The red maple tree turns from a soft summer green to a brilliant red in the fall. Domestic red maple trees grow to heights of 40 to 60 feet while wild trees grow to heights of up to 100 feet or more. The seeds ripen and fall to the ground in early summer and can take up to two years to germinate. For the home gardener, germinating red maple trees from seed is challenging because the rate of germination is low. The easiest way to propagate a red maple tree is from a green cutting off of an established tree. But whether you want to try your hand at germinating seeds or rooting a cutting, your resulting trees will be a brilliant addition to the landscapes fall colors.
From a Cutting
Cut off a 6- to 8-inch green branch from a red maple tree. Select new growth that has two or more leaf nodes and at least one undeveloped bud.
Strip off any leaves from your cutting using a pair of sharp shears or by gently bending the stems back until they break off. This cutting is called a scion.
Soak the cut end of the scion in warm water for 20 minutes. This will soften and moisten the end of the cutting and encourage new growth to occur.
Roll the cut end of your scion in hormone rooting powder, available at home and garden stores. The rooting powder will encourage the scion to take root more quickly.
Fill a 6- to 8-inch planting pot with a mixture of peat moss and coarse sand. Make a hole in the center about one to two inches deep using a pencil or your finger. Place the cut end of your scion into the hole.
Cut four 12- to 14-inch dowels or small dry bamboo pieces and drive each one into a corner of the pot. Water the soil thoroughly so the soil is moist but not soaking wet.
Drape a clear plastic bag over the dowels and secure it around the base of the pot with a rubber band or piece of wire. This will form a mini-green house around your cutting to capture moisture and encourage rooting.
Gather ripe seeds in the spring and early summer from a wild or domestic red maple tree. Collect the seeds as soon as they turn a dark brown color. It is best to harvest directly from the tree braches rather then from the ground as the seeds will have more vitality.
Fill a planting tray with peat moss and place one seed every 2 inches into the tray. Place the tray in the refrigerator until germination begins. This will recreate the cold, winter, conditions that are necessary for the seeds to germinate. This process is called stratification.
Take the seedlings out of the refrigerator after a period of 60 to 75 days. Place the tray in a warm place to further germination, temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees F is ideal.
Once the seedlings are 3 to 5 inches tall, move each seedling to an 8 to 10 inch pot filled with peat moss and potting soil. Plant the seedlings into the ground in the following spring.