How to Grow Apples from Seeds You Got from the Grocery Store

It's a fascinating long-term project, but it's certainly possible to successfully grow a new tree from the seeds in your grocery store apple.

It's not a myth: You really can grow an apple tree from the seeds inside the fruit you bought on your last grocery run. Whether you'd want to is another matter because it's a project that will take a lot of patience and may not give you great results. If you have a favorite apple from the store you'd like to grow, you'd be better off buying a small tree for that specific variety. This is because apple trees grown from seed don't grow "true to type," meaning seeds from a Pink Lady or Gala apple won't give you identical fruit on the resulting tree. And seed grown trees tend to be much less vigorous than a grafted apple tree.

red apple getting hand-picked from tree
Helen Norman

How Different Apple Varieties Are Created

Many of the apple varieties you can find today are the result of random mutations known as "sports" and by growers sorting through hundreds (if not thousands) of seedlings looking for something different; whether it's taste, size, color, or consistency. Nowadays, these tasks are usually performed by professional plant breeders in a scientific way, but in previous years, the simple act of planting a few seeds led to most of the selections we enjoy today.

Because the seeds can be so genetically variable, planting more of a desired apple variety is not done by planting more of its seeds. Instead, it is cloned through a process known as grafting, where a small branch or bud from a particular variety is joined onto the rootstock of another with surgical precision. Grafting ensures that whole orchards can be planted with exactly the same variety of apples and harvested at the same time while the rootstock functions as a growth inhibitor to produce super dwarf, dwarf, or semi-dwarf trees.

apple sliced in half
Erica Michelsen Allen

How to Grow Apple Trees From Seed

If you want to experiment and see what you might get, it's possible to grow your own tree from the seeds in any store-bought apple. All you need are a few supplies and plenty of patience. To begin, take an apple of your choice and remove the seeds within the core, being careful not to nick or cut them. Clean the seeds off so that they don't have any fruit juice or apple bits on them, and place each seed into a small pot filled with potting mix.

Because apples come from temperate climates, the seeds need to be stratified (kept cool and moist) for a couple of months before they'll germinate. Cover the pots with a plastic bag to hold in moisture and set them in an unheated garage or even a refrigerator. You're mimicking the conditions the seeds would experience in nature over the winter, so it's best to time this period to happen in fall over the colder months of the year. That way, when they sprout, the seedlings can be planted outside in spring after the danger of frost has passed.

After the required amount of chilling time, move the pots into a warm, well-lit location and keep the soil moist. After a few weeks to a month, the seedlings should begin to push through the soil surface. From here, plant them in the ground where they can get plenty of sunlight (preferably full sun). Keep them well watered and feed them with a balanced fertilizer. Plant at least two apple seedlings so they can pollinate each other to produce fruit.

How Long It Takes Apple Trees to Produce Fruit

It can take up to a decade from the time you planted your seeds to when the resulting trees will be mature enough to produce their first fruits. And remember when they do, those fruits will likely be very different from the variety of apple the seeds came from. There's always the chance they may turn out to be an amazing new variety, but they are just as likely to be no good at all. Still, tasting your first apples, unique to the world, is worth all the effort and waiting over the years.

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