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How To Grow An Avocado Tree

Over recent years it seems the popularity of avocado fruit has exploded as we’re seeing more and more dining establishments offer avocado and guacamole as toppings in and on such meals as hamburgers, tacos, burritos, and even smoothies.

Overhead view of bowl of guacamole and avocado halves.  Learning how to grow an avocado tree means having enjoying delicious avocados you've grown at home.

And if you’re interested in growing your own avocados either for personal enjoyment or as part of your product business, the good news is that they are super-easy to grow, and you don’t even have to buy seeds.

In this guide, we’ll tell you when to expect your first harvest, the supplies you’ll need, and how to grow an avocado tree step-by-step. Plus, we’ll include important information such as common pests, diseases, and helpful tips for caring for your trees.

When Will My Avocado Tree Grow Fruit?

They say good things are worth the wait, and as growers, we understand this lesson better than most. However, how long it takes before avocado trees produce fruit could even be tested even the most seasoned grower’s patience.

Avocados hanging on a tree.

Experts say to expect your avocado tree to start producing fruit anywhere from five to 20 years! And it isn’t easy to grow these trees indoors which could explain why they can cost so much at the grocery store. But, if you’re ready to grow for the long haul, you’ll need a few supplies to get started.

Climates and Hardiness Zones

The best months to plant your avocado trees are from March through June. Also, Avocado trees, according to the U.S Department of Agriculture, will only grow in plant hardiness zones eight through 11. However, avocados only thrive in a handful of states like California, Florida, and Hawaii. The Aloha State produces over 200 varieties of avocados and makes up over half the avocados you’ll find sold in supermarkets.

It can be done if you plan to grow avocados in less than ideal climates. Some keep their avocado trees inside containers in greenhouses and sunrooms where winter temperatures are still above 55 degrees Fahrenheit. And in the summer, such spaces should be between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Trees can be moved from outdoor to indoor gardens before fall.

Supplies You Will Need

Here is a list of the items you’ll need to start your avocado-growing adventure.

  • Toothpicks
  • Avocado seed (pit)
  • 10-inch pot
  • Jar or drinking glass
  • Trowel
  • Potting soil
  • Sunroom or Greenhouse
  • Tons of patience

How To Grow An Avocado Tree, Step by Step

An avocado pit suspended in water with a seedling growing from it.

You need to save an avocado pit from growing your own avocado tree, as we mentioned above. Then there are a few steps to follow before you can plant it.

  1. When you save your avocado pit, you want to ensure you don’t break or cut it. Wash off any avocado reside until it’s nice and clean. Make sure you dry it well, then insert between three to four toothpicks about halfway into the side of the pit.
  2. Next, you’ll suspend your pit (board end facing down) inside your jar or drinking glass. Fill up the container with just enough water to ensure the bottom third portion of the pit is submerged.
  3. Now, place your container in a warm area (but not in direct sunlight). The room temperature should be between 60 to 85 degrees Fareheight. You’ll need to change the water regularly, and your sprouts and roots should start to appear after two to six weeks. If not, you’ll want to start the process again with another seed.
  4. After your sprout grows to about six inches tall, cut the sprout back down to three inches (this will encourage more growth).
  5. When your stems grow out again, plant your pit inside your 10-inch pot. Make sure it’s filled with plenty of rich potting soil (7:9:5 fertilizer). And now it’s time to watch your avocado tree really starts to grow. Don’t forget to water your plant two to three times per week.

If you plan to keep your avocado indoors full time, visit this link to read more on how to grow an avocado tree indoors.

Other Ways To Grow An Avocado Tree

Now, if you wish to skip this process, you can always buy older potted avocado trees that are usually grafted and stand roughly 4-feet tall. These trees usually take three to four years to yield fruit instead of five to 20. Nature Hills Nursery sells a Hass Avocado tree as well as a Bacon Avocado tree.

Planting Your Tree in Ground

The ideal location to plant your avocado tree will be in an area that gets lots of sun (at least eight hours per day) and has well-drained soil. Planting near the south side of your home or in a valley or dip can ensure protection from hard winds.

Your avocado trees will really benefit from fertilization between February and October. Soil pH should be between 6 and 6.5. If your soil is heavy clay, elevate your tree inside a mound to better drainage.

Your mound should be between one and two feet high and three to five feet around. Make sure you don’t get gravel or something else like planing media in your hole. The sooner your tree’s roots reach the bulk soil, the better root growth.

You’ll want to make sure your soil has lots of organic matter and check the soil for porosity (percentage of void space between particles of soil). You can find out more about measuring soil porosity here. If your soil doesn’t drain well, you can work in some sand or another gritty substance to increase drainage.

