Grown for their lush foliage and nutritious and delicious fruit, avocado trees are popular landscape plants in tropical and subtropical climates.
How to Plant an Avocado Tree
Avocado trees prefer a well-drained, slightly acid soil (pH 6-6.5); they do poorly in wet soils. They grow best when planted in full sun with protection from wind and frost. To conserve soil moisture, mulch with two to six inches of coarse bark mulch. Keep the mulch at least eight inches from the base of the trunk to protect the trunk from insects and diseases.
Spring is the best time to plant avocados. Because they can easily grow to 40 feet tall and have a spreading root system, plant avocado trees at least 25 feet from any building. To protect trunks from damage from lawn mowers, roots from overwatering by lawn irrigation systems, and fruit from the negative effects of lawn fertilizer, choose non-lawn sites for your avocado trees.
Fertilizing and Watering Avocado Trees
Fertilizer recommendations vary by location, but are consistently light during the first year. Infrequent thorough watering promotes strong root growth, particularly important for the shallow rooted avocado. For the first three years water young trees weekly during extended droughts.
Avocado Tree Pests and Diseases
While a number of insects attack avocado trees, they rarely affect the fruit enough to warrant any type of control measures. A good way to avoid disease problems is to plant scab-resistant varieties in well-drained soils and monitor the leaves and fruit for signs of disease. Avocadoes are susceptible to a number of fungal problems. Local agricultural extension offices are the best sources of information about the control of fungal diseases of avocadoes.
Opossums eat avocados and will climb trees to get the fruit if they don’t find any on the ground.
How to Harvest an Avocado
Avocado fruit doesn’t ripen until it falls from the tree or is harvested. Avocadoes are ready to be harvested when they reach a certain weight or size, which varies according to the variety. A mature fruit will ripen indoors at 60-75 degrees F in three to eight days after it is picked. Avocadoes don’t have to be harvested all at the same time; you can harvest them as needed.
Growing Avocados From Seeds
While you can definitely grow an avocado tree from a seed (aka pit or stone), the tree will probably not be the same variety as the one the seed came from. Because avocado varieties do not come true from seed, you don’t know what variety or quality of fruit you’ll get when you start with a seed. Plus, an avocado tree takes 10-15 years to go from seed to flowering and fruiting. If you want to grow an avocado tree for its fruit it’s best to buy a healthy two- to four-foot plant from a reputable nursery.