Growing Japanese Maple Bonsai from Seed - Part 1

01/25/2021 12:00

Now that I have moved out of that roach infested apartment and into my new pest-free home, I am finally comfortable having plants in the house. I have never been great with keeping plants alive, but I have yet to kill anything in the past two months. I have particularly--and unsurprisingly--grown an interest in bonsai 盆栽. Despite being Edward Said's worst nightmare, my attraction to bonsai lies in the time commitment involved. It will take years before a seedling becomes an established bonsai tree. Along with time comes the pruning and shaping of the tree into an aesthetically pleasing

I know nothing of pruning and shaping, yet. I currently have a Ficus bonsai that I bought from my local nursery. I have been taking care of it for about a month along with a Baby Jade seedling and another seedling I do not know the name of.

This is my Ficus, standing tall and noble. A sacrificial branch growing on the bottom left of the trunk, and a nice set of exposed roots. 

The Baby Jade is on the right and the unknown is on the left. As you can see in the pot of the unkown, I have another seedling growing in there. I am not sure what it could be, most likely a weed. Despite that, I still enjoy watching it grow. 

The Ficus also has some unexpected neighbors. Two three-leaf clovers are growing in the right side of the pot! 

The picture above is about a week old. There are currently another set of 3 leaf clovers growing from the same seedlings. I would love it if I could get a full patch of them to grow.

Anyway, that was all foreplay. We are here to talk about growing Japanese Maples from seed. 

There are a bunch of videos on youtube explaining how to grow Japanese Maple trees from seed. Mike Kincaid has a great series where he goes through the process here. The series shows his great results from a handful of seeds he picked off the ground in the Fall. With about ~75% growth rate, it seems like anyone can do it.

With high hopes, I went on to Ebay and ordered 100 Japanese Maple seeds. They took a while to arrive, but I ended up with ~170 seeds, so it made up for the slow shipping (yes I counted them).

The seeds are a bit smaller and dried out than the ones I saw on Mike's video. I wanted to make sure that the germination process was similar so I researched if anyone has had any luck with Ebay bought seeds. To my surprise, Mike also posted a video about a bunch of his viewers complaining that his method was not working for them; it turns out a majority of them also bought their seeds from an ebay seller. He even went so far as to order a handful of seeds from ebay and give it a shot. Not one of his seeds germinated.

Confident and unshaken, I still plan to plant these seeds in hopes for a bountiful yield. I would have to wait until Fall if I wanted to collect my own seeds anyway.

I have decided to divide the seeds into three groups during the cold stratification (refrigeration) period. Group A has been placed into a zip-loc bag in their dried out state; Group B has been placed into a zip-loc bag with a bit of water sprinkled on them; and Group C has been soaked in hot water for 72 hours before being placed in a zip-loc bag with a piece of paper-towel.  They will remain in the refrigerator for 90 days (or until I see germination) and will be burped every other week.

Group C Soaking in an Uzumaki Bowl

Group C post-72 hour soak


I hope that one of these methods will prove fruitful and we will have found a way to revive suspiciously small and dried-out Japanese Maple seeds we buy off ebay.

I will post an update either as soon as I see germination, or after 90 days elapses and I plant these seeds in buckets outside.

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japanese maple, bonsai, gardening