Growing Japanese Maples from Seed.

By Michael J. McGroarty
Perry, Ohio  Copyright 2011

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Growing Japanese Maple trees from seed is a lot easier than most people think.  However, it is important to understand that there are more than 250 different cultivars of the Japanese Maple tree, and my purpose through this website is to introduce you to as many of these different cultivars as I can.  Or more appropriately, as we can, because the purpose of this web site is to develop a community of Japanese Maple Lovers and collectors.

Japanese Maples come in all kinds of different sizes, different shapes, and have a variety of different growing characteristics.  They also have as many different variations of leaf size and shape as you can imagine.  And that’s why the Japanese Maple is by far, one of the most versatile plants you can add to your landscape.  The different varieties are so unique that you can easily use several of them in a residential or commercial landscape without the slightest hint of redundancy.

However, all of this tends to complicate the process of propagating Japanese Maples because very few of these numerous cultivars will come true to the parent plant when grown from seed.   So . . . you might ask, how do I go about propagating a Japanese Maple?

There are a number of methods which include growing them from seed, grafting a piece of the desired variety onto a Japanese Maple seedling, and budding. Budding is really just another form of grafting, except instead of using a small cutting from the desired parent plant, you work with a single bud from the desired plant.  Some Japanese Maples are also grown via tissue culture which involves a laboratory and test tube like conditions.

You and I at home?  Let’s stick to the basics of growing from seed, grafting and budding.  In order to graft or bud, you must first have a Japanese Maple seedling that you can use as the rootstock.  So for the remainder of this article we’ll discuss growing from seed.

The majority of the Japanese Maples you’ll encounter in your daily travels are from the Acer palmatum family, so that’s what we’ll discuss in this article.  First allow me to explain exactly what Acer palmatum means in terms that you and I can understand.  All plants have a common name and a Latin name.  The Latin name is really the most dependable way to identify a plant because many plants end up with numerous common names, depending upon who you are talking to.  But there should always be just one Latin name.

So let’s break down the Latin name Acer palmatum.  Acer is the generic name, or the genus, and Acer is used to identify any maple tree.  Palmatum is the species name and in this case means that the maple tree being identified is from the Japanese Maple family.  Acer palmatum means Japanese Maple.  Next we add the variety to the Latin name.  As in; Acer palmatum dissectum.  Any Japanese Maple that has a variety of dissectum in it’s name is a mounded, low growing tree with leaves that look like they’ve been dissected.  Commonly called ‘cut leaf’ or ‘lace leaf’.  Acer palmatum dissectum.  To the end of that we’ll add the cultivar name, as in Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Crimson Queen’.

There are a lot of Acers, a lot of Acer palmatums, and a lot of Acer palmatum dissectums.  But there is only one Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Crimson Queen’.  That describes a very specific kind of Japanese Maple and that particular variety, as with all specific varieties, can only be reproduced through a means of asexual reproduction.

Sexual reproduction is what happens naturally.  A seed falls to the ground, germinates and a Japanese Maple seedling emerges.  Of course it’s not quite that simple, and I’ll explain how to make the process more predictable.  Asexual reproduction is any form of propagation that is not natural.  Rooting cuttings, budding, grafting or reproducing plants via tissue culture are all forms of asexual reproduction.

So . . . with all of that explained, let’s discuss growing Japanese Maples from seed and hopefully through my long winded explanation you now understand that when growing just about any plant from seed, the results are not always predictable.  Much like human reproduction via sexual means, we all look similar, yet each and every one of us is different.

With plants there are advantages and disadvantages to those mixed results.   When growing from seed you never really know for sure what you are going to get.  But in the case of Japanese Maples, you at least know that if you sow seeds of Acer palmatum you’ll get Acer palmatum seedlings.  They may not have that beautiful deep red color, but it’s almost certain that your seedlings, even if the leaves are as green as grass, they’ll make good quality root stock trees for grafting or budding.   They will be compatible with any cultivar of Acer palmatum that you’d like to graft or bud onto them.

We also know that if you collect your Japanese Maple seeds from a tree with deep red leaves, there’s a really strong chance that many of your seedlings will have leaves that are deep red in color.  They won’t all have deep red color, some of them will be green and some will show different shades of red.  If you collect your seeds from a Japanese Maple that has green leaves, chances are most, if not all of your seedlings will have green leaves.

