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"How to Grow",  All Things Garden

How to Grow Avocados: Tree Varieties, Climate, Planting & Care

Imagine a big beautiful evergreen tree, bathed in sunshine and dripping with avocados. Now imagine that tree in your very own yard – providing you with fresh, creamy homegrown avocados. Guacamole. Avocado Toast. Salads. Avocado on everything! That is the stuff that garden dreams are made of, am I right? I know that growing avocados was always on the top of our homestead wish list. Now, we have three healthy avocado trees – and two that are already producing fruit. We are incredibly fortunate, because as much as I hate to say it… most climates are not well-suited to grow avocados. 

Read along to learn how to grow avocado trees at home. First, explore some popular varieties, tree cross-pollination considerations, and whether to grow avocados from a pit or a nursery tree. Then we’ll go over the ideal climate and conditions needed to successfully grow avocados, along with some ideas (and realistic expectations) if you want to push the limits and try to grow avocados outside of their “sweet spot” or in containers as well. Last but not least, learn how to tell when it is time to harvest ripe avocados, and exactly how to do so!


Origin of Avocados


Wild avocado trees are originally native to south-central Mexico, growing there as long ago as 7000 BC. Hass, the most popular and in-demand commercial avocado variety to date, was first bred in a Southern California backyard in the 1930s. However, the Hass wasn’t grown and marketed on a large scale until the late 1970s. Today, the majority of the world’s avocado supply is cultivated between Mexico, Chile, and Central to Southern California. This should give you a pretty good idea of the type of climate they like! 

If you’d like to learn more about the history (and controversy!) of avocados, I highly suggest watching “The Avocado War” episode on the Netflix series ‘Rotten’. Let’s just say it makes me even more grateful to grow our own. 


A hand is holding a large Sir Prize avocado against a fence line backdrop. The fruit is dark green and slightly pebbly.
A massive homegrown Sir Prize avo – our first and only of this variety, so far!


GROWING AVOCADOS: GETTING STARTED



Avocado Tree Varieties


You’re likely familiar with Hass avocados – the ones you’ll find in every grocery store. But chances are, many of you haven’t had the opportunity to sample other types! Heck, maybe you’re not even aware that there are literally dozens of different varieties of avocados out there. Most of them don’t make it to market because they’re too fragile for commercial shipping and processing, but they’re fabulous to grow at home. Before we dive into all of the varieties of avocados to grow, let’s talk about them in terms of two larger groups first: Type A and Type B avocados. 


Type A vs Type B Avocados & Cross-Pollination 


Every variety of avocado falls into either the Type A or Type B category. For example, Hass is a Type A and Fuerte is a Type B. To encourage optimal fruit development, it is best if both a type A and type B avocado tree are planted close by. I won’t dive into the nitty-gritty on their differences in detail here, but in a nutshell: Type A avocado female flower parts open at the same time as Type B male flower parts, and vice versa. This more than doubles the chance of successful pollination and fruit-set! Avocado pollination is primarily accomplished by bees, and less so by wind.

While ideal, it is not absolutely necessary to have one of each type. Most avocados varieties are considered “self-fruitful” and therefore do not need a partner tree for cross-pollination. Even without a friend, they should develop some avocado fruit. Hass and Reed are particularly good at providing a decent crop when grown solo. On the other hand, having that opposite Type A or Type B partner tree around basically guarantees a much larger and more successful crop. Certain varieties are especially dependent on a partner tree, such as Pinkertons. 

Now, this could mean that you grow two different avocado trees in your yard. If you have space to do so, more avocados sounds like a win-win to me! Yet if you don’t have the space, other avocado trees in your neighborhood may be sufficient to provide cross-pollination to your tree. How close do avocado cross pollinator trees need to be? Some internet sources say within 25 to 30 feet. Yet others say within a few neighborhood blocks. Essentially, if avocado trees are common in your area, you should be just fine with one. 


A close up image of a bunch of avocado flowers. Only about half of the flowers are open because an avocado has both male and female flowers, each one is open at a different time of day.
Avocado flowers on our Fuerte tree


Popular Avocado Varieties 


Below is a list of some of the more popular and easy-to-acquire avocado tree varieties, separated by type A or type B. Keep in mind that there are still dozens of other boutique, speciality, or otherwise rare cultivars out there as well! Different avocado types vary in tree size, maturation/fruiting time, skin, flavor, and tolerance to cold and heat.

