How to Grow Apples from Seed
Can I grow an Apple from seed?
Ever eaten an apple and wondered how to grow an apple tree? Or pondered whether you could plant the pips and grow your own apple tree from seed? Well, if you have then I can tell you it is not only possible but also not too difficult. However, many people would advise against it.
What is the downside of growing apples from pips?
The problem is, in most cases, apple trees don't come true from seeds. This means that their fruit may taste completely different from the apple you enjoyed. The apples may end up being better suited to cider making than eating. Apple trees produced from seeds are genetically different from their parent and it is said, usually inferior. Most apple trees are propagated by grafting which allows growers to produce trees that are genetically identical to one another.
Apple seeds that comes from an heirloom, or open-pollinated, varieties should produce more reliable results though. So, if you want to grow an apple tree from seed with more certainty that the apples will be nice, then this is an option for you.
How big will my apple tree grow?
The last note of caution is around the size of the resulting tree. Even if the apple that gave your seed was from a dwarf fruit tree, the tree that grows may inherit its size from the parent. Meaning your tree could grow to 30 foot high and 30 foot wide! Something to leave for posterity as it could bear fruit for centuries but not great for a 20 foot square back garden!
Still, the apples we have now must have come from seed at some point so why not give it a try? If nothing else you will have pretty blossom that the pollinators will adore.
Its a great project for gardening with kids although they may be at Uni by the time the fruit is ready to eat! Apple trees grown from seed won't produce fruit for about 6 to 10 years.
How to Sow Apple Seeds
Apple seeds need cool moist conditions so autumn/fall/ winter is the best time to plant apple seeds. Although you can use the fridge at other times of year to fake the low temperature needed at the start.
How to Prepare Apple seeds for planting
Soak the seeds in a bowl full of cool water for an hour. Use as many seeds as you have as the germination rate is only likely to be a third to half of them so they aren't all going to sprout.
There are two ways, either:
- Moisten some kitchen paper, place the seeds on it then fold over. Place this in a sealable plastic bag. Add a moist, wrung out sponge to the bag to prevent drying out. Or
- Place a layer of moist sand in the bottom of an old marg tub and place the apple seeds on the moist sand, Cover with another layer of moist sand. Punch a couple of small holes in the lid and then place it on the container.
The seeds need cold stratification to break dormancy. i.e. this means they need to be at around 3°-5°C (37°-41°F) for about 6 to 8 weeks - so place the bag or container either outside or in the refrigerator depending on temperatures. Check every now and then to make sure its moist.
How to Plant Apple seeds
When the time is up, remove the seeds from the refrigerator and plant 1 1/2cm (1/2") deep in a small pot, our 4 " Bamboo Pot is perfect for this, filled with well watered, good quality potting compost. Keep in a cold frame, sheltered south facing spot or under a Bell Cloche outside until the seeds germinate. Its important not to let them dry out and make sure to water slowly to prevent the seed being dislodged.
Once temperatures reach a fairly regular 23°C (75°F) you should see germination around 2 to 3 weeks later. When you see the seedlings, move the pots to a partially shaded spot.
When they reach 5cm (2") tall and produce a set of mature leaves you can re-pot them. At this point you can prune the roots if you want to to encourage the production of new feeder roots. To do this brush the soil off the roots and snip off one-third the length of their roots using clean garden snips.
Re-pot the seedlings into individual 5-inch pots filled with garden soil. Grow in partial shade with a good weekly watering until the following spring. Then transplant them into their final position once nighttime temperatures are consistently above 10°C (50°F).
When you get to this stage (or if that all seems to difficult any you've bought an apple tree!) then head over to our How to Plant an apple tree blog for info on what to do next.
For further information on how to look after your trees and how to prune apple trees check out this blog on Winter Pruning
Whether it is seeds or grafted trees good luck with your apple growing and here is a recipe that you might like for Apple Biscuits.
How to Choose the right Rootrainer (and why they work)
Rootrainers are planting cells that give much less root disturbance making them perfcect for filling your vegetable garden or flower borders. Part...Read More
How to Plant Sweet Peas in Winter
Sweet peas are gorgeous fragrant climbing plants that are great as cut flowers and a treat for the pollinators on your plot. They grow well in the...Read More
A Guide to Winter Pruning for Fruit Bushes & Trees
Winter pruning serves several crucial purposes. It helps maintain the shape and size of your plants, encourages robust sp...Read More