How to Grow and Care For Avocado Trees

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by Max - last update on October 9, 2020, 8:24 am
Avocado Tree

Avocado is an evergreen tree in the Laurel family. This beautiful tree is large and dome-shaped with elliptical leaves grown on the tips of the branches. The leaves are red in color when they first emerge and eventually turn green as they mature. Growing avocados as houseplants or outdoors is a fun way of enjoying the beauty of these trees. But if you’re after their fruit, you’ll be waiting for a long time - Unless you move yourself to a warmer climate! With enough patience though, your avocado seedling will eventually turn into shiny, oval leaves before it’s ready for potting.

Want to learn how to grow and care for avocado trees? Here we will reveal everything you need to know about growing these beautiful trees indoors or outdoors.

Avocado Tree Quick Overview

Quick Facts

OriginSouth-central Mexico
NamePersea americana
FamilyLaurels (Lauraceae)
Hardiness zone10-12
FertilizerFeed regularly with a balanced, controlled-release fertilizer
Max growth65 feet
Poisonous forAlmost all animals. Ingesting causes diarrhea or even death
LightFull sun
WaterFrequent watering once or twice a week
TemperaturePrefers warm temperate, subtropical and tropical climate
SoilA rich, fast-draining general-use potting soil mix
HumidityWhen indoors, mist daily or use humidifier
PropagationPlanting seeds, rooting cuttings, layering and grafting
PestsRoot rot, laurel wilt, scale, caterpillars, lace bugs
Favorite variationsHass

There are around 1,000 avocado varieties in the world, but we won’t be listing them all here. The most commonly found avocado variety is Hass, which is grown in large quantities in Latin America and California and almost always found in your local supermarket. Most people will be familiar with the Hass avocado; it is small with dark, green-colored pebbly skin. Other common avocado varieties include:

Mexican

  • Small and smooth skinned

  • Purple, black, or green in color

  • Weighs under 1 pound

  • Can tolerate temperatures of 19 to 20 degrees F

Guatemalan

  • Rough, thick skin

  • Weighs from half to 5 pounds

  • Tolerates temperatures of up to 30 degrees F

West Indian

  • Smooth, leathery skin

  • Weighs 1 to 5 pounds

  • Does not tolerate temperatures below freezing

Avocado Tree Care Instructions

Temperature

Young avocado trees do best at moderately warm temperatures of around 60-85 degrees F. They should never be exposed to freezing temperatures. Once they are mature (3 years or older) they’ll be able to tolerate colder temperatures (28-32 degrees F).

Watering
 

Avocado Watering

Young avocado plants must be kept moist at all times. To avoid root rot, be sure to plant them in a well-draining pot. Watch for leaf yellowing as this is a sign of excess water. Your avocado tree requires frequent, deep watering once or twice per week. However, leave enough time between the waterings to allow the soil to dry out. Avocado trees thrive when they are watered deeply but not when they are overwatered.

Light

Avocado Light

Avocado trees thrive in full sun. If kept indoors, place the pots in the brightest spot of the house. If you’re growing your avocado from the seed, keep it on the windowsill until the roots emerge.

Soil

The best type of soil for avocado trees is a well-drained and coarse one, such as sandy loam. Sandy, loose fertile soil provides the best drainage. Choose a light potting soil like a mix for succulents as this type effectively drains excess water. You can also lay some pebbles at the pot’s bottom before filling it with soil.

Fertilizing

Never fertilize your young avocado tree during its first year as this can burn its roots. Once the first year has passed, feed the tree with a balanced controlled-release fruit or vegetable fertilizer during late winter and early summer. You can fertilize the tree abundantly during the growing season.

Pruning

The first serious pruning should be done when the plant is around 12 inches tall. Cut it back to half its size to allow for new stems and leaves to form. Pruning should then occur during late winter or early spring when the tree is dormant. Remove the dead branches lightly to maintain the height. To maintain the width, start by pruning the longest branches and work your way in.

Indoor Planting
 

Indoor Planting

If you have purchased your avocado tree from a nursery and wish to grow it indoors, you must plant it in a bigger container as soon as you bring the plant home. This is important to ensure your tree has plenty of room to spread out and establish. It is also vital to ensure the pots you use have plenty of drainage holes to prevent root rot. You may also grow your avocado indoors from seed (more about that later).

Outdoor Planting

Outdoor Planting

To grow multiple avocado trees outdoors, leave approximately 5-8 feet of space between each tree. Once you’re ready to plant your trees in your garden, dig a hole that’s three times deeper and wider than the tree’s container. This will ensure the roots have adequate room to establish in the ground. Water well and avoid fertilizing during the first year.

When to Plant

You should ideally plant your avocado seedling in spring (from March to June). Keep in mind that avocado trees thrive at moderately warm temperatures (between 60-85 degrees F) with moderate humidity. Once established, the trees can tolerate temperatures as low as 28 degrees F. But avoid freezing temperatures. If you choose to plant your young tree in the summer, it may get sun damaged as it can’t absorb water as easily as the more established trees.

Where to Plant

Choose a planting location that receives plenty of direct sun. You’ll also need a well-drained soil when planting your avocado tree in the garden. A southern location will ensure wind protection. But be sure to plant the tree in a non-lawn area. When choosing the right location, remember: yes to direct sun and no to frost and wind.