Instead of describing every avocado variety in detail here, I decided to save that for a separate post. Check out our “20 Awesome Avocado Varieties” article to learn the growing habits, tree size, hardiness zones, and fruit characteristics of 20 different avocado varieties to choose from!

Curious what types of avocados we grow? Our largest, oldest, and most productive avocado tree is a Hass. We also have one Fuerte and one Sir Prize avocado tree each in our garden to serve as cross-pollinators for the Hass. 


Type A Avocados

Type A avocado varieties include: Hass, Pinterton, Lamb Hass, Carmen Hass, Gwen, Reed, Mexicola, Stewart, and Holiday. Of them all, Hass and Reed are the most common. Reed avocados grow huge and round like a softball, are delicious, and require less water than Hass – a real perk in drought-ridden California! Mexicola is the most cold-hardy of these Type A’s. I’d love to plant a Gwen in our next garden (we’re maxed out here!), described as equally nutty and buttery as Hass, but with larger fruit on a smaller tree. Truthfully, I want to grow these all!


Type B Avocados

Type B avocado varieties include: Fuerte, Bacon, Zutano, and Sir Prize (along with Whitshell, which is finicky and grows best in commercial greenhouses). Fuerte is the most popular “B” type avocado, often grown in commercial orchards alongside Hass for pollination. Some people consider Type B avocados inferior to Type A because their flesh is prone to being more watery, while Type A’s are richer in flavor, oil, and fat content. One exception is the Sir Prize. As a descendant from Hass, Sir Prize is very similar in texture and flavor, but grows larger fruit with a smaller pit! In fact, Sir Prize is said to have the largest flesh-to-pit ratio of all the commercial avocado varieties. 


A hand is holding a halved Sir Prize avocado. The small pit still remains amongst a large amount of creamy green fruit.
The same Sir Prize avocado shown whole in a photo above, perfectly ripe one week after harvesting. Check out the impressive amount of flesh and modest pit size!


Both Type A & B

There is one special variety of avocado that has both type A and type B flowers at once. The Wurtz or “ Little Cado” is also the only true dwarf avocado variety. Between its compact size, superior self-fertility, and ability to bear fruit sooner than most – the Little Cado is awesome for backyard gardens and small spaces. It only grows to about 10 to 15 feet tall maximum, whereas other avocado varieties can grow up to 80 feet tall! It is the best variety choice to grow in a container, such as a half wine barrel or other suitable large pot. Don’t worry, we’ll talk more about growing avocados in containers soon. 


The Most Cold-Tolerant Avocados Varieties*

  • Mexicola Grande: (type A) cold-hardy to 18 to 20°F (one of the most tolerant of extended periods of cold)
  • Fantastic aka Pryor: (type A) cold-hardy down to 15°F
  • Bacon: (type B) cold-hardy to about 20-22°F
  • Joey: (type B) cold-hardy down to 15-18°F
  • Opal aka Lila: (type A) hardy down to 15°F for brief periods but otherwise 22-25°F
  • Brogdon: (type B) cold-hardy down to 24°F
  • Winter Mexican: (type B) tolerant of routine temperatures in the mid to low 20’s
  • Wilma aka Brazos Belle: (type B) cold-hardy down to 15-18°F, does well in drier climates with less humidity
  • Fuerte: (type B) cold-hardy to 30°F


*Avocado trees are most tolerant of the cold temperatures listed above once they are mature and established, or 3-5 years old. Young trees will require additional protection.


A small avocado tree planted amongst a terraced part of the yard. There are a number of blooming plants around the tree with a variety of pink, purple, yellow and orange flowers.
Our Sir Prize avocado, a Type B


Growing Avocados from a Pit vs a Nursery Tree


You’ve all seen the image: an avocado pit, stuck with a few toothpicks, propped up and half-submerged in a glass of water, starting to sprout. Boom, a baby avocado tree is born! It seems so easy and cheap to grow an avocado from a pit, but I will be blunt here: I advise against it. Why? A number of reasons. 


Time

First of all, growing an avocado tree from a pit will take forever. Literally. You may not even live in your home anymore by the time the dang thing fruits! An avocado tree grown from a pit can take 10 to 15 years to bear fruit. On the other hand, you can expect to be harvesting your first home grown avocados from a nursery tree within the first few years – depending on the size, variety, and age of the tree you purchase. Most nursery-grown avocado trees bear fruit by the time they reach 3 to 4 years old. Our Hass is about 4 or 5 years old, and totally chock-full of fruit this year!


