How to get pine tree seeds

How to Extract Pine Tree Seeds | Home Guides

By SF Gate Contributor Updated August 04, 2020

If you have ever eaten pine cone seeds or thought you might like to grow your own pines, you may have wondered whether you could harvest the seeds yourself. The answer is yes, but collecting pine tree seeds takes a bit of work. To start, you should understand that some trees contain large seeds, which are good for eating, while others do not. Learning to identify the pines in your area is your first step toward successful harvests, whether for eating or planting.

Choosing the Right Pine Tree

The genus Pinus incorporates more than 100 varieties, according to the University of Nevada. For eating, search for pine trees with large pine nuts, including species such as the naturalized Pinus pinea or Italian Stone Pine, the New Mexican Pinyon pine, Pinus edulis, or the Nevada soft-shell pine, Pinus monophylla, and others such as Pinus sabiniana or Pinus coulteri. These mostly western species contain some of the largest nuts among American pines.

Some seeds are large and are an obvious seed or nut shape. Other pine nuts may have papery “wings” attached, like the seeds of maple trees. Still others are minute specks that are best knocked out by pounding the cone upside down over a plate or bowl for collecting them.

Collecting Seeds for Planting

  1. 1. Find the type of pine trees you want

    Look for groups of pines of the species desired. Only female trees produce fertile seed, so you must learn to recognize the differences between the male and female trees before picking the cones. Male pines produce cones that are very small, while female pine tree cones are larger, according to the University of Wisconsin.

  2. 2. Choose closed, brown pine cones

    Select pine cones that are still closed but brown, picking directly from a well-formed and healthy tree. Do not choose open cones whose seeds will have released already or green cones with non-viable, immature seeds.

  3. 3. Dry the cones

    Dry the cones on a flat surface, with a cloth or tray to collect any seeds that may drop, in a warm room or in the sun. Alternatively, place them on a piece of hardware cloth raised above a tray for more even drying if the cones are wet.

  4. 4. Remove the seeds

    Collect the seeds as the cones dry and begin to open in the warmth, shaking them if necessary to dislodge seeds. If, after shaking them, any of the seeds cling to the cone, you can remove them with your fingers or tweezers.

  5. 5. Store in a cool, dry place

    Store the seeds in a paper bag in a cool, dry place until ready to plant.

Collecting Seeds for Eating

  1. 1.

    Choose pine cones with large seeds

    Collect pine cones as for planting, but choose species with cones containing large seeds.

  2. 2. Heat the cones

    Set the brown closed cones in a shallow pan and place it close to a fire or in a barely warm oven with the door open, to heat the cones but not cook them.

  3. 3. Wait till the cone scales open

    Watch the cones as they heat, turning them often to heat evenly all around. Remove them from the heat source when the scales of the cone begin to open.

  4. 4. Pick out the seeds

    Peel back the outermost scales with your fingers and carefully pick out the seeds near the center of the cone. Place them in a bowl as you work.

  5. 5. Roast the nuts till the outer shell cracks

    Empty the contents of the bowl back into your shallow pan and lightly roast the nuts until the hard outer shell cracks and the soft nuts inside fall free. You may need to gently crack a few of the stubborn hulls using a rolling-pin.

  6. 6. Pick out the nuts

    Pick the nuts out by hand or winnow them by tossing the seeds and hulls in the air in a breeze, allowing the heavier nuts to fall back into the pan and the light hulls to blow away.

  7. 7. Eat raw or roasted

    Eat the nuts raw at this point or return them to the oven to roast until dry and somewhat brown. Store in an airtight jar.


  • University of Nevada: Gymnosperms, Evolutionary development of the seed
  • University of Wisconsin: Collecting and Planting Seeds of Cone-Bearing Trees


  • Pinenut: History of Pine Nuts and the People of the Great Basin
  • FAO Corporate Document Repository: Non-wood Forest Products from Conifers: Seeds, Fruits and Cones
  • You Tube: Eat the Weeds Episode 92: The Pine Tree; Pinus


  • For eating, search out pine trees with large pine nuts, including species such as the naturalized Pinus pinea or Italian Stone Pine, the New Mexican Pinyon pine, P. edulis, or the Nevada soft-shell pine, P. monophylla, and others such as P. sabinianna or P. coulteri. These mostly western species contain some of the largest nuts among American pines.
  • Some seeds are large and are an obvious seed or nut shape. Other pine nuts may have papery “wings” attached, like the seeds of maple trees. Still others are minute specks that are best knocked out by pounding the cone upside down over a plate or bowl for collecting them.

