How to Germinate Tree Seeds


Many trees grow quickly enough from seed and seeding is an inexpensive alternative to purchasing saplings. Tree seeds generally have tough outer seed coats that inhibit germination, so scarifying the seed coating is necessary to ensure that the seeds sprout. Collected or purchased seeds may also need a dormancy period prior to germination, called stratification, which is not supplied if the seeds are stored in a warm home. While all trees have specific requirements for germination, some general methods apply to the majority of tree varieties.


Step 1

Moisten shredded peat moss until it is as damp as a well-wrung sponge. Place the peat moss in a plastic bag.

Step 2

Bury the tree seeds in the peat moss. Squeeze the excess air from the bag and seal it closed.

Step 3

Place the bag in the refrigerator or in another 40 degree Fahrenheit area. Leave the seeds in the fridge for one to three months, or the length of time recommended for the tree variety.

Step 4

Plant the stratified tree seed in a 6-inch pot that is filled with a moist potting soil. Place in a warm room and water as needed to keep the soil moist. Trees sprout within a week to two months after planting, depending on the variety.


Step 1

Fill a pot with water and cover. Heat the water to a boil.

Step 2

Place the seeds in the boiling water. Remove the seeds from the water once it has cooled back down to room temperature. Some tree species only require hot water scarification.

Step 3

Rub one end of the seed with a piece of sandpaper or a metal file. Rub until the outer seed coat is buffed away and the lighter, inner coating is visible.

Step 4

Plant the seeds in a 6-inch pot filled with moist potting soil. Water as needed to maintain soil moisture and place the pot in a warm room to germinate.

Tips and Warnings

  • Verify the exact germination methods needed for the tree variety. For example, stratifying seeds that only require a hot water soak may kill them.

Things You'll Need

  • Peat moss
  • Plastic bag
  • Pot
  • Sandpaper
  • Metal file


  • North Carolina Cooperative Extension: Overcoming Seed Dormancy
  • Iowa State University Extension: Germination of Tree Seed

Who Can Help

  • University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture: Growing Trees from Seed
Keywords: germinating tree seed, cold stratification, scarifying tree seeds

About this Author

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications, including the "Dollar Stretcher." Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.