Quality

Second, even if you have the time and patience to wait for your pit-grown avocado tree to produce fruit – the fruit itself may be disappointing! Avocados do not reproduce true to seed, or “breed true”. This means that the avocados that eventually grow will not be the same type or quality as the pit they were grown from. Commercial and nursery avocado trees are not grown from seed or pits. Instead, growers graft cuttings onto rootstock. The rootstock is another bonus of growing avocados from nursery trees: growers use healthy and disease-resistance rootstock, which sets your young tree up for success. 


An avocado pit is shown half submerged in a glass of water. There are two toothpicks poking out of each side of the pit that keep it from sinking to the bottom of the glass. The bottom of the pit has split open with a tap root protruding from it. Out of the top of the pit a young avocado seedling has emerged stretching upwards towards the light.
A cute idea, but not the most effective or efficient way to grow avocados. Photo courtesy of Good Housekeeping


Considering all of this, purchasing a small established avocado tree from the nursery is an extremely worthwhile investment. You can purchase avocado trees in 5, 15 or even 25 gallon pots and up. We bought all of our avocado trees in 15-gallon containers, likely two or three years old already. That said, sprouting an avocado tree from a pit is definitely fun. The kids love it! I don’t want to dissuade you from enjoying a neat experiment, but want you to have realistic expectations too. 


Where to Buy Avocado Trees


In addition to growing a healthier and more productive tree, you’ll be able to choose from a significantly wider selection of varieties at the garden center than growing from pits! Visit your local nursery and have a look around. If they don’t currently carry what you’re hoping for, ask to see if they can place a special order for you. We do that all the time!

Another option is to order avocado trees online. Four Winds Nursery is a reputable tree supplier, and offers the best online selection of avocado trees I have come across. They currently have over a dozen different varieties! Keep in mind trees purchased online will likely be far smaller than what you could get in-person though. 

DeannaCat is standing next to a young Hass avocado tree in a 15 gallon nursery pot. She is standing in the front yard amongst a number of flowering perennials, annuals, raised garden beds full of vegetables, shrubs, vines, and trees.
Bringing home our first avocado tree in October 2017. See how big this baby Hass has gotten below!
A Hass avocado tree shown in the evening sun. It is standing about eight feet tall with a fig tree, loquat tree and Magnolia tree planted nearby.
Our original Hass tree, now in spring 2020. I estimate the tree was about 2 years old when we purchased and planted it in late 2017, so she is about about 4 to 5 years old now. She set fruit in 2018 but it didn’t stick. The fruit that developed in 2019 held and we have a huge crop this year! Hass trees can reach up to 35 feet tall, which will block this neighbor perfectly. However, since it is on the northeast corner of our yard, it will not shade the rest of the garden much at all.


Now that we’ve explored the various types of avocados, let’s talk about how to actually grow them!


AVOCADO GROWING REQUIREMENTS


Avocados need a long growing season in a warm, frost-free environment with moderate humidity. Gardeners who live in California, Florida, Hawaii, the deep South of Texas, or other similar temperate subtropical locations will have the most success at growing avocados. Keep reading to learn about their preferred temperature ranges (including how to push the limits), soil, fertilizer, water, mulch, and planting instructions. Also, tips on growing avocado trees in containers and bringing them indoors!


Temperature

Avocados grow best in mildly warm conditions: not too hot, nor too cold. The ideal temperature range is an average of 60 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. 


Heat

One may imagine that avocado trees love heat, given where they originate! Yet that isn’t completely true. In Mexico and South America, most avocado trees grow at higher elevations that keep them protected from the sweltering temperatures of the valleys and lowlands below.  Avocado trees have pores in their leaves called stomata, which help the tree both photosynthesize and respire. Apparently, in temperatures over 90°F, the stomata begin to close and cause stress for the tree. Fruit and flower drop is likely to occur at temperatures over 100°F. Damage will vary depending on the age, hydration, and variety of the tree – but overall, high heat can cause damage to leaves, fruit, and overall tree health. Established avocado trees can grow in excessively hot and arid climates but are less likely to bear fruit. 

Mexican and Mexican-hybrid avocados appear to be the most heat-tolerant varieties, including Mexicola, Reed, and Lamb Hass. The more common Hass and Fuerte are some of the least heat-tolerant. During an occasional heatwave, avocado trees can be protected with shade cloth. Extra irrigation also helps, including above-ground sprinkling/spraying to cool the air and increase humidity levels under the tree canopy.

