I said it the other day: I have gardening on the brain.
Now, being summer, we eat a lot of avocado-based stuff at The Mouse House. Guacamole. Avocado salad. You get the picture. Which means that we wind up with a lot of avocado pits rolling around in the kitchen.
Did you know that if you plant those pits, you can actually grow your own avocado tree at home? Even though trees rooted like this rarely bear fruit without help (more on that in a little bit), it’s still a ton of fun to plant your own tree and watch it grow.
And if you have kids, this is a great project. Here are detailed instructions for how to root and plant a tree from an avocado pit. All you need is an avocado, a little water and a few toothpicks, a sunny window, and a whole lot of patience.
Avocado trees grow best in warm, sunny places, but you can keep one quite successfully for many years in the right indoor environment. They can grow to between 20 and 40 feet, but are quite happy if you keep them pruned indoors.
I’ve managed to grow several trees over the years just like this. I usually wind up giving the saplings to folks as presents.
Here are two that I grew a few years ago, when I had a large rooftop garden. I started them on my windowsill in the winter, then moved them outside when the weather got warmer. (They’re the two in front.)
Not every pit is guaranteed to root, so you may want to try two or three pits at once, just in case.
1 avocado pit
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
In case you aren’t sure how, here’s how to remove the pit from an avocado.
Cut a full circle longways 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.
Do something really yummy with the avocado…
…then clean off your pit. Scrape off any avocado that’s still stuck to the pit.
Rinse it off under cold water, then wipe it off. You want to be sure you’ve removed all the avocado. The pit is going to be sitting in water for a few weeks, so you don’t want anything funky to start growing in it.
When you root the pit, you want 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.
Stick toothpicks into your avocado pit
Grab your toothpicks.
Push one toothpick into the side of the avocado pit. You want to get it in far enough so that you can pick the pit up by the toothpick.
Do this with the other 3 toothpicks. You want 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.
Keep your avocado pit on a sunny windowsill
Set the dish on a sunny windowsill. Keep an eye on it, and replenish the water frequently.
Remember: Until you plant your avocado sapling in soil, you need to keeping 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 that you first propped it up. You may start to despair. After all, you’ve been changing the water for days, so, what gives?
Well, Nature, as they say, takes her sweet time.
Then, after about three weeks or so, the top of the pit should begin to split open. (Nature is also kind of imprecise…this can take up to six weeks to happen.)
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, give or take.
When to plant your avocado seedling
When your tree is maybe 7-8 inches tall, nip off the top few leaves. (That’s right…pinch them off. It will encourage growth and help the tree branch out.)
Grab a 10-inch pot with a saucer and at least one drainage hole in 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 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, at attention.
Pour a little water into the pot gently, because the soil hasn’t settled yet. And…you did it! Set your tree in a sunny window. Keep it watered, and watch it grow!
Tips for caring for your avocado tree
Where should I keep my 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 about 45 degrees F, bring it back inside.
How often should I water my avocado tree?
Water it enough to keep the soil moist, but not muddy. You never want your tree sitting in a puddle of water once you’ve potted it.
If your leaves start to turn yellow, it’s 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.
Should I ever pinch off any leaves?
Yes. 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.
Will my avocado tree bear fruit?Now, if you grow an avocado tree, it’s unlikely that it will ever bear fruit.
From what I’ve gathered from my (admittedly uncomprehensive and unscientific) research, you need to graft a piece of a fruit-bearing tree on to your seedling. I’m an avid and enthusiastic kitchen gardener, but sadly my botanical knowledge ends there.
If anyone knows more about this, by all means, pipe up!