Apple seeds are easy to grow at home with the proper preparation, and seedlings are often more vigorous than their grafted nursery counterparts. Give an apple tree seedling 3-4 years and it’ll catch up to and pass a potted transplant in size. From there, you have a tree that may bear for centuries.
The main reason apples aren’t grown from seed is that they don’t “come true to seed.” Just like humans, the offspring may have some resemblance to their parents, but with their own flavor and habits. Humans tend to want predictability, and for that reason, apple trees are cloned by grafting rather than starting from seed.
The thing is…all the tastiest apple varieties were a seedling at some point in history. Planting an apple from seed is like playing the lottery, and since you’re likely going to compost that apple core anyway, you’ve got nothing to lose.
A few hundred years ago settlers carried with them apple seeds and started seedling orchards all over the Northeast, and those same orchards became the parents of many of the heirloom varieties I now treasure. Those that were less tasty eaten out of hand went into hard cider, which requires a certain percentage of high tannin or high acid apples to brew properly.
One year we bought more than 30 apple varieties from a local heirloom apple orchard and did a big apple taste test. Since all the trees were in an heirloom orchard, there’s no telling who the second parent tree was…but it’s less likely that the father tree was a wild crab apple and more likely that it was another tasty heirloom. This improves the chances that any given seed will bear offspring with good characteristics.
Since a seedling tree will have some of the characteristics of its parents, we chose the seeds from our very favorite varieties to plant. There’s a good chance many of them will be best suited for hard cider or to please the deer as windfalls, but even then they’ll still feed the bees with abundant blossoms and nectar in the spring. And at the very least they’ll help pollinate our other tastier trees, so it’s a win either way.
- Preparing Apple Seeds for Planting
- How to Plant Apple Seeds
- How Long Do Apple Seeds Take to Germinate?
- Transplanting Apple Seedlings
- How Long Does It Take Apple Seedlings to Bare Fruit?
- How to Plant Seeds from Store-Bought Apples
- How to Grow Apples From Seed
- Container Grown Apple Trees: How To Grow An Apple Tree In A Pot
- Before Planting Apples in Containers
- How to Grow an Apple Tree in a Pot
- How to Grow Apple Trees From Seed
- Sprout Apple Seeds for Fun and Fruit!
- How to Sprout Apple Seeds
- Why Sprout Apple Seeds?
Preparing Apple Seeds for Planting
Apple seeds need cold stratification to break dormancy. The seeds need to be kept under moist refrigeration for at least 6 weeks before they’re planted. Place apple seeds in a moist paper towel, and then put that paper towel inside a plastic bag, leaving it open just a crack for air exchange. Store it in the back of the refrigerator, checking on the towel every week or so to make sure it’s moist.
At the end of 6 weeks, some of the seeds may have started to sprout already. That’s a good thing since apple seeds have a very low germination rate. Some sources say as low as 30%, though I’d guess ours were more like 60% at least, so clearly, it’s variable.
If you buy local apples late in the season, months after harvest, they’ve already been kept under refrigeration for many months. It’s a good idea to cold stratify those seeds in a moist paper towel too because extra stratification won’t hurt them, but not enough cold hours means no apple seedlings. When you cut long stored local apples open, there’s a chance that some of the seeds may have already started to germinate inside the apple…
An apple seed that had already started to germinate inside an apple from cold storage.
How to Plant Apple Seeds
After a minimum of 6 weeks in a moist paper towel in the refrigerator, you can plant apple seeds just as you would any other seed. They can be direct seeded outdoors if it’s after last spring frost and the soil can be worked. Since germination rates are low, and predation from squirrels, mice, and voles can be an issue early on, we generally sprout them in pots.
I place about a dozen seeds in a recycled one-gallon nursery pot along with a bit of seed starting potting mix. Keep the soil warm and moist, as you would any other spring planted seed start (ie. tomatoes).
How Long Do Apple Seeds Take to Germinate?
After 6 weeks of cold stratification, apple seeds actually germinate fairly quickly. Many of the seeds will already be germinating on the paper towel in your refrigerator, and those will emerge from the soil quickest after planting. Assuming soil temperatures are fairly warm (about 75 degrees F) the seeds should emerge from the soil in 1-2 weeks.
