Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

How to Grow Magnolia Trees from Seed

By:
Magnolia tree seed cone

Magnolia tree cone releasing its seeds

Magnolia trees produce seed cones in the fall which litter yards and sidewalks. The gorgeous red seeds serve as a delicacy for squirrels and migrating birds, and they can also be collected to grow more magnolias!

Growing magnolias from seed is a practice of patience – not only will you need to wait a few months to see signs of sprouting, but the seedlings may take as long as 15 years to bloom! Nevertheless, if you’ve ever seen a Southern magnolia in full blossom, you know it’s worth the wait.

Magnolia tree seed

Magnolia tree seed

For best results, collect seeds from standard species (like Southern magnolia) rather than hybrids or special cultivars. Hybrids are specially pollinated to mix two varieties together, and their seeds will likely revert back to one of the parent varieties, rather than producing the same type of tree you admired.

How to Collect and Plant Magnolia Seeds

Follow these five simple steps to grow magnolia trees from seeds for your yard.

Step 1: Collect Magnolia Seeds

Look for magnolia cones that are already opening up and releasing the seeds. If you can’t find any, pick up fresh cones and set them aside for a few days until they dry and open. Gently shake the red magnolia seeds out of the cone.

Step 2: Scarify Magnolia Seeds

Removing seed coat on magnolia seed

Removing seed coat

Scrub magnolia seeds with a paper towel to remove the red pulpy coating. If the seed coat doesn’t come off, try soaking the seeds in water overnight to soften them – throwing away any that float.

Once you’ve removed the seed coat, rough up the surface of the seed a little (called “scarifying”) by lightly scrubbing the seed with a piece of sandpaper, screen wire, or steel wool. This removes protective oils and makes it easier for the seed to break open and sprout.

Step 3: Stratify Magnolia Seeds

Allow the seeds to rest for 3-6 months at around 40° to 45° F, without drying out. There are three ways to do this:

    Magnolia seed ready for planting

    Magnolia seed ready for planting

  • Refrigerator: The easiest way is to mix the seeds with moist seed-starting mix or peat, place in a plastic bag or container, and stick them in the fridge for the winter.
  • Cold Frame: Alternately, you can plant the seeds about 1/2″ deep in a seed tray or small pot, and put it in a cold frame. Be sure to keep the soil moist all winter, and protect it from freezing temperatures.
  • Outdoors: If you prefer nature’s approach, you can plant the seeds outdoors, about 1/2″ deep, with a layer of mulch to hold in moisture. If you plant them outdoors, keep in mind that they may not survive if they freeze or dry out, and they’ll be an easy snack for hungry squirrels!

Step 4: Plant Magnolia Seeds

When temperatures reach around 70° F in the spring, plant your magnolia seeds either in the ground or in pots, about 1/2″ deep in a light planting medium. Keep evenly moist until the seeds germinate, which usually takes a few weeks or longer.

Step 5: Grow Magnolia Trees

Transplant seedlings to their permanent homes, or grow them in pots until they’re a little bigger. Keep the seedlings evenly moist and protected from direct sun for the first year.

Southern magnolia tree blossoms

Southern magnolia tree in bloom

Further Information



Please Leave a Comment

28 Comments on “How to Grow Magnolia Trees from Seed”

You can follow comments to this article by subscribing to the RSS news feed with your favorite feed reader.

  1. Barbara Mclachlan Says:
    October 31st, 2011 at 4:25 am

    would like to know where they grow

  2. Betty Says:
    May 16th, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    I live in Arizona where it is already in the 100 degree’s and only going to get hotter. My husband wants to trim our Magnolia tree because the trunk is small but the branches are full. It appears to be top heavy. The tree is about 4 years old since we planted it and has full sun most of the day.

    My question is when should it be trimmed? I’ve read never trim a magnolia tree. What is the correct answer?

    I LOVE my tree and I don’t want to hurt it.
    Thanks
    Betty

  3. Jane Says:
    July 1st, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    Seems like if biology/nature/whatever you believe in wants it to be top heavy then it’ll be top heavy just fine. I’m not a biologist or tree grower or anything, it just seems like trees grow by design as intended and the more we mess with them the worse off they are. I also have never seen a Magnolia trimmed.