How To Grow A Pine Tree From Seed

Very few smells are as wonderful, homey and cozy as the smell of a good pine. That may seem reserved only for those who live near the pine forests or in cool climates, but you can actually raise a pine in your own yard!

Perhaps the best news is, it is fairly easy to grow a pine from seed. There are three easy steps to grow a pine tree from seed:

  1. Harvest or buy — It is far easier to buy pine seeds from your local nursery or seed store, but they can also be harvested from pine cones.
  2. Soak and stratify — Putting the seeds in water helps you identify the seeds that are viable, and stratifying the seeds is necessary for them to grow properly.
  3. Prepare and plant — Prepare a good area for the plant to grow. It is best to start it in a pot then transplant it.

If you still have some questions, don't worry. Let us take a closer look at what kind of pines to grow and how to grow them well.

Picking a Pine

You can grow a pine from seed or sapling, but it is much easier and more reliable to buy a sapling. On the other hand, it can be very rewarding to grow your own pine from seed. Both are good options, but if you are looking for a fast or more sure-fire method, buying a seeding or sapling is the way to go. Regardless of whether you are growing from seed or buying a seedling, there are many factors to consider.


How big do you want your pine to be? Not all pines are suited to work as small bonsai-type plants. Size also impacts the amount of care you have to put into the pine. If you want a pine that looks well-groomed, something small might be better suited to your situation. Likewise, if you want something that is easy to take care of, something that grows slower might also be a good option.


Do you want a pine that gets tall or one that bushes out? Do you want the needles to be a particular color? While pines are evergreen, there leaves come in different shades and colors. If you are getting your pine for its appearance, consider what color you would like most and what would look good with your landscaping.


Where are you wanting to plant your pine? Is it shaded or in a sunny area? What is the climate like? What is around? You especially want to consider the things around the spot that the roots might interfere with. It is common for people to have problems with roots interrupting sidewalks and other buildings. Another thing to consider is other plants that are around the area you want to put it, especially when there is a chance some plants may get shaded out.


Are there any diseases common in your area? This may be a bit less than obvious, but it is important to consider disease when picking a pine tree. You want to pick a pine that is resistant to diseases common in your area. With that, it is also good to consider the soil and diseases or problems that might be caused by your soil.

For more information and pine tree diseases and why pine trees in your area might be dying, check out this guide: Why is My Pine Tree Dying? [Common Reasons Explained].

Can You Plant A Pine Tree In A Container?

Live in a small space or just want a tree in your home? It needs extra work and patience, but you can grow a pine tree in a container!

The major difference between growing a pine outdoors and in a pot is picking a pot to grow it in. A pot with wheels or one you can fit on a dolly is a good option, so you can move it between being inside and outside. You will also need a large pot, one big enough to accommodate your pine as it grows.

The SmartPot or another fabric pot is a good option for growing trees and other plants indoors. While they may not be the prettiest, they are lightweight and very practical. They can also fit on dollies or inside other prettier pots. They also help the roots get good aeration and drainage.

Check out the SmartPot on Amazon here.

For more detailed information and directions on how to grow a pine tree indoors, check out this article. 

What Is The Best Time To Plant A Pine Tree?

While it seems most natural to plant new trees in the spring when you are doing your other gardening, as it turns out, that isn't the best time.

In general, a good time to plant your young pines is actually the summer, but there is no clear-cut “best” time to plant a pine tree. The best time to plant a pine tree depends especially on your planting zone and variety. You want to pick a time when the temperature and water levels will remain fairly constant. August or September may be good, as it gives them time to prepare and grow before the cold winter months set in.

