Avocado

In the UK avocadoes are grown as houseplants for foliage interest until becoming too large. In places where frost is rare they are occasionally seen growing outside as trees. For most, though, growing an avocado indoors from the stone is a better bet and fun for adults and children alike.

Avocado grown from the stone

Avocado grown from the stone

Quick facts

Common name: Avocado, avocado pear
Botanical name: Persea americana
Group: Tender evergreen tree
Flowering time: Spring but rarely flowers or fruits as a houseplant
Height and spread: Ultimately 15-20m (49-66ft); smaller in containers
Aspect: Sun 
Hardiness: Frost tender
Difficulty: Easy

Cultivation notes

In temperate climates grow under cover in containers at least 30cm (1ft) in diameter using soil based compost such as John Innes No.3 with added sharp sand. Apply balanced liquid feed every 2-3 weeks. When roots appear through drainage holes, repot. This is likely to be every year. Repotting is best done in the spring.

Grow in a bright, sunny position.

The avocado dislikes either excessively wet or dry conditions. Water freely in summer; and thoroughly but less frequently in winter.

Temperature

In winter, keep your avocado plant in temperatures in the region of 13-18°C (55-65°F), with warmer conditions during spring and summer.

Feeding

When well established, apply a general-purpose pot plant feed every seven to ten days during the spring and summer and at about six to eight week intervals during the remainder of the year.

Pruning and training

Seed-raised plants may become tall and lanky or broad and spreading, and, where space is limited, may need pinching back from time to time.
 
Plants which have grown too large for their surroundings will usually respond well to hard pruning but may be best replaced if showing signs of deterioration. 

Propagation

Avocadoes are propagated commercially by budding or grafting

For home gardeners, growing from seed is the simplest and most fun, especially for children, even though the resulting plant is likely to outgrow its position after a few years. The seeds (saved from shop-bought fruit) are large and germinate after four to eight weeks. Subsequent development is rapid. You can either start them off in water or sow straight into compost.

In water

  • Find a jar with a suitable wide neck
  • Fill it with water then, using pieces of cork or soft wood, wedge the avocado seed so the bottom of it touches the water
  • Keep at a temperature of 20-25°C (68-77°F)
  • Keep the water topped up so the base of the seed is kept continually moist. When the leaves and a reasonable amount of fibrous root has developed, carefully remove it from the jar and plant so that the seed is covered in a well-drained pot using John Innes No. 2 potting compost
  • When the stem reaches 15cm (6 in) tall, cut back by half
  • Once it has grown another 15cm (6 inches), pinch out the two newest sets of leaves top encourage bushy growth

In Compost

  • Soak undamaged seed in hot water for 30 minutes at 40-52°C (104-125°F)
  • Cut a thin slice from the pointed end off the seed
  • Sow in a pot of moist sandy compost with the cut end slightly above the soil surface and keep at 20-25°C (68-77°F)

Cultivar Selection

There are many selected cultivars or varieties chosen for good qualities in fruit, cropping, or habit in countries where avocadoes are grown for our supermarkets.

You can grow an avocado from the stone of any supermarket-bought fruit to produce an attractive foliage plant.

Problems

When grown as indoor or houseplants, after the second or third year plants will often begin to show signs of leaf discolouration and deterioration.  There is little that can be done when this occurs. 

Repotting in spring when the container is filled with roots may give a stimulus to growth, but plants appear to dislike long-term cultivation in the drier atmosphere of a house and are really best regarded as only short-term foliage plants to be replaced from time to time.

Glasshouse whitefly, thrips and glasshouse red spider mite and mealybug may be problematic.

Avocado plants can also suffer from fungal leaf spots and root rots (Phytophthora).


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