How to Grow an Avocado Plant From Seed
If you ever wanted to know how to plant an avocado seed and grow your own avocado tree, then you have arrived at the right place. Your self-grown avocado tree may itself be able to produce fruit one day, but it may take four to six years. Until then, you'll have a really unusual houseplant to look after.
Avocado trees can grow to almost 70 feet tall, given the right conditions. So if you need to keep it as a houseplant, you will want to pinch out the growing tip to encourage it to bush rather than grow straight upwards.
Growing avocado seeds is fun, and you get to eat a delicious avocado too. Simply buy an avocado, take it home, eat it, release the seed (which is huge) and carefully clean it under cold or tepid running water. Any flesh left on the seed will inhibit germination and encourage rot. And be sure to dry your seed completely. Now you are ready to plant.
There are two methods that I know of to get an avocado seed to germinate, and I will tell you both here so that you can take your pick.
How to Plant an Avocado Seed: Method 1
The common method of growing an avocado seed is to insert two or three cocktail sticks into the fleshy side of the seed, and suspend it over a glass of water until it sends a shoot downwards to take a drink.
The bottom (rounded end) should be actually sitting in the water. You may need to top up the water levels to ensure it doesn't dry out. If nothing happens by the end of six weeks, it probably isn't going to sprout and should be discarded, but give it that length of time, just in case. They are quite slow at germinating.
Once it has sprouted, it can be planted in a compost-filled pot, root downward. Leave the tip of the seed above the soil level.
How to Plant an Avocado Seed: Method 2
The method above never seems to work for me and the seed usually just rots. Of course, it could be that it just hates the tap water here. It's salty and chemical-laden. Avocado trees hate saline water, and no doubt their seeds do too.
The other method I have had some success with involves taking the seed and planting it directly into a compost-filled pot, rounded end downwards. Water it well and leave it to drain.
Then pop the whole pot inside a plastic bag and seal. Place it in a warm cupboard. Light is not required at this point. Just wait for signs of a shoot at the top.
Bring the plant out and place it on a sunny window-shelf. Leave it in the bag for a day or two longer to allow the fledgling plant to adjust, then take the bag off and put a saucer underneath the pot. You can then add water for your baby avocado plant to drink.
This method also avoids the shock of moving the seedling from water to compost.
Caring for Your Avocado Seedling
Your avocado seedling can be placed in a sunny position and given frequent waterings. Let the soil dry out between waterings and always water from below.
Never let it sit in water that it's not drinking up. More plants die from over-watering than from under-watering. So if after an hour or two there is still water there, throw the water away.
Your avocado is a quick-growing tree. So be prepared to have to pot on into bigger pots at least once a year or more. As I said above, pinch out the growing tip to try to make it grow more side shoots. That way it won't grow so tall.
Potting Your Avocado Seedling
Eventually your little (or not so little) avocado seedling will require a larger pot to grow on in. Avocados let you know when the time is right. They require watering much more often than usual and actually wilt to let you know. To witness a tall, majestic seedling with drooping leaves is saddening.
To move your avocado seedling from one pot to another, follow the steps outlined below.
- Choose a day when your plant's compost is on the dry side.
- Obtain a larger pot.
- Line the holes in the bottom of the pot with broken clay pots, or pebbles, or even paper. You want a material that will allow water through, but which will not allow the soil to drop out.
- Place an inch or so of compost in the bottom of the pot.
- Gently squeeze your plastic pot containing the avocado seedling all the way round to loosen the soil from the sides of the pot.
- Lift the whole avocado plant out, including its soil, and place it in the centre of the pot.
- Fill in the sides with fresh compost.
- Place the whole pot in the sink, and soak with water from both the top and the bottom.
- Add extra soil as required. Some of the compost will sink with the addition of water as it settles into place.
Pollinating Avocado Trees
Avocado trees grow in tropical and sub-tropical parts of the world. They hate frost. So if you live in an area prone to frost, you will need to keep the plant indoors though you may put it outside in the summer if you have a nice sheltered spot available.
Your avocado tree may produce fruit after four to six years, but the tree itself is only partially self-fertile. This is because its flowers are male one minute and female the next. How weird is that?
There are two types of avocado cultivars, type A and type B. In type A, the flowers open in the morning as female and close at the end of the day. The next day, the same flowers open in the afternoon as males.
In type B, it's the opposite. They open as female on the first afternoon, and the next morning open as male.
As we need both male and female to be open at the same time in order to pollinate, this is quite difficult. What we can do is wait until a male flower opens and collect some of its pollen on the tip of a small paintbrush or similar. Put the brush into a plastic bag.
Then when we next see a female flower, we can carefully dab some pollen onto the stigma and then let nature take its course.
Note: The fruit of an avocado tree is unlikely to be like the fruit you bought the seed in. This is because avocados are commercially grafted by growers to ensure continuation of the exact trees and cultivars they have grown to produce the fruit.
Planting Your Avocado Tree
If you live in a tropical or subtropical area, you can plant your avocado tree out in the garden. They like well-drained soil but hate alkaline soils with high salinity. If you have the latter two, keep your avocado trees in pots.
Grow them in a sheltered part of the garden, as they dislike high winds. Indeed high winds can ruin any potential crop.
In view of its potential maximum height of 70' (20m), it is advisable to plant away from the house, to prevent future problems with roots working their way into the foundations of your house. Normally, trees roots will spread 1 1/2 times their height.
Where Can You Grow Avocado Trees Outdoors?
Avocado trees grow well outdoors in the following states:
- New Mexico
Avocado trees also grow well outdoors in the following countries and regions:
- Central America
- New Zealand
- Sri Lanka
- South Africa
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2011 IzzyM