  4. Mike Says:
    July 23rd, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    yeah where do these strange looking trees grow at
    i only found 2 of them where im at and the seeds that i got are red but when i scratched the redness off it was then dark like dark brown or black
    your seeds looks like you’ve pulled it off the tree and the leaves on this tree where im at they aren’t waxy they look a little bit more like a milkweed leaf, and this tree the seed pods when you brake them they smell like cross between sassafras-tree-leaves and hickory-tree-nuts thats what i think i know its a “cone” but i like to call it a “pod” anyways thank you for the info im not good at growing hard seeds because its hard for me and these seeds look alot like butterfly bush seeds & the shape is just about the same these are just a bit fatter and red then dark.

  5. Mike Says:
    July 23rd, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    & i heard that guy on wtiu say that you don’t have to freeze a seed for it to grow unless you want to you can and this butterfly-weed flower made the flower this year and made the seeds pods and seeds and some started to sprout out already before it got to freeze in the winter so i think that guy might be right.

  6. Janis Says:
    August 24th, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    Do you have to put the Magnolia seed in the peet moss and sand immeditely after takeing the red off and wiping the seed off with sandpaper?

  7. Ron McKinney Says:
    September 17th, 2012 at 7:15 am

    Very informative article and the photographs confirmed what I only suspected about our little gem’s cones and seeds. Our tree is only eight feet tall, but it has had a profusion of white blossoms from March through August and now its cones are opening and they and their bright red seeds are almost as attractive as the blossoms. Our tree stands in the full sun, and the only water it gets is from rain. And yet it flourishes. At the time we planted the magnolia we also planted a saw palmetto about fifteen feet east and on a line with the little gem. The Palmetto has multiplied from a single stem to half a dozen and has filled in an area about fifteen feet in diameter; it’s creeping toward the magnolia in a menacing fashion, so I’m going to tell my yard man to start digging out the palms closest to my prized small tree.
    Question: can a magnolia with a stem diameter of 2.5 inches be dug up and transplanted without killing it? If it can, when would be a good time to move it? I wouldn’t mind if the palmetto took over the yard if not for the threat to the magnolia tree.

  8. Melissa Says:
    September 22nd, 2012 at 4:42 am

    Today is Saturday 09/21/2012 just lastnite I took the red seeds that kinda looks like a bean from the cones and soaked them for maybe ten minutes just long enough to remove the red coating and inside is the light brown seed some medium to dark brown… and so by reading this article plus reading the tips from different people I’m doing just exactly what this article says to do and I will post my results as soon as I see the results by the way someone mentioned they needed seeds I have tons if whoever it was wants them because here right now in south central Arkansas my Magnolia trees are loaded.

  9. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    September 22nd, 2012 at 6:43 am

    Hi Melissa,
    Thanks for the feedback, keep us posted on your results!

  10. maylon shorr Says:
    October 6th, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    My name is Maylon Shorr and for years have wanted a Magnolia tree. I am in Arkansas and discovered a lot of treasure pods with seeds still in tact. So after discovering your site I am anxious so start the process. I have got my seeds soaking now. It’s Oct. 6th and will report back as they progress!!

  11. Tim H. Royal Says:
    October 20th, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    This is for Milissa. I would love to have some of your Magnolia seeds. Where do I send money for postage and handling?

  12. Tim H. Royal Says:
    October 20th, 2012 at 11:58 pm

    My Grandmother planted seeds in her front yard in NC, a Magnolia Grandiosa sprouted in due time. She was magic with planting. All she did was put the seed in the ground and it sprouted, peaches, apples, grape vines. When the tree was big enough I started climbing it. I love that tree, the tree is now 65 years old, if it is still standing.
    When I move back from Oregon to NC I will go to my home town and get pods from the tree. I have done this before but the pods were on the ground and already to dry. I am looking forward to making the seeds grow here in Oregon. And to take with me when I move back. I could sit n the top of that Magnolia and look at the roof line of our house, two stories tall, and survey the neighborhoon from my perch. Thanks for these articles. Tim Royal.

  13. lorraine Says:
    November 15th, 2012 at 9:22 am

    Hi. We’ve had our magnolia tree for 12 years,since moving into our current address. I believe the tree had been planted about 4 years prior to us moving in. The tree is my pride and joy as I’ve always wanted one. this year my husband trimmed the branches s we’ve had decking fitted in the garden,which goes around the base of the tree(circle been cut away around it) as we have a seating area nearby. The branches were in the way, therefore needed trimming. However over the last few months we noticed clusters growing,which I thought were new leaves or buds but they have now grown into mini conkers-which have split open and have beautiful red seeds poking out. I have picked them carefully and must have at least 30 seeds. After browsing the internet,I’m excited to learn that I can plant these and hopefully produce more magnolia trees, which would be a lovely gift for family+friends. Anyone have some good tips on how to succeed please as I’m not really a gardening person. Plus weather in northern england is pretty miserable so am I best trying to grown them in a greenhouse/conservatory?? Thanks

  14. Becky N, Austin, Tx Says:
    December 22nd, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    Hello all. I followed all the various methods. I soaked and cleaned the seeds, I refrigerated some, planned some outside in putspots. I planted some inside in a seed starter tray, and I scarified (filed) some then planeted. I have one that has sprouted so far. I’m very impatient, so I have checked the seeds and found 2 or 3 more that are sprouting. They are all in the tray that had no special treatment , just planting. In my case it seems less is more.

