Are there people who don’t like avocados? Whether in guacamole or spread on toast, avocados are delicious and full of nutrients. One reason avocados are so expensive is that they can only grow in certain parts of the country. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where avocados can be grown, this comprehensive avocado tree care guide will help you make the most of growing this gorgeous and bountiful tree.
How to Choose Avocado Trees
You may be able to find avocado trees for sale at your local nurseries, or you can buy them online. Nature Hills offers five different types of avocado trees, including Hass avocado trees, Bacon avocado trees, Monroe avocado trees, Hall avocado trees, and Donnie avocado trees. You can also find avocado trees on Etsy or Amazon.
Which type of avocado tree should you try to grow? It depends largely on where you live and the size of the tree (and fruit) you want to grow. Also, it depends if you want to produce fruit to eat or just to have an avocado houseplant.
Most avocado varieties will grow and produce fruit in USDA hardiness zones 9-11. Most of the avocados in the U.S. are grown in states with a warmer climate and warm temperatures such as Florida, Southern California, and Hawaii. Hawaii alone produces more than 200 varieties of avocados.
Gardeners who live in zones 4-10 can grow avocados indoors. The Hass and Donnie cultivars will also grow indoors or on patios for growers in zone 11.
If you live in the colder climate of zone 8, you can grow the Cold Hardy avocado variety and other varieties that are well-suited to the temperate climates and climate conditions of zone 8. Also, some varieties of Mexican avocados can tolerate mild frost and colder temperatures.
How much space do you have for growing your avocado trees? If you have a large outdoor area, you can grow the larger trees such as Hass avocado, Bacon avocado, Monroe avocado, and Hall avocado. Depending on the variety you grow, avocado trees will be between 15 and 30 feet tall at mature size.
Mature avocado trees have a spread of between 10 and 18 feet of plant growth, depending on the cultivar.
There is a dwarf variety avocado tree called Wurtz, and its nickname is “Little Cado.” The Wurtz avocado tree reaches heights of between 8 and 10 feet when fully mature. Another smaller avocado tree is the Condo, which grows to be about 10 feet tall.
Potted avocados in containers do well if you can plant a variety that doesn’t grow too large.
Avocado Tree Pollination
In terms of pollination, avocado trees are somewhat complicated. While most cultivars are self-fertile, whether or not you need a pollinating companion for your avocado trees can depend on which USDA hardiness zone you live in.
There are two types of avocado trees when it comes to pollination: Type A and Type B. For optimal fruit development, it’s advisable to have both Type A and Type B avocado trees.
In most cases, you will benefit by planting your avocado trees with pollinators because your trees will produce more fruit.
Planting Avocado Trees
The best time to plant avocado trees is between March through June. Avocado trees grow best when planted in well-draining soil that is loamy or sandy, so be sure to plant in soil that has good drainage. Avocado trees don’t thrive in heavy clay soil that doesn’t offer excellent drainage.
Until your avocado trees are well-established, offer them some protection from the wind. Space your avocado trees about 30 feet apart so that they have plenty of room to grow their full canopies.
Plant an Avocado Tree From an Avocado Pit (Avocado Seed)
Generally, avocados from pit-grown trees tend to be disappointing. If having fruit is your goal, we recommend growing avocados from a small tree.
If you just want a gorgeous avocado houseplant, by all means, try your hand at growing your own avocado plant from a pit in a glass of water. Check out our guide for how to do that.
Plant a Young Avocado Tree
If you plant a young avocado tree, you will get fruit more quickly than if you grow your own tree directly from the pit. To learn more about growing avocado trees, see our article: “How to Grow an Avocado Tree.”
Pruning Avocado Trees
Generally, you should prune your avocado trees after they produce fruit.
When an avocado tree has dead wood or damaged branches, sunlight to healthy limbs is often blocked. Also, like any plant, dead avocado branches should be pruned to ensure that all of the plant’s resources go to the healthy and fruit-producing branches. When you prune branches that are not serving a purpose, your tree will produce more fruit.
One of the reasons to prune your avocado trees early is that these trees will take between five and 20 years to produce fruit. How you prune and shape the trees in their early years will have a huge impact on the shape the trees have when they’re producing fruit later.
The best thing you can keep in mind is to keep your instruments clean. After pruning a tree, clean and sterilize your instruments with insecticidal soap thoroughly before going to another tree. This will ensure that you don’t spread diseases — whether visible or invisible — between trees.
Here is a shortlist of the equipment you will need to prune your avocado trees.
- Hand pruners
- Supplies for cleaning and sterilizing your tools
If you want to promote general growth in your avocado trees, prune them in the spring. Alternatively, if you want your trees to grow wider and taller, do heavy pruning in the summer.
Indoor avocado trees also need pruning. For one thing, you want to make sure that your indoor avocado tree remains at a manageable size.
