Lots of people grow their own tomatoes or cucumbers. But avocados? You don’t hear a lot of home gardeners swapping tips about those. And that’s too bad because the quirky avocado is definitely worth harvesting yourself. Not only are they super healthy, but they’re also easy to grow. (Did you know avocados are technically a berry and that they’re also called an alligator pear?)
Avocados thrive in a warm climate with high humidity but can be grown indoors as a houseplant. While growing avocados requires patience since the plant takes four to five years to produce fruit, there’s not a lot of work involved once you get started. Here’s a primer for planting and caring for an avocado tree from its pit.
How To Plant And Grow An Avocado Tree
If the following directions sound vaguely familiar, you might have actually done this in school. In fact, growing avocados from a pit is a common lesson plan among preschool and science teachers.
Begin by washing off and drying an avocado pit. Insert three to four toothpicks about midway up the side of the pit. Balance the pit over a glass or jar by resting the toothpicks on the rim of it. Fill it with enough water to cover the bottom third of the pit.
Place the glass in a warm spot (like a sunny windowsill) and change the water regularly. You can expect the top of the pit to open and sprout after around six weeks. Also watch for the bottom of the pit to grow long, straight roots. If six weeks pass without any hint of growth, toss the pit and try again with a new one.
When the sprout reaches about 6 inches in length, cut it down to about 3 inches. Then wait some more. When the roots have thickened and the stem is sprouting leaves again, remove it from the glass and plant it in a pot that’s about 10 inches in diameter.
Fill the space around it with potting soil, leaving half the seed still exposed above the soil. Put it in a warm and sunny location and water generously — well draining soil is key.
If you live in plant hardiness zones 9 – 11 (basically a long growing season with hot summers), you can plant your avocado seedling outside. Make sure it’s in a spot that gets at least eight hours of sunlight per day. Dig a hole in some good-draining, well-aerated soil, and place the root ball inside and fill in around it with soil. Then water generously.
How To Care For An Avocado Tree
While avocado trees are relatively low-maintenance to grow, they do need certain essential things, starting with at least eight hours of sunlight a day. And according to the experts at Pennington, a lawn and garden care products company, new avocado trees also require watering two to three times a week for the first year. They also suggest feeding your avocado tree with a fertilizer that has plenty of nitrogen relative to phosphorus and potassium.
And now comes the hard part…waiting. The horticulturalists at Amaral Farms encourage you to enjoy the fact that an avocado tree is a beautiful houseplant. They warn that while many growers start picking avocados off their trees in three or four years, it could also be as long as seven years. In the meantime, you might have to use the supermarket variety to make your guacamole.