This question came From N.C. of Ellis County:
When I visited my hometown, I gathered some seed cones from a magnolia tree. This is a special tree that is growing in a family member’s yard. I would like to have my own tree from the seeds of this magnolia tree. Is it possible to grow a tree from the seeds?
Basically, the answer is yes. Usually the trees are grafted and not grown from seed. A magnolia tree grown from seed can take as long as fifteen years to produce a bloom. Magnolia seeds can be harvested and planted if they are mature seeds when you harvest them. The process is a little more complicated than placing a seed in the ground. The directions below should give you a good start on how to plant the seeds.
The seeds are found in a structure called the cone. The brown seed cones should be harvested in the fall. This will allow the seeds to reach maturity. If they are harvested before maturity, the seeds will not germinate. A sign of seed maturity is when the seed cones will break open and bright red seeds are visible. The seeds should be left to dry for several days before processing. For germination to occur the seeds should be placed in a container of warm water overnight. Using a bristle brush scrub the seeds. This process will take the outer seed coat off the seed. The seeds are ready for planting.
The magnolia seeds should be planted in a soil mixture that is slightly acidic. You can add coffee grounds or tea to the soil to increase the pH of the soil. One of the best methods to acidify the soils is to make a compost using pine needles. If you purchase a bag of potting soil that is for azaleas and mix this with your regular soil, it will provide the acidic environment needed.
One of the primary concerns of a magnolia trees growth is the amount of water that is needed. The seeds will germinate but once the tree emerges from the soil, water can kill the new growth, if over-watered the tree will not grow in wet soil. The root system needs oxygen, to produce a healthy root system. You best choice would be to keep the tree in a container for several years. Leaving the tree in a container will allow the water can drain freely and not rot the root system. If the tree is placed in the ground water can stand and rot the root system. It will take several years for the tree to outgrow a container making this the best choice for establishing a healthy root system.
If you hope to have blooms from your magnolia tree it could take as long fifteen years before the tree will bloom. Depending on your reason to plant seeds rather than purchase a mature plant will help you determine if you are willing to spend the time for germination to seedling to tree.
Dr. William C. Welch a Professor at Texas A & M University has a wonderful article on this very topic. You can find it by clicking here.