Growing a Sassafras Tree from Seeds

Sassafras trees grow readily from sassafras seeds that have a dormant period in cold temperatures before germination. The sassafras tree produces seeds every 2 years, once the tree has reached its fruit-producing age, at 10 years old.  The sassafras tree's orange-tinted bark and deep blue fruit make it a stunning ornamental tree, that can overwinter in most climate zones in North America. Use these guidelines to prepare the location for your sassafras tree, obtain ripe seeds and start their growth.

Step 1:    Obtain Ripe Sassafras Seeds

Your garden center is a good source for seeds, or ask an acquaintance who has a sassafras tree more than 10 years old to harvest some seeds for you.

Step 2:    Find a Suitable Location for Your Sassafras Tree

In an area with intermittent to half-shade, with moist soil high in loam, and acidic, with pH of near 5.0, plant the sassafras seeds. If your soil has a high proportion of clay, add coarse gravel and sand to improve its drainage. Avoid planting near buildings, as the sassafras wood is brittle, and will crack in high winds.

Step 3:    Choose the Best Time of Year to Plant Sassafras Seeds

Sassafras seeds need a long dormant interval of approximately 120 days to germinate successfully. Plant them in the early fall in cool soil, at a shallow depth of 1/2 inch. They will begin to form their deep tap root in the spring, so provide a fertilizer that stimulates root growth.

Step 4:    Manage your Sassafras Tree's Growth

Water the sassafras seeds lightly, only when the weather is dry.  Cover with a peat-moss based mulch, that can also include pine bark to maintain the soil acidity. The mulch will hold in moisture and suppress weed development.  Extend the mulch ground cover out a few feet to the edge of the foliage line. If you wish to plant sassafras seeds in the spring instead, store them in a sealable plastic bag with a dampened paper towel and a sprig of peat moss in the refrigerator through the winter. Once your tree has reached its sapling stage, it will begin to reproduce by extending suckers, small seedlings that emerge directly from the tap root. One sassafras tree can produce a dozen or more sapling-sized growths in a season, all clumped together in a thicket. To maintain the strength and hardiness of your initial sapling, trim back these suckers with pruning cutters or a lawn mower with a freshly sharpened blade. While your sassafras tree is young, cage it or affix a support to it to help it grow straight upward.  Sassafras trees will reach a mature height of 30 to 60 feet (between 9 and 18 meters), with a branch spread of up to 26 feet (8 meters).

Sassafras tree bark provides fragrant oils, its leaves season many dishes, and help to thicken sauces. Its red roots yield sassafras tea. Enjoy your sassafras tree, and the many birds, such as mockingbirds, woodpeckers and warblers, it will draw to your garden.