One of the questions that is raised ad nauseum on gardening forums and on garden talk-back radio is, “Can I plant an avocado seed and will it grow into an avocado tree?” Duh! Of course it will grow into an avocado tree – were you expecting to see pumpkins!
The question really isn’t about whether it will grow, it’s more about whether it will produce – and if that produce has any resemblance to a ‘normal’ avocado. Just like the question I answered on planting apple seeds you want to know that your effort is going to be rewarded.
Well, can I start off by saying that if you want to grow an avocado tree from its seed you will need the ‘patience of Job’ to see it through to completion. This is no overnight process and Voila! you’re eating your own avocados next season. No, this process takes years and years so don’t plant it in the ground if you’re planning on moving within the next 5-10.
Germinating an Avocado Seed
The first step in the process is to get the seed to germinate. The best way to do this is to suspend the seed, using a few toothpicks dug into the sides, above a glass of water. The base of the seed needs to be resting in the water so this will require refilling during the process. Then, leave the suspended seed on a window sill or in a cold frame where it will be kept warm by the sunlight.
Eventually the seed will crack open and new sprouts will emerge and roots will begin to feed into the water. This can take anywhere between 3-6 months depending upon the amount of sunlight the seed receives and whether you’ve been disciplined in keeping the water level up to the base of the pip.
Once the sprouts and roots emerge, it’s time to begin planting.
Planting an Avocado Seed
The next step is to get the seed into some growing medium. A mix of one-third compost, one-third vermiculite and one-third river sand would be ideal to start your propagated avocado. In the centre of the pot, make a small hole where you can plant just the roots and bottom base of the seed. Then back-fill and shake any air bubbles out the mix before lightly watering.
This new plant will then need to go into a location where it can receive at least 6-8 hours of sunlight every day. A small greenhouse (aff.) is ideal but if this isn’t a possibility then the edge of a sheltered porch or patio may be a great option.
Once it has grown about a metre tall it will then be ready to start transplanting.
Transplanting Your Avocado Plant
As I mentioned earlier, if you’re planning to move from your current residence in the next 5-10 years then planting this in the ground will be a waste of time. You’re probably far better off to transplant it into a large mobile pot that you can take with you.
Prepare the pot with a good draining potting mix and place the avocado plant into the middle keeping the top of the avocado soil level with the height of the new pot. At this point, add a stake before backfilling and tie the plant securely to it. You may even want to tie some hessian cloth around the pot to protect the plant from the elements.
If you do decide to plant your avocado in the ground then dig a hole twice as wide as the current root-ball and twice as deep. Add some well-rotted compost into the hole and plant the avocado on top. Stake it as mentioned before and then backfill the hole. Water deeply to remove any air-pockets and to help the plant deal with the transplant shock.
Finally, in both cases – pot or ground – I would add some bonemeal fertiliser and then mulch with lucerne hay.
Enjoying the fruits of your labour
Now, while your avocado tree may grow quite quickly once you’ve transplanted it out it won’t produce any fruit for possibly the first 7 years of its life – hence the ‘patience of Job’ required. Most growers usually become disenchanted with their trees long before this and either remove them or just ignore them. But, if you’re willing to wait the time they will eventually produce the most amazing avocado fruits and will continue to do so for years to come.
If you’ve decided that this process is too long and you want to buy an already established tree then make sure you ask the nursery owner how long the trees have been growing for. If not, you may end up only missing the first two steps in the process and still have years before you get to enjoy any fruit.
All the best.