How To Grow Fruit Trees From Seeds (Ultimate Guide)

Ever thought about using the tiny seeds inside your favorite fruits to grow a tree? Well, there’s no reason you can’t! The tree will probably take several years to grow, and you’ll likely have to give it plenty of care and attention until it’s well-established, but doing so is entirely possible, especially with the help of this complete guide. 

To grow fruit trees from seeds, prepare suitable seeds using stratification. Once ready, plant outdoors or in a pot. Keep the seedlings hydrated and nourished. You can also try grafting or budding for a more predictable fruit yield. In a few years, you’ll have a mature, fruit-bearing tree. 

That’s the simplified version of a multi-step, years-long process. Growing fruit trees from seed may seem challenging, but if you’re an enthusiastic gardener, you’ll likely also find it very rewarding. 

1. Understand What It Means To Grow a Fruit Tree From Seed

Before we get into the step-by-step growing process, there’s something very important to understand so you don’t end up feeling like you wasted effort. 

Essentially, what you need to know about growing from seeds is you might not get similar fruit. 

Let me explain. 

Fruit and seed formation occur in the female organs of a tree after it’s fertilized by pollen from male organs – of either the same tree (if the tree is a type capable of self-pollinating) or a different variety (most of the time).

The seeds that then grow from this fertilization will have genetics from both the mother and the father tree. A tree grown from this seed won’t produce the same as that produced by its mother tree – since it will also have some of its father tree’s genetics

I understand this may be a little hard to fully comprehend, so here’s an example. 

Say you plant an apple seed – and it successfully develops into a full-fledged, fruit-bearing tree. 

It will still bear apples, but those apples:

  • Could be identical to the original apples produced by the mother tree. This is the best-case scenario. It usually occurs when the pollen involved in fertilization belongs to the male reproductive organs of a genetically similar tree. This happening is very rare. 
  • Could be slightly different from the mother tree’s apples. This is what usually happens. The degree to which they differ varies. The apples might vary in taste, size, juiciness, color – just about anything determined by genetics. The apples could be more palatable or less. There’s really no telling. 

So, as I’m sure you can tell, there’s a fair bit of uncertainty involved when growing fruit trees from seed. 

If you don’t really care about the fruit and simply want to grow a tree from seed for the experience or for the decorative benefits of having a tree on your property, growing from seed is perfectly fine. 

And, who knows, you might create a cultivar of your fruit that’s better than what we already have. Realistically speaking, that’s unlikely to happen. But it’s how we ended up with some of the most popular fruit varieties today – through controlled experimentation.

Grafting and Budding

If you do intend to harvest fruit, you’ll have to use grafting or budding to make sure you get standardized fruit or not something entirely random. 

Grafting or budding involves taking a cut from an existing tree that produces a fruit of desirable taste and quality. This cut is also called a scion.

The scion is then grafted onto an existing plant with a well-established root system (known as the rootstock) that can supply the scion with nutrients and water. 

The scion only contains the mother plant’s genetic material. Therefore, it will grow up to become an exact replica most of the time. Environmental factors during growth can cause slight differences.

But, for the most part, the cutting will develop into a tree that produces the same fruit as its mother tree. 

It’s grafting/budding that allows us to grow so many identical fruits on a commercial scale. To learn more about the process of grafting and its benefits, you could check out my other article: Why Do Fruit Trees Need to Be Grafted?

Use Fruit Tree Seeds To Grow Rootstock

If you’re planning to utilize budding or grafting to get predictable fruit once the tree is mature, you can use the fruit tree seeds you have to grow rootstock or understock. 

Once the rootstock is of an appropriate age, you can graft it with a scion from the original mother tree. 

This is a good idea for three reasons. 

  • It lets you go through the very rewarding experience of growing a fruit tree from seed without having to end up with fruit that tastes weird. 
  • If the seed you use to grow the rootstock originates from locally produced fruit, it’s likely ideal for your region’s climate and will grow up to thrive. 
  • A scion and rootstock that belong to the same species will have excellent compatibility with each other. Scions and rootstock compatibility is one of the major factors to consider when choosing a rootstock since not all rootstocks are compatible with all scions. Using one with poor compatibility will lead to health problems. 

