Hawthorn – how to grow hawthorn from seed

Hawthorn is a large shrub or deciduous tree with branches that are armored with large thorns. It is native to America, Northern Africa, Central Asia, and all of Europe. The leaves are serrated and medium to dark green colored. Fragrant flowers are small, pinkish-white, and bloom in thick clusters. Berries are red to blue-black in color and have large seeds. Hawthorn is in the rose family. Hawthorns are best planted when dormant, from autumn to spring, as bare-root trees or hedging plants.

Where to plant hawthorn?

Plant hawthorn

Hawthorns are full hardy, so will suit most garden locations. Ideally plant in moist but well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade.

How to propagate

The best method of propagating hawthorns is from seed, saved from the haws or berries. It takes a long time, but start by mashing the berries to extract the seed and mix with sand. Sow in fine compost mixed with leaf mould, in pots. Keep well watered and seeds will germinate in around 18 months.


In a 1-litre pot sow three seeds and cover with no more than 10mm of compost or grit. On a seedbed broadcast the seed quite densely – aim for about 5mm between seeds. Firm with a roller or board to press the seed well into the soil. Cover with 5-10mm of grit.


Farmer caring hawthorn

Prepare the site well by clearing away any weeds or grass and make a hole big enough to accommodate the root ball. Plant carefully in the hole, to the same depth as it was in the pot, and firm back the soil. Alternatively, when planting a hedgerow, dig a trench to incorporate 8 plants per metre.


Hawthorn are not particularly demanding to grow, but ensure that they are kept moist at all times.


Don’t forget to remove the weaker seedlings to leave the strongest when you are growing in a container. The only problem you may find when growing hawthorn is mildew. Good hygiene can reduce the risk – don’t touch your plants when they are wet and don’t water the foliage too late in the day. Both these measures can help prevent infection. If mildew does appear, treat quickly with a fungicide, preferably organic

Harvest hawthorn

Harvest & Picking

The scarlet berries should be picked from the beginning of October onwards. If you pick them too early, you risk the seeds being immature. Collect the bunches directly from the tree by gripping the branch below the bunch and pulling. In this way, no damage is caused to the parts of the tree that will continue to grow. A large number of berries can be collected in a short time.
The berries, or haws, ripen from early to late autumn, depending on your location and tree species. Once they are fully ripe, strip the hawthorn berries from the branches, carefully avoiding the sharp spines.

Extraction and storage

Berries can be stored in buckets or bread baskets for a week or two provided they are kept in a cool, dry place.

Hawthorn fruit needs to be stored in a cool and dry place

Hawthorn is perhaps one of the easiest of the berry fruits to extract seed from. You need a bucket or two, a flat-bottomed pole (for example, an old sawn-off spade handle), a sieve or collander and access to a hosepipe or water supply. The berries are mashed and the waste and seed separated through the sieve.
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