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How to Start Evergreens From Seeds

An evergreen tree produces male and female cones, with the female cone containing a seed that can collected and used for propagating new trees. Male cones release pollen in the spring that fertilizes the seed stored inside the female cone. The male cones are smaller and fall off the tree more easily than the female cones. Collect the female cones in the summer season and process the seeds for planting during the winter months after the first of the year.

Collect evergreen cones from the tree variety and growing location you plan to plant the seedling. Begin monitoring the trees in early summer for cone maturity. Collect the cones directly from the tree once they become mature. Do not collect cones that have fallen to the ground.

Dry the cones in a paper bag that is placed in a cool, dry location for several days. Check the cones during this period to make sure they are not becoming moldy.

Remove the seeds from the cones once they have dried by gently breaking the cone open. Clean the seeds by sifting them with a screen to separate woody material from the seeds. Place the seeds on a tray to dry for approximately two weeks.

Store dried seeds in an air-tight container with a seed desiccant to prevent moisture and disease.

Stratify the seeds prior to planting to create a winter dormant period by placing the container in a freezer for two weeks. Rinse the seeds well after stratifying and place in water to soak for 24 hours.

Test the seed germination by putting several seeds between damp paper towels and placing them in a clear plastic bag. Seeds will germinate in 5 to 30 days if they have been stratified long enough. Repeat the stratification process if no seeds germinate.

Fill 3 inch plastic potting containers with dampened seed starting soil. Push the seed just under the soil level making sure the pointed end is facing down.

Place the seeds in a sunny location and monitor the soil to make sure it remains moist.

Transplant the seedlings to the outdoor growing location once they reach a height of at least 6 inches.


Mature cones will have a plump seed surrounded by white material. Collect cones and cut one open to verify the seeds have reached maturity.

Purchase seed desiccant at gardening supply stores.

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