If you’ve been trying to root avocado seeds by suspending them over a glass of water with toothpicks, there is an easier way. I’ll show you a no-fuss way to root avocado pits to create new houseplants.
For more, also see How to Grow Happy Houseplants.
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Quick Links – Growing Avocadoes
- Growing Conditions
Forget the toothpicks and water! Or the plastic gizmo on Amazon that suspends the seed over water. This method (below) works better.
I have tested this easy method on a lot of grocery store avocadoes, and the germination rate is quite good.
I don’t like the toothpick method because it’s fussy, requires more effort, can rot the seed, and is not as reliable.
You can also try sprouting avocado seeds directly in moist potting mix, but that too can be hit and miss. I’d rather know the plant is going to succeed before going to the bother of planting it.
A little reality check.
No need to rush out and buy chips for your homegrown guacamole.
Odds are, your avocado plant is not going to produce fruit, or, if it does, it will take many years and may not produce good fruit.
Growing an avocado from seed is the slowest and least reliable way to get true (same as the parent) fruit.
Commercial growers use grafting methods to ensure fruit quality and quantity that are not really possible for home growers.
But, starting a plant from the seed/pit is an easy way to grow a free houseplant. If it does fruit, it could take as long as 8-20 years. Grafted avocadoes produce fruit in 2-3 years.
The actually pollination process in rather unusual and intriguing and worth further reading if you are interested.
So, start saving those pits and get growing.
It takes 4-6 weeks for avocado seeds to be rooted and ready for planting.
1 Remove the seed (pit) from a fresh, ripe avocado. Avoid using a knife so there is no damage to the seed.
2 Gently clean the seed under warm, running water using a soft brush or cloth ensuring all flesh is removed.
3 Wrap the seed in a sheet of damp (not dripping wet) paper towel or flannel cloth.
4 Place in a plastic food bag (do not zip shut) and store in a dark cupboard.
5 Check on it every 4 days or so. I put a reminder in my phone calendar so I don’t forget.
At first you just need to ensure the paper towel stays damp. After a few weeks you’ll start to notice signs of germination.
- When the seed is germinating, it will gradually crack open, revealing a deep split, and, eventually a root (or roots) will grow from deep inside the seed.
- Do not break the seed apart: the seed body feeds the root growth, and the roots are delicate, so handle with care and do not break them.
6 When the root is 3-inches long, your seed is ready for planting in a flower pot.
- If your root (or roots) are longer than 3-inches and they won’t fit in your pot, you can cut them back to 3-inches in length with sharp scissors cleaned with rubbing alcohol or bleach solution (1-part bleach: 9-parts water). I have read this can help produce a bushy rather than a tall, leggy plant but have not tested it myself.
- 8-inch flower pot with drainage holes (for a 2-inch avocado seed)
- indoor potting mix for houseplants
Avocadoes like good drainage so you can also amend the potting mix with perlite or sand if you like.
Can you tell the top of your seed from the bottom? The top is (usually) tapered or pointy. The bottom is often broader and flat with a round, scaly marking. The roots will (usually) grow out the bottom). We plant the sprouted seed with the bottom and roots aiming down into the pot.
Here’s the same seeds after a month in the damp paper towel. Notice how they germinate at different rates. Some are just getting started. Two are doing well. One is refusing to budge. I will give these ones another few weeks and then plant the strongest ones:
To plant, fill the pot half way with potting mix and gently place the seed in the pot.
Handle with care so the roots do not break.
While steadying the seed, gently press down the potting mix and add more as needed, leaving the top inch of the seed above soil level. The plant stem will grow from there.
Water (room temperature distilled water) until moist, not damp. Top up the potting mix as needed.
Place in warm, draft-free location with strong, indirect light. Or that’s the ideal.
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- Avocadoes are tropical plants. They like warm, fairly humid growing conditions, and cannot be left to dry out.
- Moderate, consistent watering with tepid water is best. If the air is dry, you can spray mist once leaves have formed.
|Signs of Under-Watering
||Signs of Over-Watering
- Once leaves have formed, you can add a balanced houseplant fertilizer (7-9-5) every 3 months, following directions on product label. My preference is to use a fraction of the recommended dose on an ongoing basis from late winter to late fall. Or, use a slow-release fertilizer on the surface of the soil.
- Avocados can grow as tall, leggy trees that don’t stand up nicely. To avoid this, you may wish to train or prune. I haven’t tried it myself, but, others say once there is a foot of growth and leaves, you can pinch off top leaves or cut back top stems to encourage branching out.
- As the plant matures, you will want to prune just after flowering to avoid disrupting new flower buds.
- Avocado plants are self-fertile with two main types. One produces male flowers in the morning, and female in the afternoon. The other does the reverse. Pollination can occur when the two flowers overlap. Professional growers have many trees of both types to ensure pollination.
- It is unlikely your indoor, homegrown avocado tree will flower or fruit. But if it ever does, please send photos.
- As the plant grows, the roots will need more room and you will need to repot it into the next size up.
- By the time the plant fits a 24-inch wide pot, it may be ready to start fruiting.
- The word ‘avocado’ originates from a word meaning ‘testicle’. Yes, that’s the first time that word has come up in my garden writing.
- The fruit of an avocado (the part we eat), is actually a large berry and the pit is a seed.
- Avocadoes are considered a healthy food choice, providing (primarily) monounsaturated fat, vitamins B6, C, E, and potassium, magnesium, and folate.
- Avocados are much richer in potassium than bananas (which are always heralded as potassium-rich).
Bananas have 358 mg per 100 grams. Avocados have 485 mg per 100 grams.
- Avocados must be left to mature on the tree, but then ripen after harvesting. The hard, green fruit can take two weeks to ripen, although this is faster if exposed to ethylene gas.
- Grafted avocado plants produce fruit with a few years compared to germinated seeds (8-20 years).
- The pollination process for avocados is interesting: on day one female flowers open; on day two they are male and shed their pollen.
- There are three species of avocados and many varieties. Fruit sizes and tastes vary.
1. Guatemalan (Persea nubigena var. guatamalensis L. Wms.)
2. Mexican (P. americana var. drymifolia Blake)
3. West Indian (P. americana Mill. var. americana)
- If you do not live in a growing area, the avocadoes in your grocery store probably always come from the same few sources (depending on import/export laws).
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛
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