Growing Trident Maples from seed   22 comments

I started this category to keep the trident maple page clean of growing techniques.

I started by purchasing 600 seeds from Whatcom Seed Co. and before long they were in my mailbox. I sent them a thank you and told them I posted the story on my blog, I also told them about the people that have already ordered seeds from them based on my story. I have not heard back yet.



The seeds require a few steps to get them going. All seeds will require some sort of scarification. Then Stratification and then sowing and growing.

To scarify tridents, they need 24 hour soak in hot tap water.

To scarify Amur maple, they need 24 hours also.

To scarify mountain maple, they need 48 hours in the water.

To Stratify tridents, after scarification wrap the seeds together with moist sphagnum moss in a ziplock bag and store in the fridge for 90 days.

To stratify Amur maple, store in fridge 60 days

To stratify mountain maple, store in fridge 120 days.

To Germinate Tridents, after stratification, sow 1/4 inch deep and tamp the soil. Mulch the seed bed.

To germinate Amur maple, 1/4 inch deep, tamp amd mulch.

To germinate mountain maple, 1/8 inch deep, tamp and mulch.

It is suggested to sow seeds at 1/4 inch deep and mulch in fall to allow seeds to naturally scarify and stratify. They will also germinate when appropriate. This is the preferred method. Just make sure seeds are ordered in time for fall planting. Halloween would be a good time to sow in my area, colder areas could sow at labor day.

My seeds were scarified in hot water and left for 24 hours.


I decided to plant mine out right away rather than leave them in a bag in the fridge. Since I am getting a late start, placing them in the soil will allow them to stratify for about the 90 days anyway.

I have used a pony pack tray, like those you get under six packs of color plants at walmart. They gave me two to use in this experiment. 100 seeds should fit well into this tray. I cut some plastic stitchery canvas to fit into the tray and made up the soil. I used a 50/50 mix of planting soil and turface.





I made some small furrows with a stick 1/4 deep and planted out my seeds. I planted some with about 2 inches between and some of them I grouped together with three seeds in a group. I also planted some with as many as five together in a group for a clump style type tree. Who know what I will get so at this point I am just having fun controlling my destiny.


Well nothing to do now but wait…..

….and wait I will do.  Be back soon.

Well the seeds are starting to sprout now. Had some temps all week around 64. Still have cool nights but no frost expected. A couple more weeks and I can begin phase two of the seed growing process.




Posted January 3, 2013 by California Bonsai Art in Trees from Seed

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22 responses to “Growing Trident Maples from seed

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  1. Hey Al,

    Just to clarify, when you say “mulch,” you just mean like placing a thin layer of mulch on top, right? I will probably realize that this is a dumb question when you respond, but just in case. . . . ;-D


  2. To scarify trident does the water need to remain hot for the 24hrs specified?


  3. Yeppers, mulch on top. Just for protection from birds and to help the soil to retain some moisture.

    Just hot to get them going. They will plump up after a hour or so. When I got home from work today they were sort of round not triangularish…is that a freakin word?

    I can’t wait to see the damn things sprout, this is just too much anticipation for this ole fart!


  4. Gracias, Señor! This is my first time attempting to grow from seed, and I’m doing it for the same exact reasons you are (except I’m 26. Neener, neener. ;-p

    I’m terribly excited to get mine in the mail! I’m going to start the whole process as soon as I get them.

    Would you suggest I do the same thing (circumvent stratification in the fridge and just put them right in the soil/turface mixture)? I live in Michigan, zone 6a,


  5. Alex, you lucky bastard. I wish I knew then what I know now and had started then. dizzy there for a second.
    If you are past a point that you might risk the tray freezing soild then I would start them in the soil now. Maybe just protect them in a cold frame or whatever you do for your trees right now. My nights get about 34 right now and unless I hear its gonna freeze harder than that, I will just leave them out.


  6. Haha, don’t fret. I still have tons to learn, and it might take me another 35 years or so to perfect things like you have…but I digress.

    Yeah, Michigan weather might not permit me to do that. I’ve had a couple-nine trees in turface frozen solid last week…so I might just toss these babies in the fridge.

    Anywho, I can tell you how much I appreciate you sharing everything. I’ve learned a ton from you over the years and this blog makes it so much easier for me to get useful information. Aaaaaand I can feel my nose getting browner by the minute.


  7. Brown nose or not, that what makes it worth posting all this. I truly appreciate your kudo’s on the site.


  8. al dont they need the cold period to simulate the season? or is there something i misunderstood?
    im in nj and was going to plant out because it is still cold here, should i use the fridge instead? it will get below freezing here at night.?
    thanks for all your help


  9. That is where the mulch comes in. A good thick layer of moss on top should be OK. I might woory about freezing solid though. Some protection from that would be good, but yes they need that 90 days of cold moist environment to germinate. From now till spring should do the trick. Thats the plan anyway….

