Getting Seeds From a Pine Cone

By Ellen Brown

Q: I would like to know the best way to get seeds from a pine cone, and the best way to make the seeds grow into a beautiful pine tree? I would like to help these trees have a comeback in my town because years ago a lot of pine trees died. What and how can I grow these trees to live and grow well?


Thank You,

A: David,

This sounds like an ambitious and admirable project! I'm not sure what type of pines you want to reforest your town with or where you live, but here are some general tips for starting pine trees from seeds.

Pine tree seeds are found inside of the cones on the upper surface of each scale. Open pine cones have already dropped their seeds, so you'll want to look for and collect cones that are still closed. They are usually dark purplish or brown in color. When seeds inside the cones are ripe, they will be full and plump. The type of pine you're growing will determine the best time of the year to look for ripe cones, but the cones of most species are ready for collection sometime in the summer or early fall. Squirrels will often cut down ripe cones, so don't forget to look on the ground around trees.


After you collect the ripe cones, lay them out in the sun for drying. You can also dry them in the oven on very low heat (not above 120Fº). Once dry, the cones will open. Then lay them on a screen or place them in a paper bag and shake the cones to release the seeds.

You can plant your seeds in the fall (when nature does) or wait until spring. How you store the seeds will depend on the type of pines you're planting. Red, Jack and White Cedar seeds need to be kept dry in an airtight container and stored in a cool place. Balsam Fir, Spruce or White Pine seeds should be mixed with 3 parts moist sand to 1 part seed and stored at 36-38Fº.
Plant seeds in moist, loamy or sandy soil at a depth 4 times the size of the seed. Make sure the dirt underneath the seed has been turned to a depth of at least 12 inches to give the roots plenty of room grow. To plant hundreds of seeds at once, plant each about 6 inches apart in 4 foot wide rows.


Once the seedlings sprout, give them a little shade (just like they would get from the tree towering over them in nature) and some water. Watch them for damping off and be prepared to dust them with a fungicide. Once the seedlings reach 10-12 inches, transplant them into their permanent spot. Good luck!

About The Author: Ellen Brown is our Green Living and Gardening Expert. Click here to ask Ellen a question! Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at



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