with equal success.
  • If you have purchased fresh seed you should take delivery late January too mid February . Fresh seed will only need a period of cold treatment to encourage germination. Whereas if the seed is stored in a dried condition it will need warm and cold treatments. Usually the fresh is more expensive. We will cover stored seed a little later. We do not store seed.
  • The aim is to time germination to coincide with the last frosts. We try for May 15th, the weather men say there will be no frost after this date ( in the Midlands U.K.). Seed of acer is perfectly hardy but try and get it of to a good start. Who wants to pop their head out on a frosty morning!!
  • In saying this for the last few years we have very early germination
Cool the seeds
  • The FRESH seeds need 100 days cool treatment to encourage germination all at a similar time. We use domestic refrigerators and set them with a good thermometer trying to maintain 5c. Counting back from May 15th, 100 days, February 1st is the date we try to start the stratification process. Logically domestic fridges can only maintain an accuracy 3c – 8c when set with the thermometer at 5c.
  • The seeds would germinate if they were broadcast in late autumn in a fertile seedbed, but they could germinate over possibly three years.   “BEWARE MICE LOVE MAPLE SEEDS”
  • You can get either seeds, with the wings (acer seeds are called winged samaras) left on, or wings removed again you have to pay more for wings removed, you would get fractionally more seed in your KG.  Personally I would rather have the wings left on, I think It is easier to maintain the moisture content better, and another reason later in the story.
Warm the seeds
  • Right you now have your seeds, set your fridge up (salad compartment is usually fine). Soak your seeds in warm, not hot, water for 24 hours. Replace the water with warm again, three or four times over the 24 hour period. Then allow the excess water to drain off, then mix the drained seed with equal amount by volume of fine horticultural vermiculite. We originally had a small quantity but now purchase in kilograms we now store with no medium in plastic containers , not airtight
  • Put the mixture in a plastic bag,  a self seal or zip seal is best then “add water” this is the hardest part of the entire process. It is very difficult to remove the water if you put too much in. You can tell when it is correct when you squeeze a small amount of vermiculite between you finger and thumb ends, and only a minimal blob of water comes out and it does not flow anywhere. We set up in kg quantities it is far easier with large amounts. It is better to need to add water than put too much in. We do not find it necessary to add a mold inhibitor we do not use a germination aid, again I think this is due to the moisture content control and the inert properties of the vermiculite.

For the full list of our seeds visit our seed page.

Successful germination – the next stage


  • “SUCCESSFUL GERMINATION”  this will happen in the fridge. Start checking from May 1st, be careful at this stage the root (radical) is very easily damaged. This is where the vermiculite comes in again if you use a 4mm sieve it is easy to separate the seeds and the vermiculite. It is easy to handle the seeds at this stage by the wing, if you did not purchase de winged seed if you are selling them on plant them up in seed trays 100 to a tray again I use vermiculite at this stage.
  • If you are not selling, plant them in 75mm square pots in any good compost, do not allow water stress, gradually start to feed , after you have true leaves with half strength liquid fertiliser.
  • Plant out in a growing on bed. If you keep watering and feeding you could get a one metre growth in the first year.
  • We collected seeds from acer grisium in November 2014 and bagged them in damp vermiculite and kept them in warm conditions and put them in the fridge in January 2015 and they started chitting in the fridge .mid March we have started to plant them in seed trays
  • they are still germinating two weeks later we will start with a light liquid feed when the first set of true leaves are visible these trees are quite valuble and very difficult to germinate from seed
  • Acer grisium, Paperbark maple, comes from China , grows very well in half sun or more, or in  dappled shade. It is much more drought tolerant than any of the Japanese maples. The peeling bark is year-round feature . It grows slowly, about 1 foot per year, and can reach a height of about 30 feet after many years, and is usually not very wide, the Paperbark maple one of the best trees for fall colors are brilliant reds to mixed colors of yellow and orange.
  • TIME FLIES !!!  it is now the end of July , we sold our last seeds at the end of June , and since then have a seedling production under way , We decided to get away for an early holiday in April , the price was right ,and we needed some sun , we booked ,……….    the seeds were not due to germinate until mid May . All seemed fine , but the Acer palmatums all germinated over a month early  , three days before we were due to go . I did start to plant them up in seed trays , about 100 seeds in each of about 150  trays . We could not retard germination ,we took the fridge temprature down to nearly freezing . To no avail each of the plastic box’s we use to germinate in the fridge looked as if it was full of spaghetti with the extended radicals We had to sow the rest of the entire crop into seed beds before we went , as non of them would have survived another few weeks in the fridge
  • it was 34deg c where we were , some new people came in to the hotel and said it was ” snowing ” back home
  • anyway this story goes from bad to worse , with the rain and the cold we lost 90% of the seeds and I planted in the trays they have still not recovered but the seed beds are now looking fine with a good crop of good looking seedlings
  • I CANNOT allow this to happen next year ,normally the seeds in stratification germinate gradually and I can sell them as they germinate , sow the extras in seed trays , regulate the germination with the fridge temprature. For 2016  I will try try to start the stratification regime with ten day intervals just in case this happens again
  • there have been times early this year I thought we could have lost the entire crop .
  • we eventually overcame all that nature threw and had a fine crop of acer palmatum and now in April 2016 we only have a few seedlings left from last year .