From there, we tend the apple seedlings in pots until the young trees are at least 4-6 inches tall. That means we’re less likely to lose them where they’re planted, but staking them is also a great idea because one casual step can mean the end of a young tree at this stage.
Transplanting Apple Seedlings
If you’d like to get them into the ground sooner rather than later, just wait until nighttime temperatures are consistently above 50 degrees in the spring (or early summer here in the north country).
Once the apple seedlings are in the ground, they’ll begin the work of growing into a full sized tree. Since they’re not grafted on dwarfing rootstock that handicaps them and limits their nutrients, seedling apples will grow strong and healthy, but also large. Good pruning can keep apple trees smaller, but full-sized apples should still be planted at least 20 feet apart.
How Long Does It Take Apple Seedlings to Bare Fruit?
Surprisingly, not really any longer than an expensive grafted nursery tree. Nursery bought apple trees generally bear about 8 years after planting. They may have been in the pot for some time, which caused them to become a bit root bound and stunted. Even in the best of cases, large 6” tall nursery trees don’t take transplanting well and it takes them some time to recover and begin to grow vigorously again.
After three years in the dirt, our apple seedlings are now actually taller than our grafted nursery trees. We’re expecting them to come to bare alongside our other standard apple varieties in about 5 more years, but time will tell.
How to Plant Seeds from Store-Bought Apples
Seemingly everyone’s favorite fruit snack, the apple has a long history that can be traced back thousands of years to Central Asia, where the domestic apple’s wild ancestor can still be found today. Their crisp, sweet, and even tart flavors have captivated the taste buds and imaginations of people from many cultures, cementing their place in history.
Today, there are thousands of cultivars of apples ranging from small to large, green to red, and sweet to sour. Some are ready to eat straight off the tree while others are made into pies or pressed into apple juice or ciders.
Most apples are now cloned through a process known as grafting, where a small branch or bud is joined onto the rootstock of another with surgical precision. This causes a new tree to grow. Grafting ensures that whole orchards can be planted with exactly the same fruit and harvested at the same time while the rootstock functions as a growth inhibitor to produce super dwarf, dwarf, or semi-dwarf trees.
The thousands of apple cultivars did not come to be by magic. They are the result of random mutations known as “sports” and by growers sorting through hundreds (if not thousands) of seedlings looking for something different—whether it be taste, size, color, or consistency. In modern times, these tasks are usually performed by paid plant breeders, but in former years, the simple act of planting a few seeds led to most of the selections we enjoy today.
How to Grow Apples From Seed
With a few supplies and a bit of patience, anyone can grow apples from seed. To begin, you’ll need seed-starting soil mix in a few four-inch pots. Take an apple of your choice and remove the seeds within the core, being careful not to nick or cut them. Clean the seeds off so that they don’t have any fruit juice or apple bits on them, and divide them up among the readied pots.
Because apples come from temperate climates, the planted pots need to be stratified (kept cool and moist) for a couple of months before they’ll properly germinate. Set the pots outside on a porch or patio or, to protect from hungry critters, in a garage or shed.
After the required amount of time, move the pots into a warm, well-lit location and keep the soil moist. After a few weeks to a month, all of the seedlings should begin to push through the soil surface, et voilà, you have seedling apple trees! From here, plant them in the ground. Take care to give your new trees plenty of sunlight (preferably full sun) and feed them with a balanced fertilizer. In a number of years, your trees will be ready to produce their first fruits which may or may not be similar to the apple from which they came, but tasting your first apples, unique to the world, is worth all the effort and wait over the years. Enjoy and happy planting!
Right now I’d normally be shopping for seed, compost and whatever else I might need for the growing season ahead. Not this year though – I’m gardening for free – so this’ll be my first without buying in stock. Ever. On the one hand, this is really rather liberating because I know I either have, or can make enough, of everything essential that I need anyway. But at this somewhat dismal time of year with much less activity in the garden, I find my desire to seek out new varieties of fruit and vegetable seed is still firmly in place.
