Planting a peach (Prunus persica) seed is a fairly straightforward chore. A peach is a stone fruit, meaning it has a single pit that contains its seed. The main problem in planting a peach seed is selecting what variety to plant. Similar problems arise with planting the seeds of pomme fruits like apples (Malus domestica) and pears (Pyrus communis) that contain small, multiple seeds.
Selecting A Peach Variety
Peaches will grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5b through 8b, nectarines in zones 6 through 9, apples in zones 3 through 8 and pears in USDA zones 4 through 9. Nectarines (Prunus persica var. nucipersica) are peach varieties without the fuzz
It typically take three to five years from the time you plant a peach seed before you get to pick your first fruit. If you buy a seedling from a nursery, you’ll get fruit faster.
The fruit that your tree yields may not be anything like the peach or nectarine from which you got your seed. The fruit in nurseries is predictable because those are peach or fruit varieties grafted onto rootstocks.
Peach seeds from locally grown fruit have a better chance of germinating and thriving than seeds from cultivars better suited to another climate. You don’t know where a supermarket peach was grown, so local fruit stands and farmers’ markets are good sources of fruit with useful seeds.
Winter Chill and Pollination
Peaches have winter chill hours, the number of hours under 45 degrees Fahrenheit needed for a tree to break dormancy and grow buds. Peach cultivars have winter chill requirements ranging from 200 to more than 1,000 hours. If a tree with a low chill requirement is grown in a cold climate, its early appearing blossoms may be killed off by a late frost. Pomme fruits also have chill requirements. For example, the chill hours required of apple trees similarly ranges from 100 to more than 1,000 hours.
Pollination may be another issue. Peaches and nectarines are self-pollinating. One tree growing alone will bear fruit. However, to bear fruit almost all apple and pear trees need to be planted near a complementary tree that bears pollen at the same time. Almost all sweet cherry trees require a compatible tree for pollination.
Removing the Seed
Get your seed from fully ripe fruit. To increase the germination rate of a peach seed, remove it from its pit, or hard shell. The seed looks something like an almond. Let the pit dry for a few days so the seed inside can shrink a bit, making it easier to retrieve. The shell also gets more brittle and easier to crack. You have to get it out without removing the brown cover on the seed.
You can stand the seed on its end and whack the tip with a hammer or if you can put it sideways in a vise and apply pressure until the hard covering cracks and then retrieve the seed. A nutcracker may also do the job.
Seed embryos develop when seeds are dormant. Winter cold triggers dormancy. Ensuring that seeds get the necessary time at the right temperature is called stratification. Plant hormones in properly stratified seeds trigger germination.
You can stratify seeds by planting them outdoors in autumn or stratify them indoors in a refrigerator and plant them in the spring.
For outdoor stratification place the seeds in an furrow that’s no more than two or three times deeper than the length of the seeds. Cover the seeds with soil or sand if you have it, as sand prevents crusting by winter cold that slows germination.
To prevent squirrels and chipmunks from digging up the seeds, place hardware cloth or wire screen over the seeds and push the ends and sides into the soil.
To stratify seeds in the refrigerator, clean them of fruit pulp and let them dry. Place the seeds in a plastic container or glass jar with a loosely fitting cover or lid. Store them in a cool place until the middle of January.
In mid-January mix the seeds with moist, shredded paper towels, peat moss or sand. Put them back in their container with the cover or lid in place and store in the refrigerator for stratification.
- Peach and nectarine seeds require 120 to 130 days of stratification at 33 to 50 F, with an ideal temperature of 45 F.
- Apple seeds need 70 to 80 days of stratification at 40 to 50 F, with an ideal temperature of 40 to 41 F.
- Apricot seeds need 60 to 70 days of stratification at an effective temperature of 40 to 50 F, with an ideal temperature of 45 F.
- Cherry seeds require 90 to 140 days of stratification at 33 to 50 F, with an ideal temperature of 41 F.
- Pear seeds need 60 to 90 days of stratification at 33 to 41 F, with an ideal temperature of 40 F.
In early spring, plant the germinating seeds outdoors in moist soil no more than two to three times the length of the seed. Do not fertilize.