How To Grow Avocado
An avocado fan, while buying the fruit often from stores, might wonder if they can have their own avocado tree so they can get fresh avocado.
The good news is that one can start growing their own avocado tree just by cutting open an avocado and taking out the big brown seed in the center of the fruit, although they’ll have to have a lot of patience as an avocado tree can take as many as minimum five years to produce fruit.
One can grow avocado indoors as well as outdoors if they live in one of the warmest parts of the United States.
Avocado, also known as an alligator or avocado pear, botanically is a large berry containing a single large seed/pit.
Avocados (Persea Americana) are full of nutrients like healthy fats, fiber, and vitamins C, E, and K.
The grower should remember that all parts of an avocado tree, including fruits, are toxic to a wide range of animals. Hence, if the grower has pets, they may not want to grow this tree to be on the safer side.
Hardiness Zone of Avocado
The plant hardiness zones for avocados are 10 to 12, i.e., regions with no frost.
The lifespan of avocado trees depends on their environment.
However, healthy avocado trees have been known to live for hundreds of years. Some have even been reported to live up to 400 years.
When to Plant
Ideally, one should plant avocados between March and June.
Avocados perform best in rich, well-drained soil with full sun and medium-high humidity.
The grower should offer them plenty of space while planting, particularly if they’re growing multiple trees, as they can reach a height anywhere from 40 to 80 feet and a width of up to 20 feet if they get the right conditions.
Avocado trees have very shallow roots, making mulching so important after planting.
The grower should water 2-3 times per week by soaking the soil thoroughly and then letting it dry out before the next watering.
Pollination in the avocado tree may be tricky, and the grower should know how it takes place.
These trees have what is known as “complete” flowers, i.e., they have both female and male parts. However, they open their female and male parts at different times, making self-pollination possible but not very fruitful.
To make optimum pollination possible, one has to have at least two avocado trees.
Avocado trees are considered to be of two types:
- type A avocados open their female parts in the morning of the first day and their male parts in the afternoon of the second day,
- type B avocados open their female parts in the afternoon of the first day and their male parts in the morning of the second day.
These different times make cross-pollination between the two types possible. While choosing to plant two trees, the grower should make sure to have both these types for the best results.
Types of Avocado Trees
All avocado trees originate from three main varieties: Mexican, West Indian, and Guatemalan. In between these three varieties, there are numerous other varieties available.
Hass is a type A avocado tree and is one of the most popular avocado varieties often found in grocery stores. It’s a hybrid of Mexican and Guatemalan varieties. It produces rich, creamy fruits with thick, bumpy skin.
It’s more sensitive to heat than other varieties. Hass avocado trees are known to produce a reasonably sized yield when grown on their own.
Fuerte is also a widely known variety of avocado trees. It’s a type B tree and is usually grown with Hass avocados.
It’s also a hybrid between Mexican and Guatemalan varieties. It produces large, oval fruits with relatively smooth, thin skin that one can peel easily. The fruit has less oil than Hass avocados.
These trees are also more sensitive to heat and so are a good fit for the northern borders of the avocado’s growing zones.
Pinkerton is a type A, Guatemalan variety and is popular for its smaller size and large fruit yield. Its fruits are oblong and have flesh similar to that of Hass avocado, i.e., rich and creamy. These trees need a type B avocado tree to produce a sizeable fruit yield.
How to Grow Avocado from Seed
Growing avocado from seed is very easy, and perhaps everyone learns it in childhood.
One just has to buy an avocado, enjoy its luscious green flesh, then wash the seed. One has to remember which end of the seed was on top and which one was at the bottom.
Poke the Seed with Toothpicks
Poke a toothpick in the seed, imagining where there would be the equator of the globe. Only around ¾ to ½ inch of the toothpick should be poked into the seed. Poke 2-3 more toothpicks in a similar way, at equal distances.
Place the Seed Over Water
One should take a glass of water and, with the bottom part of the seed downward, should place the seed into the water with the toothpicks placed over the brim of the glass.
This will keep the seed suspended with an inch of it submerged in the water, and its upper part will remain open in the air. If any of the toothpicks wobble, they should poke it a little deeper into the seed.
The Seed will Grow Roots
The glass with the seed should be placed in a warm location but away from direct sunlight.
The grower should keep adding water daily, so an inch of water should cover the bottom end of the seed. They should totally change the water every 4-5 days to remove any bacteria.
The bottom of the seed will grow roots, and the top will grow a slender seedling in around 8 weeks.