How to Plant Avocado tree from pit in 9 steps

It is possible to sprout an avocado seed in a glass of water. This is the easiest and the least expensive way to grow your own avocado tree. However, it takes time (up to 6 weeks) for the roots to start appearing so be patient!

What you’ll need:

  • Avocado seed

  • 4 toothpicks

  • Glass or jar

  • Water

  • Potting soil

  • Pot

Step 1. Wash the pit thoroughly and remove the brown skin.

Step 2. Insert 4 toothpicks into the pit starting from the pointy end. Spread out the toothpicks evenly around the pit, but make sure you stick them in far enough to hold the pit in place.

Step 3. Now gently set the pit in the glass container with the pointy end up.

Step 4. Pour enough water in the container to cover half of the pit.

Step 5. Place the pit on the windowsill or in a sunny location for direct sunlight.

Step 6. Top up the water every 2 or 3 days.

Step 7. As soon as you see stems growing from the seed, cut them back by half to encourage better growth.

Step 8. Once the new leaves have developed and the root system is thicker, you’re ready to transplant the sapling to a pot.

Step 9. Add potting mix to a container and allow it to grow outside if the weather is warm enough.

Watch this quick video to get a better idea of how to grow an avocado from pit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDd_QU9Crmk

Repotting Avocado Plant in 6 Steps

Repot your avocado tree every spring for the first few years to allow maximum growth. Follow these steps to learn how:

Step 1. Check the current container size to see if the plant is root-bound. Gently tilt the container to one side so the plant falls out. If it’s rigid, run a blunt knife around the outside of the roots to free the plant from the pot. If the roots are tangled, then it’s time for a new, bigger pot.

Step 2. When choosing a new pot, it should be no more than 3 inches larger than the current one. Avocados don’t like sitting in water so make sure the pot has adequate drainage as a saucer to collect the excess water.

Step 3. Now lay the plant on its side on a newspaper or cloth.

Step 4. Free up the tangled roots using your fingers, and if there are any rooting ones, remove them with a pruning shear.

Step 5. Put a small amount of potting soil in the new pot’s bottom. Fill the container around the outside of the root ball with more soil. Note: use the same potting mix as you did in the previous pot since there should be no soil weight or consistency difference. Plant the avocado at the same level as it was originally planted in the previous pot, with one quarter of the seed above the soil’s surface.

Step 6. Water the plant well after repotting. If the soil settles, fill the holes with more potting soil.

Common Problems & Pests

Root rot: look for leaf yellowing as one of the common symptoms of an overly wet potting soil. Sluggish drainage or too much water can develop root rot, so be sure to reduce watering and place the plant in a well-draining pot.

White crust on soil: this is due to excessive salt build-up from fertilizer. To resolve this issue, flush the pot regularly.

Laurel wilt: when an avocado tree is grown outdoors, it becomes susceptible to bug and fungus attacks. One such fungus is Raffaelea lauricola, which causes laurel wilt and is transmitted by several species of ambrosia beetle. Regular pruning is recommended to prevent laurel wilt.

Scale: the red and black scale insects can infest the avocado tree. This usually happens between May and July when the weather is hot. An insecticide can treat the infestation problem.

Caterpillars: these bugs attack the flowers, foliage and fruits of the avocado tree and can cause significant damage in a short time. Using an insecticide, spray inside the folds of the leaves to destroy the caterpillars.

Lace bugs: these pests feed on the leaves and cause yellow spots that can leave the fruits exposed to UV rays. As soon as you notice the symptoms of lace bugs, spray the leaves of your avocado tree with pyrethrin or horticultural oils.

FAQs

How do I keep pests off my avocado tree?

Avoid high-nitrogen fertilizers as they promote quick growth and attract pests. Don’t plant your avocado near a vegetable garden or perennial bed where bugs are most likely to be found.

Will a pit-produced avocado tree bear fruit?

Yes. It can take up to 10 years or more from the time the pit is planted. Avocado pits take much longer to bear fruit than a grafted tree, which takes half the time to bear fruit (5 years).

How do I take care of an avocado tree?

Water the tree deeply and often. Let it dry out before watering again. Mulch the tree with 3-4 inches of coarse pine bark to conserve moisture. Make sure you leave a few inches between the tree trunk and mulch. Avoid fertilizing the tree during the first year of planting.

How do I grow an avocado tree indoors?

Growing avocados indoors is easy and a lot of fun. Simply plant the sprouted seed in an unglazed clay pot that’s at least 10 inches deep or twice as deep as the roots. Add a potting mix blended with compost and sand to create a fast-draining, loose composition. Lastly, make sure your avocado tree receives plenty of direct sun.

Conclusion

Growing an avocado tree takes time and requires a lot of patience But the end result is definitely worth the wait. If you purchase a potted tree from the nursery, it can take around 5 years for the plant to bear fruit. If grown from a seed, however, expect to wait up to 10 years. In the meantime, enjoy the beauty of your home-grown tree as it thrives indoors or outdoors.

Do you have insider tips on growing avocados from seed? Feel free to share your tricks with us in the comments below.

How to Grow and Care For Avocado Trees

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