Growing Scots Pine or Mugo Pine from seed

Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) and Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo) - despite ending up as very differently sized trees - start life in much the same way. In fact, their seeds are almost impossible to tell apart. The photo below shows Scots Pine seeds on the left, and Mugo pine seeds on the right, with a pen's tip for scale. 

The good news is that both Scots and Mugo pines are extremely easy to grow from seed. In fact, even a beginner who has never grown trees from seed before should be able to see a high rate of germination over the course of a couple of weeks. 

If you haven't yet acquired your seeds and you live in the UK, please consider buying from our online store. We sell Scots Pine, Mugo Pine and a Scots & Mugo pine multipack.

Sowing the seeds 

Sowing Scots and Mugo pines is a straight forward process.

To begin, soak the seeds over night in water at room temperature. This allows the seeds to soak up some water and become moist, priming them for germination. 

Mugo Pine seeds soaking in a small dish of water

The next day, the seeds will be ready for sowing. Some may choose to sow them directly into a compost - this is a fine approach and you should plant them with the expectation of around half of the seeds germinating. Otherwise, you may wish to germinate the seeds on a damp sheet of kitchen roll inside a sealed plastic container that can trap in some moisture - this is the approach we usually take as it allows us to transfer germinated seeds directly into their own seedling tray section. 

Mugo Pine seeds sitting on damp kitchen paper

Germination usually occurs within 1-3 weeks. This will take the form of a small root (known as the radicle) pushing its way out of the seed. When seeds push out their radicle, you should act fast to pick them off the kitchen paper and plant them around a centimetre under the surface of compost in a small pot or seedling tray. 

Once this has been planted, you should expect to wait a further 1-2 weeks for the seedling to grow large enough to penetrate the surface of the compost. At this time it will likely have the seed casing still attached around its infant pine needles. They will often remove this themselves, naturally, within a week - but if one seems to be stuck you might want to see if it can be gently pulled off. If you feel resistance, stop pulling as you can easily rip the head off your seedling and kill it - it's best to be on the side of caution and not touch the seedling at this stage unless necessary.