Now this is important because a lot of people get confused with this.  ‘Bloodgood’ is a named Japanese Maple cultivar.  It is so named because it has deep red leaves that hold their color all summer long.  At some point in time all ‘Bloodgood’ Japanese Maples will put out a crop of seeds.  You can collect those seeds and grow them with the instructions I will give you below.  But no matter what, no matter how red the leaves on your seedlings are, they are not, and cannot be called ‘Bloodgood’ because they will have been produced via sexual reproduction and are not identical clones of the parent plant.

Some growers and or vendors twist this a little by calling them ‘Bloodgood’ seedlings, but I don’t like and don’t agree with this practice at all.  They are not ‘Bloodgood’ and that name should not be used when describing them.   What they really are is Acer palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’ which is a Japanese Maple seedling with red leaves.  So, when growing Japanese Maples from seed you’ll get one of two different plants.  Acer palmatum, or Acer palmatum ‘Atropurpurpeum’.  The first will have green leaves, the second will have red leaves.

That’s a lot of words, but it is intended to give you a good foundational knowledge of Japanese Maple propagation.  Now let’s get to the basics of growing them from seed.

Japanese Maple trees flower in the spring.  Of course the flowers don’t look anything like a flower from a distance, but viewed closely they very much resemble a tiny but beautiful bloom. For the most part they are inconspicuous and usually go unnoticed.  But as with all plants you first need a bloom, then some sort of fruit, then within the fruit you find the seeds.  On any kind of maple tree, the seeds are trapped in a winged seed pod that most of us as kids called “helicopters” because the pods spin like the blades of a helicopter as they fall from the tree.

After the tree flowers in the spring the seed pods begin to form.  You must leave them on the tree all summer, into the fall to allow them to mature.  If you collect the seeds too soon the embryo inside of the seeds will not be completely mature and the seeds will not be viable.  The rule of thumb is to leave the seed pods on the trees until they start to turn brown and can be removed from the tree fairly easily with little resistance.  Here in northern Ohio, zone 5 this usually happens around mid to late October.  If you wait too long you’ll lose out because once the seeds start falling it happens quickly.  If you find a bunch of seeds on the ground by all means pick them up, they are still perfectly fine and viable.

Japanese Maple Seeds

Japanese maple seeds with the wing still attached.

Once you’ve collected your seeds the goal is to sow them and get them to germinate.  But this is a little tricky.  Not at all difficult, but you do have to trick the seeds with a process that is called stratification.  Japanese Maple seeds have a really hard outer coating that protects the embryo.  In order for the seeds to germinate you have to take some steps to soften that outer coating, so water and oxygen can find it’s way inside of the seed.

In nature the natural process is not very efficient and it can often take up to two years, maybe longer, before the seeds actually germinate.  That poses a problem because the timing might be way off, and the little tiny seedling might start emerging right before winter and have no chance at all of survival.  By following one of the three different methods that I am going give you here, you will actually control when the seed germinates, thus giving you a much higher percentage of success.

Method #1 is to sow the seeds immediately after you collect them.  This is a pretty simple process and it can work really well.  Of course with this method you are at the mercy of Mother Nature, but it’s still quite predictable.  Not sure?  Do some of your seeds both ways and see for yourself which one you like the best.

Where do you get Japanese Maple seeds?  You can buy them if you want.  There is a lot of debate about the quality of purchased Japanese Maple seeds, and the quality can and will vary from vendor to vendor.  There are all kinds of vendors online that sell seeds.  My goal here at Japanese Maple Lovers is to put together a list of seed suppliers you can buy from if can’t find any seed locally.  What’s really important is to get fresh seed, and if you want your seedlings to have red leaves you have to know the details of the tree from which the seed is collected.  That’s why finding your own local source is the best option.

With that said, once you set your mind on growing Japanese Maples from seed, you will start seeing all kinds of large Japanese Maples in your hometown.  You might see these trees in local parks, cemeteries and in peoples yards.  You must ask permission to collect seeds from any tree that you do not own, but usually most people are happy to allow you to collect seeds from their tree.  However, since you’ll probably want to go back year after year, you should gift them with a few of your seedlings. Maybe even gift them with a small Japanese Maple that you’ve purchased, and by all means after you collect the seeds send them a thank you card and possibly a gift card for a local restaurant.  If you do this, you are likely to have a perpetual supply of Japanese Maple seeds for a long time to come.

Method #1

Method number one is good for colder zones like zones 4, 5, 6 and probably zone 7.  Not sure what cold hardiness zone you’re in?  Just do a Google search for “cold hardiness zone map”.

