How to start a saucer magnolia tree from seed

Written by katelyn lynn
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How to start a saucer magnolia tree from seed
Saucer magnolia trees flower in the spring. (Magnolia image by Jacob Randell from

The saucer magnolia tree (Magnolia X Soulangiana) is sometimes called the tulip tree and the Japanese magnolia. It is a medium-growing, deciduous flowering tree. It is easily recognised by its plethora of pink-purple, fragrant flowers that appear in early spring even before the leaves have budded. Starting a saucer magnolia from seed is easily done once you properly prepare the seeds.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Saucer magnolia cones
  • Newspaper
  • Paper bag
  • Shallow bowl
  • Sandpaper, window screening or hardware cloth
  • Sand or peat moss
  • Plastic bag
  • Spray bottle
  • Soil-less growing media
  • Metal bowl
  • 1-gallon pots
  • Sheet of glass or cling film

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    Seed Preparation

  1. 1

    Collect the saucer magnolia cones in mid-September or early October.

  2. 2

    Place the cones onto a sheet of newspaper to dry for two to three days. You'll know the cones are dry when they start to split apart.

  3. 3

    Place the saucer magnolia cones into a paper bag. Shake the bag to release the seeds from the cones.

  4. 4

    Pour warm water into a shallow bowl. Place the saucer magnolia seeds into the warm water to soak overnight.

  5. 5

    Rub each of the saucer magnolia seeds with fine-grain sandpaper, window screening or hardware cloth to remove the fleshy seed coat.

  6. 6

    Store the seeds over the winter and plant them the following spring. Plant the seeds immediately if you can provide a consistent temperature of 4.44 degrees Celsius. This temperature is necessary to interrupt the dormancy of the seeds. Proceed to section 2 below for planting saucer magnolia seeds if you are sure you can provide the proper temperature.

  7. 7

    Place approximately 1 1/2 to 2 cups of dampened sand, or peat moss into a 1-qt. plastic sandwich bag. Place the seeds into the plastic bag. Shake the bag several times to distribute the seeds into the sand or peat moss.

  8. 8

    Put the bag containing the seeds into the back of a refrigerator set to 4.44 degrees Celsius. Check on the contents of the bag twice weekly to keep the sand or peat moss moist. Mist the contents with water as often as needed. Plant the seeds in spring as soon as there is no further chance of spring frost in your growing region.

    Planting Saucer Magnolia Seeds

  1. 1

    Place a soilless potting mix into a large metal bowl.

  2. 2

    Place the bowl of potting mix into an oven that has been preheated to 149 degrees Celsius. Leave the bowl in the oven for 30 minutes to sterilise the mix. Let the potting mix cool completely before using.

  3. 3

    Scoop the potting mix into 1-gallon planting pots until each is full to within 1/2 inch from the top.

  4. 4

    Poke 1/2-inch-deep holes in the middle of each 1-gallon pot. Plant one saucer magnolia seed into each of the holes. Sprinkle 1/2 inch of potting mix over the seeds.

  5. 5

    Spread a layer of cling film over each of the pots, or place a sheet of glass over them. This will help retain moisture and humidity.

  6. 6

    Transfer the pots to a location that can provide a temperature between 18.3 degrees C and 23.9 degrees Celsius. Germination of saucer magnolia seeds will typically begin in about two weeks, but can require several months.

  7. 7

    Remove the cling film or the sheet of glass as soon as germination occurs and place the pots in a sun-filled location in your garden.

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