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 when 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
Apple seeds need cold stratification to break dormancy. It’s a defense mechanism built into the seed itself, ensuring that the seed doesn’t sprout until winter is over.
The fruit naturally ripens in the autumn, but if the apple seedlings sprouted right away, they wouldn’t be strong enough before winter to survive. The seeds stay dormant until they’ve been “cold stratified” or chilled for a minimum of 6 weeks. In nature, this happens naturally outdoors over the winter. Any seed that fell on a fertile spot, and then wasn’t eaten by squirrels or other animals, will sprout in the spring once temperatures warm up…provided winter is consistently cold.
This is actually tricky in really warm locations out west, where winter doesn’t get cold enough to break the seed dormancy. That’s one reason there are wild apple trees scattered everywhere throughout the Northeast, but far fewer in areas with very mild winters.
The plant evolved this seed dormancy to make sure the seeds don’t sprout before the spring, but you can trick them by creating an artificial “winter” in your refrigerator.
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…
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 Bear Fruit?
Surprisingly, not really any longer than an expensive grafted nursery tree. Apple trees purchased from a nursery 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 bear alongside our other standard apple varieties in about 5 more years, but time will tell.
Growing Fruit from Seed
Apples aren’t the only perennial you can grow from seed!
- Growing Lemon Trees from Seed
- Growing Strawberries from Seed
- Growing Rhubarb from Seed
- Growing Asparagus from Seed
Growing Fruiting Plants
Looking for more tasty perennial fruit that you can grow right in your own backyard?
- How to Grow Cranberries
- How to Grow Alpine Strawberries
- How to Grow Blackberries
- How to Grow Salmonberries
Thanks for the advice Ashly,just put my apple seeds in the moist paperwork,in a ziplock in the bottom drawer in the fridge,I’m excited this will be my first attempt…wish my seeds luck!
I put an apple seed in dirt in a pot in my house and I have a 3 inch seedling. It’s winter and I want to keep it healthy so in spring I can plant it outside. Is there anything I should be doing besides watering to keep it strong through the winter?
Nothing, in particular, just keep them in a sunny spot!
My question is that, can this particular plant grow in Nigeria?
Sadly, I don’t think so. Apple trees need a cool dormant winter period and they grow best in zones 3 to 8. California is zone 9, and they have trouble growing there but you can make it work with heat-tolerant or low chill varieties, and by shading them and putting ice blocks on the soil in the winter months. It looks like at least according to the internet, Nigeria is zone 11/12…that’s much hotter and I’m not sure you’ll be able to make it work. It’s less about the heat in mid-summer, and more about the fact that it doesn’t cool off in the winter for dormancy.
I have already started to grow Pinks variety, started as in paper towel, but never started in the fridge, reported the 3 of them in 8 inch pots now the sizes are quite good 14″ have got them outside in pots so fingers crossed 🤞
How’s the tree going so far? 🙂
Ditto! Just did the same! So exciting!
Thank you so much for these instructions! The apple tree my husband’s grandmother planted in the yard of her farmhouse, which is now our farmhouse is starting to die. I’ve set aside several of the best apples from this year’s crop and was trying to figure out the best way to grow a few trees that can replace the original tree and be given to her great grandchildren for their yards. Not knowing if the tree will make it through another winter, I want to give those seeds the very best opportunity to survive!!
Using a seed from the tree will NOT give you the same apple variety. If you want the SAME apple, you must cut a scion (a one year old new shoot, or the new growth from last year) and graft that scion onto another rootstock. IT IS VERY EASY TO DO!!! You can often fin a “County Extension Service” that teaches grafting classes each spring, OR the expert there–working for the county–will show you how for free. There are lots of YouTube videos also that show “bench grafting,” or “whip-and-tongue” grafting, & etc. Again, IT’S EASY, as long as you have a good sharp knife and know how to use it safely. You need to take the scion from the tree you want to duplicate while the tree is still dormant and the buds have not begun to swell. Put that scion in a ziplock baggie and keep in the fridge that does not have any apples in it. It will last a couple months. And to find a “rootstock,” I would suggest Raintree Nursery (online), for buying an “Antonovka” full sized, long lived tree, or a Bud 118 rootstock for faster growing, almost full-sized tree. Order soon, before there all gone for the year! I would recommend getting at least two, in case one doesn’t take or you have some unforeseen difficulty. You will want to practice making the cuts and grafting with pieces of willow or other scions from the tree before making the actual grafts with those more perfect scion pieces. Here is a link for grafting a “modified whip-and-tongue,” in case your scion and the rootstock are different sizes. https://youtu.be/eTD33aGqjhA GOOD LUCK!!
My in laws have two trees close to one another with no other nearby apple trees. We love the apples off these trees. Giving it a go with the seeds from apple seeds off these two trees (hoping their proximity gives us genetically close fruit) and plan to plant two of the trees in our yard in similar proximity for hopefully same result. Thanks for the guidance on how to do this. Seeds have been in fridge 5 weeks already. Hopefully we’ll be growing some indoor seedling this winter ready for late spring planting.
I have three healthy seedlings growing in a pot in the house until late spring! Once they get larger, I will transplant each into its own larger pot to give it growth space until outdoor planting.
Thanks for the information, my name is Charlesetta and my grandson want to try and Apple plant.
