Worms and Flowers

Three Ways to Grow Avocados from Seed

Posted in Avocado by Lzyjo on June 22, 2009

Back in the day, hippies from here to Northern California sprouted their avocado pits and kept the trees in their apartments. If every hippie and their best friend grew them, how hard could it be? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

A few years ago I tried sprouting some, I put a couple pits in dirt and a few more suspended by toothpicks in jars of water. Nothing happened. I blamed it on some sort of treatment the avocados had been through. Now I know better. I think I made two mistakes, no, three. The first mistake was thinking that the radical sprouted from the side of the fruit, like squash seeds, so I planted them on their sides. Wrong. For the best results, the pointed-end should be placed at the top. Some are more subtly shaped than others. The bottom is usually flatter and there is most often a circular marking in a slightly lighter color.


The First Sprout

The second mistake was allowing the soil to dry out.

The seeds of avocados, like many tropical trees and fruits are recalcitrant, which means they cannot dry out, or they won’t germinate. Seeds like this cannot be kept outside of the fruit. Sellers who offer recalcitrant seeds often sell them in moist peat, or even pre-germinated.

The third mistake was not waiting long enough. I would say the average germination time has been six weeks.


Two and Four Week Old Seedlings

Planting is soil and suspending in a jars have worked equally well for me.  There are advantages and disadvantages to the jar method. An advantage would be the cracking open and emergence of the root is very visible, but the disadvantage is that the jar requires numerous cleanings and water changes during the six weeks. Another disadvantage is the transfer from jar to pot. When I removing a pit from the jar it slipped out of my hand, flew across the room, and landed on the floor, snapping off part of the radical. It was okay and grew normally nevertheless.


The third way to sprout avocado seeds is in the worm bin, the bin provides an excellent balance of conditions favorable for germination. I tossed a couple in my worm bin approximately two weeks later they are beginning to crack. Remember which area of the bin they are in and be careful finding the pits because the roots are very delicate.

Avocados take an average of ten years to reach fruiting size and they will only do so in tropical climates. Avocados fruit best when cross-pollinated with a different cultivar. Because of the dichogamous flowers self-pollination is rare. Darwin was the first to hypothesize that dichogamy was a mechanism to prevent inbreeding. Even though they won’t fruit, for most of us, they are still lovely ornamentals.

7 Responses

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  1. tina said, on June 22, 2009 at 7:35 AM

    Cool! Will you get avocados from these trees?

    I would expect not, if it does happen it would be a very long time from now. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Faith said, on June 22, 2009 at 8:44 AM

    I like to do this once in a while. Last year we had a HUGE avocado seed, about 3 or 4 inches across, so I could not resist.

    I planted it outside, knowing it would not survive the winter, but it was too big for the glass.

    They’re fun to do. Yeah, they’re slippery buggers, too. LOL


    WOW! That is huge! My biggest pit has yet to split open, I think the smaller opening of the first jar I tried may have stopped it. I scrubbed them with dish liquid and a scrub brush and they were still slippery!

  3. Gail said, on June 22, 2009 at 8:53 AM

    I am so totally convinced that you have hippie genetics! I remember how slippery the seed heads were sitting in the water! Only one of my friends, a born gardener, had the luck you’ve had in moving them from jar to pot. I’ll have to ask if she grows still. Ten years to fruiting~~that is a commitment! gail

    Awww, that is such a sweet compliment! I did go to a hippie school, we thought we were going to get stoned (as in hit by rocks) when we showed up to volleyball matches in a blue bus!!! Jar to pot is indeed tricky, it was just luck! I have a mango tree, sprouted in 2007, it is less than 18″ tall, at least I like the way the foliage looks!

  4. Valeri said, on June 22, 2009 at 9:09 AM

    I grew an avocado from seed and had it for three years before the frosts last winter killed it off. I could never grow another one but I noticed that all the pits I threw in the compost all germinated! Another thing there was a picture in one of our daily papers last year showing an avocado tree in a London square which was very bushy and covered in avocados! And I have warmer weather in Cornwall so if I’d covered mine up I might have it still growing! Ah well. Live and learn! Val

    WOW! Very interesting! About the compost and the fruiting avocado. I know people do grow fig trees in pots and wrap them up really snug for the winter! I’m always game for pushing the limits of my zone. Thanks for the info. I’m sorry you lost the plant, but you seem to have good luck getting them to sprout!

  5. Jen said, on June 22, 2009 at 2:13 PM

    Ten years is a long time to wait! But maybe worth it. I’m thinking about planting a fig this year, so I’m very encouraged by your friends who bundled them up! Was that here or in TN?

    If they do fruit it would truly be remarkable. My grandparents had a fig in the ground it didn’t last long in Zone 5 Upstate NY. I’ve also saw potted ones at Italian restaurants in NJ, those were bundled, a lot. Good luck with your fig they are delicious and very pretty!

  6. Dave said, on June 24, 2009 at 8:05 AM

    Good stuff! Avocados are one thing I wish we could grow outside here in TN. Next time I get a couple I’ll by trying this!

    It would be great to grow more tropical things here, maybe in a few years with all this global warming! Some of the mature avocados are hardy to 18F, it won’t be long! Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Patrick said, on June 24, 2009 at 3:39 PM

    This post brings back memories! I did this a few times as a kid, and even kept one as a house plant for a couple of years in our house in Chicago. I remember germination took a really long time! I think I gave up a few times too early.

    It’s hard to wait that long, especially when you don’t know what to expect. I wonder how long I’ll be able to keep these. I have a mango going on three years old and less than 18″.

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