Bartering is always a good option, and I remember my friend Alex saying I could have some of her jerusalem artichokes to plant. By a stroke of luck it turns out she also has some oca going spare, which is another interesting one for me to add to the list. In return I offer her some of the asparagus seeds I’ve saved along with a few of last year’s soft fruit cuttings. So far so good.
As I’m pondering who else I can instigate some “swopsies” with, my attention turns to the fruit bowl on the table in front of me. The apples, lemons and satsumas are packed full of seed. The fruit has been bought to eat, so it won’t cost me anything to have a stab at using an inedible part of it. In fact while I’m at it – I realise that looking at food in this way could open up a potentially rather large world of new growing opportunities for me. It could be just what I’m looking for to help jazz things up this year.
I know, I know – it’s supposed to be really tricky growing fruit trees this way. If you scan the internet you’ll find lots of useful advice about how to use the seeds from shop-bought vegetables, but a myriad of doom-mongering about the perils of planting fruit seed. “Trees won’t produce any fruit. Waffle, waffle, waffle, don’t waste your time trying this …”
Perhaps I’m being overly optimistic, but surely it’s natural for trees to produce offspring in this way? That’s the point of the seed-bearing fruit in the first place – it’s all about reproduction. Determined to get my head round this issue and to find out which seed it is possible to work with, I am delighted when I speak to Roger, the nursery man from my local gardening centre, Trefhedyn. He’s enthused by my plans and starts telling me how much he loved experimenting in this way as a child and with his kids. It would appear Roger’s just the man to shed some realistic light on the subject for me.
It’s obviously a very complex area so you can understand the confusion, but it turns out there are some fruits worth trying: apricots, nectarines and peaches for starters because these are the most reliable. Apples are trickier: the varieties we know today are all descended from the original wild hedgerow apple and a lot of crossing can easily occur. But if you don’t mind full-size trees (up to 30 ft) and stick with the older varieties of apple which go well together, such as ‘Cox’ and ‘Bramley’, Roger advises there is a much better chance of success. Yes – it’s possible that cross-pollination could occur with other varieties of apple in my orchard, but there’s a much smaller risk, so in my book this is worth a punt.
To do this I’m going to dry out the seeds, place them on some damp kitchen roll and keep them in the back of the fridge for a few months before planting out into pots.
If you have the space, you can also experiment with other more modern varieties of apple just to see what happens, but this could result in a huge tree with no edible fruit. Instead, Roger advises the best bet would be to take a cutting from an existing tree: this way you can guarantee the sapling produced will be like its parent. Autumn is the time to do this, so you can take cuttings before the frosts have really hit. However, as it’s been so mild this winter with barely a frost, I’m going to take a chance with some cuttings from friends’ trees this week to see what happens. I’ve had a lot of success before with inappropriately-timed soft fruit bush cuttings, so I think this could work.
Now I’ve cracked what I’m going to do with fruit trees, I can turn my attention to the less complicated issue of what other bought produce can be used to grow stuff. Where possible, local and organically-grown groceries are be best to work with; the seed is more likely to germinate, and the resulting plant to prosper in its surroundings. It’s also less likely to be a hybrid or genetically modified. Having said that, if you want to try out more exotic varieties (as I do), you’ll need to look further afield. For example the lemons, satsumas and avocados I plan to work with are obviously not British. I expect at best to get a few nice houseplants out of my efforts here, but you never know.
There’s some great advice on the internet on this subject, from trying out seed from heirloom tomatoes, peppers or chillies to having a stab at getting lemongrass, ginger, various seeds, or (if you are feeling really adventurous) a pineapple crown to root and grow. There are also a lot of references to a book by Richard Langer called The After-Dinner Gardening Book which is about the New York author’s experiences of trying to grow from just about everything that goes through his kitchen – it sounds fascinating and I’m keen to read it.
I’m really excited now – it’s clear there’s a huge amount of room for experimentation with what are essentially leftovers. It may be dark and drizzling outside as I write, but the prospect of a bounty of new varieties now opening up to me has brightened up my January no end.
