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How to grow an apple tree from seed

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to grow an apple tree from scratch? I mean from an actual seed, not just buying a grafted sapling from the nursery.

Well recently, I got inspired to try it myself after noticing all the seeds inside apples I was cutting up. It got me thinking – where do apple trees originally come from if commercial growers just use grafts?

Keep reading!


Saving Those Precious Seeds

My first step was getting some seeds from an apple I was prepping to eat. Now, do you carefully slice your apple into wedges before eating? Or just dive right in and start chomping down? I admit I’m a slicer from way back.

apple cut in half with knife

I am amazed at how simple this process was.   After working so hard to save seeds from many of my favorite vegetable varieties – this was a super easy task.

plant apple trees from seed, How to grow an apple tree from seed

Once I had all the seeds separated, I ended up with a nice little pile – maybe 10 or so.

They were so tiny, but full of potential!

Made a Fake Winter

apple seeds on a papertowel

Now that I had my precious seeds, I knew I had to mimic winter conditions before trying to make them sprout. Apple trees need that cold dormancy period to grow properly. So I had to fool my seeds into thinking they experienced winter before spring.

First, I lightly dampened a paper towel and gently wrapped the seeds up inside it. Then I put that paper towel bundle in a plastic baggie, but didn’t seal it completely.

This allowed a little airflow but still kept things humid inside. I wrote the date on the bag so I’d remember when I started this whole process. Finally, I tucked the bag way in the back of the fridge where it would stay untouched for a while.

This was in October 2021. I didn’t peek inside my makeshift seed storage until March 2022 – so a full 5 months of simulated winter for those baby seeds!

Check Out Those Roots!

When I pulled the baggie out after 5 months, I couldn’t wait to unfold the paper towel and see what happened.

Did my seeds sprout after their fake winter? Success! When I opened it up, the seeds had split open and the tiniest little white roots were starting to emerge. My apple seeds were coming to life before my eyes!

sprouted apple seeds

I knew I had to be super gentle with those fragile new roots. I re-folded the towel loosely and left the sprouting seeds out on the counter.

This let them gradually get used to normal “spring” temperatures. It was so exciting to see those brand new roots ready to go do their thing and grow!

I folded the paper towel gently back, and left the package on the counter to get used to “springtime.”


Planting the Baby Seedlings

Once my sprouted seeds had time to acclimate to room temperature, it was go time – I had to actually plant them! Luckily, our microgreens room has great additional lighting and humidity – ideal for starting seeds.

If you want to try this yourself, get one of these seed trays with a clear humidity dome with a timer. That dome really helps keep moisture in so those tender new roots don’t dry out. Proper grow lights are crucial too – the young ones need sun! And use moisture controlled potting mix made for moisture control.

I filled the seed cells partway with soil, poked a hole in the center of each one with my finger, and ever-so-gently placed one sprouted seed in each hole. I made sure that little white root was facing down, then covered it up with more soil. After watering thoroughly from below, I was all set!

Bottom watering ensures the soil gets evenly moist without disturbing those delicate new plants. Just pour about 1/4 inch of water into the bottom tray and set the seed cell tray on top so it wicks up.


Baby Apple Trees Emerging!

In no time at all, tiny seedlings started poking up through the soil! Just one month after planting the sprouted seeds in early February, the babies were emerging.

I tried a few different apple varieties – Gala, June, and some Kieffer pears seeds too.

The old pear seeds didn’t do much. But I got 4 June seedlings, and a whopping 15 Gala seedlings!

Looking at those little green stems and leaves, it was hard to believe they could grow into real trees. But the potential was definitely there, just waiting to be unleashed!

seeds waiting to grow

And this is barely a month later!

tray with apple seedlings


The old pear seeds didn’t do much. But I got 4 June seedlings, and a whopping 15 Gala seedlings!

Looking at those little green stems and leaves, it was hard to believe they could grow into real trees. But the potential was definitely there, just waiting to be unleashed!


Transplanting the Seedlings

After another week or two, it was time for the seedling’s first big move – transplanting them into larger pots. I didn’t want their roots to get all cramped as the plants kept growing.

I was super gentle removing each one from its seed cell and into a 3-inch pot filled with potting mix. This gave the roots more room to spread out. Now I could water and care for each plant properly as individuals.

I made sure to label each pot so I knew which variety was which. It was amazing to watch those spindly stems get thicker and the leaves unfurl more every day. They were still delicate little things, but getting stronger by the hour it seemed!

Once the weather was reliably frost-free, I started taking the babies outside for short visits to get acclimated. This “hardening off” process prepped them for the elements. Come fall, they’ll be ready to go in the ground and really start establishing themselves.


The Waiting Game…

Now for the not-so-fun part: waiting while my apple trees grow up!

It will be so exciting seeing what kind of fruit they eventually produce. Since these aren’t grafted, I have zero idea what the apples will taste like.

