The Q&A Archives: Planting Pine Trees from Seed

Question: Hi, I live in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota. I would like to learn how to plant the pine seeds and eventually be able to transplant the tree.

Answer: There are many species of Pinus (pine) trees, some with different requirements, but I'll provide the basics to get you started. You might want to find a good reference book at your local library because there is more involved to germinating pines than many other types of plants. (Some pines will only germinate after fire, for example.) Cones from pine trees usually ripen and turn brown over two years, usually in late winter or spring. It's important that you gather ripe cones or the seeds won't germinate. And, pines have male and female cones, which look similar, but only the female cones have seeds. Extract the seeds from ripe cones. An easy way to do this is to let the cones sit in a box or on newspaper and let them dry naturally. They will open their scales and the seeds fall out. Viable seeds will look fat; non viable seeds are thin, shriveled, or dry. Mix seeds with moist peat or sand and refrigerate the seeds (simulating the cold they'd receive in nature) for three to seven weeks. This will improve your chances of germination. Sow in containers and if possible, provide bottom heat of about 59 degrees. This also improves germination. Transplant when seedlings reach 2 inches and have a woody base. Good luck with your project!

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