Why Not Use a Cutting?

Now, it’s also possible to propagate a tree from a cutting. Unlike humans and animals, the genetic material that makes up trees allows any cell to replicate without end.

So, it’s possible to take a healthy part of a tree, simply stick it in the soil, and witness the growth of a new, independent tree.

However, this method has a much lower success rate. A sole cutting has much lower survival odds than one grafted onto a rootstock. 

Cuttings don’t have a root system to provide them with nutrients, so they’re unlikely to survive for long once they lose their source of nutrients.

A rooting hormone can be used to address this issue, but the chances of survival are still low, and the extra effort isn’t very worth it, given that we have grafting/budding as simpler and more successful alternatives. 

2. Choose the Right Seeds

It’s important to consider your options and go with the right seed or fruit tree to have your efforts pay off. Some seeds are simply unsuitable for growth, while others are best grown in certain climates. 

Some fruit tree seeds have incredibly low germination rates if you plant them anywhere other than their natural growing zones. You’d have to plant numerous seeds and provide them with perfect care to get them to sprout, which is simply not very practical. 

If you intend to grow rootstock from the seed, the best seed to use is one that will sprout and survive easily in your region. 

It doesn’t matter what fruit tree seed it is because it’ll end up being the rootstock, and the rootstock doesn’t bear fruit. As mentioned earlier, the grafted scion develops into a tree and bears fruit. The rootstock is merely there to provide it with water and nutrients. 

Your rootstock should only be:

  • Compatible with the scion you’re going to graft onto it. 
  • Able to grow well in your area. 

Those are really the only two requirements. 

If you’re unsure which seed to pick, a quick Google search will reveal whether or not the seeds you have are suitable for local planting.

3. Prepare the Seeds for Germination With Stratification

Once you’ve chosen what seeds you’ll be using to grow the rootstock and verified that they’re suitable for use as rootstock, you’ll need to prepare them for germination. 

Fruit tree seeds typically require a cold period before they can germinate. Seeds have a hard coating around them and are dormant by default. Exposure to the cold makes them break out of this coating and grow. 

It would be really convenient if we could just plant the seeds outside any time of the year and let nature do its thing – but that may not work very well. The seeds you plant may never sprout that way. 

Obtain Your Chosen Seeds

You can obtain seeds from their fruit or buy them as consumer products. Seeds made available as consumer-grade products will be of higher quality and have a higher likelihood of sprouting, so I recommend you go that route. 

However, if you have some seeds on you from a fruit you just ate and would like to use those, feel free. Just make sure you remove any fruit and flesh from the seeds. Clean them thoroughly. 

Leave the seeds to dry for a day or two, and then move on to the next step. 

Preparing Seeds in a Plastic Container

You’ll need to stratify your seeds to increase their germination success rate. One popular way to do this is in a jar or a tub. Since we’re looking to let seeds experience a period of cold, the best time to do this is mid-January. 

You may want to consider waiting until then before starting your tree-growing efforts. The seeds you have on you can simply be kept in a dry, airtight container in a cool spot. 

Seeds can remain dormant this way for up to a full year. They’ll be ready to use when the time comes. Just make sure they don’t get too hot or cold at any time before you’re ready to use them since that may break their dormancy. 

There’s something important to note here. You can’t let the seeds be around other fruits. Many fruits produce airborne chemicals that encourage the seeds to sprout sooner than they should, leading to unwanted complications. 

So, if you keep your seeds in a fridge while waiting for January, ensure you don’t keep fruits in the same fridge or the same drawer.

Of course, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can attempt to stratify your seeds before or after January, but you likely won’t see the same success once you plant these seeds into the soil. 

In January, you should collect the seeds you’ve stored and mix them with sphagnum moss. You can also use sand or peat. What’s important is to use a medium that’s damp or moist but not wet. 

Once you’re done, move this mixture into a jar and leave it in the refrigerator for at least 2 months. These seeds will be primed and ready for plantation in the upcoming spring. You can plant them as early as right after the last winter frost, and I’ll tell you how in just a minute. 

