How To Grow an Avocado Tree
Yes, you can grow your own avocados, if you have patience and the right climate. Or just grow one from seed for an impressively large houseplant.
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Every time I split open an avocado and throw out the pit, I think, “I’m wasting a perfectly good opportunity to grow an avocado tree again.” Sometimes, though, I take the seed and at least get it to sprout. It’s easier to do than you might think!
How to Grow an Avocado Tree
Depending on where you live, you can easily grow an avocado tree (Persea americana) from seed, or purchase a container-grown plant and grow it in a pot. If you live in a warmer climate, you can plant an avocado tree in your garden.
How to grow an avocado tree from a seed
That big brown pit in the middle of your avocado is the seed, and you can easily get it to sprout in water. Katie Elzer-Peters provides easy-to-follow instructions in her book, No-Waste Kitchen Gardening:
- Remove and clean the seed.
- Stick several toothpicks around the middle of the seed. This holds it on top of a glass; you’ll see why below.
- Fill the glass with room temperature water to nearly the top.
- Place the seed with toothpicks on the glass so the bottom of the seed (the wider part) is in the water. Keep it out of direct sunlight and change the water weekly.
Eventually, a root will develop, then a stem. Leaves will sprout from the top, and you’ll have a baby avocado tree to plant in a pot.
How to grow an avocado tree in a pot
You can grow an avocado tree in a pot indoors as a houseplant or outdoors. If winter temperatures dip below 20 degrees where you live, bring it indoors during colder months. You can grow the tree you started from seed, which will probably never be big enough to produce fruit. Or try a grafted variety that some claim will produce fruit even in a container.
- Choose a large container at least 10 to 12 inches deep and wide with a hole in the bottom so water drains out.
- Fill with a good potting mix that includes compost and sand.
- If you plant a grafted tree in your pot, be sure the graft union is above the soil line. The graft union will be a few inches above where roots start. There may be a line or a slight widening of the stem at that spot.
- Water well and be sure it drains out of the bottom.
- Indoors, place your tree near a window for direct sunlight.
- Prune occasionally to encourage branching. If your tree gets too big, Elzer-Peters suggests starting over with a new seed.
Where Do Avocado Trees Grow Best?
Jim Mumford, owner and president of the Good Earth Plant Company, says avocado trees only produce fruit in U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zones 8 through 11. That’s the Pacific Coast, Hawaii, the Southern U.S. and along the Mexican border.
“Avocado trees are self-fertile, so you don’t have to have another tree for fruit,” Mumford says. “What you do need is patience. It will take at least three to four years for your tree to start bearing fruit, and if you start from seed it can take a decade.”
Mumford thinks it’s worth it. “There is nothing like the satisfying taste of guacamole from a homegrown avocado,” he says.
How to Plant an Avocado Tree in the Ground
If you live where you can grow avocado trees outside, plant it in the ground. Avocado trees grow best where there is full sun, well-drained soil and protection from wind. Here’s how to do it:
- Plant avocado trees in early spring when there is no danger of freezing temperatures, and before it gets too warm.
- Dig a hole the same depth as the root ball, and twice as wide.
- Place the tree in the hole. If you purchased a grafted tree, be sure the graft union is above ground.
- Backfill around the roots with the soil you dug out for the hole. Water well.
How Big Do Avocado Trees Get?
In the ground, an avocado tree can grow 40 feet tall or taller.
In a container, an avocado tree will be much smaller but can still become a sizable and heavy plant. Keep this in mind if you are moving the avocado tree outside for the summer and inside for the winter.
How Often Should You Water an Avocado Tree?
If you plant your avocado tree in the ground, Mumford says water it deeply twice a week.
For avocado trees in containers, don’t let the soil dry out completely. Elzer-Peters suggests keeping the soil as wet as a wrung-out sponge. Indoors, avocado trees also like to be misted occasionally to raise the humidity level around them.
Although watering houseplants with ice cubes is trending, don’t do it with your potted avocado tree. Add water until it drains out of the bottom of the container.