1.  Immediately after you collect your seeds dump them out on a work table.  One by one pick the seeds up and break the wing off.  Discard the wing and keep the part that contains the seed.  How do you know for sure which part is which?  The wing looks very much like the wing of a large insect.  It has veins and it’s quite brittle.  The part that contains the seed obviously has a bulge and is not at all fragile.  Don’t be overly concerned about whether or not you broke off enough wing.  What’s really important is that you keep the part that contains the seed.  If there’s still a little wing attached that’s not a problem.


Japanese Maple Seeds

Japanese Maple seeds with the wing removed.


2.  Put the seeds in a container that will hold hot water.  Run the water from your faucet until it’s quite warm, but not so hot that you can’t put your hand under it.  But close to that hot.  Pour the warm to hot water over the seeds and just let them soak in the water for 24 hours.  At first the seeds will float, but eventually they’ll almost all sink to the bottom.  The ones that never sink are probably not viable, but it won’t hurt to sow them with the rest.  Maybe they just didn’t get wet enough to sink.

3.  Once the seeds have soaked in the water for 24 hours pour off the water and spread the seeds out on a paper towel.  You can allow them to dry overnight to make them easier to work with.  Next fill a flat with a good seed starting mix that drains well.  I suggest mixing some additional Perlite into the mix to make sure it will drain well.

If you don’t have a flat just go to the dollar store and buy a plastic dish pan, and drill many 1/2″ holes in the bottom so any water that drains to the bottom can escape from the dish pan.  The holes you drill should be no farther apart than one inch.

4.  Sow the seeds on top of the seed starting mix and press them down lightly so they are embedded in the growing medium.  Then lightly sprinkle a covering of seed starting mix over top of the seeds.  The light covering of mix should be no more than 1/4″ deep.  3/16″ deep would be ideal.

5.  Next cut a piece of hardware cloth (heavy screen) so it fits tightly inside the dish pan.  The purpose of the hardware cloth is to keep mice, chipmunks or other critters from digging in the dish pan and eating your seeds.  The openings in the hardware cloth can be anywhere from 1/4″ to 1/2″.  Consider using light wire, twist ties, or zip ties to fasten the hardware cloth to the top of the dish pan so the critters can’t pull it up to get to the seeds.  The hardware cloth does not have to be suspended above the soil in the dish pan, because come spring you will remove the hardware cloth long before your seeds have a chance to germinate.  So just lay the hardware cloth on the growing medium.  The fasteners are only to keep the hardware cloth from being blown out or removed.

6.  Now it’s time to set the dish pan and Japanese Maple seeds outside in the elements.  Weren’t expecting that were you?  It’s important to understand that Japanese Maple seeds require a lengthy treatment of cold before they will germinate.  It’s part of the natural process.  So what we are doing here in method #1 is trying to closely mimic the natural process, but we are better controlling some of the environmental conditions so the results are more predictable.

When deciding where to place your dish pan of seeds in your yard, select a place that is out of the wind and hopefully in a spot where dogs, skunks or raccoons won’t disturb it or tip it over.  The goal is not to keep it from freezing.  It can and will freeze, and that’s fine.  It might stay frozen all winter.  That’s not a problem.  Snow cover is also fine.  Snow is actually an excellent insulator and would be really good for your seeds.  Freezing won’t hurt them, but it does slow down the stratification process.  So, if they were naturally covered with snow for long periods of time during the winter chances are the growing medium would not freeze, or would not stay frozen.  That would be perfect.  Just set the flat or dish pan out in your selected location and forget about it.

7.  As spring starts to arrive check on your container to make sure nothing is sprouting yet.  As soon as the seeds start to sprout you need to remove the hardware cloth, but you don’t want to remove it too soon.  In the early spring, just about the time the leaves start to come out, remove the hardware cloth from your growing container.  At this time make sure the container is in a shaded location.  About 40% to 50% filtered sunlight would be ideal.  Water the growing medium as necessary, but don’t keep it soaking wet.  It’s important the growing medium be allowed to dry and warm up before you water again.  The seeds need some water, but should not be soaking wet.  But more importantly the seeds need to be warm come spring so they start germinating.  That’s why you should water only when needed so the growing medium stays warm.

8.  You’ve done all you can.  Now it’s up to Mother Nature.  Be patient.  Growing Japanese Maples from seed is a slow but highly rewarding process.  In two to three weeks if the weather is warm, you should see seedlings start to pop up.  The first set of leaves they produce are called cotyledons.  The cotyledons will not look at all like Japanese Maple leaves.  Cotyledons are actually part of the embryo from within the seeds and help to nourish the little seedling until the true leaves appear and take over.  Once the true leaves appear the cotyledons wither and disappear.  At that point photosynthesis begins and your little seedlings are well on their way to becoming beautiful little trees, each with their own unique characteristics.