Because of how long stratification takes, it’s best not to delay this step. Remember, two months is the minimum. Some seeds will take up to three months, and some even four.

Planting Directly Into the Soil

While fridge stratification is the more popular and safer method, you can also plant seeds into the soil directly when the conditions are just right to allow them to break out of dormancy.

The ideal time to do this is late fall – just before winter hits. That way, the seeds will be exposed to the cold for the entirety of winter, hopefully enough to encourage them to sprout in spring. If it snows in your region, all the better. 

This is usually how it goes in nature. But, again, this method has a somewhat lower success rate than controlled stratification in the refrigerator, especially in warmer climates, where the winters aren’t very cold, so I recommend planting more seeds in this case. 

If you opt for natural stratification in the fall, you’ll have to plant your seeds in an outdoor garden or in a pot that always stays outdoors and receives the same sunlight and cold exposure. Remember that you can’t grow your fruit tree indoors if you decide to plant the seeds in the fall.

4. Choose a Suitable Location for the Fruit Tree

If planting outdoors, it’s important you nail the location. Make sure you go with a spot that has the following characteristics. 

  • Exposure to plenty of sunlight. Trees need as much sunlight as they can get, so make sure you don’t plant your seed in a spot with shade. You will be creating means for shade initially to prevent seedlings from drying out, but once they’re young plants, trees will need full sun exposure to be healthy. 
  • High-quality soil. It isn’t easy to differentiate the good from the bad when it comes to garden soil. But just take care not to plant your fruit tree seed at a spot you know has compacted or high-density soil. Spots that are walked over frequently are more likely to have compacted soil
  • Distance from walls and other structures. Tree roots grow downwards, as well as sideways. Keeping some distance between your trees and other structures above or below ground is important to prevent root growth from being restricted or causing damage.

Many tree-growers often plant their tree at the southwestern corner of their home. However, as long as you satisfy the above requirements, feel free to go with whatever works best for your property. 

If you’re going to grow in a pot, simply position it near a windowsill, so it gets plenty of sunlight.

Remove Competing Plants and Weeds

To set your upcoming fruit trees up for success, you should eliminate any plants and weeds from the immediate vicinity of the spots you choose for planting. 

All plant life needs nutrients from the soil. They compete for the same resources when they’re too close to each other. 

By getting rid of garden weeds (or other unwanted vegetation in high quantity), your fruit tree seeds will have more of the nutrients in the surrounding soil to themselves. 

To remove weeds, simply pluck them off. You may have to do this regularly to ensure that the weeds don’t have time to establish roots. Part of what makes a plant a “weed” in a certain area is its ability to grow, reproduce, and spread quickly. 

I’ve written a complete guide on getting your garden weed free. Be sure to give it a read: How To Make a Garden Weed Free (10 Methods)

Protect Seeds From Animals

Squirrels, birds, and chipmunks will be after your newly planted seeds, so you have to establish a means of protection. A simple way to do this is to cover the soil bed surrounding the seeds with a wire mesh. 

Once your tree seeds sprout and appear above the soil, you will need to remove the mesh. By then, they won’t be as much of a target for these seed-eating animals either. 

5. Plant Ready-To-Go Seeds at the Right Time

The best time to plant varies depending on how you stratified your fruit tree seeds. Either way, here’s how to plant seeds correctly. 

Soak Your Seeds Before Planting Them

A best practice before planting seeds is to soak them in water for 12 to 24 hours. This further improves the odds of successful germination. This step is optional, but I recommend it. 

Remember to use distilled water because it doesn’t contain any chemicals or minerals that might prevent your seeds from germinating. Also, ensure that the water temperature stays between 86 and 95 °F (30 and 35 °C) throughout the soaking process.

Choose Between Planting in a Pot or in the Garden

The first step is to choose whether to plant in a pot and grow your fruit tree indoors or plant out in the garden and grow outdoors entirely. As mentioned earlier, planting in a pot and growing indoors is only an option if you first stratify the seeds in a fridge. 

