You can grow an avocado tree in your home as a houseplant, whether you started it from seed or a grafted plant. Find out what to expect and how to grow these tropical indoor plants.
To propagate your own from a pit, see How to Grow Avocado From Seed here.
How to Grow an Avocado Tree
Avocado | Genus: Persea
Avocado Houseplant Growing Tips
• Light: Full, indirect sun
• Humidity: Moderate to high
• Soil: do not dry out
• Fertilizer: 7-9-5
• Shape: Pinch back top leaves to encourage new side shoots
• Room Temperature: 60° to 85°F (16° to 30°C)
• For Fruit: Start with a grafted tree
• For Fun: Grow seed into non-fruiting houseplant
The first question most people ask is, can I grow avocados indoors?
Plants: yes. Avocado fruit? It depends.
Unless you live in a tropical climate, your avocado houseplant is likely to just be a nice houseplant.
Avocados grown from seed, also called the pit or stone, are slow-growers and may not be mature enough to flower or (possibly) fruit for 10 or 15 years if they do at all.
And, if you’re really hoping for fruit years from now, keep in mind that the seeds are genetic combinations of two parents, so what the plant produces may not be similar to the fruit it originated from.
If you get an avocado plant that is grafted—meaning a cutting of an avocado plant (the scion) is growing on compatible rootstock of another plant—you have a better chance of getting fruit. If growing conditions are right, a grafted plant could flower or fruit in 4 to 5 years. While it’s unlikely you will have the resources to graft an avocado plant at home, you can buy them already established.
That said, it is fun to grow avocados from seed and nurture them as houseplants even if they never flower or fruit.
The step-by-step instructions are here: How to Grow Avocado from Seed. And there are no toothpicks required! It’s a much simpler method that ensures you only plant viable seeds.
- Potting Soil & Containers
- Indoor Temperatures
- Pruning / Pinching
It’s always helpful to know the natural history of plant and where it survived in the wild to get a good understanding of the best growing conditions. The more we can replicate them at home, the better they will do.
- Avocadoes (Persea spp.) are tropical plants hardy in zones 9 to 11, and belong to the Lauraceae family (cinnamon, bay laurel).
- The fruit of the avocado (the part we eat), also called pears, are actually single-seeded berries (botanically speaking), and ripen after harvesting.
- Like many plants, avocado plants can be toxic to animals including cats and dogs.
- Avocado trees grown indoors are not reliable fruit producers but make unique houseplants.
- Avocado trees (outdoors, in tropical zones) can live to be 50, 100, and sometimes hundreds of years old.
To learn more, there is interesting avocado trivia here.
2Potting Soil & Containers
- Avocados like well-drained soil: use general indoor potting mix designed for houseplants.
- Use a container with drainage holes and a deep saucer to catch excess water.
- Avocados have shallow root systems, so no need for a super deep container.
- The pot should be a few inches wider in diameter than the roots of the plant.
- Full, indirect sun
Avocados originated as trees growing in the understory of tropical forests (plant hardiness zones 9 to 11). This means they love the warmth and humidity with the protection of overhead shade provided by the taller trees.
The closest we can come to this in our homes is to provide full sun but not right at the window, but instead set back a bit.
I have one avocado plant that loves sitting below a south-slanted skylight.
- Provide consistent temperatures in the range of 60° to 85°F (16° to 30°C)
Not that you’re going to change your indoor temperature just to suit a plant, but your avocado will like it best if the temperatures remain steady with humidity around 50%.
If you move an avocado into a drastically different growing environment, it may drop its leaves, and struggle or die. It’s the change that gets them.
Dropping Leaves or Leaves Turning Brown?
This is common with seasonal changes indoors. Change of light and humidity can make the plant sulk: leaves may turn brown and drop.
Unless you can maintain constant conditions indoors with grow lights and a humidifier keeping it around 50%, leaf drop will happen.
Don’t give up: mine rebound when winter is done and we have the central heating off once again.
- Keep soil moderately moist, do not allow to dry out.
Just as avocados don’t like drastic light or temperature changes, they need consistent watering with tepid water.
When it is time to water:
- Give the soil a complete soaking.
- Let the excess water drain to a dish below.
- Pour away the excess after 30 minutes.
I use a moisture meter to check the soil, and water again when it’s headed toward dry but not yet there.
You can also use your finger tip, of course, to check how moist the soil is. Just push your finger tip into the potting mix and if it’s dry or near dry, it’s time to water.
The occasional spray mist of water and gentle wipe to remove dust on the leaves is also recommended.
If you have hard tap water, use boiled (and cooled) or distilled water.
- Signs of Under-Watering: brown edges and leaf drop
- Signs of Over-Watering: curled leaves and soft stems
How Often Should I Water My Houseplants
has tips for mastering watering.
- Use a balanced houseplant fertilizer (7-9-5) according to instructions on label.
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.
Without some pruning or “pinching” (we’re using the two words interchangeably here), avocados grown from seed tend to send up one single leggy stem that will reach the moon if you let it.
Once you have several leaves on the stem, you can pinch back (remove) the top ones to encourage side growth.
This involves snipping off the top section of the main stem which then encourages the plant to grow lateral shoots.
Generally, you never want to remove more than 1/3 of the plant when pruning/pinching.
To pinch back, follow the tip of the main stem down to the next set of leaves. Use clean snippers to remove the stem just above these leaves.
If your plant has multiple sets of leaves along the main stem, you can cut it back further, still sticking with the rule not to remove more than 1/3 of the total plant at once.
Pinching is an ongoing task which you might do every 4 to 6 months or so, depending on the growth rate.
Some avocado plants never need pruning and just branch out on their own.
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 sexual reproduction of avocados is quite interesting.
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—unless you live in a tropical climate. But if it ever does, please send photos!
Like many houseplants, you can put your avocado tree outdoors during the summer months.
The goal is to provide similar growing conditions to those it was enjoying indoors:
- Filtered sun
- Moderate humidity
- Never allowing the soil to dry out
There’s always a risk of bringing pests into your house when the plants are brought back indoors, so take precautions by inspecting the plant and using specific insecticides made for this purpose to avoid problems.
• Full, indirect sun.
• Moderate to high humidity
• Never allow soil to dry out
• Pinch off top leaves if plant becomes leggy
• Mist with water occasionally to remove dust from leaves
• Use a 7-9-5 houseplant fertilizer as directed
More Info on Growing Avocados
- Avocado Information | University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