Storing & Stratifying American Persimmon Seeds

American persimmons are stately trees that can live up to 100 years...
American persimmons are stately trees that can live up to 100 years…

American persimmons are one of the most luscious fruits that can be grown this far north and they’re relatively easy to grow. The trees are virtually pest & disease free and are attractive in all seasons. Seedling trees and grafted trees of improved varieties can be purchased through various mailorder nurseries, but propagating your own is an exciting challenge. Planting a tree from seed and watching it grow up and eventually bear fruit is an incredibly rewarding process. If you’re looking to propagate trees in mass for a wildlife planting or for a large orchard, then seed propagation is likely the most economical route. American persimmon trees grown from seed, however, can take anywhere from 4-8 years to bear, where grafted trees can produce in 3-5 years. In my orchard I have a mixture of grafted and seedling trees. Seedling propagation is also a great way to produce rootstock for grafting your own trees. Before persimmon seeds can be planted they must undergo a cool-moist stratification; without this process the seeds will remain dormant and resist germination. If you can imagine in the wild— fruit falls to the ground and gets eaten or rots, seeds remain on the ground through winter buried amongst leaves and brush, then in spring they finally germinate. This is mother nature’s tried and true process of stratification. The simplest method then is to sow seed in situ, or in a nursery bed, in the fall. If you have a large quantity of seed this method works great, but for smaller quantities I opt for the refrigerator method which I’ve outlined below…

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Click here to learn about cleaning and harvesting seed in a previous tutorial…

Step #1: 

Once you have clean seed you’re ready to store it away. The seed must be stored in some medium, I prefer to use peat. Finished compost is okay, but avoid mediums high in unbroken down organic matter. Dampen the medium so its well saturated but doesn’t drip when squeezed. Moist but not soaked.

Dampen medium so it is well moistened but not soaked.
Dampen medium so its well moistened but not soaked.

Step #2:

IMGP4266Your seeds are clean and your medium is prepared, now its time to mix the two! There is no exact ratio here, so experiment with proportions and see what works best, but generally about 3 parts peat to 1 part seed is good. Ready…set…MIX! NOTE: To limit the likelihood of mold growth the seeds can be soaked in a hydrogen peroxide solution prior to mixing with medium. However, from my experience the likelihood of this occurring is low.  

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Thoroughly incorporate cleaned seeds into moistened medium.

Step #3:

Now that your seeds have been mixed with into the medium, they’re ready to be stored away. I use plastic freezer bags for this. Pack mixture into bag. Label bag with at least the date and whatever details you find necessary(seed source, variety, date gathered,etc.).

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Pack mixture into clean freezer bag.
Excuse my elementary hand writing. Include details like the where the seeds came from and when you stored them away.
Excuse my elementary hand writing. Include details like the where the seeds came from and when you stored them away.

Step #4:  Now for the final step! Close the bag so all air is out and place in refrigerator. Between 35 and 40 degrees fahrenheit is ideal. Seeds need to be stored for 2-3 months. Check on them periodically for mold and drying out. If the medium hasn’t remained sufficiently moist add a bit of water and mix well. After 2-3 months the seeds will often begin germinating in the bag, this is when you know they’re ready to be planted out!

If you like doing this, then over time you'll accumulate more and more seed; eventually a refrigerator just for seed storage becomes necessary.
If you like doing this, then over time you’ll accumulate more and more seed; eventually a refrigerator solely for seed storage becomes necessary.

Simple as that. This process is applicable for a number of tree seeds including pawpaw, apple, chestnut, and more. Each species may require slightly different handling but thats the basic process. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions!

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