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26 May 2014

How to grow avocado from seed

Do you know you can use the seed of a just eaten avocado to start an avocado tree? You often hear or read that it's a useless exercise because the trees take between seven to ten years to produce fruit, but I still do it. I'm not interested in speed. All natural things take time. If you were to buy a grafted avocado tree today and plant it, it would take a couple of years to produce decent avocados. So if you have the land, and you love avocados, why not grow a few from seed and see how it goes. You're not losing anything.

This seedling avocado is two years old.

When we moved to the home we live in now, there was an old avocado tree full of avocados in the backyard. A few months after moving in, the council used our backyard as the beginning of the installation of sewers in our town and the machinery moving over the tree's roots killed it. Avocados hate having their roots compressed, interfered with or excessive moisture. Since then I've bought a few grafted trees but everyone of them died from Phytophthora and at over $30 per tree, it hurts. A seedling tree grown from a seed might take longer before fruit form and it may even die, but I'm not throwing away $30+ each time I have another go at home grown avocados.

Avocados are categorised as either A or B. Each flower is bisexual and opens twice, once as a female and once as a male. You can produce avocados with one tree, but you'll increase your yield a lot if you have more than one tree, preferably one A and one B type. Avocados will grow anywhere there is no frost and even in frosty areas you can grow them in a large pot that can be brought inside. They also make an excellent and lush indoor plant. If you're in a cold area, Bacon is the best variety for you.

Type A - Gwen, Hass, Lamb Hass, Pinkerton, Reed, Rincon, Secondo and Wurtz.
Type B - Bacon, Edranol, Fuerte, Llanos Hass, Ryan, Sharwil, Shepard and Zutano.

We love avocados but they're quite expensive so we limit ourselves. We have a generous neighbour up the road - organisedcastle, and she sometimes brings us a few from her tree. The avos I love the most though come from my friend Meryl because she grows the magnificent Reed avocado. Reed is round, creamy and large. Just one will make a big bowl of guacamole. In my humble opinion, I think it's the best tasting avo. You rarely see them on sale in the supermarkets because they don't travel well but often the organic boxes and some CSAs carry them. We had a few of of Meryl's Reeds in early autumn and I've now got a sprouted seed. It will soon join my other seed-grown avocado that is now about two years old (photo above).

It's easy to sprout a seed. Simply wash it and put it in a small container with the bottom of the seed in the water. Change the water every few days. Soon the roots will emerge, then the top shoot. When the seedling is about 10 inches tall, snip off the top half inch of the top shoot to encourage the seedling to develop side shoots.  When there are leaves and the seedling looks healthy, plant it in soil.  You can plant the seed straight into soil too instead of sprouting it first but I like sprouting them on the window sill in the kitchen.

This is the sprouted Reed seed. It's still about two months away from planting out. 

The most important part of growing avocados in the ground is to provide excellent drainage. They love deep, sandy soils and need to be kept watered during hot weather - a bucket of water every two days in summer. If you're mulching, use hay or straw but keep it away from the trunk because it will encourage disease.

Mindful of the failures I've had in the past, I'm planting these in a different way.  We had quite a high annual rainfall here so I want to keep the avocado's roots out of the sometimes flooding rain we get. If the roots stay in water for 48 hours the tree will probably die. I'm going to plant these in large pots with extra large drainage holes in the base and sit them in full sun where they'll grow in pots in top quality potting mix and manure. I am hoping the roots grow out of the base of the pots and into the soil - that will give the tree increased vigour and fruit growing ability but it will keep the main root ball out of the wet clay soil. We'll see how this goes. So far the score is Avocado 2 vs Rhonda 0.

21 comments:

  1. Oh I love avocados and I'm so glad to read that they make a good indoor plant also.Our climate is rather cold, though summers can get hot lately. I might just try!

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  2. We have two avocado trees in our garden. The older one grown from seed in 2008 now is taller than our wall. The other a grafted tree bought from the nursery we got in 2009. We were told it was imperative to have two for pollination so I am glad to see that the first can start producing fruit before the other comes in and then we can enjoy lots of avos, also a favorite of all six of us!

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  3. No chance o fgrowing them over here, it's far too cold in the winter! But I'm the same as you and I'd rather try to grow my own plant and wait a few years than spend the money and have it straight away. This spring I've grafted cherries, pear, plums, apricots and apples, taking cuttings from friends and grafting them on rootstocks which are about 5% of the cost of some of the fully grown trees. It might take a little longer but ti means I'll have many more fruit trees in the future becase of it and gained some good skills to go with it!
    Good luck with your avocados, lets hope you up the score a bit!

