How to Plant an Apple Tree from a Seed
You may have thrown an apple core in the yard, wondering if it would sprout into a new tree from an apple tree seed. Years passed, and no apple tree sprouted. This is because apples from the grocery store are hybrids, and they were developed by grafting cuttings onto specific rootstock. Even though this doesn't necessarily mean that the seeds are sterile, the new tree may not produce fruit equal to the parent's fruit. The fruit might be smaller, have less color, be less sweet, or even have a less pleasant flavor. Since the new tree is not grafted, it even may not be suited to your local climate. In addition, you might wait years just to find out the fruit is not what you were expecting. Despite the challenges, this is a great project for gardeners who want to test their skills and experiment a little. It is also a neat project for young kids who are often intrigued about growing seeds from their favorite fruit.
Step 1 - Procure the Seeds and Dry Them
Begin the process in November or earlier. After eating an apple or two, remove the seeds and set them somewhere to dry out for about a month. Dry them on waxed paper and turn them over every couple of days. Once they have a lighter color and appear very dry, you can proceed to stratify.
Step 2 - Let the Seeds Experience the Cold for Germination
You need to stratify the seeds, which means you have to expose the seeds to cold temperatures before planting. Skipping this step will not allow your seeds to germinate. Put each seed into its own Ziploc bag, along with some moist soil, moss, or a damp paper towel. Place the bags in your refrigerator for about 3 months. The seeds may germinate as early as 6 weeks, or may take longer. Wet the soil slightly again after about 2 1/2 months even if they have not germinated yet. Open the bag to let in air from time to time. It's a good idea to stratify the seeds during the winter so you can plant the new saplings in the spring.
Step 3 - Transplant the Saplings and Care for Them
Once the young plants have germinated and they have 2 or more tiers of leaves, transplant them each into their own pot to continue growing until they are planted outside. Make sure they have well-drained moist potting soil. Give them access to full sunlight for most of the day, and fertilize with house plant fertilizer.
Step 4 - Train the Saplings
As the new apple saplings grow, you need to train them to grow upright. Use pruning shears to prune away weaker branches to develop a strong trunk.
Step 5 - Plant the Saplings in the Spring
Plant the saplings outdoors in late March or early April, after any chance of a frost is past. Save the new trees from being destroyed by animals such as deer, rabbits and other rodents by using tree tubes to protect the base of the tree. Remove and upgrade the tubes as the tree grows. Water well and fertilize when necessary.
Step 6 - The Waiting Game
Continue to care for the new trees and wait for fruit to develop. This may take anywhere from 4 to 10 years.