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My spruce trees produce hundreds of seeds, but when I plant them very few germinate and the ones that do don't overwinter. I was sowing them in fall to overwinter and sprout in spring in acidic, humusy soil in full sun, in a regular nursery bed. I don't have the normal equipment used for this, just the nursery beds. How should I be doing this?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

According to the National Christmas Tree Association:

Most propagation is by seed. Rooting is difficult and a challenge.

According to Floridata:

Propagate Norway spruce from seeds sown in spring. Seeds usually germinate readily and do not require pre-treatment. The dwarf cultivars may be propagated from tip cuttings of mature shoots taken in summer. Some of the cultivars typically are grafted onto seedlings of the species.

So I would hold the seed over winter (perhaps in the fridge -- I think most conifers want a cold period to break dormancy), and plant in the spring in acidic, well-drained soil.

Lastly, I know people who grow Christmas trees, and they expect significant losses (in related species, not necessarily Norway Spruce) when they plant from seedlings, so I wouldn't expect all of the seeds you plant to survive. A good strategy might be to sow 10x (or even 100x) what you want, and then thin to the strongest survivors after a couple of years.

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