September through November are the months when Dogwood and Japanese Maple seeds ripen and are ready for picking. These two trees are quite easy to propagate from seed if you follow a few simple, easy steps.
Dogwood seeds are ripe when they turn brilliant red and begin to fall from the tree. Collect as many as you would like to grow and soak them in water for a few days to soften the pulp so the inner seeds can be removed. Once all the pulp has been removed from around the seeds, they must be stratified before they can be planted outdoors.
For Dogwood seeds the stratification is a two step process. Place the seeds in a plastic bag in a mixture of moist peat moss. Make sure the peat is moist but not too wet, you don’t want the seeds to rot. The bag should be closed but not completely air tight. Poke a few holes in the bag. Store this bag at room temperature, but not in direct sunlight for a period of 105 days. After 105 days place the bag in your refrigerator for another 105 days.
Check your seeds every so often during the storage periods to make sure they don’t dry out. If the peat gets too dry just add a little water. After a total of 210 days the seeds are ready to be planted outside. During the cold stratification period check your seeds once a week to see if any of them have begun to sprout. If 10% or more have sprouted, plant them outside right away.
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To plant them, just prepare a raised bed of topsoil and sprinkle the seeds on top of the soil. Cover the seeds with approximately 1/8" of topsoil. Make sure you don’t plant them too deep, and keep them watered but not too wet. Once they begin to grow provide them with about 50% shade. That’s all there is to it.
Japanese Maple seeds are ready to be picked when they turn brown and start falling from the tree. Collect the seeds and clean them by breaking off the wing attached to the seeds. Place the cleaned seeds in a cup, and fill the cup with hot tap water and let them soak for 24 hours. This will soften the outer coating of the seed so moisture can penetrate and germination can begin.
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After soaking the seeds place them in a plastic bag in a mixture peat moss as described above. Store them at room temperature for a period of 90 days, and then move them to the refrigerator for a period of 70 days. Check for sprouting as described above and plant them outside in the same manor as discussed for dogwood seeds.
You want to time this process so the seeds are ready to be planted outside in the spring, after the danger of frost has passed. To do this pick the date on your calendar when you think the danger of frost should be past, and count backwards the total number of days the seeds will be in both cold, and warm storage. Start stratifying the seeds on that day. The seeds can be stored dry in the fall until you are ready to use them. Make sure they are dry and place them in a paper bag and keep the bag in a cool dry place until it is time to start stratifying them.
If your propagation efforts yield more than you need, donate them to the local elementary school on Arbor Day.
Once you have both Dogwood and Japanese Maple seedlings, the fun begins. Through the magic of grafting you can turn some of the seedlings into Pink Dogwoods, Red Dogwoods, Weeping Dogwoods, and the beautiful Variegated Dogwoods. On the Japanese Maple seedlings you can graft a variety of different Japanese Maple varieties, including the beautiful Laceleaf Weeping Varieties.