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Stephanotis seeds – a fruit pod packed with surprises

Seeds from the Stephanotis vine

Stephanotis seeds are rare in temperate climates. When they bear fruit, it’s a pod packed full of surprising seeds that are ready to roam the world and germinate!

The Stephanotis vine is one of the favorite vines for wedding bouquets and elegant interiors. It will only bear fruit when it feels really at home!

Pic: Platypus in shock? Hyped-up duck?
Here’s what: a simple Stephanotis flying seed!
Picture by David Edwards ©

A pod and its seeds

Seeds packed tighter than peas in a pod! Let’s take a look at this intriguing growth.

Pod size and seed size

What a pod! A far cry from our habitual thin pea pods: four inches (10cm) long, half as wide.

Most of this is the thick protective hull that protects the delicate seeds from insects and predators.

Inside, seeds are around half an inch across (1.5cm), and round in shape. Each seed has a long furry “tail” that is about an inch long (2.5cm).

Pod growing cycle and maturity

Stephanotis podThe pod forms just after flower-bearing, but usually only on older plants. In temperate climates, it isn’t rare to wait for 5 or even 10 years for the first pods to form! This happens earlier in warmer tropical places.

The seeds in their pods mature in 10 to 12 months. Sometimes the pod still is green by this time, but often it starts turning brown and withers up like a dried raisin.

When the time is right, after a year, you can split the pod open lengthwise with a knife. You can also wait for the hull to split open naturally.

  • Take care to use gloves as the hull is hard: you might fumble and cut yourself.
  • Tweak the knife in lengthwise and wedge it open. Normally it should crack open somewhat.

Inside, up to a hundred seeds are stacked together. When mature, they’re tan to brown in color.

Seeds spread by the wind

Stephanotis seeds in the windThe seeds are tipped with a bunch of silk-like filaments. These are the key to help the plant spread its seeds.

  • Stronger winds catch these “wings” from high up where the fruit has split open.
  • They carry the seed over dozens of feet (several meters).
  • The wing-like strands are designed to drop swiftly when wind slows down.
  • This usually happens near obstacles like trees or cliffs: exactly what the next generation needs to climb up and twine around!

How to germinate Stephanotis seeds

When to plant stephanotis seeds

Seeds from the stephanotis, sprouting in a pot.Peak germination is around one year after fruits started to form.

  • When the pod is ripe, or splits open, seeds will have the highest germination rates.
  • As time passes, a smaller and smaller proportion of seeds will germinate.

For example, when planted immediately after opening the pod, 100% of the seeds will germinate. If left to dry first for a month, only 60% will germinate.

  • Stephanotis seeds require no “stratification”.
  • This means it can (and should) germinate immediately when it is released.
  • It doesn’t need to subject to the cold for any period of time, as other plants might.

It’s easier to ensure most light in spring and summer, but you can also sow in fall and winter.

  • All you need to ensure is proper warmth and eventually supplemental lighting.

How to plant Madagascar jasmine seeds

Simply prick the seeds into proper potting soil. There isn’t really a “top” or “bottom”. Sowing in a tray is perfect.

  • Keep the tray moist (eventually, cover it with clear food wrap film or a slab of glass). To keep mold away, grate a little bit of wood charcoal on the soil.
  • Place the tray in a light place but without any direct sun rays. This is crucial if you’ve added wrap or glass, since the greenhouse effect would quickly roast the seeds.
  • Ensure the tray stays warm, around 75°F (24°C).

Germination and early growth of Stephanotis

In its first few days, the cotyledon will provide the first two leaves.

Once the seedlings have produced two or four “real” leaves, they should be ready to transplant into a larger pot.

  • Don’t dally in doing this, or you’ll quickly have a tangled mess to sort out!
  • Set the seedlings directly in a rather large pot (up to a foot across) and make sure the lattice, hoop or treillis is already in place.
  • Trimming your stephanotis won’t be necessary until it starts outgrowing the hoop!

If your Stephanotis is the only one of its kind nearby, there’s a risk the seeds won’t germinate. This means the seeds are sterile.

Smart tip about Stephanotis seeds

Feel free to give full seed pods to your friends – they’ll have a greater success rate in planting than if you open the pod and give the seeds directly!

Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Stephanotis seed with parachute (also on social media) by David Edwards ★ under © CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Stephanotis seed pod by Nanou EL ★ under © CC BY 2.0
Germinating stephanotis seeds in pot by tanetahi ★,
Nature & Garden contributor
Catching the gust by Amandad Wray under © CC BY-SA 2.0
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Your reactions
  • Cheryle Harding wrote on 19 October 2020 at 12 h 23 min

    Can I pick the seed pods and keep them safe for a time, or do I need to leave them on my vine to ripen and start to wither and dry out?

    • Gaspard wrote on 19 October 2020 at 16 h 34 min

      Hello Cheryle, for most plants it’s best to follow nature: leaving a pod on the plant will ensure seeds inside get their full ration of nutrients. While still green, it would be best to leave it there. Not many animals (except perhaps curious neighbors) are interested in that very hard pod so there isn’t much risk in leaving it to ripen. It’s good to give it at the very least 8 months on the vine. After that, you can pick the pod whole and store it, even if it’s still greenish.

      By the time pods lose their green color, seeds are already mature. At that point, you can snip them off the vine and set them aside. Either on or off the vine, they’ll proceed to dry out slowly and when dry enough will burst and fling seeds out everywhere. This takes a while, though, which is why I mentioned cracking pods open with a knife just before planting.