If no such thing happens in 8 weeks, the grower should start again with a new seed (they should also think about whether they really put the right end into the water).
Cut the Stem
When the seedling becomes 6 to 7 inches tall, the grower should cut the stem in half or around 3 inches tall. This may seem counterproductive to growing a tree.
However, it lets the plant start putting its energy into new growth.
Note: many gardeners skip this step (myself included) and plant the avocado seedling with leaves.
Plant the Seedling in the Soil
When the seedling develops many leaves and thick roots, the grower should plant it in potting soil in a 10-inch-wide pot with drainage holes.
They should not add gravel, chunks of broken terra cotta, or other materials at the bottom of the pot because it will hold excessive moisture.
The grower should leave the top half of the seed above the soil line. They should water the soil until water runs out of the bottom of the pot. They should not let the pot sit in a saucer of water as too much water can cause root rot and leaves to turn yellow.
They should then check the moisture level by placing a finger into the soil up to their first knuckle. They should water deeply whenever the soil feels dry to the touch.
If the plant has yellow leaves and the soil is wet, it means that the grower is overwatering. They should then allow the soil to dry out between waterings.
Place the Pot in the Sun and Water it Well
The grower should place the pot indoors in a sunny window or move it outdoors anytime when the temperature is 45-degree F or warmer.
They should water more often when the plant is placed outdoors in warm, dry weather. Young potted avocado trees should be placed in partial shade.
If they get too much direct sun when they’re trying to establish, their leaves can develop sunburns.
Avocado trees should be pruned regularly. Every time it grows another 6 inches tall, the grower should cut back the top two sets of leaves. When the plant reaches 12 inches, they should cut it back to 6 inches. When it reaches 18 inches, they should cut it back to 12 inches, and so on.
This will promote bushy growth. As the tree grows, the grower should gently remove it and place it in successively larger pots, increasing in diameter by two inches every time.
The grower should fertilize weekly in summer with a fertilizer with nitrogen indicated by a higher first number, such as 7-4-2. Avocados also need a small amount of zinc. So, the grower should look for a fertilizer with that component.
They should avoid fertilizing in winter when the growth is minimal.
Growing Avocado Tree Outdoors
Avocado is a subtropical plant native to southern Mexico. If the grower lives in a region where winter temperatures drop regularly below freezing, they should plant the avocado tree in a container so they can move it indoors in winter. (in the United States, only the southernmost tips, such as southernmost parts of Florida, Arizona, Texas, or California, are suitable for outdoor avocado planting).
Indoor avocado trees should be grown in potting soil and not in garden soil to allow air and water to circulate freely.
If the grower lives in a warm enough hardiness zone, they can plant it outdoors. Avocado performs best in temperatures from 60 to 85-degree F. they should place the plant in a spot where it gets a minimum of 8 hours of sun every day.
They should dig a hole that is a bit wider than the current root ball but only as deep as the root ball. Planting too deep or too shallow can cause problems.
The grower should be careful and should not disturb the root system while planting. They should water the newly planted avocado tree every 5 to 10 days with many gallons of water.
It’s better to water deeply less often than watering often to force roots to grow to reach the water. They should mulch with around 3 to 6 inches of coarse bark or cocoa bean hulls to retain moisture.
Before one starts growing their own avocado tree, one should remember one important thing: these trees can usually take anywhere between 5 and 13 years to set fruit, although a tree grown from a nursery-bought seedling can take 3 to 5 years to fruit.
This is also quite difficult for the tree if it’s grown indoors. Actually, this is the reason why avocados in stores are so expensive.
Some avocado trees will start growing fruit when they’re 3 or 4 years old, whereas others may take 15+ years, and still others will never fruit.
Having several avocado trees growing together may help with pollination. However, the grower cannot expect the fruit to be anything like the avocado that yielded their seed.
Commercial avocados are grown from grafted branches to control the yield of the fruit. A naturally grown avocado may be very different than its parent.
If the grower could never harvest an avocado, there may be two reasons.
First: they may lose patience. It can take 5 to 13 years or even more for an avocado tree grown from seed to bloom and set fruit. There is no fruit despite having blossoms? Well, it’s normal for avocado trees to shed several flowers.
Second: mature avocado trees reach 15 to 35 feet in height. One might decide it’s too tough to grow such a tall tree indoors or move it inside and out, according to seasonal changes. If the tree sets fruit, the grower will have to pick them after they reach a good size (as avocados don’t ripen on the tree) and then wait for several days for the fruit’s flesh to become soft.