    I figure I have 500 more tries if I screw up. Once they get little green thingies above the ground I can take it from there but this seed thing is really a bitch. Not like planting radishes?


  10. Thanks for the great information, and motivation. I just found a trident near home and got a few seeds soaking. Not sure how going from outside to warm water to outside again will mess with them but who cares if Im having fun right? I am also trying A. campestre (hedge maple) and A. griseum (paper bark). Not sure how campestre will do as a bonsai, I guess the fall color was not great, but the form is good.


  11. Hi!

    As a forest ecophysiologist I would just like to suggest some nomenclature which might have been used in the wrong context here.

    scarification is the process of physically scarring seeds with emery paper or by rubbing the seeds on concrete. This allows water to enter seeds with hard coatings like Acacia’s or Baobabs.

    The process of soaking seed in water is called ‘imbibing seed’ and is different from scarification.

    By leaving the seed in a fridge you “stratify” the seed. Different seeds have different stratification needs.

    Hope this helps some.


  12. Hi Al

    I saw other photos where you had them under glass to generate lower trunk movement; any idea where I can find those?

    Jerry Norbury


  13. Hi Jerry, I do not remember any growth under glass. I have grown them before under window screen many times. I have found that as the trees grow much of the wiggle continues to grow away from the base, so now I need to find another way to keep the curve down low. I did raise the screen on blocks as I went. maybe an update today as to how they look. I have a huge post showing this detail coming today from the top of the world in Fresno, CA showing young pines and snow damage. It is crazy how they grow out of it.


  14. I don’t know about Amur Maple and Mountain Maple but Trident Maples do not need a hot soak and so many steps. Just put the seeds in a small zip lock baggy(no moss, no soil, nothing), add a few drops of water, zip them shut and stick them in the fridge about october-november (making sure they don’t dry out)and by spring they will have little tap roots sticking out. Pot them up or put them where ever you plan to grow them and done. The key is fresh seed and seed rack does not sell fresh seed. I bought hundreds of seeds from them with a zero germination rate and when I contacted them to get replacement seeds(because they guarantee their seeds) they would not answer me back! This was two years ago with repeated attempts and still nothing. I buy all my seeds fresh from the current years growing season and never had failure! Japanese maples can be done the same way so I am sure all maples will germinate this way.


  15. Jake,

    I agree you about Seedrack. I purchased some Chinese Elm seeds and Red Dawn seeds from them and got horrible seeds. I have also tried to get them to at least replace what I purchased and Seedrack will not respond to my emails. I also could not find a telephone number to call them. I came to this site after purchasing 15 Trident Maple seeds from and the seeds look ok. The company atleast gave me about double what I ordered to compensate for any failed germination. AL, Please update us on your experiment! thanks!


  16. I’d really love to try the Trident Maple from seed to create a Bonsai, however, I have never done this before. I live in Florida, can I soak the seeds and then plant them or do I still need to put them in the refrigerator? Thank you.


    • The seeds will still need to be stratified in the fridge. In the future I will store my seeds in the fridge and then soak, (imbibe) them and store in damp perlite in the fridge until they sprout. Then I will transfer to seed beds. I have no idea how trident seeds will respond to sub tropical climates.


  17. It’s October in NYC, why can’t I just plant them directly in my garden since the inter is coming and lt them naturally grow and take root?


  18. Very good information. One question though when u leave seeds in hot water must the water br kept warm all the time? Will be extremely happy if i get a email answer. Thank you


    • It’s not really important that the water be very hot at all. The process is called imbibing and just puffs up the seed with water to pop it’s shell.


    • They do stratify better if you can keep the water warm. I soak mine in a Mason jar and set the jar on the furnace vent and it keeps the temperature pretty well perfect. Keeping the water warm softens the seed coat faster which in turn reduces stratification time. Do you have to? No, but it is better to do so if you can. You can even use a seed mat or heating pad. Stratification and germination is the reason seed mats are used. The warmth replicates spring. That’s also why you should remove the seeds from the fridge once in a week and allow them to reach room temperature then put them back. My trident seeds sprout in about 30 days. Takes more like 90 days if you don’t keep the water warm or allow the seeds to warm during stratification. It’s also best to buy fresh seed. Buying those packs of seeds online are almost always a fail because the seeds are dead. Fresh seed should be stored in the fridge to keep them moist and fresh. That’s why it’s best to buy seeds from a reputable seller. jonnymapleseed on eBay knows his stuff and always has top quality seeds.


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