In our garden, excess heat is not an issue – so I am not an authority on the subject! To learn more about protecting avocados from heat, see this great article from avo expert Greg Alder at the Yard Posts. He has some great examples about measures to take to grow avocados in hotter inland California areas. 


Cold

Once established, some avocado trees can tolerate occasional freezing temperatures in the high 20s to low 30s with minimal damage. The level of cold-tolerance varies between different varieties of avocados. Mexican varieties are the most cold-hardy, including Mexicola Grande (hardy down to 18°F) and Mexican hybrids like Bacon and Fuerte (both frost-tolerant down to about 26°F). Hass, a Mexican-Guatemalan hybrid, is sensitive to temperatures below 30°F- as are with many other Guatemalan types. The third and final “race” of avocado types are West Indian varieties, who are not tolerant of any frost at all. 

In general, avocados do not like extended freezing temperatures. If it doesn’t kill them, it will negatively impact their fruit development.  Protecting young trees with frost blankets on exceptionally cold nights will help them survive. An especially deep layer of mulch around the base of the tree can also help protect tree roots from freezing in the event of a cold snap. 

If you think your climate is too cold to grow avocados, read the “pushing the limits” to follow. And if you still decide it simply isn’t possible (or worth the effort) – consider growing another kind of fruit tree! Cold temperatures are actually desirable for many fruit trees, including apples, pears, and stone fruit like apricots and peaches. Unlike avocados, they all need a minimum number of “chill hours” to bear fruit. Learn more about other cold-hardy fruit trees here.


USDA hardiness zones that can grow avocados


Avocados are generally grown within zones 8 through 11, but that doesn’t mean that every garden located in zone 8 through 11 is suited to grow avocados! That is, without some extra care and modifications at least. I intentionally covered avocado temperature requirements before zones, because conditions within the same hardiness zones can vary so drastically. The USDA hardiness zones are mostly based around common frost dates. On the other hand, they do not take into account high temperatures, humidity, precipitation, or other factors. 

Take our zone 9b/10a for example. We are located on the Central Coast of California, yet areas of Florida are also considered 9b/10a! While neither of us gets much in the way of frost, our summer high temperatures and humidity levels couldn’t be more different. In our particular temperate microclimate, it rarely gets over 80°F. 

Avocados grow and set fruit best in climates with medium-high humidity. The ideal relative humidity range for the majority of avocado varieties is between 45 to 65%, give or take 5%. Just as in extremely hot conditions, very dry air also causes avocado leaf stomata to reduce function for optimal tree health and fruit set. Here on the Central Coast of California, we are on the lower end of the spectrum, averaging around 30 to 50% – and they’re growing quite well!

A USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is shown.
Unsure of your hardiness zone? Enter your zip code in this lookup tool to find out.


Pushing the limits with microclimates (& dedication) 


Now that you know more about what type of growing conditions avocado trees prefer, do you think you can provide that for them? Even if it doesn’t seem like avocados will readily and easily grow in your area – don’t give up hope on that homegrown guac! If you are living right on the edge, perhaps there are some modifications and measures you can take to attempt to grow avocados at home, despite the odds. 

For instance, does your area occasionally see temperatures around 20°F in the winter, but rarely colder than that? You may be able to grow avocados if you are dedicated, and smart about selecting the right variety and planting location. As previously mentioned, supply an extra-deep layer of mulch and be prepared to cover young trees with frost blankets as needed. 

Another way to protect avocados from chilly conditions is to create a microclimate within your garden. Choose a sheltered planting location rather than an exposed one. If you live in the northern hemisphere, planting an avocado tree near a south-facing wall will provide radiant heat for the tree – and warm the soil 5 to 10 degrees over other locations in your yard. In some instances, this can bump up that particular spot by an entire USDA hardiness zone! Similarly, choosing a planting location that is shielded from the hottest afternoon summer sun can help reduce stress to the tree if excessive heat is an issue in your garden.

Another possibility is to grow an avocado tree in a large mobile container, and bring it indoors in the winter – discussed more below.


A Fuerte avocado tree is shown planted against a fence line. It has young new growth shooting upwards amongst clusters of flowers. Around the tree there is a rock rose plant,  nasturtium, and bougainvillea. You can grow avocados in a variety of spaces.
Our youngest avocado tree, the Fuerte. Fuerte are known to be sensitive to windy coastal conditions (like we have) but it is happily protected from wind here along this south-western facing fence and wall. It will also grow up nicely (medium height but wide) to cover the neighbors house, which it gets protection and radiant heat from in the afternoon and evening.


