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How to Grow Apple Trees From Seed

By Jack S. Waverly ; Updated September 21, 2017

Many Americans consider planting an apple tree at least once in their lives. While some people try planting apple trees from seed, it is often with mixed results because they fail to follow the essential steps which help ensure success. If you follow all of the essential steps needed to grow apple trees from seed you will have a good chance of having a viable apple tree in your garden. Apple trees can take an average of four years to produce their first fruit.

Slice the apple with the knife lengthwise down the middle. Pick out the seeds from the apple and save the rest of the apple for later. Make sure the apple is ripe; this makes the seeds easier to pull out of the apple without them clinging to the fruit.

Fill the bowl halfway with water. Put the apple seeds into the water. Let the seeds sit overnight. Drain the water from the bowl the next morning, using the strainer to catch the seeds. Dump the apple seeds onto a paper towel. Fold the paper towel in half and pat the apple seeds dry.

Fill a plastic cup with potting soil halfway. Put a finger-size hole in the center of the soil. Place an apple seed into the hole and cover it with soil. Dampen the soil with water until the soil gets moist but not drenched. Repeat this process with each apple seed using one seed per cup.

Put all of the seed cups in the refrigerator on one shelf. Use the side of the shelf, being careful not to put the cups in the back corners of the refrigerator because the seeds can freeze. Seeds require a range of temperature between 35 and 40 degrees to root; the back corners are too cold for seeds to root. Keep the seeds in the refrigerator for up to three months. Check on the seeds every 30 days for root growth. Look for small white roots to show against the sides of the cups.

Move the cups from the refrigerator to a window where they can get direct sunlight. Keep the root systems in the window to maintain a temperature of 70 degrees; this will help them maintain growth into seedlings. Water the seedlings enough to keep the soil damp but not wet. When the seedlings sprout it will be time to move the apple tree to permanent settings outdoors.

Lay a milk carton on its side. Use the knife to cut the milk carton in half width-wise. Fill the bottom of the carton halfway with potting soil. Dig a small hole in the center large enough to place most of the contents of the plastic cup into it. Scoop out the seedling from the cup and place it into the hole in the carton. Cover the roots with soil and lightly water until damp. Do this process for each cup and seedling.

Allow the seedlings to grow to a height of 3 inches before moving them to permanent locations. Keep the trees in the window until you are prepared to move them outside.

Choose the permanent location for your apple trees. Dig a hole 1 inch in diameter larger than each milk carton. Place a milk carton into each hole to make sure they fit. Remove the milk cartons from the holes. Use the knife to cut away the sides of the cartons from the seedlings. Move the seedlings and the soil to the holes, placing one tree per hole. Cover the roots with dirt and tamp down the dirt gently. Water the seedlings until the soil is damp.


Things You Will Need

  • Apple
  • Apple seeds
  • Small bowl
  • Water
  • Clear plastic cups
  • Potting soil
  • Refrigerator
  • Cardboard milk carton
  • Knife
  • Shovel