I have been trying to germinate seeds from a mixed packet of tree/bush seeds:

  • Holly,
  • Rowan,
  • Alder Buckthorn
  • and Dogrose.

Only these two seeds have been germinating nicely and becoming seedlings. I'm curious which of the four it is, could anyone tell me please? Or is it too early to tell?

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  • The focus of your pictures is not even set on the plant! please post other pictures with correct focus for accurate answers.
    – J. Chomel
    Apr 19, 2017 at 10:58
  • My first guess is it could be Japanese Crab. I say this because of the color of the stem and roundness of leaves.
    – J. Chomel
    Apr 19, 2017 at 11:02
  • @J.Chomel Yes ok thanks. It has to be one of the four I mentioned, since the seed packet is only made up of those four species. I will try to take better pictures and post later
    – Droopy
    Apr 19, 2017 at 13:55
  • @J.Chomel I have added two better photos now.
    – Droopy
    Apr 19, 2017 at 18:51
  • What happened later with your seedlings? :)
    – VividD
    Mar 12, 2018 at 17:35

2 Answers 2


It is very difficult at this stage. Not many people seeds trees and lock them at such stages. I would say:

  • it is not holly: it seems already too tall. On my hollies, I have leaves nearer ground level.

  • possibly it is not Alder Buckthorn (Frangula alnus), because of the top leaf on first picture, it seems not an "entire leaf"

  • My gut will say it is not Dogrose (Rasa canina)

Note: it could be also a weed.

I think in a week or so, you could find it more easily.

  • Thank you. I did sterilize the soil with boiling water before sowing, so it should really be one of those four. Both seedlings look from the same species so they should hopefully not be weeds :)
    – Droopy
    Apr 19, 2017 at 13:57
  • But this top leaf for ruling out Alder Buckhorn could actually be two leafs...
    – J. Chomel
    Apr 19, 2017 at 14:57
  • @J.Chomel right. Probably you are right, because the "cut" is also not deep and in the right direction as we would expect on other species Apr 19, 2017 at 15:02
  • @Droopy: Sterilization is not 100% safe for seeds, additionally winds and animals could move seeds. It is difficult to discriminate seedling in such stage. Apr 19, 2017 at 15:04
  • @GiacomoCatenazzi Ok I see. They have been inside from the beginning too. I just added two better photos too. I think those leaves are seperate leaves so far and do not have any notches or separations in yet.
    – Droopy
    Apr 19, 2017 at 18:50

You should always used bagged potting soil for any plant in a pot and especially to germinate seeds. Sterilization by boiling water is not enough. It needs to be baked for at least 15 minutes on high heat. All seeds germinate on different time schedules. These seeds just might be some indigenous plant that was already in your soil that germinates quickly. What were the directions on your packet? Was this meant to be sowed out in the wild, or a cultivated garden?

This garden soil and this wet is going to make it tough to germinate your seeds. Not only moisture is necessary to soak the seed but air is critical as well. Part of drainage are the roots themselves sucking up water. There are not enough roots on these two babies and the seeds might just rot before germination.

I'd get another flat like this one, a bag of potting soil (no fertilizer added no water holding sponges or granules) fill those little divided holes with just soil, firm that soil down by bouncing and shaking the tray. Spray water on top to moisten JUST 1/2 inch no more. Divide the seeds into 'like' seeds buy looks. place a seed on top of the soil then push the seed gently into the soil to its proper depth seed planting guide determined by the size of the seed.

I plant twice the widest part of the seed. I think this article gives the same rule as well. Large seeds are planted deeper than tiny seed. I always cover with a dome of plastic or make my own little polytunnel using Saranwrap and popsicle sticks and tuck the ends beneath the tray. When the top of the soil starts to get dry, don't allow to dry all the way, I spray it with water to moisten. You seed needs moisture to soften and allow the seed to grow. Too much moisture, that seed will suffocate, drown. Seeds also need warmth. Light is not that big of a deal as they are in darkness but light is necessary as soon as you see germination. I use grow lights for starts. At least 200, 300 watt fluorescent. These you can lower right on top of your germinating seeds without frying them. At least 4" clearance. Warm room or a warm grow pad beneath the seed tray. Timer to turn the lights off for nighty night. Grins. Daylight hours 16 to 18 hours at least 6 hours of darkness.

Label your seed trays with and example of one of your seeds taped to the label with clear scotch tape. You want to remember what it was you planted. With the seed and a more mature baby plant we should be able to help identify which is which. Call the company or pull their site up on the internet. They should be able to tell you which seed goes to which of those 4 plants.

