Cultivation of fruit trees from pips

It is a well-cited horticultural fact that growing fruit trees from pips or pits is a complete waste of time. Each one will be an unknown cross and so, to quote Forrest Gump, you really ‘never know what you’re going to get’, which is true. This is never more true than in the case of apples, for the genus Malus has one of the most diverse genomes in botany. So the seeds of a red dessert apple can grow into a tree that produces a green pot, or a small crab like apple, or something that tastes more like a cider apple. Well, the resulting apples will have 50% of the genes of the apple it came from and 50% of the genes of whatever the bees pollinated it from, and that could have been any other apple, so a true mix is ​​born! genetics!

While horticultural wisdom says no, many of us as children probably got our first glimpse of the world of growing things by planting a pip from the fruit bowl in a pot of yogurt and growing our first sapling. So while you are much more likely to win the lottery jackpot than to grow an apple tree that will produce the next Gala, Bramley, or Braeburn that could spread around the world and make you a fortune, there are still a number of good reasons. for which it is worth planting nuggets.

It’s so much fun, easy to make, costs nothing, and is the perfect way to introduce kids to gardening. So while we accept that we are unlikely to produce the next world variety, it is worth remembering that all of the thousands of varieties named and cultivated throughout the world originated as seedlings, either one found at random or one resulting from a cross made. by a horticulturist. So yeah, it’s a long shot, but you never know!


What you get from growing your own apple will be unique. While there are countless books and lists of thousands of numbered and registered varieties of fruit, if you can successfully grow a tree from seed and bring it to fruition, what you have will be yours and yours alone, totally unique. Each nugget or stone will contain a unique mix of genes unlike any other, just like all those random trees growing on the side of the road where people have thrown apple cores out of car windows. You won’t find any in a book or be able to identify them with known specimens as they are all random or wild crosses as they are known in apple circles.

So if you have the space and growing top-notch salable fruit isn’t your primary goal, growing fruit trees from seed is worth a try. You might even end up with a nice tree, possibly sturdier and tougher than a grafted tree, and it will produce some kind of fruit for you or the local wildlife.

It is always worth remembering that the entire base of standardized fruit trees on cloned rootstocks was never to the benefit of us, gardeners, adjudicators, smallholders and permaculturists, it was driven by the commercial desire to have orchards of hundreds of trees that are all same size, grow in the same way and produce at the same time standardized.

There is now a small field of interest in crabs or wild vines, which is a throwback to the way the Victorians produced fruit trees, planting rows of pips and pits and then using the resulting trees as rootstocks onto which known varieties were then grafted. . The resulting trees varied in size, vigor, and growth, but some had diversity, potential hardiness, and disease resistance that modern cloned populations may not have.

My experiment

Four years ago I planted two whole trays of apple pips in root trainers, about 64 seeds. Some were of known varieties, so I know half their parentage, but others seemed to be mixed in somewhere, so they are of unknown parentage. Even from the start, differences in vigor and shape were apparent, with some being larger, greener, or bushier, while others were taller and straighter. I grew some of them in large pots and then planted some of them in their second winter, now their fourth growing season. Some are starting to bear fruit and the results are really interesting and show what a varied genome Malus is.

One tree of unknown origin produces dark yellow, grape-sized, crab-like apples, another produces very attractive golf ball-sized apples with a highly astringent flavor suitable only for cider or crab apple jelly . Most interesting of all, one with a known 50% parentage ‘Martin Nonpariel’ produced apples in 2016 that were incredibly similar to its parent, with size, anatomy, visual appearance all nearly identical, just the color and a skin a little less bright differentiate it. of the father. While this is unusual and a phenomenon known to be true (sort of) of typing, it does show that you can sometimes get a good usable apple.

If you have a small garden, this is not a project for you, it is much better to grow a known variety that will feed it. If you have the space and you like a challenge, why not give it a try and plant your own fruit trees from pips and stones, grow and plant them? You will end up with a diverse mix of trees that may be valuable as habitat, shelter, shade and will produce fruit that only you will judge… It may be good or it may be better suited to feeding wildlife. This is a no cost project, very fun, interesting and even if you don’t get anything worthwhile in the way of fruit you will have some unique trees and if you decide not to keep them long term you will have grown woodcarvings, firewood or logs.

Wade Muggleton lives in the South Shropshire Hills with his partner Rachel and two children. They have developed their garden for the last 13 years. He works part time as a field officer, freelance tutor and writes regularly for PM.

Recently published ‘Las manzanas y los huertos de Worcestershire‘which can be purchased

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