I have a couple of apple trees that came up volunteer from seed from store bought apples so I have no idea what kind they might be. Is it true that large orchards use Crab apples to pollinate their trees? I wouldn’t care if they were 1/2 Crab apple as I believe they make good cooking apples and make the best jelly.
Sometimes large orchards interplant a small number of crabapples to help with pollination, but really there’s no telling where the bee went. It could be any tree in the orchard, and some varieties are even self-fertile. Even still, you never know how the genes will all shake out in the end. I hope they’re delicious and good luck with them!
Auther E. Ray
Do you have to have two different apple trees to pollinate each other. Is there any chance that an apple tree can have apples with out another apple tree of a different kind?
If it is not a self-pollinating variety then it will need another apple tree in order to cross-pollinate.
Heather D Hollingsworth
My son brought home a little brown cup that started growing his apple tree we have had it a bout a month or so and its growing like crazy. Its winter in VA, USA and I dont know anything about moving plants out of the cup into the ground..can anyone help I dont want to kill the apple tree
Keep it indoors and wait until spring, around when you plant your tomatoes. It’ll need to be hardened off, which means gradually introducing it to the outdoors. Natural conditions, even just full sunlight when it’s used to indoor light can burn the leaves. Start by putting it out a few hours a day in a protected area, then gradually longer. More specifics here: https://www.burpee.com/gardenadvicecenter/areas-of-interest/seed-starting/hardening-off-your-seedlings/article10355.html
How do you prevent mold from starting while cold stratifying? We tried that with peach pits in the fridge and changed the damp towel out regularly but it still kept trying to mold.
Kept just barely damp, and with the top of the bag open a bit, I haven’t had a problem with mold. I know some people use a solution of water and hydrogen peroxide to wet the paper towels when mold is a problem, but I haven’t used that technique myself. I’m sure a quick search would help you find the right concentration.
Very good advice I have started 2 apple trees of my own out of seeds.they germinated very well.i have already transplanted the into a cup with soil.they are doing well.they ha e actually sprouted out and I have 2 very green growing stems.i will let them get a bit bigger before trans planting into our garden along with our pineapple trees.
Best way I found is to crack the peach pit open and get the seed inside and place that in a damp paper towel and put in a ziplock bag or Tupperware container and into the fridge until roots appear.
Cinnamon will prevent mold from growing.
Interesting. I ate an apple 1bout 6 days ago. I put the seeds in a small container with a small amount f water. 8 out of 10 seeds have already sprouted!!
This time of year (mid-winter) the apples themselves have been in cold storage for months. They’re already stratified for you in storage at the apple warehouse, so they’re ready to sprout!
I’m really looking forward to starting apples from seed, but I live in the southern hemisphere, so it is the end of summer here now. Should I keep the seeds in the refrigerator until early next spring or store them until the middle of winter and then put them in the refrigerator? They are seeds from an heirloom apple.
I’d put them in the refrigerator until seed starting time in your area. Pull them out and pot them up whenever you’d normally start tomatoes indoors.
I’m not sure if I have space for apple trees, but this sounds like fun. I saved some seeds from really tasty apples I ate this past Fall, so let’s see what happens, right? I also think I’ll try Ann Ralph’s method of growing little trees. Any future trees and I are going to be much happier if I don’t have to climb up and down ladders to prune and harvest.
Have 10 so far with about 4 to 6 sets of leaves, Thanks for the tips
I planted a seed a couple of years ago. It lost its leaves this past fall and looks like it is regrowing them in time with the other trees outside. I think it’s about 3 years old (sieve brain!) so I suppose it’s ready to harden off and plant outside? Soil? Sun? Moisture levels? Thank you! (Also have 1.5yr grapefruit, 1 yr. lemon seedlings, and a bunch of 4311 apples sprouts (generic pink apple code?))
Yup, time to harden off (slowly) and plant it outdoors. Full sun ideally (unless you’re in somewhere absurdly hot like the Mojave). They like moderate amounts of water, and won’t tolerate swampy/wet spots. Our soil is clay with a high water table, so we have to work pretty hard to find a well-drained spot for apple trees. Poorly drained soil is the one thing that really kills them, so watch out for that. Best of luck!
My daughter took 5 seeds from an ambrosia apple that had been sitting in a basket on the counter, she ate the apple and directly planted them in a small soil pot, this was just before xmas. Just after New Year’s day she had 5 sprouts. They’re growing rather nicely in partial sun. I came looking for a reasonable estimate of when she’ll see a fruiting tree because honestly I didn’t expect a single sprout.
With good care, she’s about 3 years away from the potted trees they sell at the nursery. For fruit though, likely 5-10 years. Some varieties bear fruit earlier than others, but about 8 years is a good average.
Same here, just puts seeds in tiny starter pots in the Spring and had 4 of 6 pop up. Left them outside in the hot sun and watered every day and they sprouted. I put one in the ground and brought the others inside now for Winter. Leaves are loosing their color so just trying to figure out how to keep them alive indoors until Spring again.
Could you do this same method with pears?
Yup, works just fine with pears too.
Hi. It is near the end of July and I have a Macintosh Apple tree from seed that is about three to four inches tall. I live in Ontario Canada the Ottawa area. My question is where do I put it for our cold water. It is in recycling coconut planter. Do I plant it before winter or should I keep it in the house or would the shed be better
If it is only 3 or 4 inches tall, it may be best to keep it indoors for the winter and then take it out in the spring when the temperatures aren’t so harsh.