  15. Adrian Says:
    April 28th, 2013 at 11:00 am

    Hi guys,

    Can someone who has excess seeds of magnolia grandiflora send me a hundred or so? Will pay the posting and packaging.

    Many thanks
    Adrian
    adrian32xj6@yahoo.com

  16. Lynn Wymore Says:
    June 16th, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    Hundreds of nice firm green cones from our beautiful tree here in Portland, OR, but they don’t seem to produce any red seeds. Is there a trick to getting them to produce?

  17. John Cruz Says:
    June 30th, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    Was in Florida and was looking for the seed. I am living on Guam and would like to get some southern magnalia gradifora

  18. j . kopp Says:
    August 23rd, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    After 35 years in my Florida house, I never suspected that a hidden tiny magnolia tree was growing in a clump of immature small palm trees. This year I detected a beautiful perfume in the yard, and following my nose to the scent, was totally in awe of a magnificent white blossom on a 6′ MAGNOLIA tree hidden in that now taller clump! WOW! No one planted it. Had to laugh at all the work people say you have to go through, SANDING (!) and PREPARING the red seeds. I bet NATURE doesn’t do that. Probably a bird just dropped a seed on the ground. It has produced a big seed cone now, and I guess I’ll plant the red seeds like Nature did instead of all that fuss. What do you think? Let Nature take its course?

  19. karen Says:
    September 9th, 2013 at 10:15 am

    Thanks for all the info. I’ve srouped a cone and am preparing the red seed for planting.

  20. Mary Fitchett Says:
    October 6th, 2013 at 10:14 am

    My grandson gave me a small southern Magnolia tree for my birthday about 6 years ago. Something bad happened to the tree and the center main part of the tree died. I did not want to lose it even if it was funny looking so I cut the center out. It really looked sad. I fed it with tree stake fertilizer and after about three more years of ugly my tree started to look like a tree again. Now it is a beautiful Southern Magnolia with many flowers and lots of seed pods. I want to try to grow a tree from seeds. I may never see it as today is my 79th birthday. But I have copied the directions and am determined to try.

  21. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    October 6th, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    Mary,
    Thanks for sharing and good luck with your magnolia seed growing project!

  22. Jan Kliethermes Says:
    October 27th, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    I just scrubbed six seeds clean and stuck them in a pot to over winter. I live in the middle of Missouri and I like to drag my pots outside on sunny days. I hope I have good luck.

  23. John F. Says:
    November 5th, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    Mary,
    I am also from central MIssouri, I have been working in Southern Oklahoma and found these seeds and after some research found out they were from a Magnolia tree, I picked up 5 or 6 seeds and am going to try and plant them when I get back home.

  24. Elena Ro Says:
    January 15th, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    Thank you so much…. I do collect a lot of seed and I am for the first time trying to germinate them… wish me luck… Regards from Mexico City…

  25. Victoria Johnson Says:
    March 13th, 2014 at 11:22 am

    Hello everyone. I gather seeds from my aunts tree. I live in south east texas. I am waiting for the weather to stop freezing here. Last night it was 38 degrees. I can’t wait to plant my seeds. They are still in the refrigerator. Thank you all for the helpful information

  26. Dennis Reedy Says:
    March 22nd, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    I would like seeds to grow a magnolia. Please contact me so we can make arrangements. Thank You

  27. raylene girando Says:
    March 26th, 2014 at 1:08 am

    hi everyone ,i live in perth australia and my sister vicki has given me magnolia seeds to grow wish me luck .
    xx

  28. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    March 26th, 2014 at 8:29 am

    Raylene,
    Good luck! Let us know if they grow.

We want to hear from you! In addition to posting comments on articles and videos, you can also send your comments and questions to us on our contact page or at (800) 946-4420. While we can't answer them all, we may use your question on our Today's Homeowner radio or TV show, or online at todayshomeowner.com.

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.