The Ins and Outs of Growing a Peach Tree from Seed
Peach trees bought at plant nurseries are propagated using asexual reproduction methods. The reason for this is that most fruit trees, like human beings, produce offspring which are genetically different than their parents.
When it comes to an especially delicious variety of peach, the way around this problem is propagating the tree by taking a cutting from the parent tree. This asexual method of reproduction produces a clone with the exact same genetics and characteristics as the parent tree.
So what happens if you germinate a peach tree from a pit? Because peach trees are self-fertile, the chances of a wildly different tree growing from a pit are lower than with cross-fertile trees like apples.
So, if you plant a peach seed and grow a tree, the fruit may or may not be the same as the parent tree the fruit came from. However, there is still a good chance the fruit will be edible, so growing a peach from a seed is an inexpensive method for obtaining peach trees and fresh fruit.
How to Germinate and Plant a Peach Pit
There are at least 2,000 varieties of peaches, and not all of them germinate easily from the pit. In general, early season varieties are more difficult to germinate, and mid and late season varieties grow more easily from seed.
Because of this, if you want to grow some peach trees from seed, it is wise to start with several pits from different varieties for the best chances of success.
In order to germinate, a peach seed needs to undergo a period of cold temperature known as cold stratification. This process mimics what happens in nature where a seed sits in the ground over winter before sprouting in the spring.
If you live in an area with outdoor temperatures that stay under 42ºF (5.5ºC) for at least two months, you can attain this cold stratification outdoors and plant your seeds directly in the ground.
If your daytime winter temperatures regularly get above this temperature, cold stratify your seeds in the refrigerator before planting them outside. To do this, you need:
- A selection of clean, dry peach seeds from several mid and late season peach varieties,
- Zip lock plastic bags,
- A small bag of potting mix, vermiculite or perlite,
- Space in a refrigerator with a temperature between 32º and 42ºF (0º and 5.5ºC).
Collect the seeds in summer, clean them of all flesh, and let them dry, storing them in a cool, dark place until winter.
In December or January, soak the seeds for an hour or two in water, then place them in slightly moist potting soil, vermiculite, or perlite in a plastic bag. Leave the bag open to allow air to enter, and put the bag in the refrigerator.
Check the bag occasionally, and add a small amount of water if it is drying out. In about two months, start looking for a root growing from the seeds. Once the root is about ½ inch (1.25cm) long, plant the seed 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5cm) deep in potting mix in a pot with bottom drain holes. Then transfer it to the garden when the danger of frost has passed, or let the tree grow for a year before transplanting it.
Problems with Germinating and Growing Peach Seeds
Be aware that some fruits produce a gas which can interfere with the germination of peach seeds, so it is better to not have apples or bananas stored in the same refrigerator while you are germinating your peach pits.
During the cold stratification process, it is important for the potting medium to stay slightly moist. However, too much water can lead to mold on the seeds and failure to germinate.
The trees you grow from seed will take longer to start fruiting than trees bought from a nursery because nursery bought trees are already a year or two old. A peach tree started from seed will take four to five years before it starts making fruit.
Growing a Peach Tree Started from Seed
Once you transplant your peach tree in the garden, care for it in the same way as a tree started from a seedling purchased at a plant nursery.