bonsai" src="/bonsaimaple.gif" width="181" align="left">Keeping in mind that most Japanese Red Maple Seeds ripen in early to late fall, keep a close eye on the tree and wait to harvest the seeds until they turn brown. You'll know the seeds are ready when they turn a deep brown and can be easily removed from the tree.
Since the seeds are attached to a "wing", it's a good idea to break off and discard the wing prior to storing and/or planting the seeds. Japanese Red Maple (which are among our most favorite bonsai-friendly plants) seeds have a hardened outer coating similar to most other ornamental plant types. Under optimal conditions in nature, the seeds would lie dormant on the ground for up to two years before they would germinate. The first winter spend lying on the ground serves to soften up that herd outer shell, with the second winter causing the beginning of the germination cycle.
Believe it or not, the successful germination of a Japanese red Maple seed takes more than just a little luck, for if the seeds sprout at the wrong time of year (i.e. during freezing winter months, or scorching summer heat) they simply die off in short order.
However...being the cutting-edge bonsai gardeners I know we all are (wink), we can greatly improve the chance of the seeds not only surviving, but growing at a (somewhat_ accelerated rate over what mother nature intended, giving us a stunning starting point for truly great bonsai. With that in mind, make sure you don't plant your seeds (if planting outdoors) until there is no longer a danger of any hard frosts (but as soon as possible in the spring)
Now...this will take a bit of math on your part. Calculate roughly 100 days PRIOR to your planting date (i.e. 100 days before the last frost). On that day, take the red maple seeds that you harvested and place them in a container, covering them with warm (just short of hot) water straight from the tap. The seeds will float initially, but after you leave them in that water overnight (at least 24 hours is necessary, but no more than that), the majority will have sunk to the bottom of the container.
After draining off the water, take the seeds and drop them in a plastic bag or container with a suitable potting soil mixture ( a well-drained, moist but no wet sand/peat mix works best). Make sure there are a good number of ventilation holes poked in the container, and place it in the fridge for at least 100 days. If you math was correct, after the 100 days are up, it should be planting time. Drop the seeds into a bed of well drained topsoil or weed-free potting soil, roughly 3/8 inches from the surface. Give them a thorough watering, but allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again. DO NOT water to frequently, or there is a chance the seeds will rot. Once you can see some growth, place the container in a spot that will get shade roughly 50% of the day.
Although it's a slow process, you should be able to transplant them after 1-2 full growing seasons.
There you have it.....an easy (and inexpensive) way to grow your own Japanese Red Maple Bonsai.