Avocado Tree Soil 


Avocados grow most happily in moderately rich but well-draining soil. An ideal soil composition is sandy loam in the pH range of 6 to 6.5 (very slightly acidic). You’ll often hear me say that many plants enjoy well-draining soil, this is absolutely critical for avocado trees! 

Avocados love water, but are not tolerant of soggy conditions and are prone to root rot. Therefore, if you have heavy clay soil in your yard, plant the tree in an elevated mound to promote good drainage. The naturally shallow root system of avocado trees makes mounding a fairly effective solution to overcome clay or poorly-draining native soil.  Or, build them a large wide raised bed (open on the bottom) to put over clay soil. Do not plant an avocado tree in a depression or area that water naturally collects. See more tips about planting avocado trees in the “planting” section to follow. 

While sandy loam is the best for avocados, they can successfully grow in a variety of soils. However, you’ll need to modify your watering practices to match your soil conditions accordingly. 


Water


Water is arguably the most important avocado care factor to get right, and the one that influences their happiness and health the most!

The amount of supplemental water you’ll need to provide a growing avocado tree depends on the climate, soil, and age of the tree. If your soil is on the sandy side, you’ll need to water more. If your soil is on the clay end of the spectrum, you must water less to avoid soggy conditions. On average, a young tree will appreciate a good drink of water about twice per week, as their small and shallow root system will dry out more easily than a larger tree. As the tree becomes established (a year after planting), a deep watering once per week is typically sufficient – with the exception of those growing in the hottest climates.

Water thoroughly and deeply around the entire base and root system of the avocado tree. However, only water once the soil starts to dry out just slightly (but never completely). Manually probe and check the soil when in doubt. Do not water if the soil is still quite wet. During your rainy season, stop providing additional irrigation. We irrigate our avocado trees with drip irrigation, placing several bubblers or one micro-sprinkler around the base of each tree.


Mulch


Avocados grow a shallow wide root system and appreciate a deep layer of mulch over them. Mulch the base of the tree with several inches of coarse mulch, such as redwood bark and other natural organic material. Avoid mulching directly against the trunk of the tree itself – leave a nice open ring several inches around it. Allow the leaves that fall from the tree to stay and decompose in place.

In addition to bark mulch and fallen leaves, we like to add other organics around the base of our avocado tree. Plant material such as fava bean stalks, comfrey, yarrow, and borage leaves (all dynamic accumulators) are incredibly rich in nutrients. They make for excellent “chop and drop” or green mulch – and also serve as a natural fertilizer!

A young avocado tree is shown after it was recently planted. The rootball of the tree has a circle or river rock around  it with a mulch of colorful fallen leaves from nearby plants.
Our Hass avo tree, just after it was planted (October 2017). It is planted on a slight slope in our yard, which also helps promote drainage. We didn’t have any bark on hand at the time, so I collected fallen leaves and dry bougainvillea blooms to mulch the tree.
The understory of a large avocado tree is shown. There are avocados hanging from limbs and the tree mulches itself with the frequent dropping of leaves. There are nasturtiums growing around the perimeter of the tree.
Fast forward to spring 2020. Here is the same Hass tree. Its own leaves create a thick layer of mulch around its base.


Fertilizer


When you first plant your avocado tree, do not apply traditional NPK fertilizer. If anything, add a bit of aged compost or worm castings in the planting hole – or around the top of the tree as mulch. We also add some mild soil amendments like basalt rock dust and kelp meal for minerals, micronutrients, and general soil health. I don’ t consider those “fertilizers” as they have very little NPK value.

Once your avocado tree is established, provide a well-balanced slow-release fertilizer once or twice per year. We like to use this organic fruit tree fertilizer. Sprinkle it around the base of the tree as wide as the canopy extends. (Follow the application rate on the instructions.) In addition, we feed our avocado trees with homemade actively aerated compost tea once or twice per year. It provides some nutrients, but is especially good at introducing beneficial microbes to the soil! In turn, they help increase nutrient uptake, stress resistance, and promote overall soil and plant health.



HOW TO PLANT AN AVOCADO TREE


When it comes time to plant your new avocado tree, keep in mind all the likes and dislikes we’ve already gone over in this article – such as soil type, moisture, and microclimates. A quick summary is included below for easy reference. Otherwise, planting an avocado tree isn’t all that different from planting any other tree! Follow this guide for more detailed instructions and photos “How to Plant a Tree: Best Practices Success” (we planted our Fuerte avocado as the example for that article)


  • Choose a location that is as sunny as possible, protected from the wind, and sheltered/warm in the winter.

