Who doesn’t love a firm, ripe avocado? And the pleasure is doubled when it comes from your own tree. Avocados grow well outside in very warm hardiness zones. If you live in a cooler area or you don’t have enough space for a home orchard, you may want to consider growing an avocado plant indoors.
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. Avocado trees can reach 80 feet (24+ m.) in height. Most plants do poorly in regions where freezing temperatures occur. Gardeners in USDA zones 8 and lower should opt for an avocado tree that can grow indoors.
Can You Grow an Avocado Tree Indoors?
It is possible to grow an avocado plant indoors. However, since most avocado species grow to much taller than an average room height, you’ll want to select one of the dwarf varieties, which top out at around 10 feet (3 m).
Avocado Plant Care Indoors
An indoor avocado tree requires special treatment. First, you’ll want to plant it in a container with lots of drainage holes and use top quality, well-draining soil. Sandy soil is preferable. The young potted avocado tree should not be placed in direct sun until it has developed a canopy of foliage to protect the branches and trunk. Expect to offer your potted avocado tree regular water to maintain moist soil. Indoor avocado plant care includes plant support and feeding. Use a stake to keep the plant's main stem sturdy and straight as it grows.
Water & Light Requirements
Avocado trees need both water and light to mature. But too much is not better. When it comes to water, regular irrigation is essential, but unless you make sure the soil drains well, root rot is a real possibility.
Choose a warm, sunny location to get your avocado started indoors. They need this until their foliage fills in. Until then, direct sun can scorch the bare trunk and branches, so indirect light is important until the evergreen leaves mature.
Soil & Fertilizer Needs
Sandy soil is best for indoor avocado trees since good drainage is very important. Fertilize the tree with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer during the growing season. Pick one with more phosphorus than nitrogen or potassium, like 7-9-5. Alternatively, top dress the soil with a slow release fertilizer in springtime. Turn the tree frequently to promote even growth. You can also fertilize with fish emulsion every month for the first year.
Temperature & Humidity
If you want your indoor avocado plant to fruit, you’ll have to provide it with lower nighttime temperatures. The tree has trouble when moved from a cool, humid location outdoors to a warm area without humidity. Ideally, the air temperature and humidity levels will be similar.
Problems, Pests & Diseases
One benefit of growing avocado indoors is the lack of insect pests that bother the plant. You might see mealybugs, but all the other pests that attack outdoor trees are usually not seen indoors. Other problems - like root rot or scorching - arise from improper cultural care.
How to Prune an Indoor Avocado Tree
When you are growing an avocado plant indoors, you’ll want to prune it to control its size. Prune off any suckers that arise from the rootstock. The best time to prune indoor avocado plants is once the flowering cycle is complete. This helps to avoid cutting off flower buds. Making thinning cuts to reduce the height and width of the tree but leave the shorter lateral branches alone. This is where most of the flowers and the fruit will form.
Repotting Avocado Trees
Pot up your avocado tree in a 15-20 gallon (56.78-75.7 L) container. That should be large enough to hold the mature plant. If you start smaller, repotting the avocado plant may be necessary as it outgrows its pot.
Overwintering Avocado Trees
It is possible to grow your avocado tree outdoors during the summer, and overwinter the tree indoors. To make this work, try to move the container plant in and out when the temperature of the air is about the same in the house and outside. This prevents a shock to the plant’s system.
Propagating an Avocado From a Pit
Avocados can be started from a pit, but you may have more success with a healthy grafted dwarf tree. Also, a plant produced from an avocado seed is less likely to produce fruit, but it can make a lovely tree and houseplant.
How to Propagate Avocado From a Pit
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 F (18 C). 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 the seedling to a pot.
Planting an Avocado Seedling in a Container
Move the sprouted avocado pit to an unglazed terra cotta pot that is at least 10 inches (25 cm) across and twice as deep as the roots. Use a potting mix with compost blended with sand for a loose, fast-draining medium. Indoor avocado plant care includes plant support and feeding. Use a stake to keep the plant's 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. Growing avocados in containers indoors also requires bright light.
Will a Potted Avocado Tree Bear Fruit?
Container-grown avocado plants often don’t bear fruit, but it can be possible if they are given proper cultural care. Don’t expect fruit the first year or even the second. These trees need to get to 6-8 feet (1.8-2.4 m) tall before they set fruit. 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.
Best Avocado Varieties to Grow Indoors
Select a dwarf avocado to grow indoors. A few cultivars that are reputed to grow well and fruit early are Day and Black Gold, Gwen, Whitsell and Oro Negro.
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