How to Plant a Magnolia Seed


The rich wafting fragrance of a magnolia tree in full bloom is an intoxicating experience. The showy white flowers bloom in abundance in the spring and summer. The magnolia tree is native to southern parts of North America. It is hardy in USDA planting zones 7 to 10a. The dense foliage of the magnolia tree makes it a good privacy screen or visual barrier. Mature trees reach heights of 50 to 80 feet with a canopy spread of 30 to 40 feet.

Step 1

Cut a ripe fruit from a magnolia tree between mid-September and mid-October. The cone-shaped fruit is ripe when it splits open, revealing red seeds.

Step 2

Lay the seed pod on a cloth and place it in a warm, dry place to dry out. Shake the pod after three to five days. When the seeds fall from the cone, they are ready to prepare for planting.

Step 3

Fill a bowl with warm water. Add 1 tsp. of granulated laundry detergent.

Step 4

Soak the seeds in the water and laundry detergent for three days.

Step 5

Rub the seeds between your index finger and thumb until the red coating comes off. Rinse all soap residue off the seeds and lay them on a towel to dry overnight.

Step 6

Fill a plastic zip lock bag with a 1/2 inch layer of peat moss. Place the seed into the bag and put another 1/2 inch layer of peat moss on top of the seed. Store the seed between 32 and 41 degrees F until spring.

Step 7

Fill an 8 inch planting pot with seed starting potting soil mix.

Step 8

Make a 1 inch deep hole in the center of the pot. Place the seed into the hole and cover with soil.

Step 9

Water the pot until it is evenly damp. Place a clear plastic bag upside down over the rim of the pot and attach it with a twist tie or rubber band. The seed will sprout in two to eight weeks.

Step 10

Place the pot in an area that gets filtered sunlight. Keep the soil damp to the touch but not muddy or saturated.

Step 11

Fill a 20 inch pot with equal parts potting soil and peat moss. Transplant the sapling into the larger pot when it is 6 to 8 inches tall. Keep the soil moist but not saturated.

Things You'll Need

  • Knife
  • Cloth
  • Bowl
  • Dish detergent
  • Warm water
  • Plastic bag
  • Peat moss
  • 8 inch planting pot
  • Seed starting potting mix
  • Plastic bag
  • Rubber band or twist tie
  • 20 inch planting pot
  • Potting soil


  • Texas A&M University: Southern Magnolia
  • Forest Service Department of Agriculture: Southern Magnolia

Who Can Help

  • National Arboretum-USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map
Keywords: magnolia sapling, starting seeds, propagating magnolia seeds

About this Author

Olivia Parker has been a freelance writer with Demand Studios for the past year, writing for Garden Guides and eHow. She has studied herbal and alternative medicine and worked as a landscape artist and gardener. Parker is currently pursuing a Bachelors of Arts from Boston University Online.