  • Follow the recommended spacing for the given variety. A common recommendation is 15 to 20 feet between avocado trees. We have small shrubs growing within 10 feet of ours.

  • Some sources recommend planting avocado trees in the spring, but we’ve successfully planted two in the fall here in California. I actually find it less maintenance at that time, as the mild rainy winter approaches and the tree needs less supplemental water. In contrast, spring planting is best in colder climates – so the baby tree can become established before winter.

  • Dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball (but not much deeper), gently loosen the roots if they’ve become wound and bound, and place the root ball in the hole. Don’t yank on the trunk. The top of the root ball should be level with the surrounding soil or just above, but never below.

  • Backfill the planting hole with native soil. Feel free to mix some well-aged compost or worm castings into the native soil, but don’t overdo it. The sooner the tree becomes accustomed to the native soil, the better it will do. 

  • If you have clay soil, plant your avocado tree on a slight mound. Dig a more shallow hole, and amend it with some potting soil or horticultural sand mixed with the native soil to increase drainage. Place the tree in the hole, but the root ball should be several inches to 1 to 2 feet above ground level. Mound well-draining soil around the exposed root ball and extend it 3 to 5 feet wide around.

  • Do not add NPK fertilizer at the time of planting. If anything, water the tree with a fresh aloe vera soil drench or dilute Vitamin B to help reduce transplant shock after planting. We add a small amount of compost, mild kelp meal, and basalt rock dust to the planting hole to help compensate for the poor quality of our native soil.

  • Provide a support stake for the first year or two. Do not cover the planting area with landscape fabric. It will prevent the tree’s shallow roots from growing near the soil surface as they prefer to do.


A four way image collage on planting an avocado tree. The first image shows a hole dug in the ground, the second image shows the tree and its rootball sitting inside the hole. The third image shows the tree once it has been planted and covered with dirt. A watering can is being used to water in an aloe vera soil drench. The fourth image shows the tree once it has been mulched with bark, showing not to keep bark mulched against the tree stalk itself. In a year or two this young tree should be growing avocados.


Growing Avocados in Containers


It is possible to grow avocado trees in a pot or other suitable large container. However, I want you to have realistic expectations. They will not bear as much fruit as those planted in the ground. Please also understand that you’ll need to work a little harder to keep your avocado tree happy, which goes for any containerized tree. To successfully grow an avocado in a pot, you must choose the right tree variety, soil, and also the right container. 

As mentioned in the variety section above, “Little Cado” (aka Wurtz) is the only true dwarf variety of avocado tree. With its naturally compact size, it is an excellent choice for a container! Gwen is another naturally petite variety. Other avocado varieties may be grown in containers too, but will feel more stressed in confinement since it is going against their usual growth habits.

Choose as large of a container as possible. Aim for something equally wide as deep, rather than a tall narrow container. Again, avocados grow shallow roots so they’ll appreciate as much surface area as they can get. The container must have excellent drainage to avoid soggy conditions. A half wine barrel (with drainage holes added) or homemade wood box (like a mini raised bed) would work very well. Check out this article to see how we created mobile large tree containers with casters and dollies. 

Fill the container with quality bagged soil made for container gardening, such as potting soil or a raised bed mix. From there, try to follow all the other care practices previously described, including mulching, shelter, fertilizing, and water guidance. You may need to water more frequently to achieve the desired soil moisture, and plan to fertilize twice per year. 


A raised wooden bed on wheels is shown. The box contains an espaliere apple tree with concrete remesh serving as its trellis. There is a Barred Rock chicken on the ground next to the box.
Here is one option: our homemade mobile tree box! Not an avocado… but our dwarf Fuji apple espalier tree is growing fairly happy in here. See this article about building raised beds on concrete (near the end) for tips about elevated/mobile containers like these tree boxes, or wine barrels.


What about growing avocados in a pot, but then bringing them inside over winter?


Bringing an Avocado Tree Indoors


You may be curious if you can grow an avocado tree indoors. Again, anything is possible if you put your mind to it and plan accordingly! To be frank, I wouldn’t suggest growing an avocado tree completely indoors year-round. Personally, I don’t consider the effort worth the reward, as it would bear little-to-no fruit. Yet if you want to try to grow an avocado tree in a mobile container that you can bring indoors during freezing conditions, that could be worth a shot!

