How to Start Pine Trees From Seed


Pine trees make a handsome addition to the landscape when planted as shade trees or specimen trees. Planted in bulk on a larger piece of property, they also make a valuable habitat and timber investment. While seedlings and young trees are available for purchase through nurseries and forestry suppliers, you can start your own pine seeds from seed gathered from local trees at no cost and be assured that the trees you grow are well adapted to your growing conditions.

Step 1

Place mature, open pine cones in a paper bag. Fold the top of the bag over. Shake the bag vigorously to release the seeds from the pine cones.

Step 2

Fill small plastic tray with sand and moisten the sand with water. Remove released pine seeds from the paper bag and spread them on the surface of the moistened sand. Place the seed tray into the 1-gallon zipper-close plastic bag and partially seal the bag, leaving an inch or two open for aeration. Set the tray in the bag on a shelf in the refrigerator. Leave it in the refrigerator for 30 to 60 days, adding water if the sand appears to be drying out.

Step 3

Remove seed tray from the refrigerator, and remove tray from the plastic bag. Set the tray on a shelf under a plant light or other fluorescent light for 24 hours.

Step 4

Dig a trench 2 feet wide by 2 feet deep in a location that receives full sun. Dig the trench 8 to 10 inches long for each pine seed you intend to plant. Remove stones, roots and vegetation from the soil removed from the trench. Mix the remaining soil with equal parts of well-aged compost and sand. Return this mixture to the trench, and water the soil well.

Step 5

Remove seed tray from light shelf. Place pine seeds in a line down the center of the prepared trench area, approximately 4 inches apart. Press each seed about 1/2 inch into the soil and cover over lightly with additional soil mixture. Water lightly after planting, then water daily for 10 days, then every third day for 10 days, then weekly or otherwise as needed depending on weather conditions.

Step 6

When the pine seedlings are about 6 inches tall, thin them to a spacing of 8 to 10 inches. Water the remaining seedlings thoroughly after thinning, and give the seedlings a dose of liquid seaweed fertilizer at the dilution rate recommended by the manufacturer.

Step 7

When the pine seedlings are about 18 inches tall, prepare a planting hole at each tree's permanent planting location, about 3 feet across by 3 feet deep, in the same manner by which you prepared the seed-starting trench. Remove each seedling from the trench area with the shovel, including about a 10-inch by 10-inch ball of soil with each seedling. Replant each seedling in its prepared permanent location and water thoroughly with a dose of liquid seaweed fertilizer. Water the growing tree as weather conditions require.

Things You'll Need

  • Mature pine cones
  • Paper bag
  • Sand
  • Water
  • Small plastic tray
  • 1-gallon-size plastic zipper-seal bag
  • Refrigerator
  • Shelf with plant light or fluorescent light
  • Shovel
  • Compost
  • Watering source with hose or bucket
  • Liquid seaweed fertilizer


  • North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension Service: Overcoming Seed Dormancy--Trees and Shrubs
  • University of Wisconsin Extension: Pinus Viriginiana Mill
  • Auburn University Forestry Program: Techniques for Improving the Performance of Southern Pine Seeds in Nurseries
Keywords: pine seeds, planting pines, germinating pines

About this Author

Cindy Hill has practiced law since 1987 and maintained a career in freelance writing since 1978. Hill has won numerous fiction and poetry awards and has published widely in the field of law and politics. She is an adjunct instructor of ethics and communications.