The next time you're about to toss an avocado pit into the garbage can, think again. Instead of trash, it could be the start of your next avocado snack. With the right conditions and some nurturing care, a small seed can grow to become a decorative and friendly avocado plant that may one day yield delicious avocados.
From Pit to Sprout
It's easy to get a simple avocado pit to sprout with simply a glass of water and toothpicks. Start by rinsing off the pit to get rid of any avocado residue. Then, take three or four toothpicks and stick them into the widest part of the pit. Next, put the pit into a glass of warm water, being sure that the pointier end of the pit is sticking up. The toothpicks should allow the avocado seed to float in the water, with the bottom, less-pointy end of the pit immersed in the water.
Avocados need warm and well-lit conditions to grow, so make sure that you keep the glass of water in a warm and sunny place inside your home. Keep an eye on the water level and replenish it as it evaporates. Make sure that water continues to cover the bottom of the pit, and change out the water if it starts to get murky. You should start to see roots and a sprout bloom from the seed anywhere from two to six weeks later. The roots will likely come first, and then a small sprout will start to grow.
Growing Avocado From Seed
While it's pretty easy to get an avocado seed to sprout, you will need a little more work and resources to turn it into a thriving avocado tree that produces fruit. Once the sprout reaches about six inches, trim it down to about three inches. This will help encourage more vibrant growth and allow the roots to get a little thicker and stronger.
Once the roots have thickened and the sprout has grown higher again, it's time to replant in a bigger space. Where you replant will depend largely on the climate in which you live. If you're in a sunny, moderate climate where temperatures don't regularly dip below freezing and don't often rise above 90 degrees, you might be able to plant your avocado seed outside. It's best to do so in the spring months so it has time to establish itself before colder temperatures hit.
If you're in an area that sees more extreme levels of cold, heat and humidity, it might be best to keep your avocado plant indoors in a controlled climate. You might consider potting your avocado in a moderately warm area of your home or under grow lights that will give it the sun and warmth it needs during cooler months.
No matter where you grow your avocado tree, make sure it's in healthy soil. Avocado trees like soil that is loose and sandy. That aeration helps prevent the roots from being too saturated and eventually rotting. Look for soil mixes with limestone, sandy loam or decomposed granite. You might also want to fortify it with a fertilizer with ingredients like nitrogen, fish emulsion and zinc.
Your watering cycle will depend on the size of the plant and the time of year, but in general, plants need water about two or three times a week. The soil should be moist when you water the plant, but then give it time to get dry before you water it again.
Producing Avocado Fruits
If you're growing an indoor avocado from a seed, the plant can grow to be large and healthy, but it likely won't produce fruit. Avocado trees need the cooler nighttime temperatures of a moderate climate in order to start making avocados, and even then, it can take 10 years for fruit production to begin. In the meantime, you might find smaller fruits on the tree, but they probably won't have the same quality as the ones you buy in a store.
If you're interested in growing an avocado plant that begins to produce fruit, you might have more luck planting a starter tree that has been grafted from a larger avocado-producing tree. You can probably find this at your local nursery, especially if you live in a moderate climate where avocados are grown. However, even without fruit production, avocado plants started from seeds can be happy plant members of any household.
Rachelle Dragani is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn with extensive experience covering the lifestyle space. Her work on topics including smart home technology, pest control, living green, budget home repair and helpful household tips have appeared in publications including Bob Vila, Esquire, Popular Mechanics, Gizmodo and Yahoo.