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I have tried several times to grow maples. Every time, something has gone wrong and they didn't survive.

I always make sure the seed is viable(In other words I can feel the seed inside the pod) before I plant it.

The first time I tried to grow maples I planted 4 of them because I didn't know how many would grow. They all were going strong until fall came. Not only did they lose their leaves but they didn't form any bark and died from the cold.

The second time I tried I only planted 2 because I thought "Maybe the competition for nutrients was too much for any tree to form bark". They survived for 3 years. The maples were in 1 pot and a second pot was for the groundwater. This helped them through the droughts of summer. The 3rd year that the trees were growing though 1 of them got several wounds in the bark. I taped it so that the tree could heal. After a few weeks I gradually peeled it off making sure that the new bark was fully attached to the tree. I saw no leaf buds on my trees during the 4th year when the other maples already had their leaves.

The third time I tried I planted 3 seeds. 1 of them grew. But this one was worse. Even though there was no groundwater the bark formed in an unusual fashion. Instead of forming from bottom to top like the 2 trees before this, it formed from top to bottom. It never had bark at the very bottom. And it wasn't because of a wound because then I would eventually see bark there.

This year I tried to grow a maple and it was even worse. I planted just 1 seed. It was planted in May just like the third attempt was. It started growing strong. A few days later and there is a lot of rain during that time period. I never watered it when it rained(Or in general when the soil was moist) but I did give it a deep watering when I planted it. Even so the leaves started to yellow like they were overwatered. 1 fell off then the other followed. These were still baby leaves and I didn't see a stem, just the leaves. The root system was still intact and I knew that trees are known to grow back after they are supposedly dead but sadly, it didn't grow back.

Why do I have so many issues with growing maples? Maples should be a pretty easy tree to grow regardless of the species(Which in my case is Sugar Maple). And I don't think it is the soil because other trees have survived in that soil including a Fir sapling that I got from school years ago.

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    I spend days every spring pulling Amur Maple seedlings from soil, cracks in the rock, running streams, just about everywhere. Are you stratifying the seeds with a cold period? This is just about mandatory for most maples grown in USDA zone 6 and colder – kevinsky Sep 14 '15 at 16:19
  • I am in zone 5 and no I am not because I have noticed the sugar maples not needing stratification. That kind of already comes with the blooming of maples in the fall and the seeds developing over the winter. – Caters Sep 14 '15 at 16:22
  • You planted the seed in May, correct? – Stephie Sep 14 '15 at 16:35
  • Yes I did because it was too cold to plant it in March or April. It was too cold because of it going through a freeze at night - thaw during day cycle and me knowing that I always planted my maples after the last frost. – Caters Sep 14 '15 at 16:48
  • I see you have some trees that start, but fail to survive more than a few years. Where do you keep your young trees? Are they outside or inside? – John Walthour Sep 14 '15 at 19:59
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This article indicates that stratification is necessary for Sugar and Red maples but not for Silver Maples.

The relevant part for maples whose seed needs stratification is

collect immediately upon ripening. Stratification required – sow seed at 0.25-1.00 inches in moist growing medium such as vermiculite, peat moss, or sand for a period of 40-90 days at 33-39 degrees Fahrenheit (place in refrigerator); upon development of first germinants, move all seed to warmer environment to increase germination

Or as Stephie suggests let nature do the job and collect seedlings in the spring.

This article has more detail on what stratification is and how it affects germination of different species.

Seed dormancy is nature’s way of setting a time clock that allows seeds to initiate germination when conditions are normally favorable for germination and survival of the seedlings.

Of course there is variation between species and within species and even within the seeds of a particular year. Some seeds will germinate given a little environmental cue others will take the full treatment.

The best way to maximize success is to identify the species you want to work with and then study it's requirements.

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Maple is amazingly frost-resistant and needs the cold to germinate well. kevinsly's comment below is a good indicator of what maple seeds tend to do when left unattended.

I suggest you plant your seeds in the ground in the fall, basically when they appear ripe or start to drop. The frost won't harm your seeds and they will germinate as soon as the weather conditions turn. When planting the seeds in late spring, the seedlings don't have enough time to mature to withstand the winter.

And yes, some loss is probably natural. A mature tree produces hundreds or thousands of seeds per year, only very few of them will grow into mature trees again. Some maple types are a bit more fussy, others germinate like crazy.

  • But I start seeing the seeds dropping in the spring, especially when it is relatively warm. So I think at least in my area that the stratification happens as the seeds develop. – Caters Sep 14 '15 at 17:07
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I think the word "pot" in your question is a red flag here. These things are trees. Trees often start life by growing a lot more below ground than above. That's a good survival strategy, because if something stomps on or eats everything above ground, there is enough life in the roots to start again, and if the roots have gone down half a meter in the first summer, there's a reasonable chance the whole plant won't be frozen solid in winter.

I would try planting the seeds straight into the ground, before winter, and let them do what they do naturally. Even large pots get cooked in summer and frozen in winter (because the sides of the pot are all above ground level,) and pots tend to attract plant-unfriendly critters looking for food and sheltering from the weather.

Another advantage of planting straight in the ground is that the tree roots will naturally be colonized by beneficial https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mycorrhiza. You won't find many of those in sterilized artificial potting compost!

  • But Then how would I move the tree? This is why I plant them in a pot is that so when I move I will be able to transplant them. – Caters Sep 15 '15 at 16:40
  • It depends how big they will be when you want to transplant them. This is how the professionals do it: ruskins.co.uk/tree-moving. For a young tree, all you need is a spade and some forward planning - prune the roots a year before you move it. Some advice here: lowes.com/cd_Transplant+Mature+Trees+and+Shrubs_674265371_ – alephzero Sep 15 '15 at 17:37

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