I’m sure many of you have dabbled a bit in the past here – so I’d love to hear your experiences; especially those where something has worked really well.
• Kim Stoddart is a writer and thrifty living enthusiast who contributes to a variety of publications. She is a former businesswoman and social entrepreneur.
This article contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase. All our journalism is independent and is in no way influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative. By clicking on an affiliate link, you accept that third-party cookies will be set. More information.
Container Grown Apple Trees: How To Grow An Apple Tree In A Pot
The old adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” has more than a grain of truth to it. We know, or should know, that we should be adding more fruit and vegetables into our diets. It’s nice to be able to grow your own apple tree, but not everyone has the space for an orchard. What if you were to start small, say by growing an apple tree in a pot? Can you grow apple trees in containers? Yes, indeed! Keep reading to find out how to grow an apple tree in a pot.
Before Planting Apples in Containers
There are a couple of things to consider before planting apples in containers.
First of all, choose your cultivar. This sounds easy, just pick the variety of apple that you like best, right? Nope. Most nurseries will only carry trees that grow well in your area, but if you wish to purchase your tree online or from a catalog, you may not be getting one that will do well in your region.
Also, all apple trees need a certain number of “chill hours.” In other words, they need a minimum of time where the temps are under a certain amount – basically, a set amount of time that the tree needs to stay dormant.
Pollination of apple trees is another consideration. Some apple trees need another apple tree nearby to cross-pollinate with. If you have a truly small space and no room for two or more trees, you need to find a self-fertile variety. Keep in mind, though, that even self-fertile trees will produce a lot more fruit if they’re cross-pollinated. If you have enough space for two trees, be sure you are planting two varieties that bloom around the same time so they can pollinate one another.
Also, just because an apple tree is labeled dwarf doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a suitable container grown apple tree. The rootstock that the tree is grafted onto will determine the eventual size. So what you are looking for is a label referring to the rootstock. This system is a more reliable method for determining if the tree will do well in a container. Look for a tree that is grafted onto P-22, M-27, M-9, or M-26 rootstock.
Next, consider container size. They are measured by volume or diameter, so it’s sometimes hard to pinpoint exactly what size you need. For your first year apple baby, look for a pot that is either 18-22 inches across or one with a volume of 10-15 gallons. Yes, you can grow apple trees in smaller containers, but if you are in doubt, bigger is better than smaller. Whatever the size, be sure it has drainage holes. Get a wheeled base to put the pot on so you can easily move the tree around.
How to Grow an Apple Tree in a Pot
You can use potting soil or a mix of compost and regular garden soil to plant your container grown apple trees. Place some gravel or broken clay pot shards at the bottom of the container to facilitate drainage prior to planting the tree.
If you have a bare root tree, trim the roots so they’ll fit in the container easily. If the tree came in a nursery pot, check to see if the tree is root bound. If so, loosen the roots up and trim them to fit in the pot.
Fill the bottom of the pot with soil atop the gravel and situate the tree so the graft union (the bulge towards the bottom of the trunk where the tree was grafted) is level with the lip of the pot. Fill in around the tree until the dirt is 2 inches below the lip of the pot. Stake the tree to give it some support. If you want, mulch on top of the soil to aid in moisture retention.
Cut the newly planted apple back by 1/3 and water the tree well until water runs from the holes in the pot. Feed the plant during its growing season, especially since some nutrients run out of the drainage holes.
Water is very important when growing apple trees in pots, or anything in pots for that matter. Pots tend to dry out much faster than things grown in the garden proper. Water the tree at least twice a week, daily during hot months. The smaller the container, the more often you need to water since the surface area is so small; it is difficult to get enough water in and to the roots. Drought stressed trees are open to insect and fungal infections, so keep an eye on the watering!
How to Grow Apple Trees From Seed
Have you ever tried to grow apple trees from seeds collected from an apple? It certainly makes good sense that they would germinate. They are seeds and seeds are supposed to grow, right?
I’ve heard people say apples seeds collected from apples are hybridized and therefore can’t grow because hybrids are sterile.