Follow all the tips to grow an avocado in a container above. Then, wheel or haul her inside before the first winter frost. Keep the potted avocado tree near a sunny window, or provide supplemental grow lights while indoor. A unique challenge to overcome when growing avocados indoors is providing their preferred humidity level. When in doubt, assess the relative humidity in your home using a thermometer/humidity reader like this one. If the humidity is below 40%, either mist the tree routinely or use a humidifier nearby. 

In order to become pollinated and set fruit, the avocado tree should be brought back outside while it is flowering if possible. Most avocado trees bloom in late winter to spring. The timing may get tricky if it is still freezing outside when your avocado tree goes into bloom while sheltered indoors.


A quick note about growing avocados in greenhouses

It is possible to grow avocados in a greenhouse. However, this is usually done in high-tech commercial greenhouses with very controlled conditions. The average hobby greenhouse will still subject the avocado tree to temperature swings much like outdoors, and may get undesirably hot. To learn more about using a hobby greenhouse, including options for temperature control, ventilation, and more, please see this article, I wrote all about it. 


Five avocados are lined up in a single file line amongst a wooden backdrop. Four of them are Hass avocados while the middle is a large Sir Prize avocado. Three of the avocados are close to being ripe and ready to eat. When you can grow avocados, it's fun to have a variety of types.


Avocado Tree Pests


Avocado trees are relatively fuss-free when it comes to pests and disease though *ish can happen. The most common avocado tree pests are tiny – mites and thrips. Because they’re so small, you will likely notice their damage (brown spotting on the leaves) before you see the insects themselves. Other fairly common avocado pests are small caterpillars that chew on the leaves. We’ve never had any issues with our avocado trees, and we have plenty of pests in our garden!

If you identify a mite or thrip infestation on your avocado tree, there are a number of organic methods to combat it. Try releasing predatory mites (known to target avocado Persea mites and thrips), or treating the leaves with a mild dilute insecticidal soap or neem oil solution. If you’re struggling with caterpillars, you could use an organic caterpillar killing spray, but please be careful to not overspray to non-target plants! Also, remove understory weeds or known pest host plants from the immediate planting area.

For a more thorough venture into avocado pest issues, please refer to this publication from the University of California Integrated Pest Management.

The understory of an avocado tree is shown, there are avocados hanging amongst the branches, littering the tree with fruit. When you grow avocados there is usually an abundance of fruit.
With the awesome long tree storage life of Hass, we’ve been picking just a few avocados a week for the last couple of months! It has been great to spread out the harvest over time.


HARVESTING AVOCADOS


Unlike figs or other fruit, avocados do not soften on the tree. That is, unless they become grossly overripe and start falling from the tree! Instead, avocados should be harvested before they reach that point – and finish ripening off the tree. Harvest avocados when they reach the expected mature size and don’t appear to be getting any larger. 

To assess if they’re ready, harvest just one of the largest avocados, let it ripen and test it out! Cut the avocado off the tree, leaving a nub of stem still attached. Allow it to sit at room temperature for 3 to 7 days and then give it a try once it seems ripe. A ripe avocado will “give” just slightly when gently squeezed with your fingertips. Not hard, not mushy.

If the flesh is soft and creamy, tastes good and not bitter, and doesn’t shrink and become leathery – they’re good to go! I like to eat my avocados when they become slightly soft but still have a bit of firmness. Personally, I can’t stand the flavor of an overripe avocado – unless they’re turned into guacamole with plenty of lime! Once avocados feel ripe at room temperature, move them into the refrigerator.


Fun fact:

I recently learned from this study that avocados ripen more nicely (with less drying and weight loss) in higher humidity. Our house is more dry than it is outside, so we are going to experiment with allowing the harvested fruit to ripen on our covered porch in the shade. I wonder how they’ll compare to those ripened on the kitchen counter? I will report back! 


A number of whole and halved avocados are arranged on a wooden board. They each are at a varying stage of ripeness, some green, some dark green, while a large ripe avocado that is black in color sits in the middle. The avocados that have been cut in half reveal their creamy green fruit within.
A few of our ripe (and still ripening) Hass surrounding an extra-large ripe Sir Prize.


Avocado Harvest Time & Tree Storage Life


The time from flowering and fruit set to harvest depends on the variety of avocado. Check out this handy guide from the University of California to see the expected harvest time for your variety of avocado tree. Some may be ready for harvest within a few months after pollination, while others may not be ready until the following year. Yes, some avocados can stay on the tree for nearly a year! Again, this depends on the variety.

