Can You Plant Apple Seeds From Store-Bought Apples?

These days, most apple trees aren’t grown from seed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try. If you’ve got gardening ambitions to rival Johnny Appleseed’s, here’s how to go about it.

August 21, 2019
Fuji Apple On Tree

Fuji Apple On Tree

‘Fuji’ apple has been around since the 1930s, when it was first developed in Japan. A true heirloom apple, ‘Fuji’ offers crisp, sweet flesh. It’s a great choice for fresh eating and cooking. Choose ‘Fuji’ for a no-sugar applesauce—its sweet flesh doesn’t need sugar.

Photo by: Washington Apple Commission

Washington Apple Commission

That crisp, sweet apple you bought at the grocery and nibbled down to the core was delicious! Wouldn’t it be great if you could walk out your door and pluck one like it off of a tree in your yard? You see the small, smooth, brown seeds in the apple core and wonder: Could I plant these and grow my own apple trees? The short answer is: Yes, but…

Many of the apple varieties in grocery store bins are hybrids because apples do not reproduce true to type. Commercially produced apples are grown on grafted stock, on trees that produce clones of the hybrids, which is the way growers ensure the varieties they offer are genetically identical from one year to the next.

The seeds from that fruit you enjoyed so much would almost certainly produce trees that grow apples that are different from the parent fruit – maybe something just as good, but possibly fruit that’s not good at all.

It’s also important to know whether your apple that yields its seeds is a variety that grows successfully in your climate. Some apple varieties grow well in warmer hardiness zones; others need the more extreme winter cold of northern regions. Starting with seeds from apples that have been grown in your region may increase the chance of success.

Nevertheless, you can plant those seeds, and with time and patience you may eventually have a tree that you can be proud of.

From the Apple: Seeds to Seedlings

The technique for harvesting and sprouting seeds is simple. One method is to carefully remove undamaged seeds from the core of the apple, clean them and allow them to dry. Start the project with as many seeds as you can; they may not all sprout, but the more you have, the better the chances are that at least a few of them will begin to grow.

Place the seeds between two layers of damp paper towels or tissue in an airtight container. Apple seeds need a period of chilling, or stratification, before they begin to sprout, so place the container in the refrigerator for at least two to three weeks – even up to a month or more. Then watch and wait.

When seeds begin to sprout, carefully transfer them to pots filled with good potting mix. Make a small hole in the soil with your fingertip or the tip of a pencil, drop the seed in and cover it with soil, then water thoroughly. Keep the soil slightly moist, and when leaves begin to emerge, transfer the pots to a sunny window.

Plant the strongest seedlings in the ground when they are a few inches tall. Apple trees grow best in a sunny location in well-drained soil, away from other trees and outside of any low-lying area that could form a “frost pocket” where cold air settles. If you plant two or more trees – recommended for better pollination in the future – place them 8-15 feet apart.

Apples From the Mature Tree

It may take eight to ten years or longer for an apple tree grown from seed to be mature enough to produce fruit, and the apples it brings forth will be different from the apple you remember eating years ago. Knowing that, it’s still a fascinating long-term project to sprout seeds, plant them, and watch them grow into healthy trees that bear fruit.

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