And you want to leave between eight to ten feet between your avocado plant and any building and up to 30 feet between two avocado trees.

Caring For Your Avocado Tree

You want to use ammonium sulfate, spreading the applications over these months. After planting, apply half a cup on the first anniversary, then increase to one cup each month. When the tree reaches two years of age, increase the application to two cups every month.

Also, coarse yard mulch can benefit your tree. Shredded tree bark, cocoa bean husks, and redwood bark are good choices. You want something woody and around two inches in diameter. You can find coarse yard much in many garden centers, and a few tree-trimming services may sell it.

Use about 20 pounds of gypsum spread around your tree base, and be sure to much the area using at least six inches of mulch. Keep the mulch at least six to eight inches away from your tree’s trunk.

Avocado trees don’t require a lot of pruning, but you will need to remove deadwood during the spring. You can also prune your trees to maintain the desired size.

Man watering an avocado tree.  Knowing how to properly care for a tree is part of knowing how to grow an avocado tree.
Knowing how to properly care for an avocado is a critical part of how to grow an avocado tree.

For mature trees, during irrigation season, you’ll need to ensure your plants get at least 20 gallons of water each time you water, which is every five to ten days. Please water deeply but less often. This will force the roots to grow out more to reach the water. You want to check each time before watering to ensure the soil is somewhat dried. A good way to know if you’ve watered enough is to press your hand into the soil around the roots. If it holds your hand’s impression, then you’ve likely watered enough.

The thing to remember is that avocado trees can be pretty fickle. They require particular humidity and temperatures to grow properly. Most areas in the U.S do not have the right year-round temperatures to grow avocados, which means you’ll likely need to use a greenhouse or sunroom.

Avoiding “Fruit Drop”

Avocado trees usually produce around one million flowers, but they only make between 100 to 200 fruits per tree. This means that only one in 10,000 fruits will actually set and mature into avocados. And sometimes, your tree may set fruit only to drop them when they reach the size between a pea and walnut. This is normal.

Closeup of yellow avocado tree blossoms.

To minimize instances of fruit drop, you need to avoid stressing your tree. Try not to over or underwater it. Research finds that fruit retention improves when other avocado varieties are present, providing cross-pollination. These crossed fruits are more likely to stay and mature fully on the tree. There is also some evidence suggesting that over-fertilizing trees using nitrogen during the early fruiting stages may have a small impact on fruit drop.

When to Harvest Avocados

Now for the fun part, you’ve patiently waited, perhaps becoming a parent or grandparent in the meantime, and now it’s time to collect the fruits of all your hard labor.

First, you want to pick just a few avocados off your tree and see if you can ripen them. If they end up shriveling or feel rubbery instead of soft, they are not yet mature enough to pick from the tree. Keep picking out a few every couple of weeks. Keep a chart using a calendar to show when they turn soft instead of rubbery.

Woman's hand reaching for an avocado hanging on a tree.

Also, take note of how the fruit tastes. For avocados, oil content generally increases as the season progresses. Also, there’s going to be that point when you find the “sweet spot” tastewise. The date they taste their best will vary somewhat based on local climate conditions. And you’ll have some years where fruits taste better than others. Certain varieties also reach a point where they can overdevelop oil and become rancid (however, many fruits will fall from the tree before that happens).

Common Pests and Diseases of an Avocado Tree

One common pest that tends to plague avocado trees is aphids. They can’t get enough of munching your avocado tree’s leaves. To get rid of them, wash off the insects by spraying down your plant with a hose or in the sink or shower. Then spray your plant with a mix of water, a small squirt of dish soap, and one teaspoon of neem oil. This should help prevent these little critters from returning. Check your plant at least once every four to five days and re-clean and spray as necessary.

You can also visit Gardeningknowhow.com for more information on common avocado tree pests and diseases.

Delicious Recipe Ideas Using Avocados

Avocado and eggs on toast.

Avocados can be used in tons of delicious recipes. Here are just a few to wet your appetite!

A Final Word on Growing Your Own Avacodo Trees

A pile of picked ripe avocados.  A healthy crop of avocado fruit is the reward for knowing how to grow an avocado tree.

By now, you can tell that growing avocado trees can be serious work with big rewards and risks. There are no guarantees that your trees will produce fruit, but using the best practices mentioned above increase your chances, particularly if you live in a state or climate zone favorable to avocado trees. The key is patience and consistent care. Then before you know it, you’ll have baskets full of happy, green avocados!