The Easiest Way to Plant and Grow an Avocado Seed in Soil
After you eat an avocado, the temptation to grow your own plant is almost irresistible. There are a couple of ways to go about this. You may have heard of the water method in which you insert a few toothpicks into the sides of the pit and submerge the bottom of the pit in water. However, I've found that this method isn't always successful. If the seed does sprout, you'll have to transplant it into a pot of soil.
There is an easier way to grow an avocado tree without toothpicks. I learned this simple method of sprouting the seeds directly in some soil in a pot after at least a hundred failed attempts.
Ideal Growing Conditions for a Potted Avocado Tree
- The soil should be moist and slightly acidic (pH of 6–6.5).
- The pot should have good drainage.
- Give them plenty of indirect sunlight. Avoid direct sunlight, especially when young.
- Maintain high humidity and temperatures between 65–85 °F.
How to Grow an Avocado Plant From a Seed
1. Rinse the seed and peel the brown skin off.
The brown outer skin may be firmly attached to the pit. I gently score the skin layer with a paring knife and lift the skin with the tip of my knife. Shallow cuts on the pit won't affect its germination. In fact, some people may even crack the very top of the seed open to help the stem sprout.
2. Place some soil in a pot and moisten the soil.
Avocado trees grow best in slightly acidic soil (pH of 6–6.5) with good drainage. You can use new, rich humus soil or recycle some old soil from your garden or another pot. If you are using old soil, make sure to remove any weeds, grasses, or old roots that may reduce the avocado seed's chances of sprouting. Add enough water to moisten the soil without flooding it. Place the pot on a saucer to catch any excess water.
3. Press the bottom of the seed into the soil.
Gently press the bottom of seed into the soil so that only half it is still visible. The bottom of the seed is usually the wider end, although this may be hard to identify because some seeds are close to being spherical. Having the correct orientation is important because the roots will emerge from the bottom.
4. Place the pot in a warm area with plenty of sunlight.
Avocados thrive in humid and warm conditions (65–85 °F or 18–30 °C). Make sure the seed gets adequate indirect sunlight to encourage growth. Young plants are sensitive to direct sunlight and extreme temperatures. I place mine on my kitchen windowsill. A south-facing window is best.
5. Keep the soil moist while you wait for the seed to sprout.
It may take anywhere from 2–8 weeks for the root and stem to sprout. If you notice the seed starting to crack, that is a good sign. Check the soil every few days to make sure the soil remains moist. If you can't leave an impression of your fingers when you press on the soil, it needs more water.
7. Cut the stem in half once it grows to six inches.
This encourages new growth and prevents the plant from just being a tall stem with a few leaves at the top.
8. Pinch off the newest leaves at the top to encourage fuller, bushier growth.
For a fuller plant, pinch off new leaves that sprout at the top of the stem. This also helps control the height of the plant. Do this whenever the plant grows another six inches.
How Long Does It Take for an Avocado Plant to Bear Fruit?
Avocados planted from seed may take anywhere from 5-13 years to bear fruit. Don't expect your potted plant to flower or produce fruit, and even if there is fruit, it likely won't have the same quality and taste as your typical avocado. Opt for a grafted plant if you want fruit.
How to Care for an Avocado Plant Grown in a Pot
1. Prune several times a year.
If you are growing an avocado tree as a decorative indoor plant, you should continuously prune it to make sure its size remains manageable. According to the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Resources, there are hundreds of avocado varieties, and some of them (like the Wurtz avocado), grow to only about 10–15 feet with regular pruning. Start early in the plant's life to make the stalk grow stronger and encourage lateral growth.
2. Keep the soil moist but not muddy.
Avocado plants love water, but too much water can also harm the plant. Root rot is a common problem when a plant is over-watered or when there is poor drainage. Thoroughly wet the soil and let it go a little dry before another thorough watering. This helps promote strong root growth.
Need some indicators for when to water? Check the soil. If you can leave an impression of your finger when you press on it, there's no need to water it.
3. Check the leaves for signs of the plant's health.
The leaves will reflect the plant's health and growing conditions. Yellow leaves or leaves that are falling off can indicate that your avocado plant is getting too much water, not enough sun, and/or not enough nutrients. Brown leaves can indicate salt or chloride burns from minerals in the water or fertilizer. Potted plants commonly encounter these problems because there is less drainage, and nutrients and minerals are more likely to concentrate in the soil.
4. Maintain sufficient light, warmth, and humidity during the winter.
Although some varieties can survive below 32 ºF (0 °C), most will become damaged—especially during the first year of growth. Avoid exposing them to cold temperatures and breezes. The dry heat of a heating system can also be damaging. A humidifier can moisten the dry air. You can also occasionally spray water on the leaves. A growing lamp may be useful when there is not enough natural sunlight throughout the day.
