For an even quicker look, here’s a shout out to the website that taught me all about propagating redbud trees by seed: https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/newsletters/hortupdate/2010/jun/tree_seeds.html
I’ve noticed several people on a Facebook group I’m part of –
Ugh, this is like those recipe pages where people write a freaking novel about why they made the dish they made before they paste the recipe card square and fuck off. So I’m just gonna get to the point…WITH PICTURES!
Step ONE: collect pods! Collect the pods in autumn when they turn brown and crispy. I always collect what I can from my height and leave the rest for the critters. After all, one of the many great things about redbuds is that they feed our wild seed-eaters in the winter when other food is scarce. This technique is called responsible foraging!
Step TWO: Pop the seeds out of the pods! Sometimes you’ll be lucky and there will be a couple of seeds in a pod. Sometimes there won’t be a single fucking one! But that’s nature for you.
Step THREE: scarify the seeds! Scarifying the seeds allows moisture to enter the thick husk and hydrate the seed meat itself. You can do this after the cold period (called stratifying, more info to come) with a knife by nicking the husk gently, or with sandpaper by scraping the husk gently. OR, if you’re A PYRO LIKE ME, you can dump the seeds in just-boiling water for about a minute BEFORE the cold period (“stratifying“). I prefer this method because there is heat involved and, as mentioned, I’m a bit of a pyro, AND ALSO BECAUSE this allows you to immediately determine which seeds are viable and which ones aren’t. Seeds that FLOAT are not viable and aren’t worth your time nurturing. Seeds that SINK are viable and should germinate. After a minute in the recently-boiling water I scoop the non-viable seeds out with a spoon and drain the water from the rest in a fine colander.
(PS, I always thought colander had two L’s, but Spellcheck just informed me it sure fucking doesn’t, so we’ve both learned something today.)
Step FOUR: stratify the seeds! Get a plastic baggie or other airtight container. Dump the seeds in the baggie. Dampen your fingers under the faucet and flick a sprinkle or so of water in the baggie. Seal that fucker and toss it in your fridge and FORGET ABOUT IT until you need that sausage that you’ve been saving for a stew. Check to make sure there’s a smidgen of moisture in the baggie, and if there isn’t then repeat the bit with the fingers and the faucet, and FORGET ABOUT IT AGAIN. See, redbud seeds need a period roughly 3 months long of cold temperature (NOT FREEZING, we’re talking fridge temps not freezer temps) to properly germinate.
4A: KEY NOTES ABOUT THE BAGGIE: So listen, don’t be an idiot like me the first time I did this. Grab a Sharpie or other permanent soft-tipped marker and notate the date that you fridged the seeds and the species of tree they are on your baggie. This way you won’t come across a long-forgotten baggie in the back of your fridge years from now and wonder what the fuck these seeds are. Maybe they’ll still germinate. If they’re like my pumpkin seeds that I did this to, maybe they will. But maybe they won’t. Practice good propagation and label your baggies. Luckily redbud seeds are pretty unique-looking.
Step FIVE: sow your seeds! When the last frost has passed and your seeds have been in the fridge for at least 3 months (90 days minimum, don’t fuck around with this part), sow your seeds in individual containers of soil. You can also sow them straight into the ground, but in my zone (8A) we sometimes get a random frost that forgot it was supposed to be springtime. Having my treelings in containers enables me to bring them indoors if I need to protect them from a random frost. A cautionary note with REDBUDS: These trees develop a long taproot pretty quickly, so if you sow them in containers plan to start them in a 1 gallon size and pot up within the first growing season. I don’t have a picture for this step because I didn’t take any last year and obviously I can’t sow my seeds yet as it’s Nov 29 and they’re stratifying right now. But I trust my dear readers of horticulture and propagation tips can imagine what seeds in containers of soil look like.
And that’s it! I promise! Follow these steps and in the spring you’ll have oodles of redbud treelings in pots! For really realz! And if this somehow doesn’t work for you, please comment below so we can figure it out together.
2 thoughts on “Redbuds, Seeds, and Propagating: FIVE EASY STEPS”
Thx for the article & I’m saving it! What u know about moving them when they grow in odd places like too close to house or next to driveway? I have a few I let grow to 3 feet & dug out best I could & went after the tap root, but 1 of 10 made it in 3 years. Sadly that 1 hasn’t gotten bigger than 2 feet cuz dam deer keep eating it so the 1 in the shady side of house is taller than my ranch house in 3-4 years. Its
close to house & next to electric box, so its staying put. But I have 3 others at 4feet I need to move out of landscape cuz bad spots. How can I guarantee to get them out & started? So darn sensitive it seems. If the tap rootsnog out all & perfect, is that what it takes to move them..perfect flawlessly tap roots??Any help much appreciated!
Glad the article helped! You’ve definitely got to be gentle to that tap root. Redbuds really don’t like being dug up, so any damage to the roots can doom a transplant. When I put a potted seedling in the ground I’m always careful to gently spread the roots around the new hole, and they seem to like this better (coming from a pot into the ground) than transplanting from the ground to another spot. In your case I would dig as wide and deep of a hole as you can to make sure you don’t hit any roots. Typically (TYPICALLY) if you are as wide as the drip line (that is, the widest reach of the branches) then you should be okay. I’d dig something 4 times deep as wide at least.
Something I’ve done before with different tree seedlings is excavate gently with my hand or a small, dull-edged trowel until you find the tap root, then gently follow that down like you’re on an archaeological excavation. You’ll find the end eventually. This method will absolutely ensure you don’t damage the tap root, but can also be time consuming and back-aching.