Avocados are super trendy today. In fact, you’ll see everything from toast and sandwiches to desserts featuring them. These tasty fruits are packed with nutrients, are heart-healthy, and serve as a healthy dose of sugar. However, they can become expensive to buy, depending on where you live. Fortunately, growing avocado trees is easier than you might think.
If you love avocados, growing your own tree can save you long-term costs on your grocery bills. Just keep in mind that the process may take years to pay off.
In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know to grow avocado trees from seed, whether you want to cultivate yours indoors or out.
Materials You Need to Grow Avocado Trees from Seed
Collect the following materials:
- Avocado seed(s)
- Drinking glasses or jars (with water)
- 10-inch pots
Steps to Follow
All you need to create your own avocado tree houseplant is a few toothpicks and a jar of water. Here’s how you can turn avocado pits into plants:
Step 1: Remove and Clean the Pit
Save the avocado pit from an existing fruit, making sure not to break or cut it as you carefully remove it. You can soak the pit in water for a few minutes before scrubbing off the remaining avocado fruit, just don’t remove the brown skin covering the seed. Allow it to dry in a warm place overnight.
Step 2: Locate Up and Down
Figure out which side of the pit is considered up and down. While some avocado pits are oblong in shape, most others are shaped more like a sphere. Regardless of the shape, all pits have a top and bottom that determine where the roots and sprout will grow.
Look for the end that’s slightly pointier to locate the top. The bottom is slightly flatter. The root end (bottom) needs to go into the water for the plant to sprout, so this step is very important.
Step 3: Insert the Toothpicks
Once the pit is dry, insert 3-4 toothpicks around the pit’s mid-region. Then suspend it with the broad end down above the drinking glass or jar of water. Inserting the toothpicks at a slightly downward angle may help keep the seed in place so that the base rests in the water. Add just enough water for the bottom third of the seed to be fully submerged.
Step 4: Find a Warm Spot for It and Wait
Put the jar in a warm, sunny location without direct sunlight. Make sure to change the water every few days so it doesn’t get murky. While some guides suggest you change the water daily, I’ve found that switching the water every 5 days to once per week works well. Furthermore, a clear glass makes it easier to see when the water needs to be changed.
Roots should sprout in 2-6 weeks. You’ll notice the pit will dry out and crack, and then the brown skin will slough off. After that, taproots will emerge from the bottom. Keep these taproots submerged in water at all times.
Step 5: Prune
Once the sprout grows to around 6-inches tall (which takes around 8 weeks), cut the plant back to 3-inches. This will encourage the plant’s roots to grow.
Step 6: Transplant the Seed to a Pot
The stem will grow out once more, allowing the plant to reach 6-inches-tall again. Then you can plant the pit into a 10-inch pot that’s filled with rich potting soil. Leave the top half of the seed exposed for the best results and find a sunny windowsill for your new plant.
A natural, terracotta pot is perfect for avocado trees, as the porous clay material allows for easy air and moisture flow to the soil. Make sure the container offers proper drainage holes as well.
Important Info for Growing Avocado Trees from Seed
Getting the seed in place is only the beginning: after that, you’ll need to provide the right conditions and care.
To grow an avocado plant indoors, you’ll need to coax the pit to take root and sprout a new plant. Just know that this method won’t provide a plant that bears fruit. In fact, indoor plants are highly unlikely to ever fruit. Basically, you’ll have an avocado tree that’s more of a cute houseplant.
If you live in a warm climate, you can transplant the tree outside once it becomes large enough. After that, it’ll still take 7-10 years to bear fruit.
If you want an avocado tree that you can pick the fruit from sooner, you’re better off buying a young tree and planting it outside. Plant outside from March to June before the summer creates a risk of sun damage, which should allow the young tree some time to establish itself before the heat strikes.
Look for a full-sun area away from your lawn or sidewalks, where it’s most likely to feel protected from the wind or frost. The temperature must always stay above 45 degrees F for an outdoor avocado tree.
To plant a young tree, simply dig a hole that’s about as deep as the plant’s root ball and as wide as the plant. Provide a bit of extra space for the plant to grow width-wise (and make planting the tree easier on your hands). The root system is sensitive, so make sure you’re careful when transplanting.