You also don't need to water as frequently in the winter. Avocado plants don't have a dormant period, but they won't be growing much in the winter either. Too much water will increase the risk of root rot and nutrient depletion. Again, check the soil and leaves to determine when you should water.
5. If you are growing for avocado fruits, grow a grafted plant.
Avocado plants grown from seed—especially in a container or a pot—will have a hard time flowering and producing fruit, if at all. This is mainly because maintaining optimal growing conditions is much harder. That being said, I know friends and family members who have been able to get their avocado plants to produce fruit. It can take anywhere from 5–13 years or more for an avocado planted from seed to bear fruit.
A grafted avocado plant has a better chance of producing fruit. A grafted plant is a plant grown by fusing part of a young, growing plant onto an established plant. Grafted avocado plants are available at many nurseries and will generally produce fruit in just a few years with proper care.
Growing an Avocado Tree. California Avocados. Last accessed on July 18, 2018.
Dr. Mary Lu Arpaia and Dr. Ben Faber. Avocado Information: Answers to Questions. University of California, Riverside. Last accessed on July 18, 2018.
Edible Plants: Avocado, growing. University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Last accessed on July 19, 2018.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Can you get avocado "fruit" from its seed?
I have never had any of my plants blossom. I understand that avocado trees may take up to ten years to start blossoming, and commercial avocado groves usually graft their trees from already producing avocado trees. Currently, the oldest avocado plant I started is about six years old and has a stem about 3/4 inch in diameter. It is about five feet tall. Since I live in the northern US, my plants are outside for about six months a year. This isn't the ideal environment for a fruit tree. If my plants ever do blossom, I will post the information in my article.
I have had comments that discuss blossoms or fruit from avocado seeds that they, or relatives of theirs, grew. Most, if not all of those comments seem to be from regions where the plant can stay all year outdoors or is planted in the ground. I think it is certainly possible for a plant you start to produce fruit eventually, but you seem to need to be in a favorable environment.
I grow avocado plants from seeds as an attractive houseplant. Blossoms and fruit would be an incredible bonus, but I don't expect them. There are several nurseries that sell grafted avocado trees, and I recommend you consider getting a grafted plant if you really want to grow your own fruit.Helpful 44
I have purple flowers this year. I planted last year in the dirt put it in the garage for the winter brought it back out in the spring. Do avocado trees have purple flowers?
Many of the avocados I have started seem to have leaves that are tinged red or purple, but they turn green as they get bigger.
I have some five-year-old avocado house plants, and none of them have flowered yet, so I think your flowers are actually young leaves.
Online pictures of avocado flowers look like they are quite small and white or yellowish. Each flower is only open for a couple of days at most.Helpful 26
My large avocado seed has produced a 2" root, and I can see the leaf down there. I'm afraid to keep the bottom in water anymore and wonder if this is the time to plant in the dirt or do I need to add small amounts of dirt until the water is gone?
If you have successfully started your pit in water, that sounds like a good point to plant it in soil. I would not gradually add small amounts of dirt until the water is gone. Put your sprouted pit into loosened soil in a pot, keeping the upper part above the soil level. You might even want to poke a hole for the root, so it doesn't crack or break. Then sit the entire pot into water in your sink or a larger container.
You can dribble water into the soil around the pit as well. When the soil is saturated, let the excess water drain from the pot. This should compact the loose soil around your root without the force of pushing it into dirt. Once it is planted, you want moist soil, not soupy soil.Helpful 22
What do I do if the avocado seed doesn't grow?
If after several months you don't even see a crack starting in the seed, I would throw it out and try again. Do give it two to three months in soil you keep moist.
If the soil in the pot has dried out completely, especially more than once, my experience has been a pit that doesn't sprout, probably because I have killed it.
While I find I am far more successful starting avocados in soil, there have certainly been pits that I have had to throw away too.
I have at least 15 avocado houseplants of varying sizes, so I no longer plant a seed from every avocado I eat, but for a few years I started every pit I had.
If you eventually have more sprouted pits than you want to grow, why not give some away to friends who have had no luck with the toothpick method.Helpful 2
When you say cut the stem in half, are you cutting top down or horizontally?
If you trim your plant, you are cutting it horizontally, so that it is shorter. I'm not sure what you mean by vertically, but please don't split your plant down the middle. I'm afraid that would be very traumatic, and likely to be fatal.Helpful 14
© 2011 Rebecca Scudder