How to Grow an Apple Tree From Seed

bowl of apples

The Spruce / Autumn Wood

In short, yes, you can grow apples from seed, but it's not as simple as you may imagine. The more important question is whether you would want to grow apples from seeds.

How Do You Germinate Apple Seeds?

Growing apples from seeds is a fun experiment if you are patient. First the seeds need to be exposed to a period of cold temperatures, a process called stratification. You will need to place many seeds (they only have a 30% germination rate) in a bag with damp moss. Place in the refrigerator for about 6 weeks, then plant in a pot. You will later need to prune and train it to be a proper apple tree.

To plant apple seeds, make a small hole in the soil with your fingertip, then drop the seed in and cover it with soil, making sure to water thoroughly. Keep the soil slightly moist, and when leaves begin to emerge, move the pots to a window that gets sun. When the strongest seedlings are a few inches tall, plant them in the ground.

Apples can be one of the more difficult fruits to grow. The trees and fruits have a high susceptibility to both diseases such as fire blight, scab, and brown spot, as well as insect infestations. Even nursery grow trees are fairly high maintenance. So if your goal is delicious, juicy fruit in the shortest amount of time, consider purchasing young trees of the variety you want to grow and turn your green thumb into more rewarding endeavors.

There's a very good chance the apples won't even be edible. Many apple trees are pollinated by crabapples, which are usually small and inedible or just not very tasty. The chances of getting a truly delicious apple are very small.

closeup of an apple core
The Spruce / Autumn Wood

What Are Some Problems That Could Occur?

Apples do not reproduce true to type, meaning that the tree grown from a specific variety of seed will produce apples almost certain to be different than the parent. You can have fun and experiment, but don't expect to have the same fruit.

Also, almost all varieties are unable to pollinate themselves. They rely on insects like bees to transfer pollen. Unless you pollinate the tree yourself by hand, there is no way to know the variety of the other parent tree.

Why Not Grow Apples From Seed?

Seeds from your dwarf apple tree will often produce full-sized trees. Many of these dwarf trees sold are created by grafting the variety onto a dwarfing rootstock. The variety itself may have the full-size genes which are dominant and will produce a full-sized tree despite the dwarf variety seed.

Also, apple trees from seed take longer to produce fruit. It usually takes about 7 to 10 years before you can even tell if you are lucky and have good fruit.


Click Play to Learn If (and How) to Grow Apples From Seeds

Where Do New Varieties Come From?

Many new varieties are genetic mutations that have occurred on established trees. They are tested in trials for factors like taste, disease resistance, and hardiness. If they are desirable, they are grafted onto rootstock. Some organizations like North American Fruit Explorers work on breeding and finding new varieties.

Once in a while, lucky finds are accidentally discovered among trees grown from seeds.

How Do You Get New Trees, Then?

New trees of a variety are propagated through grafting. A special grafting cut is made on a rootstock tree. Then a branch or bud from the desired variety is placed into the cut and attached through a specific process which allows the new branch to grow. The new tree will grow up to produce fruit from the grafted variety.

apple tree and harvest
Kitty Kleyn / Stocksy 
Article Sources
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  1. Can I Grow An Apple From a Seed. Iowa State University Extension