Avocado Trees

I had a delightful visit with a new client, Meg, last week. We walked around her property to discuss ideas for landscape improvements and a precious moment was had when we came to the avocado tree. Her son Peter had planted the avocado seed in a small container when he was about 9 years old. He watered and cared for the soon-to be plant and watched it grow. When Meg, her husband and  family were moving out of town, they had to leave behind the avocado tree. The landlord somehow felt this tree was special and kept caring for the plant. After about a year, Meg and her family made plans to return to California. Before they came back to California, this landlord contacted them and told them she was caring for the avocado tree and the same house they had lived in previously was available for lease.  How wonderful is that! Now her son Peter is a teenager and the avocado tree is over 6 feet tall. Sacred Gardens will find a prominent place in the garden for this very special tree which has been so nurtured and cared for all these years. Such a testimony to the modified phrase… “It takes a village to raise an avocado tree.” 🙂


More facts on growing an Avocado Tree from a seed

While it is true that you can grow a tree from an avocado seed, a tree grown from seed will be very different from its parent variety and may take 7-15 years to begin producing fruit. Fruit from a tree grown from seed tends to have different flavor characteristics than their parent variety. Known varieties such as Hass avocados are grafted to preserve their varietal characteristics rather than grown from a seed.

You can grow your own avocado tree from seed following these simple steps.

  1. Wash the seed. Using three toothpick, suspend it broad end down over a water-filled glass to cover about an inch of the seed.
  2. Put it in a warm place out of direct sunlight and replenish water as needed. You should see roots and stem sprout in about two to six weeks.
  3. When the stem is six to seven inches long, cut it back to about three inches.
  4. When the roots are thick and the stem has leafed out again, plant it in a rich humus soil in a 10-1/2″ diameter pot, leaving the seed half exposed.
  5. Give it frequent, light waterings with an occasional deep soak. Generally, the soil should be moist but not saturated. Yellowing leaves are a sign of over-watering; let the plant dry out for a few days.
  6. The more sunlight, the better.
  7. If leaves turn brown and fry at the tips, too much salt has accumulated in the soil. Let water run freely into the pot and drain for several minutes.
  8. When the stem is 12 inches high, cut it back to 6 inches to encourage the growth of new shoots.

California Avocado trees are a popular for landscaping. They like soil ph of 6 to 6.5. It is a shallow rooted tree that needs good aeration and does best when mulched with coarse material such as redwood bark or other woody mulch about 2″ in diameter. Use about 1/3 cubic yard per tree, but keep it about 6 to 8 inches away from the trunk. Plant in a non-lawn area with full sun, protected from wind and frost. The ideal time to plant is March through June. During summer there is risk of sun damage since young trees can’t take up water very well.

The hole should be as deep as the root ball and just a bit wider. Gently place the root ball in the hole taking care not to disturb the delicate root system. If the ball is root-bound, carefully loosen up the soil around the edge and clip away any roots that are going in circles. Back fill the hole with soil. Do not use gravel or potting mix.

The major nutrients needed by avocado trees are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) in a balanced fertilizer with zinc. Feed young trees sparingly (1 to 2 teaspoons per tree, per year) of balanced fertilizer. Spread out over several applications if you like.

When watering, it is best to soak the root system well, and then allow the surface to dry out somewhat before watering again. Depending on the weather, this may mean watering once a day or once every two weeks.

This information was provided by Dr. Mary Lu Arpaia, Extension Subtropical Horticulturist, Kearney Agriculture Center, Parlier, CA. and Dr. Ben Faber, Farm Advisor, Soils and Water, Avocados and Subtropicals, Ventura County, CA.