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How to Sow Maple Seeds Successfully

Growing Maples from seed is not rocket science!
It’s the 26th of October today and as you can see, the maples at Herons are becoming beautiful autumn colours. If you look closely at some of the trees, you will see that they are covered in seed.
maple trees in garden
It’s been a very hot summer this year, and because of that we’ve had a very good crop of seed. Just on this tiny branch alone there must be at least two or three hundred seeds.
maple seeds on tree branch
At the end of autumn, we collect all the seeds. There is no point collecting the seeds before they are ripe. When they are ripe, they are nice and firm.
Another mistake a lot of people make is that they store the seeds for too long. The longer you store the seeds the less viable they become. A foolproof way of getting Maple seeds to germinate is to collect the seeds and sow them straight away into seed pans. I’ll just collect a few seeds and show you how we do that.
I’m now just removing the leaves from the handful of seeds I have collected. There is no harm putting the seeds in but it is not necessary.
maple seeds
This particular maple is called the small leaf maple as its leaves and seeds are very small. I would say there are a couple hundred seeds here.
Maple Seeds
Now I will prepare the compost. There is no hard and fast rule as to the type of compost to use for sowing the maples. You can use bonsai compost which has grit, akadama (a clay like mineral) and sharp sand in it. The one I am using is just a mixture of 50% fine pine bark and 50% sphagnum moss peat which I find is quite good.
Maple compost
As you can see the container is almost full of the compost.
tray filled with compost
I will now just scatter in the handful of seeds I collected earlier. You can sow much denser than this if you like.
potting seeds
Once the seeds are scattered, you will need to cover them with a thin film of the same compost (around 3-4mm deep) and tamp it down gently.
covering seeds
Now, I’ll water it in with a watering can.
water running into tray
I’m now going to take it to one of the tunnels in our nursery. I will place the tray directly onto the gravel floor as this will provide some moisture from the ground below. I will then cover the tray with a sheet of glass and leave it throughout winter.
I will put the seed tray on the gravel as it will provide some moisture from below. I then cover the tray with a sheet of glass and leave it throughout the winter. You can also leave the tray outside for the frost to work on the seeds. This is a process called stratification. The freezing and thawing action helps to wake the seeds up from their sleep and gives them a better chance of germinating.
I now don’t sow any of my seeds in the spring. Some people may advise against this but the most successful seed sowing is usually done in the autumn, so that the seed trays can be left throughout the winter and the weather can stratify the seeds.
I’m now going to show you some seeds that we sowed last November.
potted maple seedlings
We must have had about 100 trays of these seeds, in this tray alone there must be around 500 or more plants. I reckon every single seed we sowed has germinated. Next year I will separate the seeds and pot them individually. This is living proof of how easy it is to sow maples from seed! In fact, it is so easy that we have even found maple seedlings growing in the pots of other plants. I’ll show you some examples of this now.
Here we have a large garden pine that has been growing in this pot for quite a few years, and at the base of the pot are some stray maple seedlings that have fallen into the pot.
maple seedlings growing in pine tree pot
Maple seeds are very easy to sow, but the trick is to sow them right away after they have been picked. As I mentioned before, the longer maple seeds are stored, the less viable they become.
At the Herons nursery we grow thousands of maples each year. Here are some examples of the maples we have grown from seed.
potted maple trees
These maples are about 6 or 7 years old, you will notice we don’t let them grow very tall. We prune them hard back because the objective is to create small bonsai trees.
Peter with potted maples
And there you have it! Sowing maple from seed is really, really easy.
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