A Guide On How To Grow Magnolia From Seed

Magnolias are a real showpiece that adds a touch of class to any garden. Their range of beautiful flowers, from natural white to bright pink, is astonishing. This guide will go through all you need to know to get the best out of this magnificent species and how to grow magnolia from seed.

Beautiful Magnolias. Credit: DC Photo Guide

Magnolias can be deciduous or evergreen and trees or shrubs, depending on the variety. They are prevalent in many gardens because of their unparalleled beauty. They are also popular because of their size, versatility, and preferred environment.

Their ability to cope with most soil types combined with a long flowering period makes them one of the best additions to any garden.

Let’s look at some of the most common problems many gardeners face regarding growing magnolias from seed.

Can You Start a Magnolia Tree From A Seed?

Yes, you can grow a Magnolia tree from a seed. Growing from seed is the longest way to grow anything in the garden, but it is possible in the right conditions. Magnolias can take a long time to flower (over a decade), but the result is undoubtedly worth it.

One of the main reasons that Magnolia seeds aren’t mass-produced is that they are no longer viable once they are dried out. So to grow magnolia from seed, you should use fresh ones from a Magnolia bush/tree.

In this guide, we will go through the right conditions to germinate Magnolia seeds to ensure that the Magnolias will look their best at all times during the flowering season.

How Long Does It Take To Grow A Magnolia From Seed?

Your patience will be tested if you decide to grow Magnolias from seed. While you will most likely see signs of sprouting after just a few months, in some cases, it can take between 10 to 15 years to see a Magnolia fully bloom.

If growing from seed, don’t expect Magnolias to be something you will see blooming in the next few years. Unfortunately, there is very little you can do to accelerate the process. Magnolias are a long-term project, but they can potentially transform any garden or public area.

With such a long time between germination and the end result, you must choose a suitable variety from the beginning. You don’t want to wait 15 years before realizing you planted the wrong seeds!

There can be hybrid seeds that look like Magnolia seeds in some cases. So make sure to double or triple-check that your seeds are correct.

What Does The Seed Of A Magnolia Look Like?

Just like Magnolia flowers, Magnolia seeds are distinct in appearance. Many small red fruits called “follicles” are clumped together in a cone shape. The seeds are covered in a waxy residue as a layer of protection.

Magnolia Seeds can be a deep red color. Credit: homeaffluence.com

Magnolias will produce this seed clump around Fall/Autumn time. Remove the pod from a branch or pick it up from the ground beneath to obtain the seeds.

How Do You Germinate Magnolia Seeds?

Once you have the seeds, you will notice that a waxy residue covers the outer layer for protection. However, this residue makes the seeds hard, so they must be softened to germinate.

One of the best ways of softening the red seeds is to place them in a cup of warm water and leave them for 1-2 days until they swell up.

After the days have passed, you should notice that the seeds have almost doubled in size. Remove the seeds from the water and place them on a towel. The hard outer casing should be soft enough to peel away. Remove the outer layer from the seeds and set them aside.

From here, it’s time to do the “water test.”

The Water Test

The water test is a quick check to see if your seeds are dense enough and will provide a solid foundation for your Magnolias. Remember, it may take years for a Magnolia to bloom fully, so it is essential to get it right from the beginning.

The water test is simple. Just place the seeds into a glass of water and watch which seeds fall to the bottom and which ones float.

The floating seeds indicate they are not dense enough and won’t provide a good Magnolia tree.

floating seeds and seeds sinking in two glasses side by side
Floating Seed Test Explained. Credit: gardenmyths

Pick out the floating seeds (there shouldn’t be that many) and prepare the rest of the seeds for stratification.


For the Magnolia seeds to germinate, they have to go through stratification. Stratification is for seeds that respond to either heat or cold. The concept is to create the same circumstances that the seeds require to germinate in nature.

By doing so, the dormant seeds will start the germination process.

To replicate this, take your seeds that have passed the water test and place them in a small plastic Ziploc bag filled with moist potting soil. Mix it around so that the seeds have relatively even access to all the soil’s nutrients.

To mimic the cold and dark Wintery conditions needed to germinate, place your bag in a refrigerator for 1-2 months.


After this time, there should be signs of roots coming from the seeds. Now is the time to plant the seeds in the ground or a relatively deep pot. Put the sprouting seeds in a planting pot if you need to control the pH of your soil.

If you are going to transplant the rooting seeds to the ground or pots, it is best to do it in Spring. Only use one pot per seed – remember we are planting trees here!

Ensure that the soil is kept nice and moist in the early days as the saplings form. After a few weeks of planting, you should see the first green shoots emerge.

magnolia tree green saplings in 3 black puts
Saplings should emerge a few weeks after planting. Credit: YouTube

From here on out, it’s about keeping the Magnolias in their favorite conditions. Keeping them in areas of full sun and neutral soils gives this magnificent tree the best chance of reaching its full potential.

Keep the soils moist, fertile, and well-drained throughout the years. If you live in warmer climates, dry shade areas are better suited.

A layer of mulch or dried leaves over the soil’s top will benefit the young Magnolia saplings. Mulch will help retain moisture within the ground while the seeds grow. It will also prevent any strong sunlight from getting to the young saplings.

white and red petaled flowers
Photo by Valeriia Miller on Pexels.com

Summary: How To Grow Magnolia From Seed?

Magnolias are one of the most beautiful varieties of trees in the world. They are a welcome addition to any garden and are hugely popular.

Growing Magnolias from seed will take a long time. It will be approximately 10-15 years before you see their first bloom. Making sure you do things right at the start is therefore imperative.

The best way of obtaining seeds is from the tree itself during the Autumn/Fall period. The seeds must go through several processes, including stratification, to give them the best chance of germinating.

Once germinated, plant in the Spring in fertile and moist soils with access to reasonable levels of sunlight. Providing the ideal conditions will ensure that the  Magnolias will prosper in the future.

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