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Japanese Flowering Cherry Blossom Bonsai Seeds (Prunus Serrulata) Sakura

Japanese Flowering Cherry Blossom Bonsai Seeds (Prunus Serrulata) Sakura

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The Japanese Flowering Cherry (Prunus Serrulata) is an excellent candidate for bonsai.  Providing beautiful pinkish white flowers each spring, this tree is famously known for the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC and cherry blossom season in Japan.  In Japan they are referred to as "Sakura".

USDA Zone: 5-8
Germination Difficulty: Moderately Difficult

This tree grows reasonably quickly at 12" - 24" per year.  The seeds are of moderate difficulty to germinate and will require a 24 hour water soak followed by cold stratification of 120 days.  This basically means you need to soak them for 24 hours then discard any seeds that float and drain off the water.  Place the damp (not moist) seeds in the fridge with a mildly damp paper towel, damp vermiculite or sand.  Be sure the moisture is minimal as excessive moisture will encourage fungal growth.  The bag of seeds should be placed in a refrigerator for about 4 months, ideally timed to end in early spring so the young trees can be moved outdoors as they grow.  The bag should be checked a few times a month to be sure the damping material did not dry out and that there are no seeds germinating early.  If a seed sprouts, remove it and sow immediately.  After the cold stratification, the seeds should be moved to a seed starting medium such as pearlite, planted about 1/4" deep and the soil tamped after sowing.  The soil must be kept moist and warm for the seeds to germinate.  Some people use a fungicide treatment prior to cold stratification.

The seeds likely will not all germinate at the same time.  Generally you see germination in 2-14 weeks after the cold stratification period as long as the soil has warmed enough to encourage germination and the soil does not dry out.  It has been noted that the Japanese Flowering Cherry Seeds may not germinate until the following spring.

My process for this in Pennsylvania is to soak the seeds for 24 hours, I then either put them in Tupperware outside under a bench or I sow them in seed trays, cover with hardware cloth (to prevent birds and rodents from taking them) then put them under a bench outside.  With both methods I time them to be outside from November until early March,.  Both of these methods require you to check them to be sure the soil or damping material stays damp.  You should also check the Tupperware for early sprouts and sow out when necessary.  

There are other ways to accomplish the stratification period, just search Prunus Serrulata Germination on Google, there is plenty of information.

Seeds should be used as soon as possible.  Seeds that will not be used immediately should be stored dry in the plastic bag in the refrigerator.  The quality of the seeds will degrade over time, normally 3-5 years.

Seeds are sourced from the most reputable commercial seed sources.  These are the same seeds we use to start our bonsai.
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