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!
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