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How to Germinate Pine Cone Seeds

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

How to Germinate Pine Cone Seeds. 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, …

Can I Plant A Pine Cone: Sprouting Pine Cones In Gardens

If you’ve thought about growing a pine tree by sprouting a whole pine cone, don’t waste your time and energy because unfortunately, it won’t work. Although planting entire pine cones sounds like a great idea, it isn’t a viable method for growing a pine tree. Read on to learn why.

Can I Plant a Pine Cone?

You can’t plant a pine cone and expect it to grow. There are several reasons why this won’t work.

The cone serves as a woody container for the seeds, which are released from the cone only when environmental conditions are exactly right. By the time you gather cones that fall from the tree, the seeds have probably already been released from the cone.

Even if the seeds in the cones are at the exact perfect stage of ripeness, sprouting pine cones by planting entire pine cones still won’t work. The seeds need sunlight, which they can’t get when they are enclosed in the cone.

Also, planting entire pine cones would mean the seeds are actually much too deep in the soil. Again, this prevents the seeds from receiving sunlight they need in order to germinate.

Planting Pine Tree Seeds

If you have your heart set on a pine tree in your garden, your best bet is start with a seedling or small tree.

However, if you’re curious and enjoy experimentation, planting pine tree seeds is an interesting project. Although sprouting pine cones won’t work, there’s a way that you can harvest the seeds from the cone, and you may – if conditions are just right – successfully grow a tree. Here’s how to go about it:

  • Harvest a pine cone (or two) from a tree in autumn. Place the cones in a paper sack and put them in a warm, well-ventilated room. Shake the sack every few days. When the cone is dry enough to release the seeds, you’ll hear them rattling around in the bag.
  • Place the pine seeds in a resealable plastic bag and store them in the freezer for three months. Why? This process, called stratification, mimics three months of winter, which many seeds require (outdoors, the seeds would lie buried under pine needles and other plant debris until spring).
  • Once three months have passed, plant the seeds in a 4-inch (10 cm.) container filled with a well-drained potting medium such as a combination of potting mix, sand, fine pine bark and peat moss. Be sure the container has a drainage hole in the bottom.
  • Plant one pine seed in each container and cover it with no more than ¼-inch (6 mm.) of potting mix. Place the containers in a sunny window and water as needed to keep the potting mix slightly moist. Never allow the mix to dry out, but don’t water to the point of sogginess. Both conditions can kill the seed.
  • Once the seedling is at least 8 inches tall (20 cm.) transplant the tree outdoors.

If you?ve thought about growing a pine tree by sprouting a whole pine cone, don?t waste your time because, unfortunately, it won?t work. Although planting entire pine cones sounds like a great idea, it isn?t a viable method for growing a tree. Learn why here.