How to plant a pine tree seed

How to Germinate Pine Cone Seeds | Home Guides

By Marlene Affeld Updated December 15, 2018

Growing a pine tree from seed is a task for a patient gardener. Worldwide, there are more than 115 different species of pine trees. Many are native to Sunset Climate Zones. Others that grow well in Sunset Climate Zones have been introduced from other countries with similar climates, including Japan, China and Australia. Pine trees are evergreen trees, retaining their long, deep green needles year-around. Pine cones are not a seed nor a fruit. They are a tight cluster of woody scales grouped together to protect the developing seeds inside. Pine cone seeds, properly stratified, can be germinated fairly easily to cultivate new trees. When you have harvested the cone from a local tree, you are more likely to grow a tree that will be successful in your climate.

  1. 1.

    Collect seed in the fall when cones begin to open. Open cones have already dropped their seeds. Collect closed cones only. Wearing garden gloves, bend back the needles and twist the cone off the branch. Place cones in a paper bag in a warm location. When the cones open, the ripe seeds fall out in the bag.

  2. 2.

    Store seed in the freezer. Remove the seed from the freezer approximately 60 to 90 days before the last spring freeze. Allow the seeds to warm naturally to room temperature. Place the seeds in a glass bowl of lukewarm water and soak for 24 to 48 hours.

  3. 3.

    Drain the seeds but do not let them dry out completely. Place moist seeds in a zipper-top plastic bag and place in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator for 60 to 90 days. Do not allow the seeds to freeze. After the seeds have stratified for 60 to 90 days, remove from the refrigerator.

  4. 4.

    Prepare a potting mixture of 3 parts potting soil, 1 part peat moss, 1 part pine bark and 1 part garden sand. Do not use beach sand which may contain salt. Fill 4-inch pots with good drainage with the potting mixture. Place one seed in each pot. Cover the seed with one-quarter inch of potting mixture. Water well. Place in a full sun location, protected from the wind.

  5. 5.

    Keep the soil mixture in the pots uniformly moist. Consistent, even moisture is critical to seed germination. Do not allow the surface of the soil to dry out completely. As seeds germinate and develop, water daily. When seedlings are 8 to 12 inches tall, they are ready for repotting or transplanting to a permanent location.

    Things You Will Need
    • Seed

    • Glass bowl

    • Water

    • Plastic bag

    • Potting soil

    • Peat moss

    • Pine bark

    • Sand

    • Pots

    • Garden gloves

    • Garden trowel


    When selecting pots for planting your seeds, select 4-inch starter pots made from compressed fiber for easy transplanting. When you are ready to place the young plant in a container for indoor cultivation, a large container for patio growing or in a permanent outdoor spot in the yard, simply plant, without disturbing the roots, by planting the fiber pot in the new growing media. The roots will grow through the fiber and the tender young tree does not have to experience the shock of transplanting.


  • United States Department of Agriculture: Monterey Pine
  • Oklahoma Forestry Services: Growing Loblolly Pines from Seed in Pots; David Porterfield


  • Bugwood: Longleaf Pine: Cone Collection and Seed Conditioning Guidelines: Jill Barbour
  • University of Wisconsin Extension Service: Collecting and Planting Seeds of Cone-Bearing Trees; Walter H. Benner et al.

Writer Bio

A passionate writer for more than 30 years, Marlene Affeld writes of her love of all things natural. Affeld's passion for the environment inspires her to write informative articles to assist others in living a green lifestyle. She writes for a prominent website as a nature travel writer and contributes articles to other online outlets covering wildlife, travel destinations and the beauty of nature.

How To Grow A Pine Tree From A Pine Cone? — Forest Wildlife

If you live in an area where pine trees are prominent, you’re probably used to seeing hundreds of pine cones scattered on the ground in the fall. But despite seeing them each year, many people don’t know much about them or how they grow. In this article, we’ll take you through the process of growing a pine tree – all the way from the pine cone to a mature tree. 

What You'll Learn Today

  • How Tall Can a Pine Tree Grow?
  • When To Plant a Pine Tree?
  • How To Plant Pine Tree Seeds?
    • Step 1: Remove the Seeds
    • Step 2: Check Seed Viability (Optional)
    • Step 3: Plant or Store 
    • Step 4: Care For Your Seedlings
  • How Long Does it Take to Grow a Pine Tree From a Pine Cone?
  • What Happens When You Put a Pine Cone in Water?

How Tall Can a Pine Tree Grow?

