I am growing a few good apple trees in my roof garden, in pots. I love growing the trees, and of course love the fruit. Since I am in a warm climate, I grow appropriate apple cultivars which are professionally grafted and yield beautiful apples.

Apart from that I also have an experimental area where I grow six apple plants grown from seed. One of them finally blossomed this year (about 4 years from seed) and the fruits have set and look promising. The others have not yet blossomed.

Since this is a four year experiment (and counting) I had time to look online and try to answer a question I had all this time - what are my chances of success?

According to some sources, the chance to get an apple tree which yields any fruit is about 1 in 10, and a tree yielding edible apples at about 1 in 25. Other sources also claim statistics as 1:250 to get an apple as good as the origin, and 1:250,000 to get a better apple than the original. All the sources are contradictory, and I don't know if growing apple from seed is a sensible thing to do, or an incredibly slim chance of success.

To be clear: I have no intentions of growing the next commercial cultivar in my roof garden - I just hope to get nice, edible apples. Does anyone know the chances of getting there?

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    What do you mean for "edible"? Apples are not venous, so edible. Acid and not sweet? There are other uses. BTW I used to eat apple jam made by small green unripe apples. Oct 2, 2017 at 11:41
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    Edible, in this context, is any apple that a person would bite into and not spit it out in disgust. It doesn't have to shine in terms of flavour - just be good enough to eat.
    – Assafs
    Oct 2, 2017 at 11:42
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    An English Bramley (which you can buy in supermarkets) wouldn't fit then! They're large, hard and bitter. People use them for baking or sauces, where lots of cooking and sugar bring out their flavour.
    – winwaed
    Oct 2, 2017 at 14:43
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    Sorry to not know statistics, & I have but one data pt for you, but it may count for s/thing. I too read (I think in the book, Botany of Desire, by M. Pollan) that chances were v. slim for edible apples from seeds.... However, abt. 10 yrs. ago, I & my ~4 y. o. planted some seeds we found already beginning to sprout within an apple. Forgot the variety (way-to-go, experimental technique), but this yr. we have abt 50 or so, very edible, nice tasting, good looking, smallish apples on our tree. Maybe we got way-lucky, or maybe the experts' standards for edibility are a litl high? I say go for it.
    – Lorel C.
    Oct 2, 2017 at 15:27
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    About 25% ... see gardening.stackexchange.com/questions/22591/… Oct 3, 2017 at 21:08

2 Answers 2


Apples are quite variable in their genetics, which is why all varieties eaten (as opposed to being made into cider) are clones. Any apple from seed should be edible, in the sense of not being poisonous, but they very probably will not be something you'd like to eat. You can, however, make them into cider - especially, hard cider. This is why Johnny Appleseed was so popular :) - Here's a reputable source: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/real-johnny-appleseed-brought-applesand-booze-american-frontier-180953263/

  • Thanks, this is a great story and I guess the closest I'll get to a reputable statistical source. I appreciate the effort.
    – Assafs
    Oct 25, 2017 at 1:51
  • Nice article to link. If one wasn't convinced that the apple tree from seed isn't certainly going to be a "spitter", read this.
    – Dale
    Apr 4, 2021 at 17:09

My experience is different. It is very easy to have a apple tree from seed.

But apple trees are not auto-fertile. This mean that to have apple on a tree, you need pollen from an other trees (and other varieties). There are tables about which varieties could pollinate which other variety, so different variety is not always enough. To complicate things, you really want varieties which flower on the same period.

So I would say: you need several apple trees (of different varieties) near your experiment.

For the edible part, it is also complex. Many apples (also in commerce) are not edible (your definition on question's comment) when picked from the plant. Time will make them ripe (hay will help), for commercial apples. On your experiment, maybe they will never be sweet. On the other hand, not all apple varieties can be stored.

Note: such experiment will give you possibly a non stable variety, with years the fruit form, colour and taste could change (and possibly less resilient to diseases and climate), so from a good apple to a commercial variety there is an other leap.

I would make the experiment, and you will like the (possibly) small green acid apples. I would say that it is probable (> 1/3) that you get an apple that you could use somewhere (fruit salads [you will save some lemon], pies, etc.). Worst case, you have them as decoration. To be really edible picked from plant (and enjoyable) I could not really say that 1/25 seems are good estimate.

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    Do you know of any sources (online, or in any printed publications) that mention the statistics? I am also very hopeful to get nice apples, but I was hoping for more concrete data.
    – Assafs
    Oct 2, 2017 at 12:06
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    No, I don't have statistic, and I don't know if someone researched it in such form. As far I know, the new plants are infected very early with diseases, to screen early the resistance. The "edible" part is tested very at the end (after many years), and the real the test is "could be commercialized?", which is much more strict that edible. On the other hand, "Golden delicious" is born in a different way (not with crossing). Oct 2, 2017 at 12:26
  • @Giacomo Catenazzi, curious about what you mean by the interesting statement: "Golden delicious is born in a different way (not with crossing)", can you explain about G. delicious using just a teensy bit more detail?
    – Lorel C.
    Oct 3, 2017 at 0:07
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    @LorelC. I read that Golden delicious was derived by a mutation on an existing apple tree. I doesn't remember much more details. But I already seen few fruit plants which changed fruit "variety" when getting old. Personally I had a old pear tree which started to produce darker pears on a side. Oct 3, 2017 at 8:24

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