On a whim, this spring, I planted several apple seeds in a large pot just to see if they would grow. Two seedlings have come up and are very healthy looking, despite being munched by deer, and the hot, dry summer we had. They are about a foot tall with several branches and very leafy for their size.

I am very interested in keeping them going. Should I keep them inside in the winter, since they're in a pot? Should I transplant them now, before the ground freezes? I do want them to go through their winter cycle. I'm more concerned with the roots freezing than them drying out too much.

  • USDA Hardiness Zone 6 - Middle Tennessee.

  • Winters are fairly mild, but we do get one or two hard frosts and a couple of good snows. Occasionally we even get an ice storm.

  • The pot is a good 24inches (600mm) or so across at the top rim.

  • Both trees are in the same pot. The other seedling is an avocado tree.

Apple seedlings in a pot

  • 1
    I was just researching this for myself: I have six bench grafts in pots. You probably want them to go winter dormant. Important thing is nit to let the roots freeze or dry out. Some people store them bare root (in moist medium) or temporarily planted in the garden or by burying the bucket.
    – Erik Olson
    Oct 21, 2011 at 22:10
  • 1
    Those are beautiful seedlings, but remember that all established apple cultivars are clones (typically grafts). I would recommend using these two apples as rootstocks and purchasing (or pinching) grafts from known cultivars to grow actual fruit. You could then graft these on when the saplings are big enough.
    – Lisa
    Mar 26, 2012 at 12:24

2 Answers 2


Both trees are in the same pot.

I would immediately get them into their own pots, unless you're going to separate them now and plant them out in bare ground (not something I would recommend doing as this stage).

Below is what I would do (rightly or wrongly):

  • Get another pot of the same size -- 24inches/600mm across the top is of good size, also taking into account the depth looks about the same ie 24inches/600mm deep.

  • Very carefully remove the 2 saplings from the "existing" pot -- you may find their roots interwoven somewhat already, if that's the case, just do your best to separate them while causing as little root damage as possible.

  • Fill the pots with suitable growing medium eg 20% finely sieved "high quality" top soil & 80% "high quality" (garden) compost.

    • When filling the pots, fill to within an inch (25mm) or two (50mm) of the top of them. Lightly tamp the pots so the fill material settles, but do not compact.
  • Plant one sapling in each pot.

    • Saplings should be planted at the same depth as it was previously.

    • Saplings should be planted in the middle of the pots, thus offering maximum volume for root development/growth.

  • Water well eg Water slowly until water comes out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the pots. Wait 30 to 60 minutes. Then again water slowly until water comes out the drainage holes.

  • Place pots outdoors in good light (but not direct sun light), until the threat of frost arrives.

    • At this time of year (Autumn/Fall) on nights when a frost is forecast, bring the pots indoors, place in a cool, dry place -- basically somewhere that doesn't get below 35°F (2°C), preferably somewhere between 40 to 50°F (4 to 10°C).

    • Then during the day move them back outdoors into their chosen location.

  • This Winter (2011), bring them indoors -- somewhere that doesn't get below 35°F (2°C), but also doesn't get above 45°F (7°C), and will give them light during the daytime.

  • From Spring (2012) through to mid Autumn/Fall place in a sheltered area (protected from the wind) in good light, but not direct sun light.

  • Keep the soil constantly moist through the growing season, especially important during the heat of summer, you don't want the soil to dry-out.

  • Once every 4 weeks through the growing season apply a "mild" liquid fertilizer.

  • Evaluate the saplings in mid Autumn/Fall (2012), if they are of good size, well established, healthy looking, etc I would select a couple of suitable outdoor locations and plant them "permanently" in bare ground.

  • If after evaluating you feel the saplings aren't quite ready for outdoor life, repeat the Winter, Spring, Summer and early Autumn/Fall care (given above).

    • Then in mid Autumn/Fall 2013 plant them "permanently" outdoors in bare ground.

Additionally you may find the below articles somewhat helpful/useful:

Good luck! and do keep in mind Apple trees grown from seeds can be a very hit or miss affair.


I once grew small pine tree seedlings in pots I found growing under the big pine tree. I gave some to my mother and neighbors and for winter I was advised to store them in the garage the first two winters, away from wind, snow and ice. This worked out great! Water well before it freezes. Keep outside during spring through fall and then plant them in the ground after two winters In the garage. Our trees grew really nice! Try this!

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