Planting and having the tree initially grow in a pot has several benefits:

  • More tolerable conditions. Indoor conditions are usually much more moderate than outdoor extremes at any time of the year, thanks to smart insulation technologies and temperature-controlled modern living.
  • Less chance of attack by pests and disease. A fruit tree that initially grows indoors is unlikely to encounter any pests or diseases until it’s transplanted outdoors. This is more important than it may seem because the saplings and younger trees are more likely to succumb to an infestation or infection. 
  • Better care. Having your fruit tree conveniently located in a pot near you allows you to take much better care of it and tend to its needs at the right times. 

Of course, trees grow to be huge, so you will have to transplant yours outdoors later. 

Prepare the Soil for the Plantation

It’s best to avoid using chemical fertilizers at this point because it would be far too much to tolerate for unestablished seedlings and seeds. You can use something organic and low intensity to make the soil more suitable for plantation. 

Compost is perfect because it gently feeds the seed with essential nutrients. Compost also improves the soil’s texture and water drainage

Mix some compost in and around the spots where you’re planting your seeds. It will help give the eventual seedlings a stronger start. 

Compost can be added to both garden soil and potting mix. Although, if you’re using a high-quality potting mix, it will probably have a high concentration of organic content out of the bag. Adding more organic materials is sometimes unnecessary. 

Plant the Seeds at an Appropriate Depth

A good rule of thumb to remember when planting fruit tree seeds is to plant them at a depth two to three times the seed’s width

For example, if your seed is about half an inch (1.25 cm) in diameter, you should plant it about an inch (2.5 cm) deep. Planting too shallow lowers the odds of successful germination, whereas planting too deep makes it more difficult for the seedling to break through the topsoil. 

Once planted, cover the seed up with enough soil. You can also add a fine layer of sand on top of the soil. This helps prevent the soil from forming a crust. 

Give the newly planted seeds a gentle watering. And then keep watering frequently. The intention is to keep the surrounding soil moist (not fully saturated).

How often you have to water to achieve perpetually moist soil depends on the temperature and humidity where you live. The drainage of your soil also plays a role. 

Keep an eye on your plant’s soil. If the seed was buried an inch (2.5 cm) deep, water the soil again as soon as the upper half inch (1.25 cm) feels dry to the touch. To avoid overwatering, you can use a spray bottle. However, be careful not to displace too much soil.

6. Let Your Fruit Tree Seeds Grow Into Seedlings

Now comes the waiting game. Not all of the seeds you plant will germinate successfully. Some will just stay there, buried under the soil. Some will germinate to form seedlings but fail to penetrate the topsoil. 

Some will become healthy seedlings that die due to unforeseen complications. The point is, this is just to be expected, so don’t be disheartened. 

However, if you’ve done everything correctly up until now, a significant portion of your planted seeds will grow to become healthy seedlings.

Caring for Tree Seedlings

As the seedlings grow, they will need you to care for them. Care is typically most intensive at this stage of the process since many seedlings rely on their seed for nutrients for up to 30 days and have yet to develop a root system capable of supporting their nutritional demands. 

You’ll need to be on point with care and maintenance to help them get to the point where they’re capable of self-sustenance. 


You want your soil bed to remain moist at all times. It can’t be fully wet, but you can’t let it dry out, either. This necessitates short, frequent waterings. The reason seedlings need to remain in moist soil boils down to their lack of a root system. 

Adult plants have long roots that reach down deep into the soil. They’re able to access water for a much longer timeframe before it drains out of their reach. Even when the topsoil dries out, the soil below remains hydrated for quite a while. 

Since seedlings can only access whatever water is around them, they’re much more prone to drying out with the topsoil. 


Giving seedlings time to adapt to their soil/growing medium is best before supplementing their nutrition with any chemical fertilizer. 

Once the seedlings are of a more moderate size – approximately 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.6 cm) in height – and have grown their first set of leaves, you can apply minimal amounts of fertilizer to boost health and increase the rate of growth.

Slow-release fertilizer is best, as it’s the least likely to overwhelm your seedlings with an influx of nutrients or cause soil toxicity. 

Never go beyond the manufacturer’s recommendation. In fact, it’s better to be conservative with the amount you use at this point. 