Outdoor avocado trees require USDA hardiness zones 10-12 for the best results, or regions without frost in the winter.
Full-sun locations are best for outdoor avocado trees, while a newly started seed may do better with bright, indirect sunlight.
Well-draining soil with a pH balance between 6 and 6.5 is perfect. These are shallow-rooted species with feeder roots located within the top 6 inches of soil, so proper aeration is key. Never use gravel of anything else in the hole, as soil is vital for avocado trees. If your soil is heavy clay, try elevating the plant around 1-2 feet high for better drainage.
How to Care for an Avocado Tree
Caring for an avocado tree is easy. The main thing is to maintain warmth.
Water the avocado tree frequently, providing a deep soak to maintain moist soil at least every 2 or 3 times per week. While newly planted trees plants are reaching through the soil, which takes place over the first year, they may require more watering. Allow the soil to slightly dry out before watering it again. If the plant turns yellow, you’re overwatering.
Avocado trees require a warm, sunny spot. If you’re planting outdoors, make sure to maintain warm temperatures between 60- and 85-degrees F. Established trees can tolerate temperatures as low as 28-32 degrees F. Temperatures should never drop below 28 degrees for long. Avoid freezing temperatures if possible.
Mulch your tree using coarse yard mulch, such as shredded tree bark, redwood bark, or cocoa bean husks. A material that’s wood-like and around 2-inches in diameter is best. You can find coarse yard mulch options at your local garden supply center or tree-trimming business. Spread around 20 pounds of gypsum within 6 to 8 inches of your tree’s trunk.
If you live in a colder region, your avocado tree will do better indoors for the winter. If temperatures drop below 45 degrees, there’s only so much mulching can do to help protect it.
A single young avocado tree requires 1/2 to a full pound of nitrogen each year, spread out over multiple applications or all at once. Zinc is vitally important for avocado trees as well.
You can use any traditional home fertilizer for an avocado houseplant. However, if you plan to eat the fruit from your quickly growing avocado tree someday, you may prefer to use a plant food designed for avocados or citrus. These options contain more nitrogen, and the fertilizer label often displays N-P-K.
When growing avocado trees from seed, you can expect them to flower a lot until it becomes mature enough to bear fruit (5-13 years). The flowers will naturally fall without setting fruit, which is totally normal.
You may, however, need to prune the plant back occasionally to encourage full foliage and optimal root growth. You can do this each time the stem reaches around 12-inches tall afterward. Pinch off the top two sections of leaves to encourage a bushy appearance and growth.
Common Problems to Growing Avocado Trees
Avocado trees can collect aphids, which are nasty pests that love to feast on their leaves.
If your growing avocado baby suffers from an aphid infestation, you must wash off all the leaves. You can spray the aphids from the plant using a garden hose, or indoors using any sink or shower. After all the pests are off the plant, spray it down with a mixture of water, a tiny dab of dishwashing liquid (preferably Dawn), and a teaspoon of neem oil to protect the plant against future infestations.
Check the plant over at least every 4-5 days to re-spray the plant if necessary. Pests can also get into outdoor tree, causing all kinds of destruction.
How to Harvest and Store Avocados
If you’ve purchased young plants and are growing avocado trees outside, they’ll begin to bear fruit around 3-4 years afterward. To grow an avocado tree from seed, you can expect the plant to bear fruit anywhere between 5 and 13 years after the tree reaches maturity.
Once the fruit does grow to maturity, you can expect a single tree to produce around 60 to 200 avocados. Don’t let the fruit fall from the tree, which can bruise them. Instead, you’ll need to pick them from the tree yourself. Some people use a pole pruner with a basket attached to cut the fruit free. This is often ideal in mature trees that reach around 15 or 45 feet tall.
Various varieties will mature at different parts of the season, and some types may change color to alert you to their ripeness such as Haas or Dickinson avocados.
Only pick as many avocados as you can eat within a few days, and allow them to sit for a week to fully ripen. Store them in a cool, dry location until they’re soft and ripe. Paper bags are perfect for storage.