9.  At some point your Japanese Maple seedlings will have to be transplanted so they have more room to grow and develop.  You can do that as soon as they germinate by simply picking them out of the flat with tweezers and re-planting them in a flat where they’ll have more room, or you can transplant them into a cell pack.  Cell packs are the flimsy, lightweight trays that annual flowers are grown in.  Cell packs are nice because you can later remove the seedlings from the cell pack in nice little root balls.  Cell packs are tapered so plants can be easily removed without disturbing the roots.

Or you can just leave the seedlings in the flat you started with, then at the end of the growing season when they are dormant remove and separate them.  Even if they are really close together that’s usually not a problem for the first growing season.  Throughout the first growing season make sure your seedlings only get about 50% sunlight, since direct sun will burn their leaves.  After the first season I plant mine out in direct sun here in zone 5.  They’d probably benefit from at least some sun and if you are in a warmer zone you should consider some shade.  The older they get the more sun tolerant they are, but Japanese Maples in general take a bit of beating in the direct sun.   Usually the damage isn’t serious, just some browning around the edges.  All of the Japanese Maples in my yard and even the ones in the nursery are in full sun.  Only the young ones get a little protection with me.

Method # 2

1.  In this method you will collect the seeds in fall just as they start to turn brown.  Collect the seeds simply by pulling them from the tree.  They should come off the tree easily.  Place the seeds in a paper bag and store them in a cool dry place.  A basement or garage is fine.  You are not going to do anything with those seeds for a few months, they’ll be fine in the paper bag as long as they are dry.

2.  Establish the “target date” that you can safely plant your seedlings outside.  Here in northern Ohio, zone 5 we are usually safe from frost after May 15th, so that is my target date.  So I will count backwards from May 15th, counting back 100 days.  That takes me back to February 5th.  On February 5th I will retrieve my seeds from the paper bag, break off the wing as describe above and soak them in warm to hot water for 24 hours as described in method #1.

3.  After soaking in water for 24 hours you need to mix the seeds with a combination of sand and peat moss, or a seed starting mix that contains some extra perlite.  You will also need a large zip-lock type freezer bag, but of course that depends on how many seeds you have.  Fill the plastic bag about 1/2 to 3/4 full with the growing medium to make sure have the right amount.  Dump the growing medium out of the bag into a bowl.  Pour the seeds into the bowl on top of the growing medium and mix them together with your hands.  Next sprinkle some water on the mix and mix it some more.  You want the growing medium damp, but not soaking wet.  After mixing the seeds and the growing medium thoroughly pour the combination back into the zip bag.

4.  Press down on the bag to force most of the air out, then poke about three holes near the top of the bag for just a little ventilation.  Place the bag in your refrigerator.  Don’t put it way to the back of the refrigerator because it’s usually colder back there and the medium might freeze.  Although freezing won’t hurt the seeds, it will slow down the stratification process.

The Japanese Maple seeds need a 90 day cold treatment to initiate the germination process.  Ideally they should between 38 degrees F. and 50 degrees F.  In other words, about the same temperature as the main area of your refrigerator where you keep your milk.  From time to time check on your seeds and make sure you do not have a mold problem.  Some people add a little fungicide to the mix from the beginning to prevent mold, but I don’t think it’s necessary.  Should some mold develop just add some fungicide at that time.  Brand doesn’t matter, just a general fungicide from the garden store.  Use only a small amount of fungicide.

5.  After 90 days in the refrigerator remove the bag and inspect it for germinating seeds.  If you see little sprouts pick those seeds out of the bag and plant them in a flat of seed starting medium.  Just poke a little hole in the soil, press the seed into the hole and leave the sprout sticking out.  If there are no sprouting seeds, or few sprouting seeds just leave the bag out on the counter at room temperature and within a week you should see more and more seeds sprouting in the bag.  Remove the sprouted seeds and leave the bag at room temperature until no more seeds seem to be sprouting.

Do not discard the mix in the bag because there are probably seeds in there that are going to take longer to sprout, so just pour the mix into a flat and place it outside where it’s warm.  Keep the flat watered but not soaking wet.

6.  The sprouted seedlings that you planted in the flat are going to need some sunlight as they grow so you’ll either have to give them some artificial light for a few weeks or move them outside into a shaded area.  They need a little sunlight, but direct sun will burn them up.  From there just care for them as you would any seedling.

Method # 3

1.  This method is very much like method number two, but with this method you soak the seeds for 24 hours.  Change the water, using more warm water, soak them for another 24 hours, change the water and soak them for another 24 hours.  So that’s a total of 72 hours of soaking.

