How to Grow an Avocado Tree

How to Grow an Avocado Tree

Avocados growing on tree
Growing your own avocados is a simple, satisfying project for experienced or beginning gardeners, from kids to adults. Whether you start from seed or a nursery-grown tree, one essential for success is patience. Plant a tree, and you'll wait three to four years for fruit. Start with a seed, you may wait 13 years or more.1 Even so, there's something special about homegrown avocados that make them worth the wait.
  1. Starting an Avocado Tree from Seed
  2. Planting an Avocado Tree Outdoors
  3. Caring for Your Avocado Tree
  4. Enjoying the Fruits of Your Patience

The seed of an avocado is the pit found in the center of avocados you eat at home. One of the simplest ways to start a seed is with water in a normal kitchen glass or jar. It's also one of the most fun ways, because you can watch the roots grow.

To prep your seed, wash it well. Then insert three or four wooden toothpicks into the pit about one-third of the way down from the pointed end. Sit the pit on the glass, pointed end up, so the toothpicks support it on the rim. Add water to cover the seed's bottom half and sit it in a spot with bright light. Refresh the water as needed to keep the bottom covered.

In about two to six weeks, your seed should develop roots. Next, the top will crack open as a sprout emerges. Once this happens, plant the seed in a container filled with coarse, well-drained potting mix. Plant the seed so that half of it stays above the soil and half stays below. After planting, water it well and place your tree in the brightest light your home allows.

Like many citrus trees, avocado trees grow very well grown indoors. Natural terra cotta is an excellent choice for pots because the porous clay allows air and moisture to move through soil easily. Start with a 6- to 8-inch-diameter pot, with good drainage holes. You can transplant to larger pots as your tree grows over the years.

Avocado seed germinating.

 Avocado trees are simple to start from seeds.

Planting an Avocado Tree Outdoors

Avocados are tropical plants; they tolerate very little cold. If you live where temperatures rarely drop to freezing — such as the southernmost regions of Florida, Texas, Arizona or California — you can plant your sprouted seed or a nursery-grown tree outdoors.2 If you plant outside, do it in spring so your avocado gets established well before cooler winter months arrive.

Choose a site with full sun and excellent drainage, protected from winds and frost. Allow plenty of room for the tree's mature size. Containers restrict plant size, but avocados can grow 40 feet tall or more in the ground.2 Avocados have shallow roots, so plant them at or slightly higher than the level they grew at in their pot. Avoid planting avocados too deep.1

Young avocado plant growing in a small pot.

Container-grown avocados do well indoors.

Caring for Your Avocado Trees

Once established, avocados are simple to care for. Their large, leathery, green leaves and attractive form make them beautiful houseplants and landscape trees, even when they're fruitless. By providing your tree's basic needs, you help ensure its beauty and future productivity.

Watering - Avocado roots need plenty of air, so avoid overwatering. Always let container soil dry out slightly, then water thoroughly to moisten the entire root ball. If your container tree moves outdoors for summer, it may need daily watering. Container plants dry out more quickly in sun and wind — and don't forget to bring your plant indoors once temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit in fall.

For landscape avocados, water the entire area beneath the tree's canopy. Water deeply and thoroughly, then allow the soil to dry out slightly before you water again. Most avocado roots stay in the top six inches of soil, which can dry out quickly. Newly planted trees may need water two to three times per week their first year. Mature avocado trees need water equal to about 2 inches of rainfall or irrigation each week during summer.1

Fertilizing - Avocados do best with plant foods designed specifically for avocados and citrus. They prefer fertilizers with higher amounts of nitrogen relative to phosphorus and potassium. That means that the first number in the N-P-K ratio on your fertilizer label should be higher than the other two.

Pennington UltraGreen Citrus & Avocado Plant Food 10-5-5 provides avocados with an ideal blend of primary nutrients plus added micronutrients, including zinc and iron, which are especially important to avocado health and growth. This premium fertilizer starts feeding immediately, then continues feeding your tree for up to four months.

Feed container avocados every 12 to 16 weeks, according to label rates based on the container size. For outdoor landscape avocados, feed in late winter, midsummer and again in early fall, according to the recommended label rate based on the tree's age.

Smashed avoado on toast.

Avocado toast tastes better when it's homegrown.

Once your tree bears fruit, it's time to celebrate. Avocados stay firm until they're picked and ripened. They never soften on the tree, so timing it right takes some practice. Allow the fruit to grow to full size. When one looks mature, pick it and set it indoors at room temperature out of direct sun. A fully mature avocado will ripen and grow soft within one to two weeks.

To test softness, don't squeeze with your fingertips. Place the avocado in your hand and squeeze with the fleshy part of your palm right below your thumb. It won't leave bruises like finger squeezes can. Once avocados start to soften, you can slow the process by putting them in the refrigerator. To speed it up, put avocados in a paper bag with bananas. Then starting planning menus, from avocado toast and classic guacamole to your own avocado-inspired creations.

Whether you start with a seed or a nursery tree, growing your own avocados puts fun and homegrown flavor on your table. Pennington is committed to providing you with the finest in all-purpose and specialty fertilizers along with expert tips to help make your dreams of homegrown avocados and beautiful lawns and gardens come true.

Pennington with design is a registered trademark of Pennington Seed, Inc.

UltraGreen is a registered trademark of Central Garden & Pet Company.

Sources:

1. UC Cooperative Extension, Orange County , "Edible Plants; Avocado, Growing," University of California.

2. Planttalk Colorado, "Avocado," Colorado State University Extension.

2. Nesbitt M., L. Stein and J. Kamas, "Avocados," Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.

Pennington Fertilizer Resources