How to grow hawthorn from seed

Updated March 23, 2017

Hawthorn is the common name for plants in the Crataegus genus. They include both trees and shrubs, depending upon species, but hawthorn most commonly refers to a group of shrubs that are ideally suited to being grown as hedging. The small berries, or fruit, will attract birds into the garden as the shrub provides both food and shelter for them. Growing hawthorn from seed requires patience as it can take 18 months or longer for the seed to germinate. Sow the hawthorn seeds in the fall, while they are fresh.

Soak the seeds overnight in a bowl of tap water.

Place a layer of small stones or pottery shards on the bottom of the pot. Cover them with a 25 mm (1 inch) layer of sand.

Combine equal parts of coarse sand and compost. Place the seeds in a plastic tub and add three times as much of the sand/compost mixture. Mix the seeds and the soil well and pour it into the planting pot. Cover with a 25 mm (1 inch) layer of sand.

Cover the top of the pot with hardware cloth or other material that protects the seeds from predators yet allows it to be open to the rain and snow.

Place the pot outdoors, in a shady area, yet open to the elements. Allow it to remain there for 18 months. Leaving the seeds outdoors over the winter gives them the chilling period required to break their dormancy. This is known as stratification.

Add a 75 mm (3 inch) layer of compost and a 50 mm (2 inch) layer of sand to the seed bed and till it to a depth of 250 mm (10 inches). Level the seed bed.

Remove the seed/sand mixture from the pot at the end of the 18-month stratification period. Some of the seeds may have sprouted. If so, that is fine, just plant them as you do the others. Sow the seeds, root-end down, into the seed bed. Push the seeds 6 mm (1/4 inch) into the soil and press the soil firmly over them. Cover the bed with a 25 mm (1 inch) layer of coarse sand.

Water the area until the soil is saturated and keep it slightly moist as the seedlings grow. Choose the strongest, most vigorously growing seedlings and remove and discard the weak ones.

Things You'll Need

  • Bowl
  • Stones, pebbles or pottery shards
  • Coarse sand
  • Compost
  • Planting pot, size depends upon number of seeds
  • Hardware cloth
  • Hoe
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About the Author

Based in the American Southwest, Bridget Kelly has been writing about gardening and real estate since 2005. Her articles have appeared at,,, RE/,,, and in "Chicago Agent" magazine, to name a few. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in creative writing.