Pine trees are evergreen trees which retain their long, deep green needles all through the year. These trees can't be grown directly from a cone as it is neither a seed nor a fruit. Cones are a tight cluster of woody scales where each scale (the leaf-like structures) bears seeds on the upper surface. Trees can be grown from these seeds that develop thin paper like wings once they mature so that they can be dispersed by the wind. It is during spring time that female cones are pollinated. The female cones are larger than the male cones, hence it is advisable to collect seeds from them. Mature cones are brown and woody. The scales are closed as long as the seeds are not mature enough to germinate. Hence, look for closed cones that lie on the ground around the tree. Although the time when the cone ripens depends on the species of pine, cones of most pine tree species mature by summer or early fall.
- As far as obtaining seeds for growing pine trees from cones is concerned, select the cones that lie on the ground below a tree with lots of other pine trees growing around. This increases the probability of collecting more fertile seeds.
- Put these cones in a cloth bag. Avoid bags made from plastic as they trap the heat and damage the cones. Next, spread the cones either on paper towels, a piece of wax paper, or trays, and dry them in a sunny spot away from moisture.
- One needs to dry them for 5 to 7 days until the scales open and expose the seeds. In order to dry the cones properly, turn them daily so that every part of the cone gets equal amount of sunlight and wind.
- Shake or gently tap the cones. If the seeds fall off the cones easily, it implies that the seeds are ready to be planted for growing trees. Collect the seeds as they shed from the cone, and rub them with your hands to get rid of the wings.
- Once the seeds have been obtained, the next step is to select the ones that have the maximum potential of germinating.
- To get such seeds, submerge them in a container of water. It is best to take a few seeds at a time to increase the chances of getting the best ones.
- Once you have put the seeds in the container, swirl them around. Let the swirled water come to rest. Once this happens, collect the seeds that sink to the bottom.
- Sunken seeds stand the best chance of germinating. Discard the ones floating on the surface.
- It is best to first develop the seeds into seedlings indoors rather than planting them directly out in the garden. This can be done during the late fall or in next spring. If they are not sowed immediately, they should be stored in airtight containers. However, the procedure of storage depends upon the type of pine tree.
- To begin with, plant the seeds in a well-drained potting soil. Place them vertically such that the pointed end faces downwards. Ensure that the seeds are placed at a depth four times their length. Place the pots in a sunny spot and water them regularly. This will ensure proper growth of the roots.
- In case you have less seeds, each seed can be placed in individual pots. In case there are a lot of seeds, space them at least 6 inches apart in four feet wide rows. The seeds should germinate within a span of three months. Once the seedling starts emerging, keep turning the pot or the planters so that the seedling does not lean in the direction of the sunlight.
- Once the seed coat has fallen off and the seedling has grown between 6 inches to a foot tall, transplant them out in the garden. Once planted outside, ensure that the soil is clear of weeds for the first couple of years.
Growing trees from pine cones is a time-consuming endeavor and requires a lot of patience. But those who love gardening and are ready to put in the effort, the result of having a beautiful pine tree in one's garden can be a very satisfying feeling.