If any of these seeds make it, when roots start coming out of the bottom, transplant into 3" or 4" max sized pots with potting soil! When roots begin to grow out of the bottom drain hole in those, up pot again into a 1 gallon pot or 6" diameter pot using potting soil. When the roots begin to fill this pot you should then be able to transplant in the garden or pasture or sell. Each one labeled correctly and date of germination.

By the time your plants make it to the 3 or 4" pots, a little fertilizer is in order. To keep it simple use OSMOCOTE 14-14-14 extended release. Use half of what they recommend. Remember these little plants will be transplanted one more time, or more. With fresh potting soil add a little OSMOCOTE.

Before they are able to be transplanted in the garden or the large body of soil out of doors these plants will need to be acclimated to the out of doors. There are trays that will hold 4 of the round 1 gallon pots or 6 to eight of the square 1 gallon pots. This will help to carry the plants out side beginning with 10 minutes for 3 or 4 days, then 20 minutes for 3 or 4 days then an hour for a week, 2 hours for 2 weeks, then 4 hours for a week...until you get to up to 16 hours out of doors. As long as there is no chance of frost/freezing allow them to stay out all night for a week. This is but a sample schedule. You should be able to get the idea, watching your plants and knowing your zone, weather you might be able to speed up this acclimation or possibly drag it out further. Your new plants should be planted in their forever homes at least a month and 1/2 before any chance of frost is possible to allow them establish well. A soil test before fertilization of your garden soil. Decomposed organic matter spread on top of soil around the base (not considered fertilizer). Trees planted so that only the roots are below the soil. Nothing even mulch should touch the bark of your baby trunks. Plant directly into your soil without any amendments. The depth of that pot should be the depth of your hole or rather the depth of your root ball is the depth of that hole no deeper. That root ball should sit on undisturbed subsoil.

Send pictures once you've up potted the first time. Call the seed company to find out which seed is what. This packet must have been meant to throw willy nilly into a pasture or meadow like wild flowers. They are thinking that 99 percent of those seeds will never germinate or mature into a shrub/tree. I like that you want to make full use of these seeds to be able to plant them according to their mature height and width. The one gallon gallon plants will require at least an 8' distance from another tree or shrub for health. That seed company should be able to give you proper spacing of each species...or we can help with that when you get them to the proper size for transplanting.

Use potting soil, trust me. Don't start watering deeply until you've got at least 4 or more" of growth in the starter trays. Then allow to dry before watering again. This soil is heavy and saturated. I doubt you'll get any more germination. I am betting this is an Alder that loves wet feet.

  • Ok thank you very much! :) The soil I was using is this multi-purpose compost, which says on the bag that it is ideal for seedlings also. I will make sure to stop watering it so much then, I was worrying the other day that I hadn't been watering it enough. The instructions were very basic, since it was this packet of free tree seeds distributed by a woodland charity to encourage people to plant trees. The seeds were very small and mixed with some debris/soil so it was hard to study their differences. Comments are limited to very few words so I can't answer everything but thank you so much!!
    – Droopy
    Apr 19, 2017 at 19:18
  • For what its worth the instructions say to sow them in pots initially and when its big enough to the ground. But its as a charity initiative type thing for laypeople so they're likely not extremely specially made seeds etc.
    – Droopy
    Apr 19, 2017 at 19:36
  • Even instructions with seeds are meant only as guidelines. I have found most labelled instructions on any garden product to be INcorrect. The seeds are seeds, be nice to know whether they are disease resistant or discuss what to expect. I would still start little chunks of this seed/soil in your pots in POTTING soil. Close to what I've just described. Then we'll be able to tell you more clearly what you've got growing. I am just trying to make you more successful. This is an interesting project. Sow them in smaller pots and upgrade as they get larger.
    – stormy
    Apr 19, 2017 at 22:54
  • Don't worry about writing too many or too long of comments. We could take this to chat but the thing is you should learn enough to be successful. We are trying to encourage others to become gardeners to include a good dose of humility. Ask away. I am the only one who writes too much, you won't get in trouble, just me and I am used to it, GRINS!.
    – stormy
    Apr 19, 2017 at 23:00
  • Thank you @stormy I appreciate it :) I will try to do everything as close to your instructions as I can and thank you they are very thorough. I have some sycamore/maple seeds I picked up from outside and I want to try to grow some pine seeds too, my aim is ideally to grow a tree (or several) which will grow very big somewhere and live for a long time.
    – Droopy
    Apr 20, 2017 at 21:28

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