How to Plant Staghorn Sumac Seeds

Written by meg butler
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How to Plant Staghorn Sumac Seeds
Staghorn sumac seed can be difficult to germinate. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

The staghorn sumac produces a large amount of seed every year, providing lots of potential for new growth. But the staghorn sumac's seed has a very hard coat that must be worn away before it can germinate. In nature, the sumac's seed must often first be eaten by birds or burnt in a periodic wildfire before it will sprout. When planting sumac seed on your own, you must first wear down the seed coat with boiling water before planting in spring. Even with a little help on your part, however, sumac seed often has low germination rates. To compensate, plant many seeds and plan on only a few sprouting.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Pot
  • Stove
  • Kitchen timer
  • Shovel
  • Aged compost
  • Rake

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  1. 1

    Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the staghorn sumac seeds and set your timer. Remove the seeds from the boiling water after exactly 2 minutes. Place them on a paper towel to drain.

  2. 2

    Prepare a seed bed for the staghorn sumac in a well-protected area (such as near your home or next to a garage) in partial shade. Dig and turn 1 square foot of soil to loosen the bed to a depth of 8 inches. Remove any plants, roots, rocks or other debris that you upturn as you dig.

  3. 3

    Add a 2-inch layer of aged compost to the soil, then mix it evenly into the top 8 inches of the soil. Then rake the area smooth and water it with a gentle spray to moisten the top 8 inches of the soil.

  4. 4

    Plant the staghorn sumac seed in spring after all threat of frost has passed. Plant each seed 1/2-inch deep. Plant neighbouring seeds 1 inch apart. Since staghorn sumac has such low germination rates, plant your entire supply of seed, or up to 100 seeds per square foot of seed bed.

  5. 5

    Water the seed bed periodically with a gentle spray of water to keep it consistently moist (but never soak the bed). According to the United States Department of Agriculture's National Seed Laboratory, sumac seed is most likely to germinate when temperatures reach and remain between 21.1 and 32.2 degrees Celsius.

Tips and warnings

  • Once the seedlings are large enough to handle, pot them and move them to a spot where they will receive full sunlight. They are ready to transplant into the landscape when they are roughly 12 inches tall. The remaining seed in the bed may germinate next season.

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