They are correct in that most commercially grown apples hold hybridized seeds inside. They are probably incorrect that this is the reason why your apple seeds don’t germinate.
Bees bring pollen from one tree to the next. If the bee recently visited a delicious apple tree then visits a granny smith apple tree the resulting apples would produce delicious x granny smith seeds.
You might come up with the next award winning apple variety but don’t count on it.
These seeds are not going to produce a granny smith or a delicious apple tree. They would produce a tree with mixed genetics.
Granny smith and delicious are hybrids themselves, this means the new seeds would be ploy-hybrid. This doesn’t have much to do with viability; the seeds can still be fertile. The myth that seeds collected from hybridized apples are sterile might be caused by the fact that apple seeds need to be stratified before they will germinate. Stratification means the seeds have to be treated with cool temperatures for a certain length of time before they will germinate. Most people probably don’t think to stratify their apple seeds. The seeds never germinate hence the idea that they are sterile or infertile.
If you collect seeds from an apple and put them in soil or a terrarium, your apple seeds likely won’t germinate for 2 reasons. The seeds need a dry out period followed by a stratification period. If you skip these 2 steps you probably won’t have success germinating your apple seeds.
If you want to germinate apple seeds collected from an apple first let the seeds dry out for 3-4 weeks. Set the seeds on a piece of wax paper etc and roll them over every day or 2. After a month or so the seeds lose that dark shine and get a lighter dryer look. This is a good indication the seeds have dried well.
Once the seeds are dry put them in a container or zip lock bag. You can also add soil if you wish. Place the container or bag in your refrigerator for about 3 months.
If you chose to add soil you can moisten the soil after about 10 or 11 weeks. Keep a good watch on the bag and let fresh air in often. You should start to see leaves popping out of the soil in a few weeks if everything went right.
If you didn’t choose to add soil you can try to plant the seeds directly into pots or in the ground. If you time it out you can let the seeds dry over the winter and put them into the refrigerator 3 months before the frost usually leaves. Cool weather seems to help apple seeds sprout as well. Commercially grown apple varieties are usually grafted to a wild variety rootstock. The wild variety will be hearty and adapted to the local climate. This method not only produces more apples, without grafting, certain varieties wouldn’t be able to grow in certain climates. Grafting allows commercial farmers to produce more varieties in limited opportunity type climates.
This brings another complication into the whole idea of growing cross pollinated apple seeds. You don’t know it the new variety you get will be tolerant to you local climate. The tree might simply die off after a winter or 2.
If you do manage to succeed in starting apple trees from seed don’t forget to protect them from critters. Rabbits and deer like to eat fruit trees, especially young tender ones. Put up some kind of fence for rabbits and use other defenses against deer etc.
Deer, rabbits and other herbivores have also very likely been the culprits of that mystical apple tree that appeared in your field or at your cabin and in those areas that don’t usually get mowed. Animals eat apples and the seeds that pass through these animals can still be viable. I’ve seen many apple trees spring up in my aunt’s horse pasture when I was growing up. We would collect apples from wild trees growing in the woods and feed the scabby ones to her horses in the autumn. The following summer new apple trees would sprout up around the pasture.
A Good time to collect apple seeds is when mom is making an apple pie. Sometimes I eat an apple I think is exceptional and save the seeds. Who knows I might get lucky or I might just have a little fun.
Growing apple trees from commercially grown seeds isn’t really a bad thing. It would make a great project if you are interested in seeing what kind of apples you will get. I suggest starting this project at a young age if you want to see the results though.
Another reason to start apples from seed would be for a science fair project. You could try germinating apple seeds that have been stratified for different periods of time, some that were frozen, some that were never stratified and see which method produced the best results.
Good luck with your apple seeds!
The practicalities of handling apple seeds haven’t changed that much over the last hundred years. Their storage and germination has been reviewed by Ellis (1985). Apple seeds require ‘stratification’ (cold treatment) before they will germinate. This is achieved by keeping the seeds in moist conditions and subjecting them to a period of cold to allow after-ripening, during which embryo changes occur (Janick et al. 1996). The practical guidelines quoted below come from a number of sources, listed chronologically.