So how tall should it be before going in the ground?
I think if you kept it indoors through the winter that it should be good to plant out in the spring. Then it has plenty of time to get well established before winter comes.
Hi,I lives in Nigeria and really likes apple fruit.We have a hot tempreture and don’t know if apple tree can grow here
My mom has the same problem in California in the Desert. There are some varieties that are called “low chill” apples and can grow in very hot climates without a winter freeze. It may still be too hot there for apples, but I don’t know too much about the climate in Nigeria. This article may be helpful to you: https://ucanr.edu/sites/urbanhort/files/80158.pdf
Hi, I also lives in Nigeria
I started the growing of apple tree since 2018 here in Nigeria which was successful I now have 4 stands of fully grown apple tree
Yeah ,,nice meeting u here ,,am aiso a Nigerian,and am planning to plant an apple through it seed ,just started ,,so I need more explanation on how it can be grown.thanks ,I will appreciate to see ur response.
I just read this and didn’t know that you needed to put them in fridge. first. I started min in plastic container in my green house window over my kitchen sink. They are about 3 inches tall now and in pots with potting soil. After they get bigger how do we prune them so they go tall and straight. do we remove the bottom leaves and when? Thank you.
If they’re growing, no need to remove anything at all. Allow them to grow out in pots until they’re big enough that you feel comfortable transplanting them. Some of ours were plenty big by the fall of their first year, others grew a lot slower.
I had 2 trees that I started and planted them near one another thinking that one might die. Well, one didn’t die and then I thought I will pull the smallest one and replant it in the spring. It did okay inside the house all winter but now it has lost it leaves. I wondering that I shouldn’t have kept inside all winter and it spent the summer and fall outside. Did I mess it up? I will go ahead and plant and hopefully it will recover. So the question is when is the best time to plant if it has been inside all summer, fall and winter?
I am just now seeing your comment. How did your tree do?
I have the same question. If we plant seed in the summer, then the tree is about 10” tall, should I keep it in all winter and plant in the spring? Or should it star inside another year?
If it has been kept inside I would not just put it directly out in really cold weather. If it has been outside and you are able to plant it then I would go ahead and plant it in the fall and allow it to gradually acclimate to the colder weather.
I recently started growing a few of my own apple trees! When do you think pruning should start though?
Early on they just need to be trained, perhaps trimmed to encourage the shape and growth form you want. They don’t need to be meaningfully prunes until they’re 5-8 years old.
Valerie N Avella
So question…we tested a bunch of seeds. We put some in the refrigerator a week ago and some in a wet papertowel/bag left in the garage. In both cases, about half of the seeds have started to germinate. The ones from the garage, we potted in soil and are growing. Can we plant the germinating ones from the refrigerator too? Or should we continue to leave them in the refrigerator for 5 more weeks? Will seeds do better overall in either case, or once they start germinating, does it not matter?
As soon as they start germinating they should go into soil. The cold period is just to get them to break dormancy, as soon as that happens they’ll be happier in soil. Looks like all your seeds were already in cold storage inside the apple, which is normal this time of year since apples are refrigerated all winter for spring sales.
I pulled a seed out of an apple I had just eaten. Stuck it into a pot. About 2 weeks later it was sprouting!
Yeah ,I have been trying to ask this particular question here,,,can an apple seed be planted in a pot after consumption and leave it,,will it grown or it needs to be dried before it can grow, like what u just said now that after eaten an apple ,u remove the seed and u plant it and it grow within 2 weeks,so pls I need more explanation concerning that, because I am preparing an apple seed for planting ,,but still drying them as Instructed and inquiries.,,I will appreciate if I can see ur reply.thanks
It’s not so much about drying the apple seed as it is the cold stratification process. In nature the seeds are dormant in the winter time and then when spring comes and the ground warms up then the seed starts to germinate. If the seed has been at room temperature you want to cold stratify the seeds. The specific instructions are in the post.
Just seen my 8 Apple seeds which have spent 6 weeks in the fridge, of which 5 have got some roots, all of 2mm, lol, bless!
Now all I got to do is plant in pots today and see what happens. Funny, I recall in my teens planting three in roughly the same way, great fun I thought till my niece visited us one weekend at my parents house, pulled all the flipping leaves of….Grrrrrrrrr I could have pulled her hair out, ooops!!
Anyway, here I am 65 & doing the same thing again…lol, see what happens…lol
I just started this planting thing and had no idea I was supposed to refrigerate to break dormancy some had already started germination though others hadn’t and I’m in Nigeria. the don’t know much about climates and pH level but I want to start this planting apple journey
I would say that if they have already started germinating then you should be good to go.
Well I started some in February just by putting them in potting soil. I didnt do any refrigeration. Store bought apples. I have 10 trees growing in my house. Lol. I am going to plant them outside next year.
Thank you so much for sharing this apple germinating process. I would love to try.
I have successfully germinated 3 apple seeds in the fridge, and was wondering what size should they be before I pot them? Also how often I should water them?
As soon as they germinate they should go into soil. Water to keep the soil just barely moist, but not saturated.
Hi, thank you for the apple seed planting instructions.
