Do you want to grow an avocado tree? Are you interested in making avocados a part of your houseplant collection? Then you will find this article helpful as it offers an extensive guide on how you can start growing an avocado from seeds or plant it from a young tree.
In This Article
Quick Facts About the Avocado Trees
- Botanical name: Persea Americana
- Type of plant: Broadleaf evergreen fruit tree
- Family: Lauraceae
- Sun exposure: Full Sun
- Type of soil and pH level: General-purpose potting soil; 6.0 to 6.5 pH level – can withstand alkaline or acidic
- Mature size: 30 to 60 feet tall in the landscape; requires pruning when grown as potted plants to retain their small size
- Color of flower: Greenish yellow
- Bloom time: Seasonal bloomer
- Hardiness zones: 10 to 12 USDA zones; as a houseplant, it can handle any zone.
An Overview of the Avocado
Avocado is a famous superfruit because of the many benefits it offers. Aside from being completely healthy, avocados are also versatile as you can use them in a lot of recipes. You get to use it in preparing salads and sandwiches.
You can also prepare dips from avocados, like guacamole. It is so versatile that you can use it in preparing desserts and breakfast dishes, too. All the trends in using avocados make them kind of costly if you keep on buying them.
Fortunately, it is possible to grow avocado trees and it is a rewarding and easy experience. It is worth the wait, too.
For those who are unaware, the avocado thrives well in tropical America. However, you can also grow avocado trees in subtropical climates. It is now possible to cultivate avocados in a lot of regions worldwide due to the tasty and edible green fruits it can produce.
You can expect to produce fruit from the flowers sprouting on the avocado tree. Upon seeing the flowers coming out, the gardeners will immediately have an idea of the exact time when it will bear fruit.
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Unsurprisingly, the avocado tree is native to Mexico, specifically the country’s South-central locations. You can now see avocados being commercially cultivated in Mediterranean and tropical climates worldwide maybe because it is one of the tastiest greenness you can ever grow.
In 1833, this plant was brought and introduced to the US by Henry Perrine, a horticulturist. It became known by that time when Perrine planted the tree in Florida. After a few years, Judge R.B. Ord also started planting an avocado in Santa Barbara, California.
During the early 20th century, avocado turned out to be a commercial crop in the US. It became popular in any state where it grew. However, it only gained widespread acceptance and recognition throughout the country in the 1950s as people started making it a common ingredient in their salad recipes.
Common Avocado Varieties
It is no longer a secret that avocados take quite a long time to produce fruit. Note, though, that the amount of time required for this tree to bear and produce fruits will also depend on the type or species you decided to grow. Among them are the following:
The Guatemalan avocado is said to have the longest maturity period out of the different varieties of this plant. In most cases, it requires around 15 to 18 months for it to go through the flowering period then to a full harvest.
On average, the Guatemalan variety blooms between March and April. However, you can’t expect it to be completely ready for harvest until the next year. The harvesting period will be around September and January.
It is also possible for the ripening period to extend even further until you will notice the fruit reaching its max pear-shaped size.
The Antillean avocado is the best variety you can grow if what you are after is a quick maturity time. Also called the West Indies avocado, this type does not have the high amount of fruit oil that is present in other varieties. With that, it tends to transition from being a bloom into a fruit faster, probably in 8 months or less.
The Antillean variety’s flowering season also starts from either February or March. Expect to witness ripe avocados being ready for harvest during the months of May to September.
One thing that makes this avocado distinctive is the size of its fruit. It is even considered as one of the biggest available varieties and even weighs up to five pounds.
The Mexican variety of the avocado tree takes pride in its smooth fruit exterior. It needs an average ripening period and produces fruits that only weigh less than one pound. The Mexican avocado starts its flowering season from January to February, which means that it is the earliest to begin the growth season if you compare it to the others.
It also takes up to eight months starting from the time it flowers for you to be able to witness edible fruits that are ready for harvest. The harvest period usually occurs from June to October. This length of time will still depend on the local environment and growth conditions of the tree, though.
This avocado variety produces fruits with snow-white pulp. You will also notice the fruit holding an elongated pear shape. It has a high-fat content and boasts a smooth and thin green peel that you can easily clean.
