Avocados are healthy, tasty treats, but they’re difficult to grow in a lot of the United States because it gets too cold for them to make fruit. Still, it can be fun to grow an avocado plant from a seed just to see what happens; it’s a great experiment for the kids!
1. Next time you eat an avocado, save the seed. Wash it off, then stick toothpicks in the sides so you can suspend the seed on top of a cup filled with water. About an inch of the seed should be down in the cup.
2. Put the cup in a warm place outside of direct sunlight, refilling the water as needed. It will take between two and six weeks for the roots and stem to sprout, so be patient.
3. When the green sprout has gotten to be a bout 6 inches long, trim it back to about 3 inches. This will encourage stronger growth. All this time, keep it in the cup with water.
4. When the roots get nice and thick and the steam leafs out again, then it is time to plant the avocado seed. Put it in a large pot with rich soil, and leave half of the seed exposed.
5. Water it regularly but not too much. Keep the soil moist but not soggy, and make sure the plant gets plenty of sun.
6. Again when the plant is about 12 inches high, trim it back to 6 inches.
You can keep the plant going in a pot for a long time, and you’ll probably want to keep it in a pot if you live anywhere with a harsh winter, because you’ll need to take it inside during the cold season.
Should you want to plant your avocado tree outside, you can do so put it in well-drained soil with a pH of 6 to 6.5. Mulch around the tree, but don’t put the mulch up against the trunk of the tree.
It’s best to plant in the spring, and to keep the plants well-watered but allow the soil to dry a bit between waterings. If you’re growing a plant from an avocado seed, you should know that it’s unlikely you’ll get fruit from it any time soon, if ever. Agricultural extension agents in California say it can take between 7 and 15 years for a tree grown from a seed to begin producing fruit, and the fruit will likely look and taste different from the original.
If you want to plant an avocado tree for fruit, you should buy one that’s been grown for that purpose, so long as you live in an area where avocados can be grown successfully. That usually means USDA zones 9 and 10, where there’s little to no danger of frost in the winter.
There are some varieties of avocado that can grown in slightly cooler zones (8, or possibly 7), but you need to shop around to make sure you have a plant that does better in cooler weather. You should probably still protect from frost, no matter the variety.
The California Avocado Commission recommends buying grafted varieties like Hass from reputable growers, planting in the spring in a well-drained area with full sun where they will not compete with other trees. A general-purpose fertilizer is helpful, and younger trees need more frequent, smaller applications of minerals.
Avocado trees need a lot of water, so be sure to water at least twice a week, more in hotter times. Salt buildup can be a big problem for avocados; you may have this problem if the tips of the leaves look burned. Increase watering until the problem goes away.
Avocados are not easy trees to grow for fruit in the vast majority of the country, but they are fun to have as houseplants when you start them from seed. It’s a great science experiment for the kids as well as a conversation starter.
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