The avocado, Persea americana, bears delicious fruits packed with healthy fats. In the right conditions, trees can reach heights of up to 20m, but they’r unlikely to grow so well in the UK.
How to grow avocados at home
Avocados are native to central America, so need plenty of warmth, sunshine and moisture. However, they also have large glossy, evergreen leaves and make attractive houseplants. If you like a challenge and have plenty of patience, you can grow an avocado plant from a supermarket-bought avocado –simply pot the stone in a pot of moist compost and wait for the shoot to appear. You might never get home-grown guacamole, but you can have some horticultural fun along the way.
If you’re intent on trying to coax fruit from your plant, try sourcing a cold-hardy avocado variety that will be more suitable to UK growing conditions. The average Hass avocado from your supermarket is unlikely to reward you with more than good foliage.
Growing avocados from seed
Avocado stones can be coaxed into germinating with some heat, moisture and a humid atmosphere. One popular method of getting them to germinate is to pierce the stone with four toothpicks and suspend it above a cup of water, making sure the base of the stone touches the water. Keep in a warm place and after about six weeks, you will see roots appearing. Pot up your germinated avocado seed into a peat-free compost mix.
You can also leave the seed on a sunny windowsill and pot it up when it has started to split. Or pot up the stone, water well and leave it to germinate in a warm, dark place. Check it regularly and make sure it doesn’t dry out. When shoots have appeared on your plant, place it in a sunny spot and keep it well watered.
Caring for avocados
Once your avocado seedling is established, pot it on into a large pot where it will have room to grow. When your avocado plant is roughly 30cm tall, cut it back to encourage bushy new growth. Pot on when well-established and the roots are peeping out of the bottom of your pot.
Avocados won’t tolerate severe cold, so they usually need to be grown as houseplants or in a greenhouse in cool climates. If you have a sheltered garden, in a mild area, you could try growing your avocado plant outside. Or at least move it outdoors for the summer months.
Keep your plant well-watered and feed every two weeks with a liquid plant food during the growing season. Avocado trees can take up to ten years to bear fruit in the right conditions.
Many avocados are self-fertile, but if your plant flowers, you will have to hand pollinate it to get it to set fruit.
Harvesting and storing avocado
If you’re lucky enough to get some fruit, pick it when it has reached full size, but leave it to ripen for a couple of weeks in a warm, dry place. Avocados will store well in a fridge for a few weeks.
How to eat avocados
Find avocado recipes at Olive Magazine
Growing avocados: problem solving
Beware of over watering as this can lead to root rot.
Avocado varieties to try
Avocado ‘Brogden’ – a Mexican/West Indies hybrid, bred in Florida, that is hardy down to -6C.