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Growing Avocados

By: Kate Bradbury - Updated: 15 Sep 2019 | comments*Discuss
Growing Avocados Avocado Trees As

While avocados are a tropical fruit more suited to the humid regions of Mexico and Central America, it doesn’t mean they can not be grown successfully in the UK. The trees can grow to up to 20m and can take up to 10 years to fruit.

If you want to grow an avocado tree, it’s best to raise it as an indoor plant. The trees don’t tolerate freezing temperatures. They can grow outside in the far south of England, and have even grown fruit in some years, but you’ll get better results if they’re grown in large pots indoors.

Germinating the Seed
Avocado stones take a long time to germinate. If you already have a garden and a compost heap, you may have noticed avocado stones germinating inside the heap. This is because the heap provides the ideal hot and moist conditions for germination. There are alternative methods, however, if you don’t fancy rooting around your compost heap:
  • pierce the seed with toothpicks and suspend it, pointed end up, over a glass of water. Roots should start to develop within two to six weeks. Then pot up the plant, leaving the tip just poking out of the soil. However, not all avocado seeds will germinate, so if your seed hasn't sprouted after six weeks, try again with a fresh seed
  • leave the seed in direct sunlight until it starts to split. Then pot it up
  • place the seed in a pot, and cover it completely. Water well, allow to drain and leave in a warm, dark place, such as an airing cupboard. Check on the pot every week to ensure it is moist, and water if necessary. As soon as the shoot starts to show, move the pot to a sunny spot, such as a windowsill
Always use a pot with approximately a 12cm diameter. Use a rich, peat-free potting compost and ensure the pot has good drainage. After your plant is roughly 30cm tall, cut it down to around 15cm. This makes the plant grow bushy, rather than tall. Once your plant has filled its pot with roots, transplant it to its permanent home – the largest pot you have room for. Fill with rich, peat-free compost, which you should top up with fresh compost each year.

Flowering and Pollination
Avocado trees can take up to ten years to bear fruit and indoor-grown plants don’t always live that long. However, if you provide it with a moist, fertile soil and plenty of sunlight, and keep it in humid conditions such as a greenhouse or conservatory, your tree will have a fighting chance of fruiting.

An old gardeners’ trick in the southern hemisphere to encourage the plant to flower is to treat the tree roughly. When it is of a decent size, (no smaller than 1.5m), attack the trunk of the tree with a knife, or sharp implement. Make sure you don’t damage the tree so it can’t grow properly, and only cut the surface of the bark – never make big cuts in it. The stress brought on by this attack is said to shock the plant into flower, where it will then hopefully bear fruit.

If the plant is indoors and it flowers you will need to pollinate them in order for it to fruit. Keep a window or door in the greenhouse or conservatory open to let bees in to pollinate it, or move the plant outside – if you can – on sunny warm days.

Regardless of region, avocados are not easy fruits to grow. However, the trees make an interesting addition to the conservatory or greenhouse and you’ll never tire of trying to make it flower. If you are lucky enough to get it to bear fruit you’ll be rewarded with delicious, fresh avocados and all your hard effort will be worth it.