Seedling Differences

Depending on how you are getting your seedling, there are a few different ways to handle them. In particular, bare-root seedlings should be planted in the dormant season and watered regularly. This helps them grow and develop a root system.

If at all possible, it is best to tailor the planting time to the specific variety you have. If you are buying a seedling or sapling from a nursery, they can likely advise you on when to plant your pines.

For some more tips on how to take care of your pine visit this site. 

How Can I Make My Pine Tree Grow Faster?

The most obvious and probably the easiest way for a pine tree to grow faster is to add fertilizer. To pick the fertilizer best suited to your pine’s needs, a soil test is a good way to go. This helps you know how you need to amend the soil and what nutrients the plant needs most.

Likewise, check the needles for discoloration, which would also help tell you what nutrients the plant may need. For example, if there is an abundance of yellow or yellowing needles, it may mean your pine needs iron chelates.

In general, spreading two pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer will help the tree to grow faster. Only do this about once a year though, as more may burn the tree.

Another good but slower option is to apply compost. Compost will slowly amend the soil allowing the tree to gain more nutrients. In turn, this will allow the tree to grow faster and stronger.

For more information and specific fertilizers, check out this guide - 11 Best Fertilizers For Pine Trees.

How Fast Will My Young Pine Tree Grow In A Year?

Pine trees grow at about three different paces. There are fast, medium and slow-growing trees. Slow growing trees grow about one to two feet per year. Fast-growing pine trees such as the Eastern White Pine, Leyland Cypress or Norway Spruce grow three or more feet a year.

While fast-growing pines give fast shade and fill in landscape quickly, they usually need more pruning and upkeep. Slow growing pines such as Hinoki Cypress, Dwarf Balsam Fir, and Dwarf Serbian Spruce require less urgent maintenance.

Be aware that even if your pine grows slowly, it will likely grow for a long time. While it only takes about 30 years for a pine to reach maturity, they may continue to grow for 50 or more years! Pines are known to live to be over a hundred years old, some even over 1,000 years old!

Read more: How Long Does A Pine Tree Live?

How to grow a pine tree from a cone at home: preparation of seeds, landing, care


  1. Preparation for landing
    • Seeds of seeds
    • Preparation of pine seeds
    • Preparation of soil
  2. 9000,000,0005 sowing seed sowing seeds outdoors
  3. Growing in a pot
  4. Aftercare

In nature, pines reproduce generatively (by seeds). You can dig a young tree in the forest and plant it in the country, but the wild culture has almost no chance to take root. Instead, you can take a seed and grow a tree in a pot, then transplant it to the chosen place on the site. In this article, we will tell you how to grow a pine tree from seeds, give recommendations on preparing seeds and caring for a young tree.

Preparing for planting

Choose seeds not from a green cone, but from last year's. You can distinguish it by half-opened scales. Such a cone is brought into heat and placed on a cloth to dry. If you place the fabric on the battery, the process will accelerate: seeds will quickly fall out of the cracked cone.

About 16 varieties of pine grow in Russia. Evergreen perennials are common in the North Caucasus, in the Crimea and Siberia, as well as in the Far East. Trees vary in height and crown diameter. The height of dwarf elfin trees is about 1 m, medium pines are up to 15 m, and the tallest species are up to 40 m.

Seed selection

For growing pine at home, certain varieties are selected, because there are coniferous trees in which seeds ripen for about 2 years. Suitable for planting are those whose seeds are ripe by the end of autumn.

The most popular are 2 species - Bunge pine and Weymouth pine. The first has an original bark color, often used in bonsai. The second has a spreading crown, unpretentious to growing conditions. Whether it is possible to grow a different kind of pine at home, you should find out at your local seed store.

Not every seed is suitable for growing pine cones. To separate spoiled and unripe seeds from healthy ones, they need to be cleaned of special “wings”, thanks to which, when the seeds spill out of a cone in the forest, the wind carries them over long distances, and pour warm water. Good seeds will sink to the bottom, while bad seeds will float.

Preparing Selected Pine Seeds

Growing pine from seed at home begins with stratification, which is cold hardening of planting material. This procedure allows you to subsequently grow a tree with strong immunity.

