Growing Bonsai from seed
The Japanese term, “Misho,” refers to the practice of growing Bonsai from tree seeds. It can be a very rewarding process that allows you to grow a plant as a Bonsai tree from the very beginning, although it does demand a great amount of patience. It takes a minimum of three years before seedlings mature enough to start shaping, but it’s advantageous, as you have full control over your Bonsai tree from the beginning. Misho is the only real way to grow a Bonsai right from the start!
To get started, you need to get your hands on some tree seeds. You can collect seeds from trees in your surroundings or you can choose to buy them at an online shop. Keep in mind that Bonsai are created from normal trees, so there is no such thing as special “Bonsai tree seeds”.
Creating your Bonsai from seeds collected in your local area ensures that they will be in their ideal climate and are more likely to thrive. Locally sourced seeds should be planted during Autumn for the best results. However, if you want to plant local seeds out of season, purchase seeds online, or plant foreign seeds that come from a different climate, it may be necessary to use stratification techniques.
Stratification is the process of treating seeds to simulate the natural growing conditions that they need to germinate. Seeds of many tree-species are genetically programmed to survive through winter and germinate in early spring. This helps them maximize the duration of their first growing season. Most of these seeds can grow only after a cold period.
So, when you’re planting seeds for Bonsai that are from different climates, or you’re planting out of season, it may be necessary to simulate a cold season to increase the germination rate. Most tree-species will require you to soak their seeds in water before storing them in your refrigerator for one or two months. The exact amount of time and optimal temperature depends on the tree-species. A quick online search will provide you with an exact answer.
For beginners, this process may be too advanced, so we advise you to collect seeds from tree species in your area, keep the seeds outside and plant them in early spring, just like Mother Nature does!
Video: Growing trees from ‘Bonsai tree seeds’
Where do I find seeds?
As previously mentioned, you can collect seeds during autumn from local trees growing in your area. Chestnuts and acorns are easy seeds to find in the forest. Conifers seeds are found inside pine-cones. When you’ve collected the pine-cones, store them somewhere warm so they release their seeds from in between their scales. Seeds of various tree species are also easily available for purchase in online Bonsai shops.
When should I sow my seeds?
The best time to sow your seeds is in the autumn to align with nature’s schedule. This gives young seedling the full summer to grow after germinating in spring, and it means you don’t have to worry about stratification.
From seedling to Bonsai
Before we start propagating seed, it’s important to know the seedlings stages of development first. Growing Bonsai from seeds will be a test of your patience, but it’s a great way to style Bonsai trees without the need to prune thick branches, as you would when styling Yamadori or nursery stock. Read the “Bonsai styling” section for more detailed information on wiring and pruning techniques.
To give you a quick visual journey of a tree’s growth, here are six images of a Criptomeria tree that was grown from seed into Bonsai over the course of 15 years. Many thanks to Jose Ontañón for sharing these inspiring images.
Growing Bonsai from tree seeds can be very rewarding and gives you full control from the earliest stage possible. Although it takes a long time (at least three years) before
Tree Seeds suitable for Bonsai
Please note that there is NO such thing as Bonsai Tree Seeds. Firms that claim to sell ‘Bonsai Tree Seeds’ are misleading to say the least. If you plant one of these so called ‘Bonsai seeds’, and if they germinate, they will grow into ordinary trees. Bonsai are created from trees and shrubs by shaping, pruning and wiring. They do not just happen. Certain species of trees and shrubs are suitable for bonsai – such as Japanese Maples and Pines. Many other species are also suitable.
As specialist Japanese Maple growers for over thirty years, we have a vast stock of maples and other exotic Japanese trees, which we use for harvesting seed and for propagating our own plants. The seeds we sell for bonsai are mainly Japanese Maples (Acers) as they are one of the most popular. We harvest our Maple seeds in the Autumn and we usually have them ready for sale around November/December. No need to contact us until then as we will have no further information.
Please note:– We do not ship seeds outside the EC as many countries such as Australia and USA do not allow seeds into their country for plant health reasons.
Instructions for storing and sowing the seeds.
After harvesting our seeds, we store them in sealed plastic bags ready to sell.
However, the seeds which we use for sowing are not stored but sown immediately into seed trays, using a general purpose compost.
The seed trays are then covered with a sheet of glass or plastic to overwinter in the open. The alternate freezing and thawing which follows in the winter will break the dormancy of the seed and encourage them to germinate in the Spring. This process is what is called ‘stratification’.
The other way of germinating Maple seed is to store them in sealed plastic bags with a bit of moisture in the bag, and leave the bag in the refrigerator till late Winter or very early Spring. In the early Spring, sow the seeds in seed trays and they should germinate fairly readily.
When the seeds germinate, leave them in the seed trays till they have grown the first pair of leaves. When the leaves have hardened slightly, that is the best time to prick them out for planting in individual pots.
We find that sowing the seeds immediately after they have been collected gives the best results.
Tree Seeds suitable for Bonsai Please note that there is NO such thing as Bonsai Tree Seeds. Firms that claim to sell ‘Bonsai Tree Seeds’ are misleading to say the least. If you plant one of