Moisture and Humidity

Seedlings thrive in moist and humid conditions. If you’re growing seedlings in an indoor container, using a humidifier to raise the ambient humidity will benefit their health.

Alternatively, placing the growing container in a room that’s naturally higher in humidity, such as a washroom or a kitchen, will have the same effect. However, ensure you don’t neglect sunlight exposure for increased humidity. 

On the other hand, you can’t really do much to improve the humidity conditions of seedlings grown outdoors other than watering frequently. 


Mulch seedlings in the early spring for plenty of benefits. Mulch acts as a slow-release, organic fertilizer, improves your soil’s capacity for water retention, and increases the relative humidity around the plant. It also regulates the temperature around your plant’s roots. These qualities make mulch a great all-in-one package. 

Apply a ½ to 1 inch (1.25 to 5 cm) layer of mulch for the best results. 


While seedlings need sunlight, they don’t need an abundance of it. And excessive exposure to direct sunlight can cause them to dry out, which is where the real danger lies. 

Therefore, while I recommend you plant your fruit tree seeds in a spot that receives plenty of sunlight, you may also have to establish a means for partial shade until the seedling is a young plant. This is especially important if you live in a particularly hot and sunny region. 

You can place a fine fabric mesh over the seedlings during the hottest parts of the day to slow down water evaporation from the soil. The mesh doesn’t block the sunlight entirely but lightly filters it. It’s also an excellent way to keep pests away from your young plant.

7. Transplant Young Plants Into Outdoor Soil

At this point, most of the handiwork involved has already been done. You’re well on your way to having a mature, fruit-producing tree, hopefully within the next few years. 

Once the seedling grows to a young plant about 1 foot (30 cm) in height, it will be better able to take care of itself, and you won’t have to water it as frequently due to its deeper roots. 

The time it takes for a tree plant to reach the 1-foot (30-cm) mark varies largely based on species. However, with most trees, you can expect it to take 1 to 3 years. 

If you’ve been growing your plant in an indoor container until now, you can now transplant it outdoors. Keeping a tree plant this tall in a container isn’t very practical, and it will soon need more nutrients than potted soil can offer. 

Transplanting is best done during the winter when plants are dormant. Choose a suitable spot on your property using the guidelines discussed above.

To transplant a young tree plant from a potted container into an outdoor garden:

  1. Dig a hole roughly twice as wide as the root mass of the tree plant. The depth should be enough to cover the crown of the plant.
  2. Remove any rocks and debris from the hole. The plant will have an easier time establishing itself. 
  3. Prune off any visibly damaged roots. This will encourage the tree plant to grow new roots and establish itself in its new growing medium. Only cut off roots that are visibly and severely damaged. 
  4. Transplant the tree into the dug hole. Cover the gaps left with the soil you dug out earlier. Only add back enough soil to fill the gaps, don’t try to force all of it in, or you’ll end up with compacted soil. 

I would recommend mulching the plant at this time too. It will come under great stress while trying to acclimate to its new growing medium, so the benefits provided by mulch will be much appreciated.

Transplant shock is an issue that can be easily prevented. If you would like to explore your options for avoiding and fixing it, check out my other article: How to Fix and Avoid Transplant Shock in Trees

8. Utilize Grafting To Get Predictable Fruit

You can skip this step if you intend to allow the rootstock to grow into a tree without grafting a part of another tree on it to get predictable fruit. But if you’re more interested in getting a stable supply of quality fruits, you can follow the tips below:

Obtain Scion Wood

To employ grafting, you should collect a cutting from an existing fruit tree while it’s dormant in the winter. The tree has to be dormant so the cutting obtained remains dormant until it’s ready to be used. 

To graft successfully when the time comes, you need to have a ready-to-go scion in advance. Cut off a part of a branch, a twig, or any other limb-like structure of the tree you want to propagate. 

An ideal scion is about the same diameter as a pencil or slightly larger. A younger cutting is preferable. I would recommend getting several cuttings that fit these criteria. 

You will then be able to use these cuttings to graft multiple scions onto your rootstock. Ensure your cuttings are healthy and free from disease. Then, wrap each in paper and cover them with a plastic bag. 