There are 3 ways to prepare the seeds:

  1. Keep the seeds at sub-zero temperatures for 2.5 months before planting. First you need to sterilize a glass jar in the oven, cool, pour seeds into it, close the lid, and then put it in the freezer.
  2. You can also prepare a mixture of sawdust and wet sand, mix it with seeds, pour everything together into a container, cover and place in the basement of a summer house or a private house.
  3. Seeds can also be stratified in open ground: dig a hole in the area, lay out the bottom with dry straw. Fold the seeds in a paper bag, lay on straw and sprinkle with sawdust. Cover the hole with boards and cover with snow.

Soil preparation

To grow pine at home, you can buy ready-made soil for conifers in the store or make your own soil mixture. In the second case, you need to mix the turf with sand and peat and add dry needles to this mixture to get a loose substrate. Be sure to carry out disinfection - scald the earth with boiling water or pour it with a solution of potassium permanganate. If there is a microwave oven, you can put soil in it for 20 minutes, this will destroy the harmful microflora.

Planting rules

For growing pine from seeds, deep containers are best suited, at the bottom of which drainage is placed so that the water does not stagnate. The prepared soil is poured so that it does not reach the edges of the pot by 2–3 cm. The seeds are laid out on the surface of the soil and sprinkled with a layer of earth 2 cm thick. It remains to pour the soil abundantly and cover with a film. Further actions depend on the season in which the seeds are germinated:

  • if in autumn, then the containers are lowered into the cellar until spring, regularly airing the room;
  • If in spring, seed pots are placed in a warm place for germination.

In order to grow pine from seeds at home, it is important to maintain the air temperature within +22…+40 degrees, to prevent waterlogging and drying of the soil. If these conditions are met, the first shoots will sprout in 2-4 weeks. From the moment the sprouts hatch, the film cover is removed, and the containers are placed in a lighted place.

Sowing seeds in open ground

Many people are wondering if it is possible to grow pine from a cone by skipping the stage of growing seedlings. We mentioned above that it allows you to immediately plant seeds in the ground, after having previously stratified. If the hardening procedure was carried out in an apartment, the suitable month for planting seeds in the ground is May, when the earth has already warmed up and there is no risk of frost.

The soil can be taken from a pine forest or prepared by yourself according to the recipe described above. Then dig a small hole in the area, tamp the earth at the bottom and lay out the seeds. Sprinkle with a mixture of peat and sawdust with a layer of 1 cm. A distance of about 6 cm is left between adjacent seeds. The soil is watered, covered with a film. As soon as the sprouts hatch, the shelter is removed.

Growing in a pot

Seedlings grown in containers at home are ready to be transplanted into spacious pots after 2-3 years. The root, together with the surrounding earthen clod, is moved to a spacious container. At this time, the plant can already be installed in a permanent place - in the recreation area, at the entrance to the house or elsewhere on the site.


To understand how to grow a tree from a pine cone, it is worth learning more about caring for seedlings. Young trees need constant watering, fertilizer, protection from insects and diseases. It is necessary to regularly clean the near-stem circle from weeds so that they do not drown out the growth of the seedling. Twice a year, the plant is supported with stimulants that strengthen and activate root growth.

When growing on a plot, pine is fed with organic matter every month. Manure is not used because it contains too much nitrogen. The latter stimulates the active growth of the seedling, but weakens its frost resistance. Compost is used instead of manure. From mineral fertilizers choose those that contain magnesium. This element strengthens the immunity of the seedling.

The soil must be constantly moist. To preserve useful elements and moisture, the trunk circle is mulched with dried needles.

During the first year of development, the plant must be protected from sunlight and protected from common diseases, using special preparations, such as Fundazol and Fitosporin.

The appearance of the seedling will show whether it is suitable for care. If fresh growth appears annually, the needles are bright green, then everything is in order. If the needles dry and crumble, this is a clear sign that the tree is sick and may even die.

In autumn, before the first frosts, the tree must be watered to provide it with moisture until spring. In the conditions of a snowless warm winter, watering is continued. So that the roots do not freeze, the soil is mulched.

