It's no surprise that avocado trees (Persea americana) are native to Mexico and Central America, because Mexican cuisine is famed for thick, avocado-based guacamole. Avocados are evergreen and grow rapidly in warm, sunny locations throughout USDA plant hardiness zones 10 through 12. They are usually grown for their fruits, which are also called avocados.
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The avocado fruit has creamy green flesh with a rich, buttery taste. At the center of the flesh is a large seed. It's easy to sprout the seeds and grow avocado trees in containers indoors at home. Outdoors, avocado trees grow to 60 feet tall and require warm temperatures and mild winters to thrive.
In the United States, you can grow an avocado tree outdoors in parts of California, Florida and Hawaii .
Avocado Growing Requirements
Avocados are subtropical understory trees, accustomed to warm weather and semihumid climates. Any areas that get extreme heat in the summer or frost, chilly winds or snow in the winter are not avocado territory. The trees generally require moderate temperatures year-round, although some are more cold-hardy than others.
Avocado trees require regular watering in order for plants to thrive and produce fruit. If the plant experiences drought, fruit production may suffer. The trees don't require much pruning. Only prune out dead or dying branches. Use a high-quality pruner to make clean cuts.
Avocado trees are divided into three general groups: West Indian, Guatemalan and Mexican — and the ideal growing range for each type is slightly different. West Indian avocados grow best in warm climates, while Mexican avocados — native to the tropical highlands — are the most cold hardy and can survive temperatures down to 26 degrees Fahrenheit. They are also the smallest, weighing less than 1 pound. Fruit of the other types can weigh up to 5 pounds.
The fruit produced by each group also differs. Mexican variety avocados are small, with papery-smooth skins, while Guatemalan avocado skin is hard and full of warts. West Indian avocados are shiny with thin skin. Most avocados grown in Florida are the West Indian types, and most avocados grown in California are Mexican or Guatemalan types.
U.S. Avocado Growing Regions
Avocados are grown commercially in parts of Florida, California and Hawaii. In Florida, most are grown in Miami-Dade County and Collier County. In California, the area between San Luis Obispo and San Diego is avocado country. As a matter of fact, one of San Diego County's nicknames is Avocado County.
More than 200 varieties of avocado grow in Hawaii, including trees producing some of the largest avocado fruit in the world. Over half of commercial avocados produced in Hawaii are the 'Sharwil' cultivar, a hybrid cross of Mexican and Guatemalan varieties. The fruit is green-skinned even in maturity and can weight up to 20 ounces. Experts differ as to how Sarwils compare with the smaller avocados produced on the mainland.
World Avocado Growing Regions
The U.S. does not hold a monopoly on growing avocados. In fact, other countries grow many more of these trees than the States. Most avocados are grown in Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Mexico's commercial production extends over some 410,000 acres and occurs largely in the states of Puebla, Morelos, Michoacán, Nayarit and Mexico.
The Dominican Republic comes in second in terms of avocado production. Other important avocado producing nations include Peru, Colombia and Indonesia.