By: Laura Miller
Among the bramble of red raspberry canes under the shade of a huge silver maple, a peach tree sits in my backyard. It’s an odd place to grow a sun loving fruit tree, but I didn’t exactly plant it. The peach is a volunteer, undoubtedly sprouted from a pit lazily discarded.
Growing Plants from Fruit Seeds
If you’ve ever wondered if it’s possible to plant seeds from fruit and grow your own fruit trees, the answer is yes. However, I would suggest a more direct approach than tossing peach pits into the raspberry patch. Before you head to the grocery on a seed scouting expedition though, there are a few things you should know about planting fruit seeds.
First of all, most common types of fruit trees are propagated by grafting or budding. This would include fruit such as apples, peaches, pears, and cherries. Propagating by these methods give exact clones of desired varieties. Thus, grafting a Honeycrisp apple branch onto suitable rootstock creates a new tree which produces Honeycrisp apples.
This isn’t always the case when planting fruit seeds. Many seeds are heterozygous, meaning they contain the DNA from the mother tree and pollen of another tree of the same species. That other tree might be your neighbor’s crabapple or a wild cherry growing alongside a vacant field.
Therefore, growing plants from fruit seeds might produce trees which don’t look like or produce the same quality of fruit as the original. While planting seeds from fruit is not the best method for propagating your favorite types of apples or cherries, it is a way to discover new varieties. It’s also how we came to have apple cultivars such as McIntosh, Golden Delicious, and Granny Smith.
Additionally, not all gardeners start seeds from fruit for the purpose of growing more fruit. Planting fruit seeds can create ornamental container grown indoor trees. Orange, lemon, and lime blossoms impart a lovely citrus aroma to any room. The leaves of aromatic trees can also be crushed and used in potpourri.
How to Plant Fruit Seeds
- Start with clean, mold-free seeds. Wash and thoroughly dry fruit seeds to ensure good germination. Experiment with germination methods. Start seeds from fruit in a quality seed starting soil mix, coir seed pellets, or use the plastic bag method. Fruit seeds can take longer than vegetable seeds to sprout, so patience is needed.
- Know when to plant fruit seeds. Fruit seeds which require a chill period usually germinate better in the spring. To determine if a species requires a chill period, consider where it’s normally grown. If it’s winter-hardy in northern climates, there’s a good chance it falls into this category. Stratify seeds which require a chill period. Plant these fruit seeds in prepared beds in the fall if overwintering in the ground provides the appropriate chill period. Or cold stratify seeds in the refrigerator for one to two months when starting these seeds in the spring.
- Don’t stratify tropical fruit seeds. Many tropical and subtropical fruit seeds germinate better when planted fresh. Start these seeds year round. Prep seeds for better germination. Soak citrus seeds in warm water overnight. Nick the heavy shell of larger seeds.
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