Some pines require crown formation during the growing process. The optimal age of the tree to start this procedure is 2 years. If pruned incorrectly, it is fraught with cessation of growth and disease of the plant.

We told you how to grow a pine cone. But before the pine grows to its full height, it will take a long time. At this time, it is important to continue regular feeding, watering and protective measures. You will have to work hard, but as a result, a slender forest beauty will grow on the site.

How to grow a pine tree from seeds - tips from experienced foresters + Photo, video

Seed preparation - collecting and peeling cones

If you decide to ennoble your site and plant a pine grove on it, take care of planting material first of all. To do this, you need to go to the nearest forest, where fairly strong trees of the breed you need grow, and notice some of the healthiest among them. Then, starting from mid-September, you need to visit the chosen place from time to time and watch when the cones begin to fall, with the help of which the pine forest reproduces.

You may have to watch until November, so take a photo of the selected trees in advance. It is desirable to collect fruits from under several pines. Before choosing trees, familiarize yourself with their species, as there are separate varieties of pine, the seeds of which ripen for about two years. After picking up the buds, make sure they haven't already seeded.

Selection of pine cones

Then, after carefully placing them in a paper bag or box, take them to a room where you try to shake them over a large sheet of white paper, or directly in the bag. If the seeds do not drop, then the buds are not yet fully ripe. It is necessary to dry them on a heating radiator or on a stone oven, if any. In the oven, despite the recommendations of many gardeners, it is undesirable to heat, you can not calculate and overheat the seeds. When the scales of the cones open, gently shake out the planting material.

To select the strongest seeds for propagation, prepare several cups according to the number of cones collected. Next, the seeds from each fruit of Scots pine (or another variety) are placed in a separate container and we select those that are immersed in water faster than others. Those left to float on the surface are not suitable for breeding. Many advise to dry the planting material and place it in the soil prepared for germination. However, pre-soaking for at least 24 hours in warm water at room temperature is much more effective. It is even better to leave the seeds on a damp gauze (between two layers of it) until they peck.

Soil preparation for sowing seeds for seedlings

First of all, it should be noted that pines are rather unpretentious plants, but it is extremely difficult to grow them on heavy soils. The ideal soil for them is considered to be one that is well saturated with oxygen, that is, it can be sandy soils or sandy loam. By placing a seed in a heavy and poorly loosened soil, you have every chance not to wait for the sprout to appear.

In the absence of air access, rot forms at the end of the hatched root, which quickly covers the entire embryo. The same thing happens with an excess of moisture in the soil. If planted in sand, then the optimal ratio of its particles with water will be such a state when moisture does not ooze from the lump raised in the fingers, but individual fractions remain linked by it. Peat compost is the ideal environment where it is recommended to place Scotch pine seeds, both for germination and already hatched. And not any, but obtained from the upper layer, more loose.

Peat compost

The fact is that peat is formed from sphagnum marsh moss, which turns under the influence of dampness and in the process of decomposition by bacteria into a kind of compost. This planting substrate, in addition to excellent oxygen saturation, is very rich in various microelements, initially replacing seed fertilizers. Moreover, top peat retains to some extent the antiseptic properties of sphagnum moss and protects pine germs from rot and fungus.

Lowland peat is not suitable for sowing pine, because it is too dense soil, practically not saturated with oxygen, slowly absorbing and also slowly releasing moisture. To distinguish between the top and bottom layers of peat, you first need to pay attention to their color by comparing photos or finished samples, the first is much lighter than the second, it has some redness, while the low layer is closer to brown and dark brown. They also have different degrees of friability, as mentioned earlier, and it’s enough just to knead a lump with your fingers to understand what type of substrate is in front of you.

To some extent suitable for planting hatched seeds and black soil, which is desirable to dry first. Before planting, such soil is watered with a weak solution of potassium permanganate to kill the fungus.

Is stratification really necessary for pine seeds?

Some species of trees when growing seedlings from seeds require mandatory sharp cooling, or, in other words, they need stratification. These include linden, ash, mountain ash and even pear. This method of activating the processes of development of planting material is also applied to the seeds of Scots pine.