2.  After soaking spread the seeds out on a brown paper towel, you know, the kind that you find it restrooms at public buildings.  The brown towels are just about the right consistency, but any paper towel will work.  I’d say the cheaper brands would be better for this purpose.  Spread the seeds out in a row on the towel then fold the towel over top of the seeds a couple of times.  Dampen the paper towel and place it in a plastic bag and place the bag in the refrigerator for 90 days as described above.  After 90 days start checking on the seeds just as described above.

3.  The seeds will sprout inside of the paper towel and you can pick them off the towel, or cut the towel around the seed. If some of the towel is stuck to the seed that’s fine, just plant the seed with a little towel stuck to it.  Some people have told me they use toilet paper because it falls apart and the sprouted seeds are easier to harvest.

So, there you have three different methods.  They all work.  Pick one or try two, or all three.  But by all means do at least one, don’t allow indecision to hold you back.

Have fun growing Japanese Maples from seed!

You never know what you are going to get, maybe the next really, really interesting variety.

If you have enjoyed and found this article useful I hope you will spread the word about  We are a community of people who love and collect Japanese Maples.

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Small Plants at Home  Click here.



79 thoughts on “Growing Japanese Maples from Seed.

  1. Pingback: Testing Japanese Maple Seeds for Viability

  2. Julie Grambart on said:

    …not sure why you wanted my website? Maybe I’m supposed to have a website for my Backyard Growing business?
    At any rate, my question is this: What is the coldest zone for Japanese Red Maple? I live in a Zone 3/borderline Zone 2 area.

    • Mike on said:

      zones 2 and 3 are pretty cold for most Japanese maples. I consider most Japanese maples safe in zone 5, maybe zone 4.

    • Belinda on said:

      I’m in some 7A.. Which method do I use.

      • Mike on said:


        Either one will work for you, I’d do some each way to see which is more successful for you.

  3. Destiny on said:

    My Japanese Maple Tree have a little group of fully mature seeds on one of it’s branches and it’s not even in the middle of July yet! Normally the tree have seeds in the fall, why would it produce them so early? Is it because that the “warm” winter confused the tree and made it have seeds this early? Is it a good idea to start to plant them now or wait until fall came?

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  5. Pingback: Plant Seeds, Bulbs & seedlings for Sale » How to Grow Japanese Maple from Seeds

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  7. Nan on said:

    Any idea how many years it takes for them to become Mature Trees? And what is a lifespan of one? I’ve always loved these.

    • Mike on said:


      I guess mature is an open ended question because they are always maturing. Me? I enjoy them from day one and love to watch them mature over the years. Life span? I really don’t know but I’m guessing many of mine will still be here when I am no longer. -Mike McGroarty

  8. Martin Sullivan on said:

    I cut my best maple seedling grown from seed as you said just above two opposite buds and now I have a 2 year old tree with 2 leaders but the one curved out like a graft spot at a 90 degee angle and is thick and dominant,the other is growing up at a45 degree angle and is thin.The tree is ugly,I feel it is ruined by what I did! Any help?

    • Mike on said:


      Just keep pruning the tree as it grows, keeping it in proportion, it will fill out nicely and you’ll be very happy with it.

  9. PattyAugeri on said:

    This year my red Japanese maple sent out a hundreds little seedlings all over my lawn! I’ve potted up a few but was wondering how best to get them to grow…as fast as possible since they are only 3 inches tall! I have a weeping lace red maple, too, but seedlings from that seem to be hard to come by. Suggestions?

    • Mike on said:


      Japanese maple seedlings are slow and they really like good potting soil that is well drained. The laceleaf will make seeds eventually, but you won’t get an exact clone of the tree you have.

  10. Orlando on said:

    Hello, great article really appreciate it. I live in Puerto Rico the weather where I live is kind of unstable I’d say it is like a South Beach, FL type weather but is very rainy. Any way my question is in a tropical climate like the one I live in, which method would you recommend. I bought some seeds online and I want to know how to do this the right way I’m just a novice so what can you share with me?

  11. Brenda on said:

    How long to leave the support attached to the trunk of the tree. It’s a Japanese Maple, Acer Palmatum var, Dissectum Red Select. It’s small and it has a small dowel stake attached with green strips and staples to suppor it. I planted it in April 2013, and I love in Omaha, Nebraska. I’ve left it on because of the winds we have. Can I successfully remove the support now?

    • Mike on said:


      More than likely you can as long as the tree is stable.

