Propagation & Seed Starting

How to Grow Japanese Red Maple Trees from Seed

Follow these simple steps for planting Japanese Red Maple from seed:

  1. Find a Japanese Red Maple that has seed pods, they look just like the maple seeds (helicopters) you watched fall from the tree when you were a kid, except smaller. As soon as the seed pods turn brown you can pick them.
  1. Store your seeds in a cool dry place until you are ready to start stratifying them. A paper bag or envelope stored in your garage is fine.
  1. Select the date you would like to plant your seedlings outside. This should be after the danger of frost has past in the spring.
  1. Count backwards 90 days from your planting date. With a planting date of May 15th, February 15th would be the day you want to start stratifying your seeds.
  1. Stratifying is the process of tricking the seeds into thinking that they have gone through a natural cold, damp period outside. Break the wing off your seeds and soak them in warm to hot tap water overnight. Put the seeds in the water, then just let the water cool to room temperature with the seeds soaking in the water for 24 hours. 
  1. Next place the seeds in a plastic freezer bag in damp sand, peat, vermiculite, whatever you happen to have on hand. Any of these mediums will work. The medium you use should be damp, not soaking wet. Poke a few holes in the bag. Place the bag in your refrigerator. Do not put the bag too far back in your fridge where the seeds might freeze, you don’t want it quite that cold.
  1. The bag should remain in the fridge for 90 days, or until the seeds start to sprout. Check the bag once a week after 60 days or so. Once sprouting begins you can pick the sprouted seeds from the bag and plant them in a flat of well drained potting soil.
  1. When planting the sprouted seeds in the flat just barely cover the seed and the sprouted root with soil.
  2. Water thoroughly after planting but allow the soil to dry almost completely before watering again. It’s important that the soil temperature stay as close to 70 degrees F. as possible. A lamp shining on the flat will help to warm the soil
  3. If after 90 days your seeds are not sprouting in the bag, remove the bag from the refrigerator and just leave it in a warm place (room temperature). That will get them going! Once your seedlings start to grow, they’ll need sunlight to develop properly.

Mike McGroarty is the owner of McGroarty Enterprises and the author of several books. You can visit his website at and read his blog at

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