Source 1: Bagenal NB, 1939 Fruit Growing: Modern Cultural Methods.
‘The apple pips should be sown in shallow wooden boxes or earthenware pans containing one-third leaf mould, two-thirds good loam and a little sharp sand. The boxes or pans must be well drained with plenty of broken crocks at the bottom. They are placed in cold frames and need not be pampered in any way until after the seeds have germinated the following spring, when they will need protection from frost. The seedlings are potted up when a few inches high and gradually hardened off ready for planting out when the late frosts are over. The seedlings can either be left to grow on their own roots or, after two or three seasons’ growth their shoots may be cut off and grafted in the spring.’
Source 2: MAFF. 1963. Fruit Tree Raising: Rootstocks and Propagation.
‘Provided the seed remains in the fruit, or as wet pomace, until sown or stratified, a good germination is obtained. Thus the safest place for the seed is in the fruit which should be kept outdoors, netted against birds, until midwinter when all may be mashed and left to rot and germination begins, or until the soil is fit for sowing the pomace in drills, whichever takes place first.
If, however, the seed has been separated from the fruit and allowed to dry then it is necessary to break dormancy by special treatment. Essentially, the process consists of thoroughly soaking the seed in water for two or three days, and then keeping it moist and cold for 6-8 weeks either outdoors or in a cold store. Freezing is not required but the temperatures should remain in the region of 1 – 6.7°C for most of the time. The seed begins to grow towards the end of this period and it should then be sown without delay. Thus, for sowing at the end of February, dry seed should be wetted and chilled from early January. Germinating seed should never be allowed to become dry.’
Source 3: Garner RJ, 1967. The Grafter’s Handbook.
From Chapter 3: Rootstocks and their Propagation:
‘The majority of seeds, once dried, keep well in sealed containers at temperatures ranging from just above freezing to around 4.5°C. The quickest way to germinate apple seeds is to sow them immediately they are taken from the fruit, so they have no time to dry.’
Stratification: ‘On a small scale the seed may be placed in plant pots between layers of moist sand or sand-peat mixtures. The pots are usually buried completely in open ground. One method is to stratify the seed immediately after extraction, whilst still wet, and to sow it in the open in early spring. An alternative treatment suitable for small batches, is to extract the seed when the fruit is ripe in the autumn, drop it into a vessel of water and swill occasionally over a period of two days, and then sow directly in pots or boxes, which are placed under glass. Given warmth, germination takes place in two or three weeks, but otherwise is delayed till spring.’
Source 4: Crassweller RM. Growing new fruit tree plants from seed.
‘Apple seeds require a period of cold exposure known as ‘stratification’ before they germinate. Temperatures between 4.4 -10°C are effective, with an optimum of 4.4 – 5°C over 70-80 days. Seeds should be stored dry in a sealed container at the appropriate temperature, either outside or in a refrigerator. Alternatively, they can be sown immediately after extracting from fruit and overwinter naturally in a seedbed.’
‘If seeds have not previously received a cold treatment then in mid-January mix the seeds with either moist (not wet) peat moss, sand or shredded paper towels. Return the mixture to the container and replace lid. Place container and seeds in the refrigerator until after the last severe spring frosts. The seeds should remain in the refrigerator for at least 60 days.’
Source 5: Janick et al. 1996. Apples.
‘In most breeding programs seeds are extracted slightly before fruit maturity, rather than left inside the fruit. It is advisable to surface sterilize the seeds in Calcium Hypochlorite solution (10 g in 140 ml water and filtered) for 5 min, and then wash them before stratification.’
The ‘after-ripening’ process occurs at temperatures between 0 – 10°C, the optimum being 3 – 5°C. The period required varies from 6 to 14 weeks, depending in part on the temperature. The process is reversed if seeds are stored at temperatures above 17°C, such that a longer period of cold will be required to allow them to germinate. The easiest stratification technique is to leave seeds in the fruit and store them at a cold temperature above freezing. However, rots can cause problems with this method. Seeds can be stratified in polyethylene bags containing moist filter paper or moistened peat moss, which is slightly fungistatic. The stratification process is usually completed in 6 weeks, but should be checked periodically for radicle emergence. When 50% of seeds have germinated they are planted in seed trays with individual cells, and placed under optimum conditions for seedling growth.