  12. Mark @ Bonsai Dojo on said:

    Thanks for the great article Mike! do you have any tips for grafting a seedling onto some stronger roots? i’ve heard of this being done before (in the Bonsai community) for some types of maples to get a delicate tree to survive in a hardy environment.

  13. Simon on said:

    Hi. Thanks for the article.
    I have about 100 trees that sprouted this year.
    They are in 3 and 4 inch pots at the moment.
    What should i do with the pots in the winter?
    I have an unheated greenhouse, a shed and a conservatory (which doesn’t get hot in the winter but a little bit warmer than the greenhouse and shed.
    Thanks .

  14. Bill Malcolm on said:

    I have a number of Japanese Maples in pots. There is just one long branch about 3 feet long. How do I trim to get other branches started?

  15. Larry on said:

    Thanks for the article I found it very informative.
    I am looking to buy at least 1000 seeds. Do you know a good supplier? thanks

  16. Dave Eiffert on said:

    Last year we had a couple of seedlings sprout from a red acer palmatum dissectum. We put them in pots, and the one that survived is not as finely cut as the parent, and also has wider leaves. This year it grew all season long, and continues to now, when most deciduous trees here are gearing up for winter. The astounding part is that it has put 5 feet of growth on in this one year. Only our Pacific Northwest broadleaf maples grow at that rate- none of the Japanese or Norway maples do. My question is whether from this one year we can determine its ultimate growth habit, which is obviously rapid, and seems either upright or tulip shaped, or if we need to give it another year or two before we can tell where to best locate it in the yard.
    Please respond to email address, and thank you so much!

  17. Daniel on said:

    Hi Mike, I live in Smithtown, New York and it gets cold in the winter. I was just wondering about what I should do with the tiny seedlings in the winter. Should I leave them outside or should I keep them inside? I’m using the third method.

  18. Larry Waldo on said:


    How do I get multiple trunks on Japanese Maples that are low to the ground? Been growing trees from seed for years and have tried pruning and topping to achieve the result that I see on many of the trees growing in my neighborhood. Are these trees grafted? I have tried getting the effect by planting 2 or 3 seedlings together in the same pots. Can you suggest how to do this?


    • mack Cunningham on said:

      I have found that when you have multiple seedlings plant them very close together in a pot and put a band around them at the base. Over time they will eventually fuse together. Just be sure you don’t use anything that will cut into the tree and scar it. It will eventually be a clump style tree with multiple bases.

  19. Gary on said:

    Mike: I am retired and have 20 acres of farmland. Would like to get started growing Japanese Maples for extra income and to also educate my grandkids on growing plants. Any advice on how to get started? Would like to start with seedlings. I live in Stark County Ohio. Thanks!

  20. LeeAnn on said:

    Hi, I live in southern ca. I have many seedling from last year and some have lost all the leaves did they die or is this what they do in winter? any help would be great!

  21. Tony on said:

    Anyone had grown maple trees in Arizona?

  22. Aida on said:


    I recently retired in Maryland. Love Japanese maples has 5 beautiful one’s. However now residing in Puerto Rico. Is it possible for these them to grow in the tropical arena? Please advice.

    Thank you much.

  23. Gennifer on said:

    I’ve pretty much done your method 2, I planted the seeds in little containers but my house is pretty cold (64°F) so to get them to sprout I put them in my tortoise cage where it is about 84°F. Would it be best to leave the seedlings in the 84° cage with some artificial light or put it next to my cold window (it’s around 30° outside lately) to get that natural sunlight.

    This would only be until spring, but advice would be great!

  24. Dave on said:

    Hi Mike! Great article! Now I already have a couple of nice red Japanese maples growing in our yard. I want to start a bonsai and keep it indoors. What method is best, and what are some tips? Thanks!!

    • Anthony on said:

      Hi there did you ever get your Japan maple tree going if so please tell me what you did I’m getting some jap maple cutings today so what ever you can do to help me get started I would really appreciate it thank you Anthony.

  25. Donna on said:

    I collected seedlings from under a tree and have been caring for them for over a year. One has now taken off and is almost three feet, growing tall in a very short time. My question is when does it start filling out rather than up. I have gently tied it to a stake in the pot, but it is about to outgrow it… again. I’m not sure where to go from here. Help!