After I plant a dozen or so seeds in a pot after refrigeration, as the young trees sprouts and grows up do you keep all the young trees and eventually plant them all in their permanent locations or do you weed out the lesser young trees? Planting just the best grower or are the all transplantable from pot to ground?
Thank you very much!
I plant them all out in the yard. If several trees look weaker, I plant them together in a group and then at least one survives.
I purchased some 20th Century Asian pears because my tree is not fruiting yet. It has born fruit for the past few years. My question is weather or not germinating the seed will work for grafting to the main fruiting tree. Someone said that this might encourage the new “tree” to fruit faster. My original tree was a gift from my father-in-law, and its fruit is wonderful. Is there a risk to either the new and/or existing tree to be contemplating this?
I don’t think it’ll encourage the tree to fruit faster, but I’m not an expert in pushing trees to fruit.
Can we plant apple in Africa?
Possibly, but most varieties require a certain number of frost hours to bare fruit. I’d look up apple varieties recommended for California or Florida, as there are a few specially bred to fruit in hot climates. This article might be helpful for you: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/MG/MG36800.pdf
I just started some in June so am assuming they’ll be too small to go out this Fall. How would I over winter them? I assume the house will be too warm. Is an unheated shed ok or the basement? Both are not terribly light – would they need a grow light?
In the winter they go dormant completely (assuming you’re in a temperate climate not the desert), so a shed would be fine. They should lose their leaves and not need light. They will need light when things warm up in spring though and they begin budding.
I have successfully managed to grow two apple trees from seeds to the point of planting them outside. That was 3-4 years ago . However at the time I was more interested in teaching my 6 year old granddaughter how the germination of seed to tree process worked and never planned on them growing more than a couple feet tall before we moved away. Well here we are still at the same location and they are both about 7 ft tall now but I fear they are way too close together (approx. 4 feet apart) so now what? Can I transplant the weaker looking one even at this height? If so when should this be done? I plan on giving them their first pruning in late winter/early spring would it be advisable to transplanting the one at that time? Or do it now? We live in Michigan planting zone 6,
Here is an article that I found on transplanting older trees that might help you out a bit. Let us know if you have any other questions.
So do ALL apples need stratification? I just accidentally grew an apple seedling and I live in the tropics. I have no idea where the little champ has been but when I plopped it on the ground it just… grows!
I don’t believe the apple it’s from is refrigerated cool enough for any stratification to happen, since we don’t really do that here and just eat it straight away :v.
But now this little plant got me hooked on gardening and I was wondering if I just got lucky or something else is going on.
I’m planning to grow more in the future!
If you’re in the tropics I’d guess it made it there on a refrigerated ship/plane/etc and spent some time in cold storage before it got there. That said, there are “low chill” varieties of apples that thrive in hot areas. Perhaps their seed doesn’t require the same stratification? Every apple tree is different genetically, so it’s possible that a mutation would allow them to just grow without stratification, so maybe you got lucky. Either way, good luck with your seedling!
We were successful in getting some apple seeds to sprout and now have potted them and they are coming up! Since it’s early August and we live in northern Minnesota – what would be the best way to winter these new babies?
Sorry we didn’t get to your comment sooner. What did you end up doing with those?
At this time they are still in pots outside; have not lost their leaves even though our temps are now only 30’s during the day but it seems apple trees we already have have not lost their leaves yet either (planted established trees). I was told to keep them in our unheated garage in a syrofoam cooler for some winter protection and then once we get warmer days in spring – bring outside?
I think that sounds like a good plan.
Bonnie E Bailey
Great blog, very useful information. I have two Apple trees grown from seed. I planted them together and they have joined. They are now about 4 yrs old and very healthy in the garden. I did not realize it will take another 4 yrs to produce fruit. I’ll be patient.
I stumbled across this website and decided to start with some apple seeds, they look so good so far! Amazed with the success!! Thank you, I’ll be trying other ones soon!
You’re welcome, Barbarella!
I have an apple tree started from seed, looking good until this morning when I discovered a deer had been up on my front porch and ate !/2 of it. Took the top out and some of the side branches. Can i prune it, and hope it will be a good shaped tree? Should I just start over? My Sister started the parent tree from an apple i picked up on Isle Royale in Lake Superior.
I would think as long as the deer didn’t kill it that you should be able to prune it and it will be just fine.
Thank you so much. Very educative.
You’re very welcome. So glad you enjoyed it.
These instruction is really helping me with my plant guide. Thank You so MUCH!!!!!!!!!
You’re welcome. I’m glad you found it helpful!
i did the expirement but it did not grow, i need help please
It’s hard to say exactly what went wrong. Could you walk me through exactly what you did.
My tree just started growing from a seed naturally! Didn’t even plant it?
So I have a few sprouted and they’re probably between 3-6 inches now. Do you think I should plant them this fall or try and keep them alive inside all winter? I live in Tennessee so it’ll be warm until at least the end of October, most likely. Thanks!
I would be afraid that they might not be well established before the first frost comes. You could always plant some of the larger ones out and leave the smaller ones in and test it out.
Thanks! I’ll give it a go. Thanks for your posts on this. Very helpful!
Am currently in the middle east and I love apples, I would love to leave a seedling behind before I go home.
I got a seed which has bust open and I have put it on a container with soil.
Should I place the part of the seed which as shot up in the soil or facing up?
You want the part that has sprouted to be coming up out of the soil.
