Avocados have been grown by humans for thousands of years. Loaded with essential vitamins, minerals and rare healthy fats, combined with a rich flavor and delicious creamy texture, avocados have skyrocketed to superfood stardom faster than you can say ‘guacamole’. Ever finished an avocado and wondered what would happen if you planted the stone? You could possibly enjoy a fresh supply of fruits from your own yard or garden as part of your vegetable garden ideas.   But even if you don’t live in a climate where it’s possible to grow avocados outdoors, growing one from a stone for a lovely tropical house plant can be a fun project. 

How to grow avocados

The avocado, Persea americana, is a tropical evergreen tree native to Central America. Warmth and moisture are key conditions if you want your avocado plants to thrive. The answer to how to grow avocados therefore depends on where you live and what your goals are. You may be looking to raise a leafy house plant from the stone of a store-bought fruit. Or, if you live in warmer area, you might be dreaming of fresh homegrown guacamole by adding avocados to the fruit trees you grow in your back yard. It’s necessary to know how to germinate a stone, how to choose a variety for your climate, and how to plant and care for your avocado tree.

Avocado growing conditions

Growing avocados outdoors requires mild winters and long, warm summers without too much drought.  With the right variety and a suitably sheltered and sunny microclimate, growing avocados outdoors may be possible in mild areas of the UK and in southern and coastal regions of the US falling in USDA zones 8b or higher.  If you live in a cooler climate but you are lucky enough to have a large, heated greenhouse or conservatory, you may also be able to raise a fruiting avocado tree when planning a greenhouse growing calendar.

How to grow avocado from seed

As easy way to start an avocado plant is from the stone or pit. You can germinate an avocado seed in water using a glass jar or vase, which allows you to get a great view of the developing roots and shoot. Submerge it in water to half way, pointy side up, put the glass in a warm place out of direct sunlight and change the water regularly. The roots and stem should start to appear in about two to six weeks. Alternatively, you can simply plant the stone in a pot of compost. ‘It’s important to use a really well-draining potting mix,’ explains tropical plant expert Chris Bower from GoTropicalUK (opens in new tab). He recommends adding perlite and vermiculite to your potting compost to control moisture levels. ‘The key with how to grow avocados is for the soil not to be too wet or too dry’, Chris adds.  To plant an avocado stone:

Sink the stone, pointed end upwards, into pre-watered compost so that it is half submergedLeave on a warm, bright windowsill out of direct sunlight

You can also mimic this natural process without the mess of soil. ‘You can germinate an avocado by wrapping the stone in a damp paper towel and placing it in a sealed jar by the window,’ explains Jess Snowball, glasshouse manager at London’s Chelsea Physic Garden (opens in new tab). ‘Make sure the towel stays moist – not too wet, not too dry – and change it regularly to avoid mold. Germination should occur within a few weeks,’ Jess adds. Then simply plant up the seedling in a pot of free-draining compost. For a bushy, well-shaped house plant, snip off the growing shoot when the seedling is around 12-18 inches tall to encourage lateral branches to develop.

How to grow an avocado tree that bears fruit

If it’s fruit you’re looking for, you may be disappointed by a plant you’ve grown from a stone.  Avocados do not ‘breed true from seed’, explains Wayne Brydon, grower manager at California’s Del Rey Avocado Company (opens in new tab). ‘The seed reverts to its native ancestry and will be unrecognizable to the grower,’ he explains. This may mean poor yields, poor quality fruit or even an infertile plant. ‘A homeowner should buy a tree that is already grafted on a rootstock,’ he advises.  For the best chance of harvesting your own avocados, it’s therefore recommended to buy a young tree from a nursery. This way you can choose a variety that’s best suited to your climate, and you will get a higher-quality plant that will likely be grafted onto a rootstock to improve vigor and disease resistance. It will also produce fruit much sooner.

Choosing an avocado tree variety

If you’re wondering how to grow avocados for fruit, choosing a suitable variety is critical to success. Avocados fall into three categories: 

West Indian varieties are the most tropical and cold-sensitive, so successful growing in the USA is generally restricted to southern Florida.Guatemalan avocados, also frost-tender, are the mainstay of commercial growing and include the popular Hass variety, which accounts for 80 per cent of worldwide commercial avocado production.Mexican varieties, such as Bacon and Fuerte, are the hardiest and therefore the most suited to growing in cooler regions. 

