Avocados are green, somewhat pear-shaped fruits that develop on trees reaching anywhere from 30 to 60 feet in height at maturity. Originating in Mexico, avocados are now grown throughout much of the world, including places in the U.S. such as California and Florida. Gardeners living in these tropical to subtropical areas may also grow these trees in their home garden. Proper timing is vital, as seeds lose their ability to germinate and grow within just one month.
Most avocado seeds do not germinate if planted more than one month after being acquired, though the seeds of some cultivars may last as long as five months if properly stored. Planting seeds in early fall allows germination to occur within four to six weeks. However, gardeners who plant seeds later than this need to wait until spring for the seeds to germinate and begin sprouting.
Avocados need warm temperatures and high humidity. The Mexican avocado is the hardiest avocado, followed by the Guatemalan. The West Indian avocado grows well only in southern Florida. The Mexican avocado survives temperatures as low as 25 degrees F without sustaining damage, but tolerates wind poorly, sometimes losing flowers or fruit in such weather.
Seedlings need partial shade and moist, but not waterlogged, soil. Growing an avocado tree outdoors requires grafting after the seedling reaches approximately 6 to 9 inches in height to encourage early fruiting and provide the desired cultivar, according to Purdue Extension. Spring and summer work best for grafting seedlings, while winter is the time for grafting mature trees.
Homeowners sometimes grow avocado trees as indoor plants. These last about three years before reaching too large a size to work as a house plant. However, an avocado tree grown indoors never bears fruit. Sprouting occurs when toothpicks are inserted into the seed and the seed is set in the top of a glass of water, with the bottom half submerged. Sprouting occurs within eight to 12 weeks. After sprouting, place the seed in a 6-inch container of soil, with the seed top at soil level once roots reach at least 2 inches in length. Provide bright light, moist soil and monthly fertilization for best results.
- Photo Credit avocado fruits on a wild avocado tree image by Lars Lachmann from Fotolia.com
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