2016      This year started off very distressed,  my  previous supplier and I had a difference of opinion and my seed order did not materialises,  but I managed to get a good acer palmatum and acer palmatum atropurpureum from another source . We have six varieties for 2017 from last years new supplier, they were considerably more expensive , but if they are as good as last year  they will be worth the extra

They arrived just after Christmas and were installed I the fridge where I had just finished off the Christmas beers . I had heard several growers ,commenting on early germination, but didn’t take much notice . We started the selling season off again the 1sf of February selling seed in stratification  .we had germination of the palmatum  early March  by the end of March we had planted out into seed beds ,the Atro also started to germinate , the Atro were at a slower rate , (November 2016 ) we have sold out of all the seedlings produced from this years seed crop . There were about 500 atropurpureum left that were a bit straggly so I planted them in  late September. They will be sold in May 2017

we have taken delivery of most of the seed crop for the 2017 selling season . I was very impressed with the service from my last supplier and the quality so I have ordered from them again , there are just palmatum left to come they will not arrive until late December. We have griseum in warm strat , and several cultivars of Atro in the fridge. We adapted one of the fridges to give the warm stratification for the griseum , I thought it was a well insulated box , put a low wattage fluorescent lamp  in  on a cyclic timer . Which made a good heater box to maintain 70f  . I did not plug the fridge in

The palmatums arrived between Christmas and the new year,and are now tucked up in the fridge we received 38 different packets of maple seeds ,from the seed share promoted by ” the maple society ” which will be very interesting to compare the results

we used the same regime for this years seeds ,  ( if it ain’t broke don’t mend it )


For ready germinated Japanese maple seeds visit our germinated seed page.


Further reading


  • For or further reading I would recommend any thing by “J.D.Vertrees”
  • “Hardy woody plants from seed”. P.D.A.McMILLAN BROWSE
  •  KEN ALSTON    U.S.A. Ken also does an online teaching service
  • All available through AMAZON  (I think)
  • I have recently found a Forestry Commission    practice guide . ” Raising trees and shrubs from seed “
  • “Woody plants seed manual”   USDA  Forest Services.     pages. 204-214.  Acer (on line PDF)  this is full of very useful information from every name in maple production (not ours yet)
  • If you read all these there is a wealth of information available. The data is overwhelming. I think the most important bits seem to imply, if you purchase 1kg of acer palmatum you will get in the region of 55, – 75,000 seeds. By time you adjust all the percentages  I think you should have  25,000 seedlings that need doing something with (selling) but there is a good chance in a good year you could have 40,000 seedlings. So in the best scouting traditions “be prepared”
  • there is a very good article about germination for tree seeds  from “F W Shumacer ” in the U.S.


  • PROBLEMS ….. I received a communication ,where the recipient ,of last years seeds germinated well then all the seeds fell over and withered up . This is damping off . It is very frustrating and expensive to have ,purchased seed ,waited for it to arrive , stratified it for 100 days  ,successfully germinated then it all die in two days .
  • I used “Cheshunt compound ” successfully for many years before it was banned ,I am now trying ” hydrogen peroxide ” diluted as recommended on the net



this years seeds have arrived some of them germinated ,I do not find much time to further this effort !!!

If you need a question answered please post below and I will get back to you.

9 thoughts on “How to grow a Japanese maple from seed…”

  1. Tôi có một số hạt giống đã khô nhưng tui không biết áp dụng như thế nào vì có quá nhiều cách nói về ươm hạt nhưng không có cụ thể về cách ươm hạt khô và tươi, hiện giờ tui đang cần sự trợ dúp

  2. Hi, How do you sow the seeds when the root is so curly. How much compost to you cover them with?

    1. If the root is so long they should have been planted earlier
      Try not to damage the root give 10mm covering


    1. John
      Fresh seeds will be available in February next year (2020)
      I would never recommend seed purchase this late in the year

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