There are hundreds of varieties of magnolia trees around the world. The one most people are familiar with is the Magnolia grandiflora, found throughout the Southern United States. These tall trees are known for their large white to pink blooms through the spring and summer and large cones of red seeds in the fall. Though they are best propagated through grafting they can be started from seed. The advantage of using grafted tree stock is that they will bloom within one to two years (the grafts are taken from mature trees). Growing from seeds is very difficult and it takes 15 to 20 years for the trees to mature enough to present their first blooms.
Shake the cones gently to remove seeds. Place them in water in a one-gallon bucket to soak for three to four days. Discard any seeds that float to the top; this means that they will not germinate.
Press hard on the outer red coating to squeeze the seed out, then wash in a mild dish soap to remove the oily residue from the outside of the seed. The oil on the exterior of the seed prevents water from being absorbed.
Store seeds, if they are not to be sown right away, in the refrigerator. Place the seeds into a zip-lock bag with sterile soil. Dampen the soil so that it clings together but you cannot ring out any moisture. Maintain a temperature of 40 degrees (standard refrigerator setting).
Spread the seeds out in a single layer in a seed flat. Do not allow the seeds to become dry. Sprinkle with water to maintain moisture.
Dig holes approximately 1 foot deep. Add soil mixture of peat moss, loam and sand (mixture ratio is 2-1-1) to the hole. Press one seed into each hole to depth of 1/4 inch.
Cover each hole with a 1-inch layer of mulch. Water to keep the soil moist but not soaked; seeds will germinate in approximately four weeks.
Provide shade for the seedlings during their first year of growth. Put 1/2-inch bamboo stakes into the ground and create a square by placing four stakes around each seedling. Lay muslin fabric over the top of the bamboo stakes.
Keep the soil moist; do not allow to dry out during the first year of growth. Water seedlings daily in dry climates. Once the seedlings have established a root system (this takes approximately one year) water them once per week.