Growing an avocado plant from a pit

It’s very easy to grow an avocado plant from a pit at home. Read on to find out how to grow the plant on a windowsill, and what kind of cultivation and care it needs.

Apr 09, 2021 02:20 pm
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Growing an avocado pit in water
To grow an avocado plant from seed, stick three toothpicks into the pit and place it on a glass of water with the flatter side facing downwards. This is a nice way to watch the young seedling grow
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Whether ‘Hass’ or ‘Fuerte’: The avocado is more popular than ever thanks to its incredible versatility. The healthy fruit brings some flavor to the table, protects your skin, and brightens up the windowsill as a houseplant. Below we explain the different methods that can be used to grow an avocado tree from a pit and how to successfully cultivate the plant at home.

Planting an avocado: Here’s how it’s done

An avocado pit can be planted directly into a pot with soil or put in water to take root. Stick three toothpicks into the pit and place it on a glass of water with the tip pointing upwards. It’s important to grow the pit in a warm, bright location, such as on a windowsill. When the avocado has formed enough roots, it can be planted in soil. Make sure to keep the soil evenly moist and the plant in warm temperatures between 72 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

Avocado plant: The tropical tree for the windowsill

In botanical terms, the avocado (Persea americana) is a member of the laurel family (Lauraceae). It is also known as the avocado pear, alligator pear, or aguacate. The avocado plant is native to Mexico, Central America, Peru, and Brazil. Archaeological discoveries have shown that it was cultivated there as a useful plant over 8,000 years ago. Spain began trying to cultivate the exotic fruits at the start of the 16th century. Avocado trees have been grown in Mauritius since around 1780 and were introduced to Africa 100 years later. The avocado has been cultivated in Asia since the middle of the 20th century.

Due to the high demand for the healthy fruits, the avocado plant is now found in all regions with suitable climates – namely in tropical countries around the globe. The majority of the fruit comes from Florida and California. The avocado grows into a 65-foot tall tree in suitable locations. The leaf axils produce small, light green flowers, bearing the popular dark green berries with wrinkled skin some time after fertilization. Their original propagation by seed is no longer relevant for crop production, as the offspring grow wild and lose their typical varietal characteristics. Instead, like most of our native fruit trees, they are propagated by grafting. However, it is still easy to cultivate a small tree from an avocado pit grown indoors on the windowsill. Even though these self-grown avocado plants do not produce any fruit, it is still a wonderful experiment for children and all other plant lovers.

Planting an avocado pit: The best methods at a glance
  • Growing an avocado in a glass
  • Planting an avocado pit in soil

Cultivation tip: For the best results, we recommend using several avocado pits for propagation. Unfortunately, not every pit germinates, develops strong and grows reliably.

Growing an avocado pit in water
Growing an avocado pit in water
To grow an avocado plant from seed, stick three toothpicks into the pit and place it on a glass of water with the flatter side facing downwards. This is a nice way to watch the young seedling grow

It is actually very easy to get any avocado pit to germinate and sprout. The water method is a particularly good way of watching an avocado plant grow from a seed into a tree. To get an avocado pit to sprout in water, you only need three toothpicks and a jar or glass of water, such as a mason jar. Carefully remove the pit from the fruit, give it a good wash and then dry. Stick three toothpicks into the pit, spaced evenly around the middle and at a depth of around five millimeters. Put the egg-shaped avocado pit on a glass or jar with the tip pointing upwards. The lower third of the pit should be suspended in the water. Put the glass holding the avocado pit in a bright place – a sunny windowsill is ideal – and change the water about every two days.

After around six weeks, the top of the pit will open and a sprout will emerge. It grows very quickly. The bottom of the pit forms long, straight roots. After a few months, when the avocado pit has grown enough strong roots at the bottom and a strong, healthy sprout at the top, it can be transferred to a flower pot with soil. Carefully remove the toothpicks and plant the pit in moist soil – without damaging the roots. The avocado pit should remain on the surface, only the roots should be planted.