Like with many types of plants and animals, the size of a fully grown pine tree largely depends on the species. Here are some common types of pine trees along with their average size:

  • Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa): 60 to 100 feet tall
  • Black Pine (Pinus nigra): 60 feet tall
  • Chir Pine (Pinus roxburghii): 180 feet tall
  • Sugar Pine (Pinus lambertiana): 130 to 195 feet tall
  • Virginia Pine (Pinus virginiana): 15 to 40 feet tall
  • Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris): 55 to 80 feet tall
  • Monterey Pine (Pinus radiata): 50 to 100 feet tall
  • Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus): Up to 150 feet tall
  • Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris): Up to 130 feet
  • Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo): Dwarf variety: 3 to 5 feet, original: up to 20 feet
  • Red Pine (Pinus resinosa):  50 to 80 feet tall
  • Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda): 60 to 90 feet tall
  • Whitebark Pine (Pinus albicaulis): 65 feet tall
  • Gray Pine (Pinus sabiniana): 60 to 70 feet tall

When To Plant a Pine Tree?

The ideal time to plant a pine tree depends on the stage it’s in when you acquire it, and your location. You should plant seedlings in the ground, for example, once you’re confident that the temperatures will be between about 32-46 degrees Fahrenheit to build up some cold tolerance.

If you’re growing a pine tree from seed and live in an area with cold winters, you should plant it in late fall for cold stratification. Alternatively, you can place the seeds in a bag in the fridge for a few months to mimic those conditions. 

When starting with a pine sapling, it’s best to plant in the fall as long as the temperature in your climate is not too hot, and not too cold at that time. 

How To Plant Pine Tree Seeds?

Pine trees produce seeds through pine cones. While each pine cone contains many seeds, you can’t simply place the whole cone in the ground and expect something to grow.

Pine cones are the seed pods which protect the seeds from strong winds and harsh temperatures. This enclosed structure prevents the seeds from getting the elements they need to grow. 

Here’s how to harvest and plant pine seeds:

Step 1: Remove the Seeds

Pine cones take a few years to mature on the tree. The ones that are on the tree are not ready to harvest, so look for the pine cones that have fallen to the ground.

To collect the seeds, turn the cone upside down and lightly shake it over a container until the seeds fall out. 

Step 2: Check Seed Viability (Optional)

Since many of the seeds you collect may not end up growing, you can increase your chances of planting success by testing the viability of the seeds first. To do this, fill a container with water, put the seeds in, and note which seeds sink or float. The seeds that float to the surface are less likely to grow. 

Step 3: Plant or Store 

At this point, you can plant the viable seeds in the ground or store them in the fridge for cold stratification. If you’ll be storing the seeds, let them sit out and dry before you place them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Outdoors, pick a sunny spot and plant the seeds ½ inch below the surface of the soil about one inch apart. Alternatively, you can start the seeds inside, in a pot with a well-draining soil mix.

Step 4: Care For Your Seedlings

The seeds need to be kept moist until they germinate (when sprouts emerge). After that, you can let the soil dry out in between waterings. 

If you’re not able to put the seeds in direct sunlight indoors, consider putting them under a grow light. Once they grow at least two sets of needles, you can transplant them into the ground outside. 

For more information on proper growing practices for pine tree seeds, check out this YouTube video: can’t be loaded because JavaScript is disabled: How to Grow Pine Trees from Seed (

How Long Does it Take to Grow a Pine Tree From a Pine Cone?

As with most trees started from seed, growing a pine tree is a slow process. Before the seeds germinate, they should experience a period of dormancy for about three months.

Once they come out of dormancy, pine tree sprouts take up to a month to appear. Then, depending on the species, you can expect your pine tree to grow anywhere from one to two feet per year. 

Pine trees (again, depending on the species) take a minimum of nine years to mature, but could take up to 28 years. 

What Happens When You Put a Pine Cone in Water?

Pine cones keep seeds safe by providing a protective environment to house them. Not only does the structure itself shield them from harsh conditions, but the cones can open and close depending on the elements. 

When the climate is favorable, pine cones scales remain open so that seeds can blow away and establish themselves elsewhere. When it’s too cold or wet, pine cones will remain closed to keep the seeds inside.

You can test this out by putting a pinecone in a bowl of cool water. After soaking in the water, the pine cone should protect its seeds by closing its scales. This is an especially great experiment for children! 

Starting a pine tree from seed requires patience and some TLC. But if you have the time, it’s fun to experience the process of watching a tiny seed become a mature tree (although there are always some issues during the process).

And since conifers like pine trees can help to conserve energy and clean the air, it’s a worthwhile project. 

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, 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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