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  4. Interesting. I have heard that the big old fashioned tropical type avocados are the best to grow from seed rather than modern type hybrids. Your Reed avocado looks like it is the old fashioned type and should be a wonderful treat in several years time. aloha

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  5. Lovely new photo Rhonda! Your hair is beautiful!!

    Trish

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  6. My parents had a large avocado tree growing up and I can remember the fuss if frost was coming! It was planted in the ground next to the garage and there may have been blankets involved to protect the tree if a big frost was forecast! We used to eat them just cut in half with a spoonful of french dressing. Bliss! The tree did eventually die and they haven't been able to get another to take but at least they had a good 10+ years of free avocados!

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  7. We have three avocado trees grown from seed and my husband tells me that he was getting fruit from one in four years. He used to pick avocados from a farm so is not sure which variety it was. Funnily enough I don't like any of the varieties we have and prefer the ones from our neighbour's tree down the road which they don't eat! We are spoiled for choice, aren't we? :-)

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  8. Hi Rhonda--
    I've read different takes on the Avocado production story. But your information makes good sense. A tree grown from a pit will eventually, providing all circumstances are right...produce after about 7-10 years an actual Avocado? This thrills me.
    I've grown several small trees but haven't had much success at keeping them alive. I live in Texas and yes, we get frost. A good sized pot with good drainage and portability must be the KEY. I'm not giving up hope on growing an avocado tree and hopefully, getting some of that lovely fruit!
    Thank you so much for this post!

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  9. Avocado don't grow here. I got some yesterday for seventy seven cent each. Usual there over a dollar a piece.
    Coffee is on

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  10. Lovely new photo of you Rhonda.

    I wish I could grow avocadoes but we're a little far south down the SI of NZ. Great information though.

    Have a wonderful week.

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  11. How wonderful to be able to grow your own avocados. They are a rare treat in this house. We are far too cold to grow them here :(

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  12. Love your new photo! You look warm and friendly, just like someone I'd enjoy sitting and chatting with.

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  13. This is great! I didn't know it "only" took 7-10 years before it could produce fruit. My new flatmate has a small one that he has had for about 15 years now, but it looks almost like a bonsai tree, I don't know what is up with that...
    I however, started to grow one about four months ago, and planted it four weeks ago and it seems to grow quite a bit now, the first tiny leaves just starting to unfold. It's a beautiful thing, and I keep it more for decor than anything, if it starts producing fruitn, then that's just a bonus :) x

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  14. I have an avocado sapling growing growing from seed and my older sister is growing a few more seeds for me. As you say, we have time to wait for it to fruit and meanwhile, I'll have beautiful trees growing in the yard.

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  15. Thank you for sharing this... but most importantly thank you for having this blog... I absolutely adore it and your positive mindset.. it really has helped this poor mother of five

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  16. Growing the avocadoes in pots is a great idea as they absolutely hate being waterlogged - even for a short period. Ours is on quite a steep slope and even though we get a high rainfall it is well drained. There are many more young avocado saplings growing further down the embankment where the fruit has fallen, rotted and the seed has grown. A couple are now actually producing fruit as well. I need to check and pick some - must be nearly time to share again. :)

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  17. Thanks so much for sharing this! Very informative for first time avocado growers! I really want to give it a try of growing my own avocado tree after reading this! I have not come across reed type of avocado – I mostly get Hass avocados, would you recommend hunting down a Reed for my tree? Also what is the recommended time of year to start growing my avocado?

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  18. We have 3 large very old avo trees in our garden all heavily laden with large fruit as I write. We are in Durban, South Africa. Last year there was not one fruit on any of the trees but this year the butter avos are very yummy. Plenty for us to share locally till the season is over. We bought this house back in 2002 and the trees were very old then thank you to whoever planted them.

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  19. Why would you go to the effort of growing an avo from seed, then not grafting it yourself? who has the patience to wait 7 years for a peice of fruit when you can get a graft from a bearing tree and get fruit in 3? there is plenty of info online on how to graft. If you want to keep your tree from dying from Phytophthora you should plant the tree on a mound so that the soil drains well.

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    Replies
    1. Who has the patience to wait? I do. We tried planting on a mound, then planting on a mound plus adding grit to the planting hole, in this climate, they still died.

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