Ponderosa Pine


With help from Phil Patterson of NAU, and reading about growing Ponderosa Pine from seed, here's how we grew Ponderosa Pine trees from seeds.


September 2012 - Using a pole cutter, gather the unopened cones off trees in mid to late September:

November 2012 - put them in a cloth sack, and leave them out in the air/sun to dry rotating/banging around every day:

After drying a week or two the cones are open and most of the seeds have fallen out:

After removing the cones from the sack you can see everything the came out of the cones:

Sorting a handful at a time to separate the seeds from the other material:

Also look at the cones to see if any seeds are still stuck inside:

The seeds that were gathered:

A closer view of a seed with the wing still attached:

The seed easily separates from the wing:

Mostly seeds ready to be started at any time (note that stratification (subjecting the seeds to cold) before attempting to germinate is not necessary and was not used with this method):

Start (November 2012): While soaking seeds before germination is not required, it did help identify seeds that may be more viable because the floaters tend to be hollow (due to bugs eating the inside, or they all dried out):

These are the seeds that floated:

These are the seeds that sank. Once they sink some of them may float again, but sink again later, so they should be separated from the floaters right after they are seen to initially sink. Keep them in the water for 24 hours:

1 day later: all on the bottom:

Transferred to a seed sprouter. This approach allows you to watch for the seeds that germinate and then transfer them to individual pots:

Pots getting ready for seeds that have germinated. The pots are 10" x 2.5" and have been filled with about 9" of native soil and then topped off with Miracle Grow Potting Soil with Moisture Control:

3 days later: you can see the root of some of the seeds emerging, these seeds are viable:

Separate the known viable seeds into a small bowl of water for planting:

Plant the seeds with the root/pointy part down:

The round part is up (center of photograph) and about to be covered with just a little bit of the potting soil mix:

There were enough viable seeds to plant all sixty pots with light watering around the edges of each pot. Note that the next day a lot more seeds germinated so they were planted in each pot to get two seeds per pot:

5 days later: 230 of the 247 have germinated (93% germination rate so far). These were planted outside in pots and in a garden:

7 days later: Five of the initial sixty seeds that were planted are starting to emerge:

8 days later: Twenty of the initial sixty seeds and two of the second set of sixty seeds that were planted are starting to emerge:

9 days later: One more seed in the seed sprouter germinated (94% - 231 of the 247 seeds). A total of 54 pots have one seedling and 6 have two (three seedlings have started in one of the outside pots):

11 days later: Only 11 seeds have not come up from the 120 planted:

2 weeks later: One more seed germinated in the seed sprouter, so there was a final germination rate was 94% (232 of the 247 seeds). In the pots that were maintained indoors the final rate for seedlings to emerge was 96% (153 of 160). In the pots outside, about 80% of the seeds have emerged and the birds ate many/most of the seeds in the garden:

3 weeks later: Some of the smaller/less hardy looking seedling have been thinned and empty pots have been transplanted with better looking seedlings. The secondary growth is obvious, though some of it is yellow:

4 weeks later: Thinned to one plant per pot and arranged for the lighting. The secondary growth is still yellow, but maybe better now that Miracle-Gro (1/2 strength) is being used:

8 weeks later: Some of the secondary growth is still yellow, but reducing watering and Miracle-Gro (1/2 strength) seems to be helping. A few of the seedlings are sprouting small side branches:

24 weeks later: Secondary growth and full sized needles everywhere. Lost one plant at 23 weeks. Have been watering with 1 to 2 gallons of water with Miracle-Gro (full strength) every 2 weeks (three weeks is too long, and one week is too short). Just heavily watered all plants prior to planned transplanting in a few days:

April 2013 - in the ground:

Think the cage will help?

May 2013 - here's a shot of one of the trees in a cage. We didn't have enough cages for all of the trees and later we found the top of some of the cageless trees were snipped off (not from a big animal, probably a rabbit), so we made cages for all of the trees and replaced the snipped trees with new seedlings:

It looks happy:

June 2013 - still getting regular watering (a gallon about once a week), and this week getting a gallon of Miracle Grow. At this point maybe 5 or 6 of the planted 34 seedlings have died, many look so-so, and a few look really happy:

9/2/2013 - Still getting regular watering and monsoon rain. So far about 20 trees have survived, and a dozen or so have been replanted with seeds that were started on 6/24. This one really looks happy (about 5"):

9/29/2013 - Now about 8" tall, but the growing season is slowing now:

Another one:

Another one:

Another one:

10/28/2013 - We purchased a Wilding permit and transplanted 9 trees that are about one foot each:

4/28/2014 - Things are warming up. We purchased a wilding permit and replaced all of the dead trees, just started seeds, and transplants that didn't look happy with new transplants. We now have 17 seedlings that are are just over a year old and 17 transplants. Here's a new transplant:

4/28/2014 - Here's a transplant from last year - not as happy but still alive:

4/28/2014 - Here's one of the trees that we started from seed and has now been in the ground for a year:

4/28/2014 - Here's another one:

8/10/2014 - We've watered regularly and the monsoons have too, but the transplants are almost all dead. This is a "good" one:

This is the best transplant - staying green but no growth:

Here's one of the best looking seedling:

This one looks good too:

6/13/2015 - All of the seedling are growing:

This one is 10" tall:

We're trying to transplant saplings again. This one looks OK, but not growing:

7/18/2015 - Replaced many of the transplants that died with new potted seedlings:

11/21/2015 - Transplants are not working well, so gathered about 50 cones in late September,
left them outside in a cloth sack, banged the sack around, and got a lot of seeds without having
to pull each cone apart:

These are the seeds that sank - around 600?

01/03/2016 - Going to start them in these Tildenet Deep Rootrainers and Miracle Gro Potting Mix.
The cells are about 1.5" square about 5" deep:

Last Modified: February 07, 2017 11:27:51 PM