If you want to cultivate the Fuerte avocado, then note that the best season to do it would be summer and autumn. In warm areas, the ripening season tends to occur from August onwards. After growing this tree for some years, you may be able to start picking the fruit in July, too.
The Avocado Tree Classified into Types A and B
Apart from the specific species and varieties mentioned above, it is crucial to note that you can also categorize them as Type A and Type B. You can use both classifications to separate the more famous avocado tree varieties that you can easily acquire.
Also, note that various types differ in terms of the actual size of the tree, flavor, skin, fruiting or maturation time, and heat and cold tolerance.
Among the species that fall under the Type A avocado are Hass, Gwen, Holiday, Stewart, Reed, and Pinterton. Out of all the species mentioned, the most common and popular ones are Reed and Hass.
The Reed species can be expected to grow round and huge, similar to a football. It is also flavorful and needs a lower amount of water compared to Hass. This makes Reed thrive even in California that is sometimes drought-ridden.
The species that belong to the Type B classification are Bacon, Sir Prize, Zutano, and Fuerte. This type is the more finicky type, which means that you can expect it to thrive even better when grown in commercial greenhouses.
Fuerte is the most famous avocado in the Type 2 category. You can grow your own avocado tree from this type in commercial orchards together with Hass for proper pollination.
Many people, though, consider Type B as inferior to avocados in Type A. The reason is that the flesh in Type B avocados is vulnerable to becoming watery. Meanwhile, Type A gains recognition for being richer in flavor, fat, and oil content.
While the two types/classifications differ, take note that you can encourage the best fruit development if you grow both a Type A variety and a Type B variety close to each other. The reason is that the female flower parts of the Type A avocado tend to open at a time when the male flower parts of Type B do so, and vice versa.
It is a favorable scenario because it can double the chance of successfully pollinating and producing a healthy fruit set. Basically, it is possible to accomplish avocado pollination by bees.
How to Grow an Avocado Tree from a Pit
If you are interested in growing an avocado pit, the one stuck with several toothpicks while being propped up then submerged by half in a glass of water and waiting for it to sprout, then note that it is doable.
Just be prepared for the challenges you may encounter along the process of growing a tree from a pit, though – among which are:
Note that it takes quite long to grow and cultivate the avocado tree from a pit. It would be specifically 10 to 15 years of waiting before you can see the avocado pit bearing fruit. It is the reason why many gardeners who decided to grow avocados choose to grow a nursery tree.
With a nursery tree, you will get to harvest your first-ever homegrown avocado during the first few years. This will still depend on the size, age, and variety of trees. A lot of nursery-grown avocados even start bearing fruits once they are already 3 to 4 years.
Possibly Poor Quality
Another possible challenge is that the avocado tree from a pit may not produce the kind of fruits that you wish to get. There is a possibility that you will feel disappointed with the fruit it produces.
The reason is that these avocados are incapable of reproducing breed true (true to seed). In other words, the one it grows eventually is not similar to the quality or type grown from the avocado pit.
As for the nursery and commercial avocado trees, all of them are not cultivated from pits or seeds. What the growers do, instead, is to graft the cuttings of the tree into the rootstock.
The presence of the rootstock is also an advantage for avocados grown in nursery trees as the growers tend to use disease-resistant and healthy ones. With that, you have a higher chance of setting up your young avocado tree for success.
The Actual Steps
If you still want to try growing the avocado pit even with the mentioned challenges, then here are the steps to guide you.
Step 1 – Use toothpicks to poke the seeds
With the help of a toothpick, poke the middle of the avocado seed. Tuck just around ¼ to ½ inch into it. After that, get 2-3 more toothpicks and poke them to the seed. Make sure that you equally distribute them.
Step 2 – Put the seed over the water
Fill a glass or jar with water then put the circle of toothpicks with the seed in it. Ensure that the flat (bottom) or broad end or part of the seed gets suspended in around one inch of water.
The top-end should be left open to the air. In case you notice the toothpicks wobbling, causing them to be unable to hold up the seed, just try ticking them a bit farther to the seed.
Step 3 – Wait for the roots to grow
Put the glass or jar in a place that is warm enough. However, you should still avoid exposing it to direct sunlight. Add water every now and then to ensure that there will always be an inch of it that covers the seed’s bottom end.
