In summer, we eat a lot of avocado-based stuff which means we wind up with a lot of avocado pits rolling around in the kitchen.
Avocado trees grow best in warm, sunny places, but you can keep one successfully for many years in the right indoor environment too. They can grow to between 20 and 40 feet, but are quite happy if you keep them pruned indoors. However, not every pit is guaranteed to root, so you may need to try 2 or 3 pits at once, just in case. No matter what, you will definitely end up with a great plant to feature in your garden.
How to grow an avocado tree from seed
Here are detailed instructions on how to root and plant a tree from an avocado pit.
All you need is an avocado fruit, a little water, a few toothpicks, and a sunny window.
- 1 avocado pit
- 4 toothpicks
- 1 small glass or ceramic dish, about the size of a custard cup
- Yields: 1 avocado tree sapling, with patience and a little luck
How to remove the avocado pit
Here’s how to remove the pit from an avocado. Cut a full circle long ways around the avocado. Twist it apart.
The two halves should separate neatly.
Whack the pit with a sharp, heavy knife so that the blade bites into the pit just a little bit.
Twist the blade and the pit will come right out…
…then clean off your pit. Scrape off any avocado flesh that’s still stuck to the pit.
Rinse it off under cold water, and then wipe it off. Make sure you’ve removed the entire avocado flesh. The pit is going to be sitting in water for a few weeks, so you don’t want anything bacterial to start growing in it.
When you root the pit, you should to do it pointy side up. The stem and leaves will sprout out the top. And the root will push its way out the bottom.
It’s time for the toothpicks!
Push one toothpick into the side of the avocado pit. You need to get it in far enough so that you can pick the pit up by the toothpick.
Do this with the other 3 toothpicks. Make them evenly spaced out, like this:
Keep the avocado pit well-watered.
Place the avocado pit over your dish, so the toothpicks are resting on the rim of the dish and the pit is suspended over the center.
If it’s not sitting well, wiggle your toothpicks around a little so they’re tilted up slightly, like this:
Fill the dish with water so that the avocado pit is about halfway submersed.
Change the water every day or two, so that the pit is constantly sitting in water.
Set the dish on a sunny window sill. Keep an eye on it, and replenish the water frequently.
Remember: Until you plant your avocado sapling in soil, you need to keep the pit in water at all times. No water, no tree!
How long does it take for an avocado pit to root?
For the first few weeks, your pit won’t really do much. It will just sit there, looking very much the same as the day you first propped it up. Well, Mother Nature, as they say, takes her time. Then, after about 3 weeks or so, the top of the pit should begin to split open.
Over the next few weeks, a stem will shoot up, the first leaves will begin to grow, and roots will begin to force their way out of the bottom.
In a few more weeks, you should see more leaves. The whole process will generally take about 3 months.
When to plant avocado seedling
When your tree is maybe 7-8 inches tall, nip off the top few leaves. It will encourage new growth and help the tree branch out. Grab a 10-inch pot with a saucer and at least one drainage hole at the bottom. Fill it about an inch from the top with potting soil.
Dig a shallow hole in the center of the soil (just deep enough so that half the pit is covered). Nestle the bottom of your avocado sapling in it, root-side down. Cover the pit halfway with soil, so half the pit is still exposed. Press down firmly on the soil to secure it. It should be standing up straight.
Pour a little water into the pot gently, because the soil hasn’t settled yet. And…you did it! Set your “tree” on a sunny window sill. Keep it watered, and watch it grow!
Tips for caring for your avocado tree:
- Avocado trees like warm, sunny spots. If your tree doesn’t get enough light, it will get leggy (i.e. all stem, few leaves). Depending on where you live, you should be able to keep your tree outside in a sunny spot. If the temperature ever drops below 45 degrees F, bring it back inside.
- Water it enough to keep the soil moist, but not muddy. You never want your tree sitting in a puddle of water once you have potted it. If your leaves start to turn yellow, it is a sure sign it’s getting too much water. If this happens, stop watering it for a few days until the soil dries out a little.
- When your tree is about 7-8 inches tall and ready for potting, pinch off the top few leaves. This will encourage your tree to branch out and be nice and bushy.
- Now, if you grow an avocado tree, it is unlikely that it will ever bear fruit. From what I have gathered from my botanical research, I know that you need to graft a piece of a fruit-bearing tree on to your seedling (although I am an avid and enthusiastic “kitchen” gardener, my knowledge ends here).
This food project is a ton of fun—especially with kids. Go avocado-addicted along with your youngsters!