Source 6: AHDB, 2010. Membership of the East Malling Rootstock Club.
‘When the fruits have ripened naturally, the seeds are extracted and then washed and soaked in water for 2-3 days with daily rinses to remove germination–inhibiting compounds. They are then air-dried and stored at 3°C until the following January.’
‘Seeds are stratified in the cold-store (>4°C ) in trays of moist compost and perlite mix for 16 weeks. After this period the trays are placed in a greenhouse (at 18°C ) for germination. Seedlings are potted individually when they become large enough to handle and are grown on for a couple of months. In their first summer, seedlings are planted out in the field and left to establish for a whole season. The following summer they are budded with suitable scion variety and left to grow.’
Sprout Apple Seeds for Fun and Fruit!
How would you sprout apple seeds like these?
If you’ve ever wondered how to sprout apple seeds, I demonstrate the process in a recent episode of Totally Crazy Easy Gardening:
A couple of days ago I followed up that demonstration with a report on how the germination had turned out… and, I got Rachel to join me in potting up the young apple trees.
I was quite happy with the results. I believe we got a 100% success rate, as we didn’t find any seeds in the jar which hadn’t sprouted. It took one month for the seeds to germinate in the refrigerator. Not bad at all.
As for the question “will these apples grow in the tropics,” yes, they should, since Kevin Hauser knows his stuff.
However, we may have to wait 8 to 10 years to find out if they will actually fruit… and if that fruit is good, so-so, or poor. If it is poor, it will still be good for pies. Even crab apples have their uses.
How to Sprout Apple Seeds
All you need to do is eat a few apples and save the seeds. Plant the seeds rapidly and don’t let them dry out.
You’re not planting them in their final location at first. As you can see in the first video, Rachel simply puts them in some moist potting soil in a jar, and then places that jar in the refrigerator. A Ziploc bag works even better than a jar. Within a month, the seeds had already sprouted and were growing roots.
Once you see little roots and shoots, transplant them just as we did in the second video.
Occasionally, apple seeds will already be germinating inside the apple or will start right away from the fruit. My friend Steven Edholm at Skillcut, remarked in the comments of the first video that many apples are stored under refrigeration which breaks the dormancy cycle of the seeds, so sometimes all you need to sprout apple seeds is to plant them directly.
Don’t place your newly transplanted apple seedlings right into full sun. Find a shady spot and put them there and take extra care when they’re young. Soon they’ll be large enough transplant into your orchard or food forest.
Why Sprout Apple Seeds?
I’ve always been a fan of growing trees from seed, particularly edible fruit trees. There’s a certain magic to growing something from a tiny little sprout into a productive and useful tree. I gained a huge amount of satisfaction from the peach trees I started from seed some years ago. When they started producing peaches, I firmly believe they were the best peaches in the entire world. In the entire history of peaches, there were no peaches as excellent as the peaches I started from seed. You can’t talk me out of this fanciful belief so don’t even try.
Sprouting apple seeds is an excellent homeschool project. The same goes for germinating peach pits, though it generally takes longer. If you live in a climate where apple trees grow, and they grow in a lot more places than you might think, why not start your own apple trees from seed? Then if they don’t turn out to be what you expected, go ahead and graft them.
You can get my grafting movie . It demonstrates three simple methods of grafting. (If you’re poor, or a widow, take it for free. If not, please deposit a huge amount of money into my PayPal account. Thank you in advance. Every little bit helps. And huge amounts of cash help even more.)
There’s really nothing to lose when you plant fruit tree seeds. You can plant more seeds for trees then you need, then thin them out. It’s not like you have any money invested in the process. All you’re out is a little bit of time.
If you had a tree that was absolutely abysmal and you didn’t want to graft it, apple wood is great for smoking!
My friend William at Permacuture Apprentice wrote a nice big post on growing trees from seed that you might enjoy.
Go, plant those seeds. Once you start you’ll never look at an apple core the same way. So much potential!