  26. Steve Deen on said:

    Thank U for your very informative article, well written. My question: Do U know a retail mail order source for Japanese Maples on their own roots? If yes, please advise the contact details. I’ve learned that the vast majority of J.Maples are grafted or budded and therefore not on their own roots. But U see, I often have trouble with grafted plants and much prefer on-own-roots plants. And I have read that while most J.Maples do poorly on their own roots and that rooted cuttings are almost impossible to produce, I’ve also read that there is a half dozen or so (including “Seiryu”) that do in fact root well either from cuttings or air-layering. And that such select cultivar trees do well. I’m hoping to buy a few J.Maples that I can grow as major shade trees in full sun in my zone 6B northwest Arkansas garden, said trees on own roots, green summer leaves but nicely colored autumn leaves. And I accept that my target cultivars of J.Maple trees are few. Help ! What to do?
    Respectfully submitted,
    S. D.

  27. Amber on said:

    Hi Mike,

    I’m curious, what is the best method for seeds that have been dried and packaged? Would you suggest method 1 for those? So they can soak up some of the moisture back?

  28. Pingback: Germination Time For Grass Seed Jacksonville Beach Florida | Lawn Care Jacksonville

  29. Prerna Agrawal on said:

    My question is same as the last one! I plan to buy some maple seeds. In that case which method is the best you suggest?

    • Mike on said:


      Both methods work, some like the refrigerator method best.

  30. Chris on said:

    Hello, I am new to this. Ive always wanted to grow a Bonsai Tree, and I just received 3 packets of seeds, Red Maple, Japanese Red Maple Bamboo Leaf, and Blue Maple seeds. I live in Zone 9. I am thinking the Fridge method will be the best method for me, since daily temps here can jump from 32 to 55 but only for another 4–5 weeks, I guess my real question is if you know if these styles all start very similarly or if they each require a different starting method.
    thank you.


    • Mike on said:


      I would use the fridge method and treat all of the seeds the same. At the same I’d consider buy a few Japanese maple seedlings that are already 6 to 12 inches tall. That way if your efforts with the seeds isn’t good you can still do your bonsi. Seed sources can be iffy at times.

  31. Dallas Jett on said:

    I would like to know how long to let seedlings grow before transplanting them to a larger medium, as well as how long (in general terms) they need before they become ready to put in the ground? I live in the Cental Valley in California.



    • Mike on said:


      At about 2″ tall they can be transplanted to individual pots. Then 6 months later in the ground as long as they have plenty of shade.

  32. thomas smithey on said:

    I have seedling to come up naturally in the ground but they always die if I transplant they die also . what is wrong ?

    • Mike on said:

      See my answer to another comment to this article. I answered there.

  33. thomas smithey on said:

    My seedlings come up in the ground but they always die even if I transplant them . What is the problem ?

    • Mike on said:


      Japanese maple seedlings cannot be transplanted from the ground during the growing season unless you can do so without damaging any roots. If you grow them in a flat you can transplant them from the flat when really tiny into cell packs where they can later be slid out with no damage to the roots. A cell pack are the plastic trays like you get when you buy annual flowers. Japanese maple seedlings also need shade when small.

  34. Alisab on said:

    Hi, I’m using method 2 for some seeds I recently acquired. My two questions are: 1. the container I’m using is just a standard food flat food container too thick to poke ventilation holes in to. Is it fine just to leave a corner of the container lifted slightly? 2. Won’t the growing medium (broken up peat pellets) dry if there is ventilation and if it does, should I mist it to keep it moist?

    • Mike on said:


      I’d really like to see holes in the bottom so the peat cannot wick up the excess moisture that is going to collect. I suggest drilling holes or a different container. Peat is tricky. It’s difficult to wet and it’s even harder to dry. You should lighten it up with some perlite. The seeds need to dry between waterings so they warm enough to germinate.

      • Alisab on said:

        Thanks for the advice, I’ll mix in some perlite and and use a different container

  35. george on said:

    Hi,i followed your Method 2,the seeds are now in the fridge but i added some hydrogen peroxide(1 ml 50% in 100ml water) in the mix of mold and perlite.Is this good?I live in South Greece and i’d like to ask if they will survive?Thank you!

    • Mike on said:


      The seeds should be fine as long as the medium was never too wet. At 90 days, take the out of the fridge and just let the bag warm up on the counter, they should sprout in the bag.

  36. Judith Adams on said:

    I recently acquired a few seed and I can only assume they are from last Fall. Will the seed still be viable? I was planning on doing method 2, but since reading through your instructions and other comments I’m not sure if I would just be spending a lot of months waiting for nothing to happen. I have recently found a tree that will be available for gathering seed in the Fall, should I just wait until then and get fresh seed?

    • Mike on said:


      I’d wait until fall and collect some fresh seed, look around town, find a tree with nice red color and see if you collect seeds from that tree.