Tart and tangy? Sweet and crisp? Or mealy and gross? Part of the fun is that it’s a total mystery!

The trees should bloom in 5-7 years after planting. But it usually takes a full 8-10 years before they’ll make enough apples to really harvest.



What kind of soil do apple trees need?

Apple trees do best in deep, fertile, well-draining soil. The ideal pH range is slightly acidic, between 6.0-6.5. Before planting, I’d recommend getting your soil tested and amending it with compost or other organic material as needed. Proper soil will help those apple tree roots establish themselves and access nutrients.

How much space does an apple tree need?

You’ll want to give your apple tree plenty of room to grow – both downward and outward. Space the trees at least 6-10 feet apart if planting several. And make sure to give them a space radius of at least 15 feet all around to account for mature height and root spread. Dwarf apple tree rootstocks require a little less space than full-size trees.

Do I need more than one variety for pollination?

Yes, you’ll get the best fruit production if you have more than one apple variety. Apple trees need cross-pollination between different varieties that bloom at the same time. So consider planting a few different types close together, or even grafting multiple varieties onto one tree if space is limited.

How do I know if my seedling is healthy?

Check for signs of vigorous growth like shiny green leaves and smooth bark. Avoid plants with discolored, curled, or spotted leaves. Healthy apple seedlings should have a sturdy central stem and well-developed root system. Don’t worry about speed – slow steady growth is better than a growth spurt.

When should I transplant my seedlings outside?

Wait until after the last spring frost in your area, usually 4-6 weeks after your seedlings sprout. Gradually get the plants accustomed to the outdoor elements first. The young trees will be ready to go in the ground when they reach around 1 foot tall and the roots fill their containers.

How can I support young apple trees?

Staking is important to help young apple trees establish a strong structure and withstand wind. Drive a sturdy stake 2-3 feet into the ground near the trunk and loosely tie the tree to it. Allow some wiggle room for the trunk to thicken. Remove support ties after 2-3 years so they don’t girdle the tree.

How do I prune an apple tree?

Start pruning to shape the tree after 3-4 years. Cut back long vertical branches by a third and remove inward facing branches. This opens up the canopy for light and air circulation. Continue moderate pruning annually, removing water sprouts and dead wood. Cut just above buds, angling away from the bud.

When will my seedling tree produce fruit?

Patience is key! Grown from seed, apple trees usually start bearing blossoms and fruit after 4-8 years. But full fruit production kicks in at 8-10 years old. Make sure to plant your tree in full sun to encourage abundant flowers and fruits. The wait is long but so rewarding!

How do I know when apple fruits are ripe?

Test ripeness starting a few weeks after fruits form. Carefully twist an apple – if it releases easily from the branch, it’s ripe for picking. Check color too based on variety. And cut a few open – ripe apples will be crunchy and sweet, not hard and starchy. Enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Why did my tree not bear much fruit?

Lack of pollination, nutrients, water, or sunlight could be culprits. Extreme weather like spring frost can also decrease yields. Make sure you’re giving your apple tree what it needs and be patient – crops fluctuate year to year. Prune carefully, fertilize annually, and irrigate during drought to help encourage bountiful harvests.



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This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Tammy Horvath

    I love the way you think. You need to write another post after your progress to keep us updated. I never knew apple seeds were poisonous.
    I usually cut my apple in slices and sprinkle with cinnamon.

  2. Suzan

    What a fun way to develop your orchard! Look forward to watching it grow!

  3. Sabrina

    I am also part of the “cut in slices” club. Had no idea that so much was involved in growing an apple tree and that it will take 10 years to bear fruit. Please update with your progress.

  4. Lisa Manderino

    This is a great way to start an Orchard. We loved having apple trees!

  5. Chelsea

    Look how cute those little seedlings are sprouting their first roots! I can’t wait to see how it goes!

  6. Tiffany Smith

    Oooh, I’ve always wanted an apple tree! And I love starting things from seeds 😍

  7. Sabrina DeWalt

    As I read this post, I couldn’t help but wonder how long it takes to produce fruit. I was so happy to see you answered the question. I look forward to more posts with your progress.

  8. Melissa Jones

    I love this idea! I am definitely going to try growing apples this summer!! It will be fun with the kids to watch the process!

  9. Danielle

    How exciting! My father used to refrigerate tulip bulbs and called it “forcing” to mimic winter conditions to induce dormancy – this reminded me of that.

  10. Cindy Moore

    Well that’s so cool! As a kid, I tried many times to grow an apple tree from an apple seed. I was never successful. I understand why now! Good luck with your tree sprouts.

  11. Keirsten

    Oh I LOVE this! I would love to have a few Apple trees of my own. And how cool would it be to have started the trees completely on your own?! We go through apples like crazy at my house so it would also help cutdown on grocery bills.
    I can’t wait to see the progress. I can’t believe it will take 10 years but it will definitely be worth the wait!

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