Change the water every 4 to 5 days. This is necessary for getting rid of any bacteria that may have grown in it. In around 8 weeks, you will notice some roots growing from the seed’s bottom.
There may also be a slim seedling that emerges on top. If you witness those, then you can proceed to step 4. However, if you can’t see any of those developments after 8 weeks, then maybe it would be best to start again using another avocado seed.
Just make sure that you are already aware of what went wrong before trying another one. For instance, it could be that you did not put the correct end of the seed to the water. If you are aware of the problem, then you can avoid it on your next try.
Step 4 – Begin cutting the stem
Check the size of the seedling every now and then. If it is already 6 to 7 inches tall, then you should cut the stem. The cutting should be in half or around 3 inches tall. You may think it is counterproductive when growing a tree but this is necessary for encouraging the avocado plants to start transmitting their energy into the new growth.
Step 5 – Prepare the soil where you can plant the seed
Observe the progress of the seedling. If it already has a few thick roots and leaves, then prepare potting soil where you can cultivate the seed. Make sure to place the potting soil in a pot, around 10 inches wide, that features plenty of drainage holes.
Avoid adding gravel, broken terra cotta chunks, or any other material on the pot as those tend to hold a lot of moisture. It is also advisable to expose the seed’s top half over the soil line. Water it until you notice the liquid running out of the pot.
Make sure that the pot does not retain too much water as it may only cause the rotting of the roots and the yellowing of the leaves. Water deeply only if it feels dry to the touch. You will know that you are overwatering if the soil is wet and the leaves of the plant start yellowing.
Step 6 – Provide the plant with enough sun and water
You can do that by putting the pot in a window that has enough sun if you plan to grow avocados indoors. Alternatively, you can take it outdoors every time the temperature gets at least 45 degrees F.
When you put it outdoors during dry and warm weather, that’s the time when you should increase the frequency of watering. Ensure that the potted avocado tree is partially shaded, too.
The reason is that there is a risk for the leaves to get sunburned if it gets exposed to a lot of direct sun when they are still on the stage of being established.
Planting and Growing Young Avocado Trees
If you choose to buy a small and established tree, then you will get to enjoy a more worthwhile investment. It is possible to buy this tree in a nursery. You can get those that are in the 5-gallon, 15-gallon, or 25-gallon pots.
It is more beneficial to grow avocados from a young tree as it has a higher chance of creating a more productive and healthier output. Here, you can pick from a dramatically wider choice of varieties from the garden centers than when you grow from pits.
Just visit local nurseries and take a look if there are avocados around. It is even possible to order these trees online. Just make sure that you check the legitimacy of the seller before investing your hard-earned money in this plant.
Once you already have the avocado tree on your hands, you can start planting. Here are some pointers to keep in mind when planting these young avocado trees:
- Cultivate them in areas with moderately warm temperatures and humidity – Once established, you can expect these newly planted trees to handle temperatures of around 28 to 32 degrees Fahrenheit with the least possible damage. Also, ensure that you do not expose this plant to freezing temperatures.
- Plant the tree from March to June – Planting the tree during the summer season may make it prone to sun damage. The reason is that avocado does not have excellent water-absorption capabilities while they are still young.
- Choose a non-lawn area for the planting location – It should be away from sidewalks, too. Ensure that the location has full protection from the frost and wind while giving your plants full sun.
- Dig a hole with a depth that is similar to the present root ball – Make sure to dig a hole as wide as its width with just a bit more extra space. This should give you enough space for your hands while you plant it on the hole.
- Provide sufficient aeration – Remember that the avocado is classified as a tree with shallow roots. Most of the feeder roots of this tree are also over 6 inches of soil, which makes it necessary to supply it with sufficient aeration.
Moreover, you should remember that it has a sensitive root system. This makes it necessary for you to take extreme care when transplanting. You have to avoid disturbing it during the transplant process.
In case it gets root-bound, try loosening up the soil. Do this around the edges. After that, you can just clip the roots that tend to go in circles.
How to Grow an Avocado Tree Outdoors?