Without doing any research, my son (7) planted 5 seeds from his golden delicious apple picked from a local orchard. He used a gallon bucket from and top soil from the garden.
3 of the 5 sprouted after 10 days and I thought he might be a savant gardener. Now 2 weeks after sprouting, 2 of the 3 are dead and the 3rd is looking sorry. Is this because we didn’t do the 6 weeks in the fridge or did we fail taking care of the small plants?
It’s apparent we are now going to have to try again!
I’d say it’s more likely a failure in taking care of the small plants in some way (easy enough to do, seedling care can be tricky in a bucket, especially with water management). The refrigeration is just to break the seed dormancy and get them to germinate. It sounds like yours germinated fine, but then something else happened. Given how quickly they died, I’d guess it was a soil-borne disease known as dampening off? But really hard to say honestly, it could be a lot of things.
Most likely the topsoil from the garden is the problem. Too much clay, poor drainage. Best bet with seeds would be to make a soil composed of shop bought potting compost and grit/sand in ratio 2 x compost/1 x sand//1 x 2mm grit. Then just make sure it remains moist.
I didn’t refrigerate the seeds since the apples were in the fridge, they grew quick! About 3 inches tall now. Hope to see them in the yard next spring!
I have an Apple seedling growing on my kitchen counter in a pot. It’s about 2’ tall now. I’m in zone 4 and we’re in full on winter now, so I can think about planting it out in the spring. But in the meantime, what do I do with it? Do I need to trim it or anything like that? I’m just a home gardener, and this seed was sprouting so I thought what the heck, let’s stick it in some dirt! And it grew! Now it’s just the challenge of seeing if I can get a tree to grow. I don’t even care what the apples are like! It’s parent was a delicious Ambrosia. Right now It’s just one tall branch in an 8” pot.
Planting in the spring is a good idea at this point. For this winter though, put it in a semi protected place, like an unheated garage or cool basement so that it can go dormant. It should lose its leaves and not need light (though occasional water is good so the soil doesn’t completely dry out). All the way outside might be too much, since the pot is exposed (rather than burried). Somewhere cold-ish this winter, then plant in the spring.
Update – my seedling is now a year old, 4’ tall and growing new leaves after being dormant for winter. It is just one tall stick that keeps growing up. My new question now is when will it start to development branches, or do I need to do something to help it out? I see nubs where the old leaves from last year used to be, but nothing is regrowing from those. It’s been about 2 months since this top bud started opening up. I think I will keep it in a pot for at least one more year. Thanks for this very informative page!!!
As long as it is continuing to grow, you shouldn’t need to do anything with it.
I’m at the three-week mark and my seeds are already starting to poke out! I’m so excited to see how much better they’ll become! Thanks for all of your help 🙂
You’re welcome. That’s so exciting.
Hello! I have apple seedlings growing in a small pot approaching 4 ” high. There are 3 that are growing very close to each other. Super excited. But concerned of crowding and when I should transplant and seperate them.
The sooner you can separate them, the better. If you aren’t ready to put them outdoors yet, you could always just put them in a separate larger container.
I am trying to start trees from seed. I put them in the fridge in containers on moist paper towel. they have almost all sprouted already. I wasn’t anticipating it happening so quickly. so now am in the middle of winter. what do I do with the sprouts? If I pot them all I will have pots everywhere. Help?
You do need to get them in some soil once they have sprouted but you could put them all in one container together until they get a little bigger and then move them to individual pots. This should buy you a little time.
Thank you. You have been very helpful. I do have those flies. And my lemon tree and avacado tree are thriving.
I moved them from the window. I’ll know in a few weeks to a month if things work out. I moved them to another room.
I use garlic for the fruit flies. Just a clove or two broken up in and layed on the soil. It doesn’t take much and keeps them away. Works like a gem!
Hi, how can I get the less chill variety of apple that suitable for tropical region?
I would just research apple tree varieties for tropical regions and find a nursery that specializes in those varieties.
I started my apple seeds this summer. They are about 6-10 inches tall and have 3 to 4 sets of leaves and those leaves have gone shades of maroonish red this october. These seedlings have been outside in a very large pot/bucket/tub … like a half a bathtub in size …since late summer. Several light frosts here in Massachusetts seem to have had no ill effect and they are shielded from the wind by the rim of the pot. I am wondering if I should move the pot inside my garage when things get really cold… or perhaps I should mulch around the seedlings to give them some extra warmth… I’m just afraid that bc they aren’t in the actual ground…they won’t make it bc the bucket spill will get colder than the ground. But I think they are already hardened so to speak so I don’t want to bring them back inside…plus I need a team of oxen to move the bucket. Anyhow I just wondered if anyone here has left baby trees this small outside in a large pot through a Massachusetts or.comparable winter and if so whether they made it. This post is awesome! I’m so curious to see what kind of apples might come from my pink lady seeds!
I think you’re better off leaving them where they are. In MA, they’ll likely be just fine, it’s not nearly as cold there as it is here. Still, they’d benefit form a little root zone protection, and if you can pile bark mulch or chip mulch around the pots, that’d be ideal. Another option is to make a box around the pots with straw or hay bales.
I am trying to start an apple tree here in Nigeria ……I really can’t say how hot the climate is but I just dried the seed up and then planted the seedling in a vast
Hello, I have started several apple trees from seed. They are doing well and then some start too die off. I had one growing very nice and I moved it in front of a large glass door. Do you think it’s too hot and the sun is just cooking the young trees?