Growing avocados as a vegetable garden container idea can be a good choice as you can then control the growing conditions more easily. Hass avocados need temperatures to remain above 30°F (-1°C), so can be a good choice if you live in USDA zones 10 or 11 in California, Florida or Southern Texas, or are growing in a heated glasshouse or conservatory. If you live anywhere cooler, a Mexican variety will be your best bet. For instance, Bacon is hardy down to around 23°F (-5°C). You should be able to grow a Mexican avocado outdoors if you live in zones 8b or 9 and have a sheltered, sunny spot.  If you are interested in how to grow avocados in the UK, ‘not all avocados are created equal, and choosing the right variety in our temperate climate will give you the best chance of this tree surviving here,’ explains Chris from GoTropicalUK, based in southeast England – roughly USDA zone 9. ‘If you can get hardier avocado varieties, particularly pure Mexican avocado varieties, they have a much greater chance of surviving through cold winters,’ he adds.

How to plant an avocado tree

The best time to plant an avocado tree is late spring after any risk of frost has passed. This gives the tree time to establish before the heat of summer.  When you’re planning a kitchen garden, choose a sunny, sheltered location away from competing plants for planting your avocado tree. Good drainage is essential, so if you’re on a clay soil, incorporate plenty of sand or grit into the planting area. You can also plant the tree on a small mound to improve drainage further. The planting hole should be square and twice the width of the pot. After planting, backfill with soil, ensuring the soil surface reaches the same level on the trunk as it did in the pot. Add a deep layer of bark or leaf mulch to help prevent the shallow roots from drying out.

How to care for avocado plants

Avocados are very easy to care for and require little maintenance other than watering and an occasional feed. Pruning is only required if you wish to restrict your tree to a certain size or shape. Although avocados are tropical trees, and can be added to your tropical garden ideas, it’s important not to get carried away with watering as they are very prone to root rot.  ‘Don’t overwater your avocado tree’, emphasizes Greg Duclos, owner of San Diego organic avocado farm Duclos Farms (opens in new tab). ‘Avocados don’t like their feet wet – they like to be able to dry out between waterings with good drainage.’ Aim for infrequent, thorough watering once the soil has been allowed to dry out.  Hass avocados should not be allowed to experience frost. With the hardier Mexican varieties, such as Bacon, saplings should be protected using one of the methods for how to protect plants from frost for their first couple of years after planting, while they build tolerance. 

How to grow avocado indoors

Avocado plants make great house plants in any climate, with lush, glossy deep green leaves. They don’t usually flower or produce fruit in the home, but still form attractive plants that give a calm, tropical feel to any room.  If you’re interested in how to grow avocado indoors, they will be happiest in a warm, sunny spot in the house, ideally in a relatively humid room such as a kitchen or bathroom. They will also enjoy having their leaves misted to increase humidity.  House plant avocados can be moved outside during the summer months once established as part of your container gardening ideas. However, the bark of young avocado saplings is prone to sunburn when no longer shielded by glass, so choose a sheltered spot in dappled shade. Avocados grown indoors will also benefit from a fortnightly feed with a universal houseplant feed, while for ground-planted trees, Greg recommends a quarterly feed with a Triple 15 fertilizer.

How long does it take for an avocado tree to bear fruit?

Nursery-bought trees will begin fruiting much sooner than those raised from seed.  ‘It takes roughly 10-15 years for an avocado to bear fruit if you grow it from a seed. From a plant, it takes around 3-4 years with most varieties,’ explains Greg Duclos of Duclos Farms.

Is avocado easy to grow?

Avocado plants are really easy to grow from the stone or pit – they will even sprout in a homemade compost heap. Although this isn’t the best way to get a fruiting tree, germinating an avocado stone makes a fun family project, helping to engage kids with plants and learn about how they grow. It is also a great way to get a free tropical houseplant. Avocado plants are also easy to grow from small trees bought from a specialist nursery.

Can you grow an avocado tree from a store-bought avocado?

Yes you can grow an avocado tree from a store-bought avocado, and it’s a fun, easy project to try. However, this is only recommended if it’s a decorative plant you’re after and not a productive one. An avocado seedling grown from a pit will take at least ten years to produce fruit, if at all. Fruit quality will also be low as avocados do not breed true, and the plant will be frost tender as the parent is likely to be the Hass variety that only grows outdoors in the warmest parts of the US.  If you seek a fruiting tree, it is recommended to buy a sapling from a specialist nursery.

Can you grow avocados in the UK?

If you live in the south of England or near the coast and have a sheltered, sunny microclimate, such as a south-facing wall, then it may be possible to grow an avocado plant outdoors. Ensure you buy your tree from a reputable nursery and that it is a hardy Mexican variety, such as Bacon. You can check a tree is a Mexican variety by breaking off a leaf and noting the smell – when crushed, the leaf should give off a distinctive aniseed scent that is unique to Mexican varieties.