Avocado tree is a subtropical plant that’s considered native to Southern Mexico. If your location is in a region wherein the temperature during the winter drops below the freezing point regularly, then make it a point to plant the tree in a pot or container. That way, you can conveniently move the pot or container indoors when the winter comes.
Also, note that you have to grow indoor avocado trees in potting soil, instead of the garden variety. This should let the water and air circulate freely.
If your location has a hardiness zone that is warm enough, then planting outdoors is a viable move. Just remember the specific temperatures that make the avocado thrive best, which is around 60 to 85 degrees F.
When outdoors, put it in a particular spot that lets it receive a minimum of 8 hours of full sun daily. Avoid disturbing the root system as it undergoes the avocado growing, too. Water it every five to ten days using a few gallons of water.
It also helps to water the plant deeply but less frequently as a means of forcing the roots to grow so they can reach the water that’s supplied to them. Keep around 6 inches of space from the tree trunk. Another important thing to do is use around 3 inches to 6 inches of cocoa bean hulls or coarse bark so you will receive some help in retaining moisture.
More About the Requirements in Growing Avocados
Apart from the general steps involved in growing your avocado either from the pit or from an already established tree, it is also important that you meet the following requirements that are necessary for their growth.
To grow an avocado tree, you should be able to provide it with soil that has a pH level of around 6.0 to 6.5. In case the one you are using is heavy clay soil, it helps to elevate it in a mount to promote much better drainage. The mound should be about one to two feet high and three to five feet around.
Avoid putting gravel or something else in the hole, such as planting media. Note that your goal is to make the roots reach the bulk soil as soon as possible to ensure that the tree grows healthily.
When it comes to watering your avocados, take note that the requirement is often at a frequency of twice or thrice per week. Once you notice the roots reaching out to the bulk soil, apply more water. You can also reduce the watering frequency to around once per week after one year of cultivating the plant.
When watering, ensure that the soil is well-soaked. Let it dry out before you water it again. Just like with most plants, though, you should avoid letting the tree get to that point where it is already too dry.
As a rule, give your mature trees around 20 gallons of water daily once it is still in the irrigation season. As for the seedlings, take note that they need a lesser amount of water compared to the tree.
Before you water the soil, check it first. You need to ensure that the soil has dried out somehow. A sign that it still has enough water is when the soil surrounding the roots is capable of holding a hand’s impression when you squeeze it.
Use coarse yard mulch for your avocado plant. The best examples for the mulch are cocoa bean husks, redwood bark, and tree bark that’s in shredded form. Choose a woody one, which is around 2 inches in diameter.
You can access coarse yard mulch in a few garden supply centers as well as in tree-trimming operations. In several tree-trimming operations, there will be a sort of material pruned from the topmost parts of the tree. These materials do not have any diseased roots.
Use the web to search for local tree services, so you can get a hold of the mentioned materials. You can also spread around 20-lb. gypsum in the area surrounding the tree base. Mulch this area with around 6 inches of mulch and ensure that the materials stay around 6-inch to 8-inch away from the trunk.
As for the fertilization, note that your young avocado tree can greatly benefit from fertilizing it with around 1/2 to one pound of nitrogen per tree every year. Spread out this fertilizer over a few applications, provided the 1/2 to one pound of nitrogen remains the total.
Zinc is another vital nutrient that your avocado tree can greatly benefit from. If that is what you intend to supply your plant, then be aware that even the usual home fertilizer designed for houseplants works.
During the summer, it helps to fertilize your avocado using a fertilizer that has high nitrogen content. Do not fertilize when the winter season comes, especially when there is minimal growth.
Another crucial aspect of caring for your avocado is the need to prune or trim it. The most crucial trimming or pruning for your avocado has to occur once the plant is still 12 inches tall. During this time, you can cut back the plant so it will be half its size, making it go down to 6 inches.
Once pruned or trimmed, let its new stems and leaves form. As you can see the plant growing taller, pinch the new growth off during the entire summer. Doing that will let new branches develop.
This is a good thing as the avocado fruit tends to form and develop based on new growth. Continue pinching off the new growth to ensure that the plant stays bushy while you gain full control of its size.
As you continue to grow an avocado tree, remove it gently then put it in larger pots successfully. The rule is to make it go up in around 2-inch diameter at a time.