I have a avacado tree growing in the same bucket, it’s almost 3’ tall. It’s not a disease, just wondering if direct sunlight and heat through the glass is bad for the young sprouts?
It’s definitely possible, especially if it is a sudden change. You always want to introduce any kind of seedling to new weather conditions in a gradual way.
I’m George. I am having a hard time with seedlings as well (apple and tomato). They live 3-4 weeks and die. Apples are fragile and are susceptible to root rot and to “hold you hat”..Fungus Gnats (these little creatures look like fruit flies). Both problems are similar and are caused by a similar issue. Moist/wet soil. Avocados are not susceptible to either and will thrive with no issues. So it explains your issue.
Read my comment/question to Ashley…
Keep your pot on the dry side..let it dry so as to kill the fungus/larvae and the bacteria that causes root rot. Once you moved it to the window, you may have brought it closer to where the fungus gnats like to stay. I did the same and have destroyed a chunk of all my seedlings. Lemon trees and avocados..unaffected!.
Sadly you may have lost your plant. Try again. Go through a complete process of sterilizing pots, pasteurizing medium (or use new sterile medium), do not mix seed types…once they germinate, thin to a single plant per pot. Keep dry…wait on Ashley to tell you if water from top or bottom. Keep away from the window..put the pot 2-3 feet back.
One other thing to not do..DO NOT transplant until fairly mature. Transplant shock to apple trees/seedlings is real and difficult to overcome. If the plant does not die, it may remain stagnant for months.
Top side or bottom watering of apple seedlings??? I am having a devil of a time keeping things alive in my home. A massive infestation of Fungus Gnats is killing everything. Apple seedling, tomato seedling, carrot plants…If it has a fragile root, it blooms just long enough to tease me and then dies!!!! (self inflected wounds, I made my own compost and did not pasteurize before using in-indoor pots)
I am down to 2 apple seedling, should I water at the bottom to dry the top of the soil.
And along these lines, do you think it is safe to apple dishwater solution to apple seedling (and tomato seedling)
Watering from the bottom could actually promote root issues since the roots will most likely be sitting in water. I would water from the top, making sure that the water has a place to drain away and the roots aren’t sitting in it. You may want to allow the top surface of the soil to dry out in between waterings if it seems too wet.
How deep do you plant the seeds in the one gallon pot?
Thank you for your great site.
I plant them about 3/4 to 1 inch deep.
I live in zone 4b, saved seeds from a 100+ year old tree on our farm and they germinated fairly well following your advise, we have 21 of them under a grow light, in the spring I intend to put them in my garden to continue to grow, but I have a few questions: 1. at what size are they ready to be transplanted to their permanent site? 2. Given I am in zone 4b, what should I do next fall to prepare them to make it through the winter? Any advise is greatly appreciated, Thanks.
It’s not so much about the size of the seedlings but the temperature outdoors. You want to be sure that the temperature is consistently above 50 degrees at night before moving them outdoors. I would also recommend a gradual hardening off process just like you would any other seedling.
On Jan 27th I put 5 organic apples seeds in the fridge according to your instructions, I just now planted all 5 which had 1″ sprouts and one even has a leaf starting. They are now planted to your instructions, and in a warm and bright location inside. My great grandson and I are going to plant one each and give the other 3 away to friends, thanks for your great instructions and we are hoping that all 5 will grow into healthy trees 🙂
That’s wonderful. Thanks for sharing. So glad you found the instructions helpful.
Just wanted to let you know that all 5 seedlings are now about 2 1/2″ above the soil line and thriving, all have leaves and one has it’s next set of leaves. I have been keeping the soil slightly moist and misting the seedlings, I am wondering if that is recommended? Do recommend any soil amendments or or something like an Epsom salt spray?
It sounds like they are doing great! I would just keep doing what you’re doing.
Okay, sounds good and thanks for the inspiration to try this project, we are building a large vertical garden fence and will be trying out espalier with one of the seedlings once they are big enough 🙂
That sounds lovely.
I’m a Head Start teacher and I’ve started apple seeds from a snack that my children had. My seedlings are about 3 inches tall, and the children are enjoying watching the seedlings grow. I’m hoping to start our own orchard eventually by using a grafting method. I’m wondering how difficult it is to get a graft from one of the local apple orchards in my county. How old should my trees be before I spent this process?
From what I have seen, you would need to wait for the rootstock to be at least a year old before grafting. The longer you wait, the better results you will have.
I had great luck sprouting apple seeds without stratification! If you have nimble fingers, just carefully peel the brown seed coat off a fresh apple seed and put in between two damp paper towels. About 30-40% of them will start to germinate in less than a week.
I found a different article/blog last year and decided to try my hand at it. I think I had 39 seeds in my fridge for a couple months. I potted them and eventually transplanted the ones that took off but thought they all died. My husband went walking around our property earlier this week and noticed around 18 of them are back and growing STRONG! Various apple types so I’m not sure what we’ll get, if any, in the future but I just wanted to thank you for posting the steps so people like me can give it a go!!
You’re welcome. So glad you enjoyed the post.
Thank you for all advise. However, I encounter problems with my apples seeds. They start to grow and then they die. It looks like their stem turns brown/ red and kills the plant. Any suggestions what I should do? Please help.