The growers should pick avocados grown to full size and then let them rest on a counter until ripe. They should give the fruits a gentle squeeze to check their softness. Once the flesh is soft but not squishy, it’s time to enjoy the fruit.
Even if the grower doesn’t ever have fruit, they can rejoice because watching an avocado tree growing is fun.
Growing Avocados in Containers
Although they cannot reach their full height, avocado trees can be grown in containers. This is great for small yards or gardens near the northern border of the avocado’s growing zones, as potted trees can be moved to a protected location when cold weather sets in.
For growing in containers, young trees or dwarf varieties are ideal as they will stay small for some time. While choosing a container, the grower should make sure it drains well and has unobstructed drainage holes.
The material of the container should be breathable, like terra cotta, to allow air and water to move freely through the container. Such a container should be filled with well-draining soil, such as compost and sand.
Once established, avocado trees are very simple to maintain. Their large, leathery green leaves and beautiful shape make them lovely houseplants and landscape trees, even if they don’t produce fruit.
By providing basic needs to the tree, the grower can help ensure its beauty and future productivity.
Since avocado is a subtropical plant, it loves and thrives well in a lot of sunshine.
The planting location should receive at least 8 hours of sunlight per day. Although it can tolerate partial shade, it can grow best and produce more fruit when kept in full sun.
Avocado roots need an ample amount of air, so the grower should avoid overwatering. They should always let the soil dry out slightly and then should water thoroughly to moisten the whole root ball.
If one moves their container tree outdoors for summer, it may need daily watering. Container plants dry out sooner in the sun and wind. The grower should remember to bring the plant indoors once temperatures drop below 50 degree-F in the fall.
When it comes to landscape avocados, the grower should water the entire ground beneath the canopy of the tree.
Watering should be deep and thorough. Then they should allow the soil to dry out slightly before the next watering.
Most avocado roots stay in the top 6-8 inches of soil, which can dry out soon. Newly planted trees may need water 2 to 3 times per week during their first year.
Mature avocado trees need water up to around 2 inches of rainfall or irrigation each week during summer.
Avocado trees are vulnerable to high wind damage. Hence if the trees are very young, soft, and immature, they may benefit from support.
Choosing a planting location that will offer wind protection will help keep the tree healthy and upright. The grower should just make sure it gets plenty of sun and the soil is well-draining.
Avocado trees prefer rich, loamy, and well-draining soil. It’s important that the soil is aerated and doesn’t hold excess moisture since soggy soil can cause root rot.
Soil pH should be acidic to neutral, i.e., between 5 and 7. Avocado trees are sensitive to alkaline soil. If the soil is less than ideal, the grower should amend it with sand or some other well-draining substrate before planting.
To help the tree retain the right amount of moisture, the grower should add a layer of mulch around the tree. This will also offer protection to the tree’s shallow root system.
Avocados perform best with plant foods designed especially for avocados and citruses.
They love fertilizers with higher quantities of nitrogen compared to potassium and phosphorus. This means that the first number in the N-P-K ratio on the fertilizer label should be higher than the other two.
Some fertilizers provide avocados with a great mix of primary nutrients along with added micronutrients, such as iron and zinc, which are particularly important for the health and growth of avocados.
These fertilizers also start feeding immediately and then continue feeding the tree for up to four months.
The grower should feed container avocados every 12 to 16 weeks, as per the label rates depending on the container size. For outdoor avocados, the grower should feed in late winter, midsummer, and again in early fall, as per the recommended label rate, depending on the tree’s age.
Pruning will encourage more manageable, bushy growth in avocado trees. It’s ideal to start pruning when the trees are young.
If grown from seed, the grower should start pruning when the seedling becomes 6 inches tall, snipping off the top pair of leaves.
When it becomes a foot tall, the grower should trim it back 6 inches. After this, the tree should be pruned yearly.
Mature trees require occasional pruning to keep the tree clean and to create enough space for air and light to move through. The grower can do light pruning any time of the year.
However, they should do heavy pruning in early spring. They should prune away any low-hanging branches to keep the tree clean and accessible.
Thick areas should be pruned to ensure sufficient light and airflow. Any dead wood should be cut back, and V-shaped branches should be trimmed away. If the grower plans to keep the tree on the smaller side, they should continue pruning the tips off the branches.
But they should remember to start slowly and not take off more than one-third of the length of each branch.