Keep the cuttings in a cool environment, such as the inside of a refrigerator, until spring. Avoid exposing it to fruits. Certain chemicals produced by fruits can cause the scion wood to break out of dormancy sooner than it should. 

How To Go About Grafting the Scion Onto Your Rootstock

The best time to graft is the early spring, as trees come out of dormancy and show the first signs of activity. Trees will be very vigorous at this time and have plenty of energy to dedicate to new growth and regeneration. 

To graft, you can follow the steps below:

  1. Align your scion correctly with a branch on the rootstock based on the direction the buds are pointing. Buds point in the direction of growth. Your rootstock and scion should be attached so that the direction of growth is the same and not opposite. 
  2. Use a knife to peel off the edge of your scion. You’re aiming to expose the off-white/yellow layer underneath. This is the cambium – the layer that will heal up and create a seamless bond between rootstock and scion. 
  3. Make an incision into the rootstock so that the scion’s peeled edge will fit into it firmly. Hold the incision open (using a tool if necessary) while you insert the scion into the rootstock. Make sure the cambium of both parts comes into firm contact with each other. 
  4. Use grafting tape or wax to secure the graft. The tape helps support the scion while it bonds to the rootstock. It decays away automatically, but by the time it does, the scion will have bonded to the rootstock nicely. 

Keep in mind that you’ll have to wait a few weeks before you see any signs of life from the scion. Because it was kept in your fridge all winter, it’s still dormant, and only now that it has been connected to a live rootstock will it start to wake up. 

Also, it’s worth noting that only the branch that grows through the scion will bear the original fruit. The rest of the tree’s branch will bear the rootstock’s fruit, so it’s worth marking the scion branch, so you know which is which. 

Since grafting is a somewhat complex process, I highly recommend watching a practical demonstration of how it’s done. 

9. Give Your Growing Tree Adequate Maintenance and Care

Now that you’ve successfully made the graft, most of the work is behind you. If the graft fails, you can still try again. A tree’s regenerative ability is at its highest in spring. 

All you have to do is wait for the graft to develop into a fruit-bearing part of the tree. Of course, there is some maintenance work left, but it’s far less frequent now. Established trees can usually take care of themselves. 

Regular Inspections

Regular inspections are the cornerstone of having a healthy tree. From time to time, inspect your tree up close. Looks for signs of infection or pest infestation. Infestations tend to spiral out of control faster than one would expect.

Identifying these problems early will help you treat them before they’re allowed to evolve into something that can damage your tree long-term. 


Pruning involves occasionally cutting down your tree’s branches and foliage to an identical length. This not only helps the tree look tidy and orderly, but it also keeps the weight of the top mass centered and aligned with the trunk. This, in turn, helps prevent the development of leans and other physical disorders. 

You should prune damaged or dead foliage and branches in particular. Doing so will encourage your tree to grow new and healthier ones.

Weed Removal

It’s common for weeds to return in big numbers. There’s really no helping it. The best way to handle weeds is to stay on top of weed removal. If you allow them to stick around for too long, they’ll multiply. The sooner you pick any existing weeds, the less of them you’ll have to deal with. 

Now, weeds aren’t as much of a concern to a well-established tree. However, they’ll still eat up resources in the soil and slow down growth. So having them around is definitely not ideal. 

10. Harvest the Fruits of Your Labor

Most scions take a few years to grow and develop into full-fledged branches before they bear any fruit. In this case, by the time the scions on your tree bear fruit, you’ll have a sizable, mature tree to show off as well. 

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! You now have a fully-grown tree that bears delicious fruit for you to enjoy. 


Many fruit trees don’t grow true to seed. You’ll have to propagate an existing tree using grafting to get standard fruit. 

Before anything else, choose seeds that grow well in your climate. You can stratify them in the fridge in mid-winter or plant them in the fall. Let the seeds grow into seedlings, and transplant young plants outdoors. 

You can graft a scion from an existing fruit tree that gives desirable fruit onto your young tree plant. As long as you give your growing tree adequate care, the tree will bear fruit within a few years.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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