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I first collected some saplings in spring, expecting them to live a few weeks like cut flowers. Instead, they kept on growing, and I’ve had mini trees on my windowsill ever since – with, admittedly, a few casualties along the way.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

Collecting
The best time to collect is early spring when they’re everywhere under trees and bushes from the previous year’s seedfall, & only superficial roots making them easier to pull up. Grab near the base of the stem and gently pull.
Later in the year you can find them in dense woodlands or shady areas, where they’ve not really had enough light to grow on.
Wrap the roots in wet paper towels to keep them happy on your way home.

Prep
Check for pests. Any fungi or bugs on your sapling risk spreading to your others, as I sadly found out. You can get rid of most pests just by washing the leaves with washing up liquid and water. (This actually works for any plant, but is usually a bit impractical with full size trees!)
Shake or rinse off any soil, then stand in clean tap water in your chosen receptacle. I use glass bottles/vases and daylight on the roots seems to be fine – I can’t work out if this is good for stopping bacterial growth, or if I’ve just been lucky.

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Maintenance
Keep an eye on the water – you don’t want it to dip below the level of the roots, or to turn green & cloudy. If this happens wash the roots and bottle well, and refill.

Weeds are easier than trees to keep alive – I guess because they’re just wilier plants in general. Trees are usually prettier though, so I usually have a few of each on the go.

The stuff I don’t know
Any green fingered goddesses out there want to add to this? I often wonder if I should be feeding them, or potting them on. I’m also interested in starting some myself from seed next spring – can I grow these from conkers or acorns indoors? Would love to hear any thoughts, ideas or experience.

I was chatting a bit on this post on instagram about whether they will ‘know’ it is autumn or not, as indoor specimens – and now I can confirm that they do! They’ve all suddenly turned red and started dropping their leaves – I guess when you only have 5, it’s a shorter process! There are also teensy green shoots appearing on most of them, which I’m guessing is the start of next year’s growth? Will wait and see!

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9 Comments

  • Lindsay Eryn

  • May 12, 2016

I currently have 7 plants in pretty bottles of water right now! I haven’t tried trees, though, I love that!

  • Sara

  • November 04, 2014

Definitely try, Rida! You don’t need to be green-fingered for these – you can just ignore them! Plus they’re free, so if they die you can just go & get more… haha! x

  • Sara

  • November 03, 2014

Oh lovely grandma memories! Did she use that magic rooting powder? What is in that, I wonder? I hope you find some saplings to bring a bit of your childhood into your home xx

  • Sara

  • November 03, 2014

Oh thank you Emma, and thanks for sharing my post! Hoping to see saplings in your photographs someday soon 🙂

  • Sara

  • November 03, 2014

Oh, magic acorns! In going to try it – have u missed acorn season yet? Oak leaves are the prettiest, & I spent a lot of time looking for an oak sapling this summer but they were all SO firmly rooted. This explains why!

Yes please to the silver birch seeds! I feel one step away from becoming a bonsai enthusiast

  • Rida

  • November 03, 2014

Such a wonderful idea and beautiful post! I’m so not green fingered and I wish I was! I would love to try the saplings idea in spring though, they would look so beautiful in the kitchen window <3

  • Jessica

  • November 02, 2014

this is wonderfully nostalgic for me…I grew up with a grandma fond of growing all sorts of ‘cuttings’ on the window sill. Thank you for the reminder & tips…will surely be on the look out for some sweet saplings!

  • Emma

  • November 02, 2014

Once again you’ve inspired me with another beautiful post. I’m not a fan of house plants, but a tree in the house, that’s something I could definitely have in my home! Xx

  • Jo

  • November 01, 2014

I love this so much.

A year ago, Emmy and I planted two acorns in a pot outside. They spent the whoooooole winter putting out secret roots and they waited until spring before sending up shoots.

So you could definitely grow a sapling from an acorn but it will do a good impression of being dead/rotted for months!

We’ve also got millions of silver birch tree seeds blowing around the house at the moment, if you’d like some? Your post has inspired me to try growing some, instead of just hoovering them up.

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