Avocado pit with roots and leaves
When the roots and first little leaves emerge, the young avocado plant can be moved from the glass to a pot with soil
Planting an avocado pit in soil

You can also plant the avocado pit directly in soil. Simply fill a pot with soil – humus-rich, loamy potting soil is ideal – and put the clean, dry pit in the pot. Here too, two thirds of the avocado pit should remain exposed above the soil. Putting a mini-greenhouse in the room keeps the temperature and moisture consistently high, but is not essential. Lightly water the soil and spray the pit regularly to keep it moist. The soil in the plant pot should not be allowed to dry out, otherwise all your effort will have gone to waste.

How do I care for an avocado tree?

You need to use your intuition when it comes to looking after the young tree. As a tropical plant, the avocado needs high humidity, heat, and an evenly moist substrate. If the avocado plant gets too wet, it is very susceptible to mold! The pit will become soft and rot. It is therefore best to put the small avocado tree in a bright window in a warm room (72 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit) and to ensure that it has a steady supply of water.

A well-rooted avocado tree should be fertilized every 14 days during summer, but it needs a break in the winter. Overwinter your avocado tree at 50 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit in a bright location and continue to water it, but just to ensure that the root ball does not completely dry out. It is best to water the plant using softened water or water with a low lime content. If the water contains too much lime, the plant can suffer due to iron deficiency. However, if you react quickly and give the avocado plant an iron-based fertilizer, you can usually save it.

The young avocado plant can be transplanted into a larger pot in spring. The avocado tree normally grows as a long, upright shoot. If you want the avocado to branch out once it is well rooted, you can cut this shoot back to a height of around 12 inches to encourage the growth of side buds. The plant can also be grown as a tree or bush.

Is it possible to grow the plant at home in the long term?
Avocado plant
Avocado plants grow well on a bright south-facing window. However, conservatories are ideal, as the little tree will also get plenty of light from above

Even after several years, avocado trees do not grow taller than 5 foot and often only form a sparsely branched crown of long, thin shoots. In the long run, it is best to grow and cultivate an avocado plant in a heated greenhouse or conservatory: This is the only way to offer them "tropical conditions", that’s to say, high humidity, lots of light, and sufficient heat. Older plants can actually be put outside during summer, such as in a warm and sheltered spot on the patio or balcony. But don’t forget to move the tropical trees indoors again in good time – depending on the weather, late August/early September nights may even be too cold for the avocado.

If you’re growing the avocado plant from a pit, it will not produce any fruit. Not to worry: Even in their natural habitat, it takes an average of four years for the first avocados to appear. The plant flowers abundantly – it’s only pollination that proves quite complex. Persea americana, as the avocado tree is known scientifically, has androgynous flowers (and flowers abundantly!), but cannot pollinate itself and is therefore reliant on cross-pollination. And that too is difficult as the flowers open and close at different times: firstly to release pollen, then to pollinate the ovaries. But don’t let this stop you from trying! You’ll need to grow at least two plants of different varieties from the pits – hobby gardeners have achieved good results with ‘Fuerte’ – and put them next to each other. The plants usually need a bit of help with pollination indoors. You can do this by transferring the pollen from one plant to the stigmas of the other plant using a brush or cotton swab.

Are avocados actually healthy?

Hardly any other food has enjoyed such a boom in recent years as the avocado. Thanks to the trend in kitchens and cosmetics, avocados are eaten, drunk, applied, and used for massages. Whether as an oil, spread, baking ingredient, skin cream, or face mask – the green fruit is more popular than ever. This is due to their valuable nutrients – including various unsaturated fatty acids, magnesium, calcium, vitamins A and C – their good processing properties, and their velvety, nutty flavor. The avocado is used as a medicinal plant for coughs, diarrhea, obesity, and acne. You can even chop the avocado pit into small pieces and use it for smoothies and teas.