  37. Ralph on said:

    I live in So Cal. I have purple Japanese Atropurpureum seeds. When is the best time to plant the seeds as we do not have 90 days of cold. When they are planted should it be in shade or sun? Are the plants going to be purple or different colors

    • Mike on said:


      They would be best in the shade, you can sow the seeds anytime but they need to be stratified before you sow them. As per this article.

  38. Grazia on said:

    Hello I d like to know how many seeds than I can plant in the same pot. I bought 10 of them but it s my first time and I have no ideas… I will use the fridge method. Grazie. I live in Manchester UK.

    • Mike on said:


      Ten seeds can go in a really small area, maybe the size of a cereal bowl or smaller.

  39. Janine St. John on said:

    HI Mike, i have ordered seeds and is the 1st time i have tried growing myself, i have always bought the trees. you say above that up to 10 seeds can be planted in a small area: Why would you plant so many together? is this to create the ‘forest’ tree grouping? Or to ensure some of the bunch take? Or indeed will they all take? Also as the seeds have yet to arrive i have not seen them, this may seem a silly question but please indulge my ignorance: should they come in the helicopter or already have the ‘wing’ taken off and ready to soak?
    Many thanks
    Janine UK

    • Mike on said:


      Your seeds could come either way. We sow them tight together to save space, don’t know which ones will grow and which won’t. Then transplant them to cells or small pots after they germinate.

  40. Duane on said:

    I bought a bunch of acer palmatum seeds and I’m going to be prepping them for sowing this coming March.

    I understand that, by nature of sexual reproduction, although they came from a red acer they will not all come out with fantastic red coloring.

    My question is, how soon after germination do the seedlings show their true color so that I may select the ones I wish to keep and which I wish to sell on or give to family or friends?

    • Mike on said:


      First of all, keep in mind they need sunlight to show their red color so if sowing them inside you might not see the true color until outside. I wouldn’t be in a hurry to do anything with them until at least 12″ tall. By then you should have a pretty good idea which ones have good color. The green ones make great stock for grafting and are in demand for that reason.

  41. Michelle on said:

    hi, I leave in North east ohio and I have a potted seedling that is a total of 8inches. What do I do with it over the winter? I have been given conflicting information. One nursery said put in basement and water one a month and another said to plant the whole pot in a protected spot outside close to house and mulch good. help!

    • Mike on said:

      Michelle, don’t put it in the basement. It needs to freeze and go dormant. The second idea is right on target, just bury the whole pot but only to the top rim of the pot. Putting it near the house, maybe where snow lays would be a good place. Snow is a great insulator. A little mulch is also a good idea, about an inch, maybe two.

      • Michelle on said:

        Thank you!!

  42. Chris on said:

    I tried all of these methods and only two of the worked. The paper towel idea didn’t work. None of the seeds sprouted and the white towels turned brown with rot. But all of the other methods worked swimmingly. I have potted all of the sprouts that came from those methods and they number about 50-100. But this leads into my question. More than half of my sprouts start out strong at the base then get really skinny, sickly, and weak looking near the top and the leaves. Some look normal though. Are the weak looking seedlings saveable or are they a lost cause?

    • Chris on said:

      Edit* I have also put them in sunlight and watered them in the hopes that sprouting in the bag/ fridge just left them a little weak.

    • Mike on said:


      Think and weak sounds like damping off, the seedlings get skinny at the soil line then fail. Typically damping off is fatal. Air flow over the seedlings helps with this, place a fan near by.

      • Chris on said:

        Thanks Mike,
        I’ve moved them inside for the moment since where I live has gotten colder. I was taking advantage of the unseasonable warm spell and planted them outside in the warm. What exactly is damping off? And what can I do to stop it in the future?

  43. Sea on said:

    Leave it to Mother Nature…. I just discovered about 30 seedlings in a planter under one of my maples. Not sure what to do with all those babies!

    • Mike on said:


      Move them to where you want them but only move them while they are dormant, or dig way around them to not cut any roots.

  44. Robb on said:

    Hey Mike – thanks for all the info. It is very helpful to say the least. My question is this: I have quite a few seeds that I’ve kept all winter in paper bags outside where it was quite cold. I just recently planted them in seed flats a couple of weeks ago. Do you think it will take the full 90 – 100 days to germinate because the seeds were kept dry all winter is the stratification more about temperature than moisture level?

    Thanks in advance for any help, and for all of the great tips!

    • Mike on said:


      The stratification is really about moisture level, it takes time for that outer coating to soften up so the seeds can germinate.

      • Robb on said:

        Ok, thanks for the info Mike! I’ll be patient with them then and hope that I get some seedlings in a few months.

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