If the avocado yields to firm gentle pressure you know it’s ripe and ready to eat. Ripe, ready-to-eat avocados may have a darker color but color can vary so it is best to go by feel as well as color. It will feel slightly soft but it will not feel “mushy” to the touch. Ripe fruit is perfect for that day.
How to Grow an Avocado Tree
How to Grow an Avocado Tree
- Poke the Seed with Toothpicks
Poke a toothpick in the center of the seed, about where the equator would be on a globe, tucking just about ¼ to ½ inch into the seed. Then poke two to three more toothpicks into the seed so the toothpicks are equally distributed.
- Place the Seed Over Water
Place the circle of toothpicks over a jar or glass filled with water, with the broad or flat (bottom) end of the avocado seed suspended in about 1 inch of water. Leave the top end open to the air. If the toothpicks wobble and don’t hold the seed up, just stick them a little farther into the seed.
- Let the Roots Grow
Place the glass somewhere warm but away from direct sunlight, adding water so there’s always about 1 inch of water covering the bottom end of the seed. Every four or five days, completely change the water in the jar to eliminate bacteria that may be growing. Roots will grow from the bottom of the seed, and a slender seedling should emerge from the top in about eight weeks. If nothing happens after eight weeks, begin again with another seed. (Did you really put the right end into the water?)
- Cut the Stem
When the seedling reaches 6 or 7 inches tall, cut the stem in half, or about 3 inches tall. This may seem counterproductive to actually growing a tree, but it allows the plant to begin putting its energies into new growth.
- Plant the Seed in Soil
When the seedling has several leaves and thick roots, plant the seed in potting soil in a 10-inch-wide pot that has drainage holes. Do not add gravel, chunks of broken terra cotta, or other material to the bottom of the pot; they’ll hold too much moisture. Leave the top half of the seed exposed above the soil line. Water the soil until water runs out of the bottom of the pot. Don’t let the pot sit in a saucer of water; too much water can rot the roots and cause the leaves to turn yellow. Water deeply whenever the soil feels dry to the touch up to your first knuckle. If your plant has yellow leaves and wet soil, you are overwatering. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings.
- Place the Pot in the Sun and Water Well
Place the pot in a sunny window indoors, or move it outside any time when the temperature is 45°F or warmer. Water more frequently when the plant is kept outside in warm, dry weather. Keep young potted avocado trees in partial shade; the leaves can sunburn if they get too much direct sun while they’re still getting established.
- Prune the Tree as it Grows
Prune the tree regularly. Every time it grows another 6 inches tall, cut back the top two sets of leaves. When the plant reaches 12 inches, cut it back to 6 inches. When it reaches 18 inches, cut it back to 12 inches, and so forth. This encourages bushier growth. As the tree grows, gently remove it and place it in successively larger pots, going up in diameter two inches at a time.
- Fertilize Weekly in Summer
In summer, fertilize weekly with a fertilizer with nitrogen, indicated by a higher first number, such as 7-4-2. Avocados also need a small amount of zinc so look for a fertilizer with that component. Avoid fertilizing during the winter when growth is minimal.