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I have a 15 year old plant from a stone brought to UK from my father-in-law’s tree in Spain. It’s in a pot on wheels and lives outside in summer and inside during winter (London). Now about 6ft high (has been regularly pruned) and v wide. I really want to plant it out in a sheltered Cornish garden this autumn. Am I mad? Will it survive? Does anyone know the best time to plant out if I decide to go ahead? Would appreciate any advice!
Emma - 15-Sep-19 @ 10:43 AM
Hi Pringleberry... you commented your cat chewed your avacado plant. Somearticles maintain avacado plants fruit and leaves all contain a toxin harmful to cats and dogs.Take care.Dee
Dee - 14-Sep-19 @ 6:55 AM
Ian, I will gladly give your avocado tree a loving home and can pick it up if you are within driving range of London!
KitchenGarden - 8-Sep-19 @ 10:21 PM
I have a much loved, potted avocado tree that needs an indoor home because I’m moving away.It’s 5-years old and 8 feet tall.Any suggestions?
ian - 23-Aug-19 @ 9:57 AM
@ricardo don't chop ALL the leaves off else you may end up killing the plant. I found (by accident) that if you nip out the very topmost pair of leaves cleanly with a good sharp blade at the point where the second set down emerge then the plant will start to branch out. Technically I found this when the cat decided to start chewing on it but a sharp blade is a bit more hygenic.
Pringleberry - 26-Jun-19 @ 9:54 AM
Your advice please. I've grown a seed last year,around July time. It's currently about 26cm tall,but only has 3 leaves at the top. It's usual growth seems to be,grow 3 or 4 leaves,they stay for a few weeks,then start to bud/grow new leaves,old leaves go brown and drop off,then repeat!. It has no branches or leaves other than the top. I've read about folks even chopping the stalk in half(!?!)to encourage further growth. Any advice please to help me encourage it to be a bit more healthy looking will be gratefully received. Ps I've named him Albert the Avocado...sad I know.
ricardo - 21-Apr-19 @ 3:39 PM
Brought all my plants in for the winter, but all grew leggy and then the leaves turned brown and fell off. Decided to cut the stems back and but outside and some are now bushing up from the stems. Repotted too to give them more noriousment. Year two, so hoping will all be ok.
KittyJay451 - 21-Apr-19 @ 11:29 AM
I’ve a polytunnel, south facing, up a mountain, in Ireland, with over 40avocado trees growing, ranging in size from sprouting stone to 2ft tall. I just keep planting the stones direct, no toothpicking, then watering and compost (organic, home done) it’ll be a nice 60th prez if they fruit! Lol
Miagreenfingers - 11-Jan-19 @ 7:51 PM
hello to you, i,m growing up to 20 avocado's but one of them as some leave starting to go brown why is that it gets good feed wone's a week but now feed it ever three weeds, I don/t get it on my Chinese fruit trees got up to 500 of them you can phone me on 07974563196
gordan - 12-Dec-18 @ 1:07 PM
My avo trees have been moved indoors and are doing well buy looks like someting is having a feed on it at night and then the leaves turn brown. I cant see any insects on it. Any idea what to do.
Pottie - 3-Nov-18 @ 10:48 AM
I have an avocado tree I have adopted from my son's balcony.It is a healthy plant of about 4 and a half feet talk.It is too big to be in the house. I am concerned that it won survive the winter in the garden.Can it be wrapped to give it protectionfrom the frost?
Sue - 17-Sep-18 @ 10:27 AM
@bert - I have never seen anywhere (even garden centres) where I can buy an avo plant. Which supermarket was this and I'll keep an eye out next year?
CathOMG - 10-Sep-18 @ 11:29 AM
I picked up an avocado plant from a supermarket and left it outside in the summer - no growth but a few of my chickens loved the leaves (they almost shredded it) - put it into the porch to protect it from the rascals and it's now starting to grow :-)
bert - 9-Sep-18 @ 2:34 PM
@Debs - great, the simple things are so much more pleasurable. I'd bring it in soon once it gets cooler as a young plant has a better chance indoors.
Lucy - 7-Sep-18 @ 3:26 PM
I stuck a stone in a pot of mint and it has grown in this heatwave. I did not do the method with the cocktail sticks. I have repotted it and wondered whether to bring inside as it is now getting cooler. Please give me advice as l’m not a gardener and very pleased that this has happened.
Debs - 7-Sep-18 @ 4:22 AM
