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What Are the Best Tips for Planting Conifer Seeds?

By Amber Eberle
Updated May 16, 2024
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A conifer is an evergreen tree, such as a spruce or pine, whose seeds are harvested from the cones that the tree produces. While conifer seeds can be difficult to grow, with proper care and patience it is possible to end up with a mature tree. In order to germinate, conifer seeds must be refrigerated to bring them out of dormancy. Small planting containers are the best place to start the seeds, and a planting medium — such as peat moss, perlite, or vermiculite — should be used. If given an adequate amount of water and sunlight, the seeds should sprout and grow into seedlings.

Planting conifer seeds directly in the ground generally results in a low rate of germination. In order for the seeds to grow properly, they must first be chilled to bring them out of their dormant state. The seeds should be soaked in water for 12 to 24 hours, wrapped in peat moss or a damp paper towel, enclosed in a plastic storage bag, and then placed in a refrigerator. The seeds will require between one and four months of refrigeration depending on the species of tree being grown.

When the seeds are ready for planting, small pots should be used. It is recommended that a planting medium, such as peat moss, perlite, or vermiculite, be used instead of soil. Using these types of planting materials will prevent the seeds from becoming too wet and rotting. The planting medium should be kept moist, however.

After the conifer seeds are planted, they should receive full sunlight and be kept in a protected area. During this period, they do best indoors, but it is also possible for them to grow outdoors in a moderate climate. Water should be added to the planting medium if it becomes dry. Conifer seeds generally have about a 50% chance of germinating, and within three to four weeks green needles will begin to sprout if germination was successful.

As the plants continue to sprout and grow into seedlings, they should be given diluted liquid plant food on a regular basis. When the conifer appears crowded in its planting container, it should be carefully transplanted into a larger pot and planted with a mixture of potting soil and peat moss. The young seedling will benefit from a regular application of fertilizer. In general, a conifer tree is usually ready to be permanently planted two years after the seeds sprout.

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