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How to Grow an Apple Tree from Seed

How many times have you been eating an apple, hit the core, seen the seed, and thought to yourself, “Hmm… I wonder if I could grow an apple tree from this?” I know I did that all the time growing up!

Well, 6-year-old-me and hopefully you, the answer is YES! You absolutely can grow an apple tree from a seed you’ve gotten out of an apple from your grocery store.

How to Grow an Apple Tree from Seed

Is it easy? No. But it is possible, and this post is going to walk you through exactly how to grow an apple tree from seed.

Supplies You Need to Learn How to Grow an Apple Tree from Seed

Apple Tree Seeds

There are several simple supplies you’ll need when learning how to grow an apple tree from seed. In this section, I’ll detail each item and how you need to use it to prepare to plant your apple seeds.

Seeds

First thing’s first—you’ve got to have some apple seeds! As you’re eating your apples from the grocery store, keep your eyes open for dark brown seeds. It’s important the seeds have reached full maturation before you can start this process.

For the highest chance of success in your attempt to learn how to grow an apple tree from seed, aim to have somewhere between 15-20 seeds from a variety of apples. Make sure to keep the varieties separated and labeled well so you know which ones grew.

Side note: Just because you grow a seed you got from a Honeycrisp apple doesn’t mean the tree will bear Honeycrisp apples! The actual fruit grown depends on a variety of factors like cross-pollination and other things that could mean you wind up with a completely different variety. 

Once you have your seeds, you can speed the process up slightly by beginning to soften and remove the protective seed coat. Simply put the seed between some sandpaper and gently rub it together between your fingers. Just a few seconds will do the job, you don’t want to damage the inside of the seed.

Paper Towels & Water

The next step in your journey to learn how to grow an apple tree from seed is to start the germination process.

To do this, get a paper towel (the higher the quality, the easier this part will be) and get it damp. The easiest way to do this is to get it totally soaked and then wring it out to where it’s just damp so that it’s evenly wet all over. 

Take the fresh de-coated seeds and wrap them up in paper towels. In your research, you may have seen people saying to put the seeds in potting soil, but the paper towel method will make it much easier and cleaner to check on them as time passes.

A Container & Refrigerator

Apple Tree Sprout

Once your seeds are de-coated and wrapped nicely in a damp paper towel, the next thing to do to grow an apple tree from seed is to place the seeds and paper towel into a container.

It could be a plastic baggie, a recycled lunch meat container, or a glass container, but whatever it is, it shouldn’t be sealed completely. There should be a small gap so that fresh air can get in and old air can get out.

Make sure to label each container with the date the seeds were added and what apple variety the seeds came from. Once placed in a container and sealed almost all the way, it’s time to put those seed babies in the refrigerator. 

This is an important step when trying to learn how to grow an apple tree from seed. This is where the seeds will go through the germination process. Know this going into it—apple seeds have a pretty low germination rate. Don’t beat yourself up if not all of them sprout. It’s completely normal!

Time

This part takes some serious time. Learning how to grow an apple tree from seed isn’t a quick process. The seeds will need to stay in your fridge for at least six weeks. It could take anywhere from 45-90 days. 

Set a reminder on your phone or put a note on your calendar to check on the seeds weekly to ensure the paper towel is staying moist. Remember, the towel doesn’t need to be soaking wet, but you need to ensure it’s never completely dry, either. 

At the end of the six weeks, check the seeds for germination. Any that have begun to sprout, take out to go ahead and move on in your steps to grow an apple tree from seeds. Those that haven’t, put them back in the fridge and continue to check them weekly.

At the end of the 90-day period, remove any additional seeds that have sprouted, then leave the container out at room temperature for another week or two. There may still be seeds working on it that are just taking a little longer than others.

Pots

Once the seeds that are going to germinate have germinated, it’s time to plant the seeds in some soil. You certainly could plant them directly into your yard outside, but it’s going to be much easier to care for them in pots or seed starting trays. It’s easier to protect them from the temperature and other elements outside if they’re portable and able to be brought in.

You can get your seeds started in simple plastic pots, somewhere around six inches wide and deep. Use some good potting soil, organic if possible, and place the seeds about one inch under the surface of the soil. 

Each pot can hold up to 5-6 plants at this stage, so don’t be afraid to put more than one in each pot. Learning how to grow an apple tree from seed is all about trying new things!

Depending on factors such as sunlight, moisture, and seeds themselves, you should start seeing sprouts coming above the soil in 1-2 weeks.

Once the baby apple trees have reached somewhere between 4-6 inches tall, it’s time to repot them into their own, individual pots so that they have room to continue growing.

Now What?

Apple Tree Seedling

Now that you know how to grow an apple tree from seed from the beginning, what’s next? What do you do once the seedlings have gotten established and are growing well? Well, I can tell you it’s not leaving them to grow in pots inside your house! Nobody wants an orchard inside. Let’s talk now about how to plant an apple tree from seed once it’s time to get them in the ground.

When to Plant Apple Tree Seedlings

Once your apple tree seedlings are at least 6″ tall, it’s time to put them in the ground. The timing is important.

You need to wait to transplant the seedlings outside until the nighttime temperatures are regularly above 50°F. In most parts of the country, that will be springtime, but it could be closer to early summer if you live further north.

Where to Plant Apple Tree Seedlings

Now that they’re being planted in the ground, these baby apple trees are going to work hard to grow big. And I do mean BIG! Take care to give them plenty of space, at least 20 feet, in between the trees. I bet when you set out to learn how to grow an apple tree from seed you weren’t thinking they’d get that big, were you?

Also, it’s important to plant them near each other because cross-pollination is essential if the trees are going to bear any fruit.

Apple trees require a full eight hours of sun a day, so pick a spot that will get full sunlight.

How to Care for Apple Tree Seedlings

We’re almost done learning about how to grow an apple tree from seed!

In addition to making sure they’re getting enough light, young apple trees also need adequate water. 

For the first couple of weeks, water your apple tree seedlings daily. Back it off to every two or three days after that for another couple of months.

By the time the apple trees that you’ve grown from seed have been planted in the ground for three months, you can slow down to watering them only once a week.

Another thing that will help keep them strong is to pinch off any bits that start to grow from the base of the tree, near the root. Those won’t help the tree get stronger and will waste energy.

How to Grow an Apple Tree From Seed FAQ

Apple Tree Growing

When will the trees bear fruit?

It’s not an exact science, but generally, when you’ve learned how to grow an apple tree from seed, you can plan on your trees bearing fruit anywhere from 8-10 years down the road. Sure, it’s a pretty big time commitment, but think of the sense of accomplishment you’re going to feel when you eat your first apple from the tree you planted from seed!

What if they don’t grow?

If your apple trees are having a hard time once they’re planted in the ground, it could be for a variety of reasons. Make sure they’re getting adequate sun and water, first. If that doesn’t seem to be the problem, it could be that your apple tree’s suffering from some sort of disease. 

Good news—we can help! We’ve made a list of Ten Apple Tree Diseases: How to Identify and Treat Them. Check it out and see if you can figure out what’s going on with your seedling!

Get to it!

Now that you know how to grow an apple tree from seed, it’s time to head to the grocery store, grab your favorite apples, and get to growing!

If this has really sparked your interest and you want to learn more, check out our Apple Tree homepage for even more information on apple trees.