How to Propagate?
In terms of propagation, you will enjoy the fact that you can do it in several ways. The most common method of doing the propagation is to plant and grow an avocado tree in a landscape.
Some professionals graft healthy and flourishing avocado varieties into root-stock that can resist diseases. This is to help in the production of a healthy tree that has the desired or preferred size and fruit.
Another way to propagate avocado trees is to do air-layering. This propagation method will encourage the growth of the roots by scarring a branch of the tree. You should then wrap that wounded spot using a bit of the rooting medium.
Let the bundle of roots form and develop while ensuring that the branch remains on the tree. Upon the development of the group or network of roots, you can snip the branch off then plant it in the soil.
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Common Problems, Diseases, and Pests
One problem that commonly affects avocados that are supposed to be easy to grow is excessive amounts of salt in the soil. Monitor the soil and ensure that this problem does not bug the growth of your avocado.
One sign that this problem is existing is when the soil has a white crust. If you see that crust, then it is highly likely that the buildup of salt in the soil is already too excessive. In that case, you have to start making it a regular habit to flush the container or pot.
It is also advisable to monitor your avocado trees for signs of sluggish drainage or excessive watering. One of these is leaf yellowing. If that’s the case, you should try reducing the watering frequency.
Make it a rule to water only the soil when it is truly dry. The reason is that an excessively wet potting soil may only cause root rot to form or develop.
If you decide to grow the avocado tree outdoors, then one of the problems that may threaten its proper and healthy growth is the laurel wilt. This is triggered by the fungus called Raffaela lauricola.
It often gets transmitted by a few ambrosia beetle species. Expect the infected avocado trees to succumb in around 4 to 8 weeks.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How long does it take for avocado trees to bear fruit?
It would take quite a long time for avocado trees to bear fruits, so you need to be patient with the process. In most cases, it takes around five to 13 years before you will see the avocado growing from seed, producing flowers, then setting and bearing fruits.
There are factors that influence the length of growth – among which are the avocado varieties you decided to grow and the environmental conditions.
Why is growing avocados illegal?
While it is not totally illegal to grow an avocado tree, there are instances when some places put legal restrictions on the process. One reason is the deforestation caused by avocado farming. It could end up damaging the ecosystem and triggering climate change.
Where do avocado trees grow best?
If you plan to grow an avocado tree in a residential setting, then keep in mind that the warmest location in your house is the South and the Southeast sides. Those are, therefore, the best places for avocado trees growing.
Make sure to drape the young tree with tarps or blankets during cold and freezing weather to guarantee proper and healthy growth. The coverings also have to be anchored to the ground.
A lot of areas in Southern California are also perfect for growing avocado trees, except for high deserts and mountains, that tend to get excessively dry and cold for fruit set. In places that are not part of California, the climate will have a say on whether or not one can grow an avocado tree.
One of the major problems often faced by those who grow an avocado tree in other states is the cold. Despite that, you can still find home growers that are both around and in San Francisco. You can also find an area in Sierra Nevada Mountains that have avocados being cultivated.
As for Southern California, among the areas where the avocado trees tend to thrive are San Diego County, Los Angeles County, Orange County, Riverside County, and Ventura County.
How long does it take to grow one avocado?
Depending on the condition and other factors that affect the growth of avocados, some varieties can start growing and producing fruits after just around 3 to 4 years. Others, on the other hand, take a longer time – more than five to 13 years. If possible, consider growing a few avocado trees together to help with pollination.
How to pot and repot your avocado plant?
The repotting process should occur every spring. This is the time when the plant starts growing again. During the first few years of its life, you need to trim the avocados to ensure that they create a bushy growth. Put it outside once the summer season comes then bring it indoors before the coming of the first frost.
Make sure to also put it inside when the temperature goes down to 50 degrees F. The reason is that the lack of humidity during the winter may only result in your avocado plant losing its leaves, though, they will still return once the weather goes back to being warm.
While it takes patience and commitment to grow an avocado tree considering the fact that you have to wait years to witness it producing fruits, it is all worth it. You will also have fun seeing the avocados grow.
Once these plants start bearing fruits, you can have easy access to avocados and enjoy their goodness especially when it comes to making guacamole and other avocado recipes.