Image by Jeffrey Schwartz
By Bonnie L. Grant
Avocado trees most likely originated in Southern Mexico and were cultivated for centuries before North America was colonized. The pear-shaped fruits are a delicious, rich food that make an excellent condiment or eat alone addition to your diet. The trees are warm season plants, easily damaged by cold and frost. That said, northern gardeners must learn how to grow an avocado houseplant in order to enjoy fruits grown at home.
Can Avocado Trees Grow Indoors?
Avocado trees can reach 80 feet in height. Most plants do poorly where freezing temperatures may occur. Gardeners in United states Department of Agriculture zones 8 and below should be wary of trying to grow these trees as outdoor plants. This fact leads to the question, “can avocado trees grow indoors?”
The simple answer to this question is yes. In fact, there are several dwarf varieties, which can help the cold and temperate season gardener produce the healthy fruits in their own home.
How to Grow an Avocado Houseplant
Avocado growing indoors can start with a pit but is most successful with a healthy grafted dwarf tree. Cultivated avocados are grown from compatible rootstock. A plant produced from a seed is less likely to produce fruit, but it will make a lovely tree.
Remove the pit from a ripe avocado and rinse off any excess flesh. Push a network of toothpicks into the pit and suspend it on top of a glass of warm water. The pit should dip an inch or so into the water at the dented or dimpled end.
Place the glass in bright light where temperatures are at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Change the water frequently. Soon the pit will produce roots, which will grow down into the water. Eventually, stems and leaves will sprout. When the roots fill much of the glass it is time to transplant to a pot.
Growing Avocados in Containers
Avocado growing indoors is fun and easy. Move the sprouted pit to an unglazed terra cotta pot that is at least 10 inches across and twice as deep as the roots. Use a potting mix with compost blended with sand for a loose, fast-draining composition.
Growing avocados in containers indoors also requires bright light. A plant will get straggly without adequate light. Pinch off excess growth at first to promote a bushier, stronger plant.
Do not expect fruit when growing avocados in containers. Indoor plants need cool nights to force blooming and fruiting. They can also take up to ten years to get to fruiting stage. If you do get fruit, the flavor is not as good as those commercially produce from rootstocks.
Indoor Avocado Plant Care
If you want a better chance at fruit, purchase a dwarf tree that has been grafted onto rootstock. The stock is chosen to increase the best traits of the plant and will make the tree stronger and more resistant to a variety of environmental influences.
Indoor avocado plant care includes plant support and feeding. Use a stake to keep the plants main stem sturdy and straight as it grows. Also, transplant the tree as it outgrows its pot. Prune off any suckers that arise from the rootstock.
Fertilize with water-soluble food monthly and turn the tree frequently to promote even growth. You can also fertilize with fish emulsion every month for the first year.
Give the plant moderate water when the soil feels dry to the touch.