Propagation of avocado trees is usually done through grafting, layering or cuttings. Spring is the best time to propagate when new growth is in full swing.
Grafting is often done to combine the desirable qualities of two different varieties, whereas layering and cuttings are done to produce duplicate trees.
The grower will need sharp snips, and moist and well-draining potting soil, a small pot, and rooting hormone.
- The grower should select new growth in the spring that is 5 to 6 inches long and has several leaves that have not opened.
- They should cut the new growth branch using sharp snips at a 45-degree angle.
- They should wound the cut end by scraping at the bark on either side of the cutting. This will encourage root production.
- They should dip the cutting into IBA rooting hormone.
- Then they should bury the cut end into moist, well-draining soil.
- They should keep the soil moist and place the cutting in a sunny location.
- They should gently tug the cutting in a couple of weeks to check for resistance, which reveals new growth. Then they should repot the cutting into a larger pot or outdoors.
For grafting, the grower will need sharp snips, a sharp knife, and something to wrap the grafted area, such as grafting tape.
- The grower should follow steps 1 and 2 of the “cuttings” section.
- They should remove the tip of the cutting, together with any leaves that are present.
- Then they should wound the tree they would like to graft onto by removing a section of the bark.
- They should make sure the cambium of the cutting and the cambium of the tree are touching.
- Then they should secure the cutting onto the tree, making sure to cover the exposed parts.
- The grafted branch and the main tree should be fused together in a few weeks.
For air layering, the grower will need a sharp knife, a rooting medium that can be wrapped around a branch, and a rope or tape to secure the rooting medium around the tree.
- The grower should select the branch they would like to take as a new tree.
- With a clean knife, they should cut two circles around the branch to create a section of bark that can be peeled away.
- Once the bark is removed, they should scrape the inner branch to clean the cambium away.
- Then they should wrap the exposed inner branch with rooting material, such as compost, in a small bag (they should ensure the compost is wrapping the branch, not the bag) or another rooting medium. They should secure the bag around the branch.
- Roots should develop in several weeks. After that, the grower should cut the branch off below the formed roots and plant the new tree.
When grown in their appropriate zones, avocado trees don’t need extra care during the winter.
However, trees grown on the northern edges of their growing zones should be best kept in pots so they can be moved indoors or to a location protected from cold weather.
Pests and Diseases
Avocados are prone to attacks by insects like mites, thrips, caterpillars, lace bugs, borers, leafrollers, and whiteflies.
Diseases that can attack these trees include root rot, sun blotch, fruit rot, and cankers. The grower should be alert to the presence of these pests or early signs of these diseases.
Visible signs of an attack can be brown spots on leaves or scarred fruit. Prompt action is the best measure to protect avocado trees and prevent any future problems.
For example, Sevin Insect Killer Ready-to-Spray kills by contact in minutes. The spray should be used as a spot treatment. The solution will not damage the plant and will mix automatically as the grower sprays.
Avocados stay firm till they’re picked and ripened. They never ripen on trees. Therefore, the right timing is important and takes some practice. The grower should allow the frit to fully grow and should pick it when it looks mature.
Once picked, it should be stored indoors at room temperature, away from direct sun. A fully mature avocado will ripen and grow soft within a couple of weeks.
But to check the softness, the grower should not press it with their fingertips. Instead, they should place the fruit in their hand and squeeze it with the fleshy part of their palm just below their thumb. It won’t leave bruises as finger squeezes can.
Once avocados start softening, the grower can slow the process by placing them in the refrigerator. To speed up the softening process, one should keep avocados in paper bags along with bananas.
Whether from seed or from a nursery-bought plant, growing avocado is an easy and fun project that can reward the grower with excellent, fresh, homegrown flavors in the end.
The entire family, including kids, can participate in the project, and even if they don’t get fruits from the trees, they’d certainly get beautiful trees in their yard.
All in all, everyone should go through the enchanting experience of growing avocados at least once in life.
For more information about avocados, feel free to check the following:
There is a popular internet myth that you can soak your avocado seeds in water to make them grow. Does it work? What is the best way to grow an avocado seed into a tree?
Soaking an avocado pit in water isn’t the best way to germinate your seed and produce fruit. Growing your avocado pit as an indoor plant will help produce fruit in a shorter time frame. You can also wrap your seed in a damp paper towel and leave it in a dark place to germinate.
Below we will look at the best way to start and grow your avocado tree.
Published: November 15, 2022.