Anyone walking through a forest can see pines do grow from seeds that fall from pine cones--there are little seedlings everywhere you look. You can collect the pine cones, harvest the seeds and start your own pine tree with very little effort, just some extra time. The time to consider this project is in the late summer or early fall when the cones are beginning to drop. Collect your cones at least within 30 days to harvest the most viable seeds.
Lay your collected pine cones on a tray or open box in a warm room to ripen. The cones will gradually open, revealing the seeds inside. Shake the cones to get as many of the seeds out as possible. Some growers advise removing the wings, but you run the risk of damaging the seed by doing so, and the seed will grow even if it is left on.
Place the seeds into a plastic bag filled about halfway with damp peat moss. Place the closed bag into the back of a refrigerator to chill. The seeds need to go through a period of cold stratification to break their dormancy. Without this cold time, the seeds might take two or more years before they will germinate. The length of time will vary depending on the variety of pine, but a general guide is to mimic the length of winter where the seed was collected. This can range from two weeks to 4 months.
Prepare your plant pot by filling it with a dampened mixture of equal parts potting soil, sand and peat moss. Leave about a half-inch of space between the soil and the top of the pot to allow for watering. Tap the soil down a little and then poke a 2-inch hole into the soil. Each seed will need about 3 square inches of space.
Remove the seeds from the refrigerator and drop them into the prepared plant pot. Firm the soil over the top of the seed to make sure it gets good soil contact and water the pot until it runs from the bottom drainage holes.
Set the planted seeds into a warm area with plenty of sunshine. Keep the soil damp until the seedling emerges--typically within 20 days. Water less frequently and allow the plant to develop a strong root system.
Transplant your seedling when it is about 6 inches tall. Be careful not to disturb the roots and plant it in an area where it will have at least 6 hours of sunlight and won't be crowded by other trees. Keep in mind that some varieties of pine will grow more than 100 feet tall, so plant it away from buildings, fences and other large trees.