For more detailed information about pruning avocado trees, check out our guide: “How to Prune an Avocado Tree.”
Sun and Shade
Avocado trees need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight every day, and if your trees can get 8 hours of sunlight, that’s even better. If you are growing a potted avocado tree indoors, make sure you move your tree throughout the day if it doesn’t have the benefit of a window that offers continuous sunlight.
These trees also need some shade during the day. Morning sun and afternoon shade are ideal for avocado trees.
To plant avocado trees outdoors, plant them in well-drained soil on the Southern side of your house or property.
For avocados, slow and deep watering is optimal so we recommend using drip hoses to achieve a deep soak around the base of your trees.
Avocado trees enjoy drying out slightly in between watering. In most cases, you can water your avocado trees once a week, but in extremely dry weather and summer months, you may need to water your trees twice per week.
The water should soak down to the tree roots, but to avoid root rot, don’t over-water your avocado trees.
In spring and fall, you can water your avocado trees once every two weeks, and in the winter, once a month is sufficient unless your area experiences extreme dryness.
You shouldn’t fertilize your avocado trees until they are at least two years old because young trees have very delicate roots.
When your trees are old enough, fertilize them in the spring with products such as Espoma Organic avocado food or FoxFarm Happy Frog avocado dry fertilizer.
A six-inch layer of organic coarse mulch will help keep your trees in optimal shape. Be sure you leave about a foot of space around the tree trunks to prevent root rot.
When to Expect Fruit
Avocado growers have to be patient folks who are in it for the long game. Depending on the avocado cultivar you grow, you can expect avocado fruit production anywhere between five and 20 years.
Avocado Tree Pests and Diseases
Like all plants and fruit trees, avocado trees can fall victim to pests and diseases.
If you’re growing avocado trees, you need to be aware of these six common pests.
- Lace Bugs
- Other garden pests
To learn more about the pests that can harm avocado trees, check out our comprehensive guide to avocado pests and how to treat and prevent them.
Avocado trees can be susceptible to five different diseases.
- Armillaria Root Rot
- Verticillium Wilt
- Avocado Black Streak
- Dothiorella Canker
- Phytophthora Canker
To learn how to prevent and treat these common avocado tree diseases, see the avocado tree diseases guide we’ve created on the Minneopa Orchards website.
When to Harvest Avocados
Avocado harvest time depends largely on the types of avocado trees you grow, and harvest times vary widely.
Hass avocados can be harvested as early as February, with the harvest extending all the way through September. Alternatively, Cold Hardy avocados will ripen between the months of November and March. Condo avocados can be harvested between July and September.
Keep in mind that avocados have to be harvested by hand because if you don’t pick the fruit in time, the avocados will fall from the trees and fail to ripen. As with most fruit, the longer you can allow them to stay on the trees, the richer the flavor will be. There’s nothing better than a ripe avocado.
To enjoy a continuous harvest, consider growing several different types of avocado trees.
Winter Care for Avocado Trees
Frost can cause damage to avocado trees, and some varieties can’t tolerate any amount of frost. If you live in an area that experiences temperatures below freezing, be sure to choose an avocado tree that can withstand cold temperatures.
To protect your avocado trees, build a mound of soil around the base of the trunk of the trees. These soil bases should measure between six and eight inches deep and will give the trees some insulation.
To protect young or small trees from frost, cover them with a tarp or blanket during the night. Be sure you remove the covering in the morning after frost. The goal is to keep the air around the tree just enough above freezing that the tree won’t be damaged. One thing you can do is place a light bulb or small camping lantern underneath the tree’s covering.
In the winter, water your avocado trees once a month unless you experience extremely dry conditions. In this case, water the trees twice per month.
Caring for Indoor Avocado Trees
To effectively grow avocado trees as indoor plants, you need to mimic their ideal outdoor climate. What this means is that they need between 6 and 8 hours of direct sunlight every day, and they need to be watered about twice per week since they won’t have the benefit of groundwater.
Be sure that your pots have adequate drainage holes and discard any water that appears to be standing in the saucers. Being careless with indoor watering can result in root rot or fungal growth.
To read more in-depth about growing and caring for an indoor avocado tree, visit this article: “How to Grow an Indoor Avocado Tree.”
Avocado Tree Care: Final Thoughts
Besides being delicious, fresh avocado has several health benefits. Moreover, this versatile and nutrient-dense fruit lends itself to a wide variety of recipes and cuisines. Avocados are perfect to eat raw, whether slice, in guacamole, or in smoothies. You can also cook with avocado or dice it up to go on top of soup or nachos. In the comments, let us know your favorite way to use the wonderful avocado in your recipes.
Do you grow avocados? We’d love to hear any tips you have to share in the comments section below! For more avocado reading, click here for our other avocado blog posts.