Thursday, 18 February 2016

How to grow an apple tree from a pip

Red Delicious apples from my dads tree

These apples were picked in the autumn of 2015 just before my Dad's apple tree was cut down. I won't go into all the reasons why the tree had to go, they're complicated and very good ones.

As we ate them, I saved some of the pips intending to grow a replacement tree for my own garden that has the same genetic material as my Dad's tree (I'm not in a hurry and getting fruit out of it isn't really the point of the exercise for me).

I read somewhere that apple pips need cold to break dormancy; the cold makes the seeds think that they've had winter without actually planting them outdoors. Last November, I put some pips in a small tupperware container with some damp kitchen roll and then placed it in the bottom of the fridge (furthest point away from the freezer section). Eight to ten weeks should be long enough, every couple of weeks I checked they were still damp.

In January, I took the container out of the fridge. There were no sign of life at that point, they looked just the same as when I put them in. Ever hopeful, I loosened the tupperware lid and popped them in the greeenhouse. At this time of the year, I am heating my greenhouse but only just enough to keep the frost off the tender cuttings that I took at the back end of summer.  So, it's a bit warmer in there than the fridge during the day; I was hopeful the modest rise in temperature would make the pips think about growing.

Apple pips after breaking dormancy in the fridge

A couple of weeks after I moved them, I was rewarded by two of them sprouting roots. A very exciting time! I carefully potted them into individual 3inch plastic pots with multipurpose compost, covering them with no more than 3-5mm of compost gently pressed down.

Seedling grown from an apple pip

And now, today, here is the first seedling to germinate in my new greenhouse. When I saw it, I had an odd mixture of emotions, I'm really sad that the tree in Dad's garden had to go but it's touching and poignant that this little seedling is continuing the life of a tree that has been gone for months. It's a little piece of continuity and so I've decided to be happy about it. If you cut a tree down, I believe you should always plant at least one more; the other rootlet is also pushing it's way through. Two more pips have sprouted roots so they've been put into compost as well.

I've got another later batch of pips in the fridge now which are around halfway through their dormancy period. This time, I'm going to try to get them to germinate on a window sill to see if it can be done.  I may well become overrun with apples trees ...!

I remember as a child getting a lemon pip and a peachstone to germinate in my Dad's greenhouse, we even got a couple of small lemons out of it. I was far too young for gin and tonics back then, unfortunately! I can't quite remember what happened to the peach tree, I'll have to ask my sister.

What plants have you grown from pips/self-collected seeds?


  1. When my son was a teenager, an apple pip grew in his carpet - I rescued it and potted it, but it didn't survive the winter. I make no comment about the state of his room back then...


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