It could be a variety of different things. How long are they growing before they die? It could be the soil, light or water.
I winter sowed my apple seeds .. 100% germination… now lets hope they make it…. what is thr longest I xan keep the plant in a 5 gallon pot?
It can stay in the 5 gallon bucket as long as it continues to grow well. If you notice that the tree has slowed growth or stopped completely, then it is probably time to plant it in the ground or get a larger container.
I have a question. I was just winging it and I soaked some apple seeds my grandson wanted to plant in water for about 5 days. 2 of the 5 germinated in the water, the others must have been close because when I put them in the soil, they grew!!! What I’m wondering, is that the season is warming so I will be able to put outside soon, BUT, what happens next winter? Will they be acclimatized to make it through while staying outside. Here on the West Coast of Canada, they are just 2 and 3″ high now, and I’ve just started putting them out for the day. Frost is almost done. I do have a small home greenhouse with a plastic cover where I could keep them during the winter. We do have moderate winters here, but it does freeze. ??????
If they are outside for the duration of your growing season, they should be fine to winter over, especially if your winters are moderate.
If my seedling is about 2 inches tall, and kept on an eastern facing, always open window, would that be the same as hardening it? Thank you!
I would think that would offer some benefit but in order to truly harden off, I would suggest that it be completely outside in the elements for small periods of time and gradually increasing that time until it is planted out.
I have germinated several apple seeds and planted them in small pots, but have trouble when they are about 4 weeks along. The trees start to sag because because the tops are so heavy or if it water just a little more or even a little less that I should the stems start to shrivel and die. Any suggestions for me. I keep them indoors in a sunny window.
It could be a lot of different things. If the tops are heavy, you could try giving them a bit of support. Do they look like they are getting leggy? If so, they may not have a strong enough light. It also could be time to transplant them to a bigger container to allow the roots room to grow and to give them plant more soil for added nutrients.
I plant my apple seed more than two years ago, it grow but it is only the trunk which is not very thick, no branches !
It is still in the pot, I am planning to put it in ground, do I need to do grafting ? And what Can I do that it doesn’t have any branch
I a man in London
Has your tree been in the pot this entire time?
Hi ,I am in nigeria i have successfully grow two apple seedling with two leaves my question is (1) can i water the plant.2 can i put it in sun or indoor.thanks
You will definitely want to water it. It is best for it to be outdoors with plenty of sun. You want to move it outside gradually though. Start off with short periods of time outdoors and gradually increase the time until it is outdoors all day.
I’m Mr Ben from Cameroon, I saw an apply tree in Douala it was doing so well but my problem here is I live in the English southern Cameroon’s northwest I’m in a cold and swampy area but has tried several times nursing apply seedings to no avail, they get rutting instead of sprouting any help please
I am not familiar with the climate in your area but apple trees grow best in temperate climates with mild winters. There are different varieties that may grow better in cooler or warmer climates. Your apple tree also needs about six or more hours of direct summer sun daily. You also need well-draining soil so a swampy area is most likely not going to work well.
OK Sir thank you so much I’ll be trying to see if I succeed in any specie
You’re very welcome.
Thank you for the interesting article! After eating an apple, I decided to put the apple core in a Styrofoam cup and covered it with potting soil. About seven plants grew. These were transplanted into individual Styrofoam cups. The roots are quite numerous, actually root bound would probably be a better description. When putting these in outside soil, should the roots be spread out as with tomato and pepper seedlings? Would it be better to leave the roots undisturbed?
If they are root bound then I would definitely recommend gently untangling the roots before planting.
I followed your advice. Pulled my seeds out of the fridge today. I had 100% germination on gala apple seeds. They are vigorous and already have roots about an inch long! Thanks for sharing this knowledge!
You’re quite welcome!
Hi! My seed sprouted, should I plant them in a pot outside or in a pot inside? It’s hot in louisiana right now will they be safe to grow outside?
I’d start them inside since it’s peak summer right now. They can burn if they go right from the refrigerator to peak summer heat. (I made that mistake putting them out in my greenhouse, which gets really hot in late spring. They sun burned and the leaves browned and they died.) Go with a sunny window indoors until things cool off a bit.
How far apart should you put the twelve apple seeds in a pot
It doesn’t matter that much how far apart they are in the initial pot. If you are using a gallon nursery pot as suggested in the post, I would just evenly space them around the pot. Once they start to grow you can transplant them into different pots if space is an issue.
I was sad to read that an apple tree started from seed doesn’t grow true to the variety. I was able to start 2 apple trees from seed last year of the new Cosmic Crisp variety. I was hoping they would be that, but whatever I get I am sure it will be tasty. So I started them last winter and kept them inside. Then this spring I set them outside to get them use to use to the temps and such and they were only about 3-4 inches tall. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring them in on the 3rd or 4th night and then I just decided to leave them out. Their leafs got sunscorched and such so I had thought I had killed them. After a few weeks I saw new growth and sure enough they started growing new leafs and growing taller. They are now 8 and 11 inches tall. Since they are still in their pots I brought them inside again for this winter to hopefully keep them growing and such.