For example, Hass has a “storage life” on the tree for 8 months or longer once they reach mature size. Now in May 2020, we are currently harvesting avocados that began to develop on the tree in the spring to early summer of 2019. I love that we can pick just a few avos as needed and leave the rest on the tree, rather than being overwhelmed with dozens ripening all at once. On the other hand, some avocado varieties have a much shorter tree storage life. Bacon avocados must be harvested within about 2 months of reaching mature size. 


A two part image collage, the first image is a hand holding a smaller avocado hanging from a tree. The second image shows a number of smaller avocados growing amongst the understory of an avocado tree.
Young Hass avocados. These photos were taken in July 2019. We began harvesting a few good-size fruits that winter, but are mostly harvesting them now in spring 2020.


Eating & Storing Fresh Avocados


Finally, it is time to EAT! Surely you don’t need too much help here. What are your favorite ways to eat fresh avo? In addition to making guac, putting it on homemade sourdough bread or sandwiches, we like to simply slice fresh avocado to top essentially any meal! With quinoa and sautéed veggies, egg dishes, salads, and even on top of chili. Pssst... If you need a killer chili recipe, check out our roasted sugar pie pumpkin 3-bean chili. It’s vegan!

A final tip I will share before signing off is about storing cut avocados. Assuming you don’t eat it all at once, that is! Once cut, the exposed avocado flesh can turn brown when exposed to air. It will also develop a firm layer of “skin” over it. To prevent that, we store cut avocados in these food-grade silicone reusable food storage bags. They stay fresh and maintain their beautiful color and texture – for days on end! Another option is to wrap them tightly in reusable beeswax wraps. Finally, adding a squeeze of lemon juice or drizzle of apple cider vinegar over the cut portion helps prevent it from browning.


A bowl of vegan chilli with three types of beans and roasted pumpkin is the feature. It is garnished with sliced avocados that are arranged as one would hold a hand of cards with a few sprigs of cilantro. Arranged around the bowl is half of a roasted pumpkin, sliced sundried tomato sourdough bread, another half roasted pumpkin, half an avocado with the pit remaining, and half a loaf of sundried tomato sourdough bread.
Vegan pumpkin chili with fresh avocado and homemade sourdough.


And that is how you grow avocados!


Are you ready to grow some avocados of your own? I hope you found this article to be useful and interesting. Above all, I hope it helps make all your homegrown avo dreams come true! Please feel free to ask questions in the comments below, and spread the love by sharing this article. Stay tuned for a more in-depth review of different avocado varieties!



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10 Comments

  • Esri

    Some one in my gardening group mention about having avocado seed growing from her compost 2 trees in 1 seed, and bearfruit within 2 years.
    What do think of that, how could that happend?
    Thanks.

    • DeannaCat

      Wow! I would need to see proof to believe that! Must be some super stellar compost, haha! It simply doesn’t seem possible within 2 years. A pit-grown seedling would still be that… a seedling, at that time. Even a fairly large grafted nursery tree takes at least 2-3 years to produce, minimum. Not to say they’re not telling the truth, but again, I just can’t fathom it! My friend started a tree from a pit in 2009 and it still doesn’t have fruit. Since pits don’t grow “true to breed” – it could have maybe expressed some really awesome and rare genes in that particular pit? And then had absolutely ideal conditions to grow, from a variety that is already known to be early-producing? Perhaps, but I do think that story is the exception to the rule. That isn’t to say every pit-grown tree will take the full 10-15 years, but it feels like too much of a wait and gamble for me personally to bother with. Thanks for making me think!

  • awnalee

    To store cut avo’s I always keep the “lid” and put it back on! The flesh will barley brown if you put the skin of the side you consumed back on 🙂

  • Robin Holbrook

    Wonderful article, not just the information but beautifully written as well. I really appreciate the time you took to get it all “right!” I see the English language butchered even in leading newspapers these days so it’s a delightful treat to read something so well written! Thank you for paying attention on so many levels!

    • DeannaCat

      Oh goodness, thank you for that huge compliment Robin! I sometimes write when I am a quite tired (working full-time aside from the blog leads to some long days!) so I worry about how my thoughts are coming out at times. Good to hear they’re well-received, and happy to hear my editor (husband Aaron) is doing a good job as well – haha! Thanks again for the kind words, truly.

  • Die

    I love your blog content!! Your beautiful garden is so inspiring. Thank you for the treasures you share. I just started my own garden and when I see yours it sends me over the moon. 🤣

  • Jennifer Russell

    Wonderful information. Thank you. I live in zone 7b and we were discussing the other night whether growing avocados would be a possibility here.

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