How to Plant Tree Seeds


Starting trees from seed can be an interesting and enjoyable way to improve your yard. Many trees, including maple, oak, beach, aspen and various fruit and nut trees can be propagated this way. With a little knowledge you can start trees from seed in your own home. Some species of trees start easily from seed, with little attention required. Others need special treatment to encourage germination.

Step 1

Obtain seeds directly from a parent tree, fresh fruit or commercial sources such as seed companies. Make sure your seeds are fresh and free of damage or disease.

Step 2

Scarify your seeds, if necessary. Some seeds, such as redbud, have hard, impermeable coats. Scarify these seeds by soaking them in concentrated sulfuric acid for 30 minutes, or submerge them in boiling water for 1 minute. Other seeds, such as oak, chestnut or hickory, can be prepared simply by removing the outer husk or shell by hand. Others have harder shells that can be removed using a file.

Step 3

Dry your seeds, if necessary. Seeds from some species of trees such as maple on aspen need to dry out before they will germinate. Dry seeds at room temperature.

Step 4

Break the dormancy of your seeds, if necessary. Some seeds, including maple and redbud, as well as many nut trees including chestnut and hickory, and fruit trees like apple, pear and peach, require a certain amount of cold to germinate properly. The following steps describe two methods of how to break dormancy.

Step 5

Sow your seeds immediately to break dormancy. If you live in areas where temperatures drop below 40 degrees F for 60 to 120 days, you can plant your seeds directly in the ground in the fall.

Step 6

Stratify your seeds to break dormancy. If you do not live where the temperature is appropriate for direct sowing or wish to plant in the spring, use a technique call stratification. Place your seeds approximately 1 inch deep in a container filled with half peat moss and half sand and refrigerate them for 60 to 120 days. Keep the soil from drying out to encourage germination.

Step 7

Sow your seeds. While preparation techniques differ from species to species, planting is basically the same. In spring or early summer, sow seeds in 1 or 2 inches of fertile soil and water them in. The seeds can be planted directly in the ground or in individual pots and transplanted later. Ensure that the area where the seeds are planted is warmed by the sun. Once planted, watch for growth within 3 weeks of planting. Fertilize lightly and water regularly.

Tips and Warnings

  • Because seeds are produced by pollination from an unknown source, trees from seeds may not always resemble the parent plant.

Things You'll Need

  • Tree seeds
  • Plastic container and lid
  • Soil mixture of 1/2 peat moss and 1/2 sand


  • Iowa State University

Who Can Help

  • The Angelgrove Tree Seed Company
  • Tree/Shrub Seed Germination: Quick Reference
Keywords: tree seeds, seed propagation, breaking dormancy, sowing tree seeds

About this Author

In Jacksonville, Fla., Frank Whittemore is a content strategist with over a decade of experience as a hospital corpsman in the U.S. Navy and a licensed paramedic. He has over 15 years experience writing for several Fortune 500 companies. Whittemore writes on topics in medicine, nature, science, technology, the arts, cuisine, travel and sports.