I planted a couple of avocado stones and have managed to get a couple of really good strong plants.When they were a little more than 2ft tall I cut them back by a good 12inches.They are bushing out beautifully now.Then I decided that each time I had an avocado I would plant the stone...…..I now have twenty avocados sprouting... I never expected them all to grow... Heaven knows what I will do with them all but I plan to experiment with some of them next year.I will leave a couple outside under a fleece cover... A couple will go into my shed for the winter and I will bring some of the others into the house.
Cherie - 26-Aug-18 @ 12:52 PM
@Paperboy - it should be fine in the greenhouse, best place for it if it is free from drafts and gets the sun.
MacKinley - 13-Aug-18 @ 2:54 PM
Hi ,I have a one year old avocado tree grown from a stone .In the spring I put the small plant in the green house ,I previously have the plant on a windowsill in the house.It has flourished in the greenhouse andit is now about three foot tall. The question is do I bring it back in the house in the winter or leave it in the greenhouse? We live in South Wales . Many Thanks , Jill Page
Paperboy - 12-Aug-18 @ 4:13 PM
Hi, I've grown an avocado from seed and it's about 4 foot tall. I'm worried its outgrown its pot and as I'm renting I don't have anywhere for it to go. I'm concerned that come winter it will die as it's not big enough to weather the cold and I'm not really sure if it's something I can sell!
sophs - 2-Aug-18 @ 9:52 AM
@Flynn - Well-aerated and loose soil is the best for avocados i.e limestone and sandy loam. Thebest pH range for a successful tree ranges between 6 and 6.5. Compacted soils will halt root spread and this can start root rot. In fact slightly dry conditions are best for the avocado. Salts are a problem too yes. It's always difficult to determine. But if your tree has been root bound, this can cause problems. They can often seem worse after repotting. No answer sorry as it's a bit of a minefield.
TimJ - 16-Jul-18 @ 3:23 PM
I've managed to grow about 10 from the stone, potted them and then put them outside on a patio table. Unfortunately two of them were knocked off, ended up on the floor with the stalk broken off and the stone was missing. Could a squirrel have decided to have the stone for supper? I've now moved all the others and they are doing nicely. I only potted them in small pots, will I need to replant them into bigger pots? And how big should the pot be? Some are about 15 inches high, others are only about 10. The diameter of the pots I've got them in are about 4 inches.
KittyJay451 - 14-Jul-18 @ 8:07 PM
I've repotted it today as it was root bound.Keep reading about salt concentrations being high for brown leaves.It's indoors and growing it's just the brown leaves
Flynn - 13-Jul-18 @ 9:10 PM
@Flynn - could be lots of reasons underwatering, overwatering, disease. Is it in a pot? If so it could be root bound. Would need more info.
JamieBl - 13-Jul-18 @ 2:50 PM
Mine is about 1 year old60 CMs and the leaves are browning badly.What can I do please?
Flynn - 13-Jul-18 @ 1:48 PM
@mum2-4 - especially with the great summer we've had so far. It's off to a good start. I have one - it's now at around 2ft tall. Fingers crossed.
Leo. - 12-Jul-18 @ 11:41 AM
I’ve been growing an avocado plant(outdoors) for two years, I started from stone.Surprisingly it has managed to survive two winters and this year was really bad, it did take a bashing, but has survived and with no fleecing or anything else to protect it. Keeping fingers crossed that it’ll keep growing.
mum2-4 - 10-Jul-18 @ 11:23 PM
@Ray - yes they must be because the beast from the east has killed a lot of plants in my garden this year. At least in the greenhouse they are still protected from the worst of the weather.
ShO - 11-May-18 @ 12:49 PM
I grew two plants summer of 17 using the cocktail stick method. They are in an unheated greenhouse. Went on holiday in February to get winter sun and returned the same day as the beast from the east arrived. One is definatleydead however the second is sprouting new shoots and is very much alive. They are more hardy than people realise.
Ray - 10-May-18 @ 6:08 PM
@emmaq - you can leave it out - but if you do make sure it is protected as any cold snap can affect the tree, especially if it is young. If you are going to leave it out, put the pot on plant feet and protect the pot with a protective frost blanket. If it gets really cold, just bring it in for a few days if it's practical for you to do this. Just keep an eye on it. If you're on a roof balcony, find the most sheltered and sunny site.
TimJ - 20-Nov-17 @ 11:00 AM
Similar question to @AvoQueen.I have a small plant grown from seed on my roof in London in a pot.It has about 8 leaves atop a long stem about 2 foot high.Should I bring it in over winter or risk it being out?Should I cut it down to get it to be more bushy?Advice please thanks!
emmaq - 19-Nov-17 @ 10:28 AM
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