My question is this. Is it a mistake to pull these trees back inside for the winter? Is it better to keep the trees in their pots for a few years bringing then in and out each year, since I don’t have a green house, until they get a few feet tall like the ones I see being sold at stores and nurseries before I transplant them into the ground? Some of the weeds in my mini orchard grow 3 feet tall (I just let the weeds go in the orchard). My little orchard has 1 dwarf bing cherry tree (planted 3 years ago), 1 peach tree (planted 3 years ago), 1 multi variety apple tree (planted this year), and 1 multi variety pear tree (planted this year).
I would say that after a full season of being outdoors during the spring and the fall, they should be plenty big enough to plant outside. They will gradually get used to the temperatures as it gets colder through the season and they will most likely grow a lot faster in the ground without being confined to a pot.
Where can I get the low chill seed
If you are needing low chill seed, then I would just purchase an apple variety that is low chill and use those seeds.
I came across this article about an apple tree nursery and it sounds like a cool place! I’ve never been there before but it seems to be a really good idea. The apple trees sound awesome and people seem to love them. I think that maybe my friend would enjoy going with me sometime soon as well since they love apples too. Thanks for posting such an awesome article online, I can’t wait to see what else you post in the future!
One of my peach trees was damaged in freak storm, so I decided to grow a peach tree from seed to replace it when it eventually dies and probably will in a couple of years. I opened the pit of a peach, placed the seed in a small amount of soil in a small container in a baggy, refrigerated it for almost two months then transplanted the seedlings into a larger container under a grow light, I did apply epson salts (magnesian sulfate) every two weeks, they are about 8 inches tall looking very healthy, I did use small skewer stick to stake them. I only water from the bottom up. I had plan to put them in a large container ,put them outside in two months, however I do not wish to put them in the ground for another year , I would bring them inside for the winter. (running out of room)
I am doing the same with Gala apple seeds for my neighbour. Sound feasable? I am in zone 6.
I think that sounds very feasible. Let us know how it works for you.
I am trying this hoping that it will work!
I hope it works for you too. Let us know how it goes.
by this I mean planting a apple tree
Thanks for the info on starting seeds. It really is like playing the lottery. I bought some seeds from red Fleshed varieties from Stephen Edholm who runs the YouTube channel Skillcult, hoping to get a few that are better suited to upstate NY than his warmer CA climate. One note about grafted apples – they don’t take 8 years to bear. A lot of it has to do with how precocious the rootstock and scion varieties are. Williams Pride on B.9 is going to produce a lot sooner than Northern Spy on Malling 111. I grafted Ashmeads Kernel onto Budagovsky 118 (pretty close to seedling in vigor and mature size) and had flowers in its fourth year. Same for my Roxbury Russett on Geneva 890. I plan on grafting my seedlings onto a highly precocious rootstock to evaluate them quicker, but will also keep the lower portion to plant on a relatives farm. Best of both worlds!
Started my Apple seed trees in the fridge like you said I have them growing now out of pots in my window sils 6 of them and all 6 of them have 4 leaves or 3 leaves. how tall do they have to be and how big do they have to be before I can plant them outside to start growing. I started these seeds on April 10th 2022 and there about and 1 1/2 to 2″ high out of the pots now as of May 19th 2022 when is the best time to transplant them into bigger pots and then transplant them Outside in the ground to start growing
As long as your nightime temperatures are consistently above 50 then you should be good. The sooner they are planted in the ground, the better.
most of the seeds that I put in the fridge started growing so i planted them in some plasti things for seeds and they are in my house so I hope they grow!
Sounds like they are well on their way.
Hello, do you have any recommendations on how to plant and care for the Apple tree in the Phoenix Arizona area? It is currently potted and about 4 inches tall. I am keeping it in my backyard patio which is covered and it is in the shade for most of the day because it’s summertime now and gets to 100°. Thank you!
Most apples require a certain amount of chill in the winter in order to produce fruit. There are some low chill varieties that thrive in a warmer climate but you’ll need to determine if your tree is one of those varieties.
Hi, I have grown an apple tree from seed. It is growing very well but does not have shoots in the middle of the tree. It is growing new shoots at the top and the bottom. Any advice?
Are the shoots at the bottom coming from the base of the tree?
I put 9 seeds in a paper towel in a ziplock bag a few months ago and all of them (!!!) germinated, they are now growing nicely in a pot!
That’s wonderful. Thanks so much for sharing.
I have four started from seed apple trees. They are 4-5 inches tall; What would be the best way to winter them this first year? We are zone 3 in Minnesota. They are currently potted.
I would bring it in for the winter and then in the spring allow it to harden off and then plant outside.
My 4 year old son wanted to grow an apple tree from seed this summer. On our 2nd try, 2 of the 3 seeds sprouted. They were from an organic store bought apple. Now the seedlings are about 7 inches tall and about an inch and a half apart. They were outside all summer, but I brought them in last night before our first hard freeze. But I don’t know what I should do with them over the winter. They are already hardened off, but we are on the western side of CO so I know it’s going to freeze hard this winter. And I also don’t don’t if I should try to split them up or leave them together? Keep them in the basement anyway, or put them in the ground?
I think I would bring them inside for the winter and then by next year they should be big enough to plant out. At this point it might be a good idea to repot them into individual pots.
Can I plant an apple seed at my back yard in Calabar
I don’t believe that apple trees will grow there. They need a cool dormant winter period.
I love learning about gardening tips and tricks! This one is definitely worth reading.
So glad you enjoyed the post.