According to some statistics, stratification somewhat accelerates growth at the initial stage, during the first year, which can be noted by taking a photo of seedlings planted with and without pre-cooling for comparison. But at home, such methods of seed preparation are undesirable, since a violation of the temperature regime can eventually lead to rotting of the planting material. However, extracted from cones well dried at room temperature, pine seeds are able to sprout even without aging in a cool, humid environment (within 0 degrees).

Dried Pine Seeds

In addition, you can try soaking a small batch of seeds in ice-cold melt water, which, like stratification, according to some gardeners, activates accelerated growth and saturates planting material with energy. In general, it is enough to germinate well-dried seeds in warm water to get uniform, friendly seedlings. If stratification for Scotch pine seeds is considered by you as a necessary stage of preparation, you can use the following advice from foresters.

When the buds are fully opened, the seeds are soaked in gauze for 3 days. To hatch them, you need to keep the planting material in a humid environment for about 10 days, so a shortened period will simply reduce the dormant period. Next, the seeds are mixed with coarse sand (preferably river sand, with a rounded fraction), in a ratio of 1:3, which will require small wooden boxes. Stratification requires storing seeds in a cool place, at a temperature of 0 to 6 degrees, for which a dry cellar is suitable, or a half-meter-deep ditch, subsequently covered with snow.

Temperature regime for seed germination

Pine is a heat-loving plant, but here we should focus on the word “heat”, it does not tolerate high temperatures, especially since heat dries up the soil, and seeds need moisture no less than oxygen. Even at the drying stage, it should be ensured that the air around the seeds does not heat up above 40 degrees. But cooling the environment below 27 degrees is undesirable. You should not listen to advice about drying in the oven, since 120 degrees are detrimental in most cases for planting material.

Drying the planting material

After placing the seeds in peat or sandy substrate, care should be taken that the pots or containers do not heat up too much - the warmer, the more favorable the conditions for fungi. Therefore, in sunlight, do not let the landings overheat, ensure a constant supply of fresh air. At the same time, in no case do not shade the breaking growth, the pine tree needs a lot of light. The optimum soil temperature for active growth is 22-24 degrees, no more. That is, you need to regularly moisten the peat or sandy substrate, at least once a day.

How should the lighting of the seedling containers be?

Having mentioned the temperature regime, it will be quite natural to focus your attention on lighting. As already mentioned, Scotch pine needs a lot of bright sunlight. Therefore, containers are best kept on south-facing windows. Shading of sprouts leads to inhibition of their development. However, it should be borne in mind that not just light, but the ultraviolet spectrum plays a key role in photosynthesis, therefore, on a window where natural light does not last all day, the growth of pines will be slower than on open ground.

Pine shoot container

It should be noted that artificial lighting is in no way a substitute for natural lighting. In particular, only bright light and heat can be obtained from incandescent lamps, but not ultraviolet. Fluorescent lamps do not even provide heat. There are special fluorescent lamps with a photosynthetic effect, but they are not powerful enough to fully provide pine sprouts with the necessary lighting. Therefore, it is easier to make a greenhouse in the garden so that the sun's rays fall on the shoots from morning to evening than to install at home their inefficient imitation that consumes electricity.

Watering and fertilizing the soil in containers with seedlings

Moistening the substrate in which the seeds are placed should be constant, more precisely - daily. The degree of water hardness when growing pine does not play a special role. At the same time, it does not matter how the hatched seed is immersed in soil or sand, upside down or sideways, it will still develop correctly. Watering is recommended to be moderate so that the oxygen necessary for the roots remains in the substrate.

It is also advisable to drill small holes in the walls of containers or pots for air access, so that the earth does not spill out of them. In general, it all depends on the volume of soil - if it is prepared more than 500 grams per plant, then you can do without holes in the container. The substrate should not be less than 200 grams per seed. Watering is best not with a jet, which quickly oversaturates the soil, but with mist from a spray bottle, gradually moistening the peat or sandy substrate. Watering from below is considered a good solution, with the help of wicks made of quickly absorbing moisture fibers brought out through the drainage holes in the pot.

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