March is approaching. That means that spring is getting closer. And spring, for me, is always an exciting time. With spring comes new life, new leaves, new growth and new seedlings. That first spring sun can make you forget all those long, dark and cold winter days just like that. As you can imagine, I am looking forward to it.
This year, I decided that I would come prepared for the spring. So, a couple of days ago, I ordered a bunch of tree seeds online and waited for them to get delivered. My package arrived and I decided yesterday that it was time to get those seeds in the ground. I applied scarification to the seeds and left them to soak in water for 24 hours.
Today, after 24 hours of soaking, I took the time to get these little seeds into their first containers.
First things first
I started out with approximately 45 seeds, of various types. Among them are some seeds of the Murraya Exotica, Acer Ginnala and Lagerstroemia Indica species. I am especially looking forward to the nice smell of the flowers of the Murraya Exotica when it blooms. But for that, I will have to be very patient and see to the care of this little shrub. Growing bonsai from seed is a very slow and sensitive process. You will have to invest a lot of time, effort and especially patience for this operation to succeed. There is a real chance that you will loose some of your seedlings along the way. But when you do succeed, the reward will be ever sweeter.
Back to the seeds. Yesterday, I scarred the outer shells of the seeds and placed them in a small container with water. I left them there for a little over 24 hours to soak up some water and soften the outside. It’s interesting to see that different seeds react differently on the overnight swimming session. Two of the bigger seeds show some sort of thin film that seems to wrinkle when it is exposed to water for some time.
Out of the water and into the soil
The seeds have been swimming long enough now, so I took them out of their container and placed them on a paper towel to get an overview of this new collection of seeds. While the seeds rested for a bit, I started the preparation of the substrate, a.k.a. the soil. During the years I have been practicing the art of bonsai, I have gotten used to mixing my own soil. You can go online and order a big bag of pre-mixed soil, but that would only eliminate a part of the fun. Also, mixing your own soil is a good activity to get an understanding of one of the biggest elements in bonsai culture. Read about the different types of soil and match the ingredients to the needs of your trees. It will make a big difference in growing bonsai.
My mixture of choice for this new batch of seeds consists of:
- 3 parts zeolite
- 2 parts Akadama (medium grain)
- 1 part Kiryu
- 4 parts potting soil
This mixture provides enough drainage to prevent rotting while we try to keep the seeds damp. The zeolite and kiryu provide some essential nutrients for those first roots and also give a nice texture for the roots to grow freely.
Containers for control
Now that the substrate mixture is ready, it is time to decide on the first containers for these seeds. Usually, I would take one larger container to plant (nearly) all my seeds in. This gives me control over the water levels and I can keep I good overview on the progress. This time though, I decided to switch thing up. I took 12 small coconut fiber containers, filled them with substrate and divided the seeds among them. Choosing this multiple (smaller) container approach has some pro’s and cons.
- I can water the containers individually, tailored to the specific needs of the seeds inside. As soon as the first seeds sprout, the demand for water can start to vary per seed. Dividing the seeds into different smaller containers gives me the control to supply them with just the right amount of water to grow and avoid problems with over-watering.
- I can easily take one of the containers and place it somewhere else in the room, while leaving the other containers in place. If the seeds in one container sprout before the others, I will probably look for a new place for that container. A place with less direct sunlight and preferably a little breeze. The individual containers lets me move them around more easily.
- As soon as the seedlings grow large enough to be re-potted, it’s easier to untangle the fragile hair roots. In one larger container, you can have one or two seedlings that grow so much faster than others, that they tend to tangle their roots with the very fragile roots of the smaller ones.
- You will have to water the containers individually. It takes a bit more attention and work to see to the needs of multiple different containers instead of just one. You will have to decide for every container whether they are ready for another watering or that they are still moist enough for the time being.
As you can see, I could only come up with one disadvantage for this method. That’s why I wanted to try it out! I’ll make sure to let you know in a future update if I found more pro’s and cons during the progress.
The result… well…
The result is actually only the beginning. For now, the result of this Seeds of Spring project is a collection of 12 small containers with some 45 seeds in them from different species. All planted in a personal substrate mixture and watered according to individual needs.
Behold, the very beginning of a new bonsai from seed project: The Seeds of Spring!
It will take a couple of days or even up to some weeks for these little fellows to sprout. I will have to take care these seeds, watch them carefully, water them, make sure they have the right position indoors and, most importantly, be patient. In time, these seeds will grow into bonsai. Honestly? I can’t wait.
Stay tuned on the “Seeds of Spring” project. Subscribe to the “Daily Bonsai” mailing!
What are your experiences with growing bonsai from seed? Let me know in the comments below!