How To Germinate Michelia Champaca From Seeds

Imagine a sweet perfume wafting into your window from the garden. When you’re growing a Michelia champaca in your yard, the natural perfume of its yellow flowers will float over your entire neighborhood. This flower makes the most expensive perfume in the world, ‘Joy’. Though it is native to India, Michelia Champaca also known as Magnolia Champaca is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 10a to 11. A member of the magnolia family, champaca readily crosses with other magnolias.

Michelia champaca, or fragrant champaca, grows naturally across southern Asia and is sometimes cultivated as an ornamental tree in mild coastal areas such as western California. Growing to 20 feet in height, Michelia champaca is a medium-sized tree with a spreading crown of leathery foliage and a warm-season display of intensely fragrant, cup-shaped flowers in shades of yellow and white. The plant can be propagated from both seed and cuttings, but both present some challenges, since the seeds have a low rate of viability, and cuttings require constant misting to keep the leaves from desiccating.

In this article, we will concentrate on how to propagate Michelia Champaca seeds, step by step instructions so that you have the highest rate of success for the seeds to germinate.

Germinating Michelia Champaca from Seeds to Sprouting

1. Allow the fruit from the parent tree to completely ripen (this usually happens at the end of autumn/beginning of summer) before harvesting its seeds. You can see it as the pods splits open, revealing the fruit (reddish in color) inside.

Fruit, you see, tends to contain chemicals that inhibit germination so the seeds don’t inadvertently take before the thing even hits the ground. If you’ve ever seen magnolia fruit, it’s essentially the same thing, as they’re directly related (in fact, in this case, the Michelia genus is readily interchangeable with the Magnolia genus).

Pick the unblemished fruit from the tree. Place the fruit in a warm, dry location until it splits open, revealing the fruits. The fruits can come in different shades ranging from pale pink, red, to almost dark brown, depending on how dry the seeds are while it is still in the pods. The black seed is inside the fruit.

Cleaning the Seeds

2. To remove the fruits from the seeds (de-pulping), soak it in warm water for an hour as it makes it easier to remove the fruit (coating skin) of the black seed that’s inside. Use a toothbrush and remove all the residue from the seed. Put the seeds in a warm place to dry.

Nicking the Seeds

3. Sand the edge of the seeds lightly with sandpaper, or use an emery board to file down the side of the seed shell or nick the side of each seed with a sharp knife. See image on the right… the seed black shell is lightly filed down. I find using an emery board is safer than a knife to file down the edge. Be careful not to file the seed coat down too deep that you might completely file off the embryo and its food source.

Sterilizing the Seeds

4. Once the seeds have been filed down, wash it in a bowl, remove the seeds from the water and treat with a fungicide. This is can be obtained by using 1 TB of hydrogen peroxide to 2 TB of water. Soak for about 5 minutes. The Michelia champaca is prone to fungal infections, which will kill the young seedlings.

Preparing Seeds for Sprouting

5. Once all the residue have been removed from the seeds. Place the seeds in a bowl or container and soak it with warm water. Allow the seeds to soak overnight, until the seeds swell and double in size. If the seeds don’t swell, remove from the water and nick the hard outer shell again. Return the seeds to the bowl and add more hot water. Place the seeds in a damp napkin and cover.

6. Repeat step 3 and 4 until you see the seed sprouting; when sowed seed in mid-summer, when night temperatures hover around 20-20 deg C (about 70 degree Fahrenheit) they will easily germinated in 2-3 days. So they need at least 24-hour warmth (for example no cool nights), and humidity (I misted them with water and covered with plastic) to germinate. The Michelia Champaca DOES come true from a seed.

Seeding the Sprouted Seeds

7. Once the seeds the container or pot. Fill the bottom third of each pot with a high-quality acidic potting soil suitable for azaleas or rhododendrons. Add sterile seed-starting mix to the top two thirds of the pot. Water thoroughly to ensure that the soil is moist throughout the container.

Preparation for the Wait

8. Insert one seed into each pot and barely cover with seed-starting mix. Cover the pots with plastic wrap and place in a warm location.

Tending to the Wait

9. Check the soil every two to three days to ensure that it is still moist. Mist with a spray bottle if the soil begins to dry out, then replace the plastic wrap to maintain a consistent moisture level.

Keeping it Warm

10. Maintain a constant temperature of 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit until the seeds germinate, between one and five weeks. Champaca has a relatively low germination rate, between 40 and 50 percent.

Plant Care

1. Place the seedlings in a warm, sheltered location in the garden or sun porch that receives morning sun. Champaca begins life as a second-story tree, receiving only dappled light in their native habitat. While under ideal conditions in the tropics a champaca tree may grow to 150 feet tall, in the United States it generally only reaches 20 to 25 feet tall.

2. Water the tree when the soil is dry to the touch. Fertilize biweekly with a liquid 10-10-10 fertilizer according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Caring for Michelia Champaca and/or Alba

3. Plant the Michelia champaca in the garden in the spring, after all chance of frost is past. A south-facing wall that receives morning sun and some afternoon dappled shade provides a warm micro-climate suitable for this tropical tree. Select a well-draining location that is sheltered from the wind and hot afternoon sun.

4. Give the seedling plenty of water during its first couple of years of growth. After that water regularly in the summer when the tree is actively growing. Fertilize in the early spring with a balanced fertilizer according to the manufacturer’s directions.

5. Prune only to shape the tree and remove dead branches.

6. Monitor the tree for aphids. Knock the aphids off with a strong stream of water. If there is a severe infestation, use an insecticidal soap to kill the aphids. It is also recommended to use a mixture of 1 tsp of Neem oil with 1 tsp of dish soap in a 32 oz spray bottle. Be sure to mix the neem oil and dish soap first so that it will emulsify before slowly adding water to the spray bottle. This can be used to spray the Michelia champaca or alba tree on a weekly base to keep it healthy and to prevent aphids and scales free.