Growing Fruit and Nut Trees from Seed

Home Grown  by Keith Reed
As pecan harvest begins, people are asking if they can plant pecans from a favorite tree that will produce the same nuts as the tree grows? We occasionally get the same question about fruit trees. The short answer is probably not. Hopefully this will help explain why:

Fruit and nut trees are genetically diverse. The chances of growing a tree that will produce fruit/nuts equal to or better than the seed source is virtually nil. Plant breeders study thousands and thousands of trees in search of ideal fruiting characteristics. Once a superior plant is finally discovered, fruit (and nut) trees then must be grown and sold as grafted plants so desirable characteristics can be reliably transferred from one generation to the next.

The need for duplicating desirable fruit characteristics is obvious. However, a quality root stock, while perhaps not as attention grabbing as delicious fruit, is just as important. Root stock is responsible for factors such as growth rate, structure, winter hardiness, and disease resistance. These factors are particularly important for residents of Oklahoma as our weather extremes can easily eliminate plants not well adapted to our climate. This is one reason why care should be exercised when plants are purchased on-line or through mail order, but that is a topic for another day.

These factors are also the ones most likely to cause the grower problems when attempting to grow trees from seed. Pears are an especially good example. They can easily become monster weeds in the landscape producing thorny, fast growing, weak wooded, multi-trunked plants. They also tend to be prolific self-seeders, releasing hundreds of seedlings into the surrounding landscape. Not even the most gifted arborist can train these beasts into a suitable landscape plant.

For the “I think I’ll try it anyway” crowd, you need to follow some basic guidelines to increase your odds of success.
OSU Fact Sheet #HLA-6211 Propagation of Fruit and Nuts by Seed provides some helpful information on this subject.

For more information on this or any other horticultural topic, you can contact Keith Reed, the Horticulturist in the Payne County Extension office. Keith can be reached via email at
keith.reed@okstate.edu, phone at 405-747-8320, or in person at the Payne County Extension office, located at 315 W. 6th in Stillwater.

Oklahoma State University, in compliance with Title VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Executive Order 11246 as amended, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and other federal laws and regulations, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, age, religion, disability, or status as a veteran in any of its policies

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