Growing a peach tree from seed can be a fascinating project but, in the UK, you are unlikely to grow a tree that will yield fruit. Peach trees available to buy for the home grower are bred to be able to withstand our British climate, so a tree grown from a shop-bought peach that’s been grown in southern Europe may not be hardy enough to grow in the UK.
Even a tree raised from a peach grown in the UK may not come ‘true to type’ as it will have been bred to have certain characteristics that may not necessarily be passed on to the next generation, so you still may end up with a tree that isn’t hardy enough to grow in the UK or the fruit may not be as delicious as the fruit you grew your tree from.
However, growing a peach tree from a stone is still a worthwhile and fun project, and can result in an attractive tree that bears beautiful blossom each spring.
You Will Need
- Peach stones
- Horticultural sand, optional
- Kitchen towel, optional
- Clear plastic bag
- 20cm diameter pot
- Loam-based compost
For the best chances of success, use a few peach stones, as some may not germinate as readily as others. Remove the pit, or stone, from each peach. You can do this the fun way – by eating the peach! Wash off any remaining flesh and leave the stone to dry for a fortnight.
Peach stones need a period of cold in order to germinate. If you live in a cold region then potting up your peach stones in autumn and leaving them in a cold frame or similar should be enough to break their dormancy and ensure they germinate. However, in a mild winter this may not work so if you want to make sure your peach stone experiences a good cold spell, you’ll need to recreate these conditions artificially.
The easiest way to stratify a peach stone is by putting it in the fridge. Put your clean and dry peach stone into a plastic bag with some damp horticultural sand, or wrap the stone in a damp – but not wet – piece of kitchen roll. You’re aiming for a moist environment but if it’s too wet the pit may develop mould. Seal the bag and put it in the fridge. Keep your peach seed in the fridge for around eight weeks.
When your period of stratification is over, your peach seeds are ready to plant. There’s no need to nick or sand the seeds – known as scarification – as the cold spell will have ensured they can germinate. Indeed, your peach seeds may have sprouted in the fridge. Fill 20cm plastic pots two-thirds full with garden soil or loam-based compost, and plant one seed per pot. If you have stratified several seeds then prioritise planting up those that have already sprouted. Carefully lay each sprouted peach stone on the surface of the soil on its side, and gently cover with more soil. You don’t need to ‘fix’ the seed in the right position, with the root facing down or the shoot facing up, as this will damage the tender new growth – the shoot and root will know which direction to grow in. Water thoroughly and allow to drain, then keep in a frost-free place such as a cold frame to grow on, watering your seedlings periodically to ensure the soil they’re growing in doesn’t dry out.
It can take several weeks for peach seedlings to develop leaves but eventually they should start to look like young trees, with several leaves and a good root system. This is the point where you decide which seedlings to keep – are any growing more strongly than others? Did some fail to thrive? Be ruthless – your aim is to have a beautiful, healthy peach tree, so choose one or two of the strongest-growing seedlings and focus on giving them the best conditions they need to grow well. Keep watering regularly to ensure the soil stays moist but is not too wet.
After all risk of frost has passed, typically after June, you can move your peach tree to a sheltered, sunny spot outside for summer. Gradually acclimatise your peach to outside conditions by popping it outside during the day and bringing it in at night for a few days, so it doesn’t suffer a check in growth when placed outside. Alternatively, keep your peach in a sunny greenhouse or glasshouse instead.