Guacamole and avocado on toast have become summer staples around the world, learning how to grow avocados indoors will make sure you are ready to make this delicious meal anytime you want.
Add to that the fact that avocado is packed with fiber and fat-soluble vitamins and you have an all-round winner on your hands.
Learn how to grow this prized fruit tree indoors and you may end up with your very own homegrown avocado fruits one day.
Where Does Avocado Come From?
Native to Central and South America, Persea americana has a culinary history that dates back nearly 3,000 years and was brought to the Western world by the Spanish conquistadors in the seventeenth century.
Today, two varieties of avocado can be found lining supermarket shelves — the green-skinned Fuerte and black-skinned Hass.
Hass avocados, in particular, are cultivated extensively in California, Florida, and Southern Texas thanks to the ideal, sunny conditions and mild winter lows.
Why Grow Avocados?
For some people, growing their own avocado tree could save on costs in the (very far-away) future, but for most, cultivating avocado is more of a hobby.
Avocado trees grown from a nursery-bought seedling can take up to four years to begin producing fruit, and a seed-grown avocado tree might not bear fruit for more than a decade!
Due to avocado’s delicate nature and need for mild winters, growing this tree indoors in a pot is the best option for most people.
Please keep in mind, though, that the tree will eventually need to be moved outside if you hope to produce edible fruit. Up for the challenge?
Let’s get started with the steps needed to grow an avocado tree indoors!
Indoor Avocados 101
Choosing The Right Avocado Variety For Your Garden
Commercial avocado varieties are the easiest to grow from seed and are also the easiest to get your hands on at your local market or greengrocer’s.
However, as these varieties grow to over 20 feet when mature, you’ll need to have a long-term plan for planting your tree in a sunny location.
A much more indoor- and apartment-friendly option is to opt for a dwarf variety such as “Little Cado,” “Reed,” “Lamb Hass, “Holiday,” or “Gwen.”
Dwarf varieties can most readily be purchased from nurseries in California, Florida, and Texas, but some nurseries will also send these seedlings through the post.
Deciding To Start With A Seed or Seedling
After thinking about the long-term future of your plant and the variety that will most likely work for you, the next decision you have to make is whether you’ll begin your enterprise with an established seedling or by soaking your market-bought avocado seeds in water.
The advantage of using store-bought avocado seeds is that your experiment will be completely free (after downing a delicious avocado or two).
However, if you’re actually wanting to produce edible avocados, nursery-bought seedlings might be your best bet.
How to Grow Avocados Indoors
1. Sprouting the Avocado Seed
Sprouting an avocado seed is easy and fun. All you need to do is wash the seed thoroughly, suspend the wide end over a glass of water by skewering the seed with three toothpicks, and place the glass out of direct sunlight.
One inch of the seed should be submerged in water at all times, so be sure to replace and/or top up the water level to keep your avocado seed nice and moist.
In six weeks or so, you should see a root and stem shooting out of the seed. If nothing has happened after eight weeks, it’s time to toss the seed into the compost and start again with a new seed!
If your seed does sprout, wait until it reaches six to seven inches and then cut it down to three inches in height to encourage the growth of healthy leaves.
When your plant has a decent root system and healthy leaves, it’s time to plant your avocado in a pot.
2. Planting Your Seedling
Whether you begin with a store-bought seed or a small seedling from a plant nursery, the same transplanting principles apply.
The only exception is nursery-bought seedlings that come in a large, sturdy pot with good drainage.
In that case, you should be fine to leave the plant in the same pot.
When planting out your seedling, keep in mind the following:
- Terracotta is the best pot material for growing avocados.
- The pot should be at least ten inches in diameter.
- The pot needs decent drainage holes to prevent root rot.
- Use a loose, sandy potting mix designed for citrus or cacti.
When your pot is ready, dig a hole in the soil as deep as the root system and gently pack the soil around the roots, leaving the top of the seed exposed.
If you’re transplanting a nursery seedling that has become root bound, gently loosen the root ball with your hand before planting the seedling in the pot.
Fill the pot with water until the excess runs out the drainage holes (you might want to place a saucer under the pot to collect the runoff), and set your plant in a sunny south-facing window next to your potted cilantro and other indoor plants.
3. Caring for Your Avocado Tree
Growing a healthy avocado tree depends largely on taking into account its native Mesoamerican conditions and replicating these as much as possible.
Here are some tips for taking care of your avocado tree indoors:
Providing Enough Sunlight and Temperature
In their native habitat, avocado trees are used to having full sunlight during most of the day and tropical temperatures that hover between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you live in an area that experiences cold winters, prepare to bring your potted avocado plants indoors for the winter.
If you live in an apartment and don’t have a garden, choose the sunniest spot in the house for your potted avocado plant and consider investing in artificial lighting.
Avoiding Overwatering Your Avocado Plant
Just like a cactus or aloe vera plant, avocados don’t need much water and can suffer greatly from overwatering.
In the beginning, give your avocado tree a good soak once a week or so and then let it dry out.
Another approach is to only water your plant when the leaves are beginning to curl — a sure sign that it needs a drink.
Yellowing leaves mean that you’re watering your avocado plant too much, so give it a few days to thoroughly dry out before watering your plant again.
Using The Right Fertilizer
In nature, avocados have been known to grow even in volcanic soils and do very well with extra minerals.
Every two months in the first year, apply a small amount of citrus fertilizer (you can easily make your own with straw and manure) and spray the tree with trace elements every two months during spring and summer to encourage the plant to fruit.
The best elements for avocado are zinc, copper, boron, and manganese.
Until your tree begins to fruit, keep the fertilizer at ten percent phosphorus, nitrogen, and potash with six percent of magnesium.
Once the tree starts to fruit, increase to fifteen percent potash fertilizer.
Also see our list of organic fertilizers you can choose from.
Pruning Your Young Tree
After appropriate fertilization, pruning your young avocado tree is one of the most important things to keep in mind during the plant’s first year of growth.
This not only helps the tree to grow more vigorously but also sets the shape of the tree for the rest of its life.
Begin by cutting off the top of the plant just above a growth node when the plant reaches twelve inches in height.
Then, wait for the lateral stems to grow to eight inches or so and prune off the tips where the new leaves are.
Continue pruning in this pattern during the first year of the plant’s growth to thicken the plant and give it a nice rounded shape.
In subsequent years, switch to one good annual prune over the winter months while the plant is dormant and not growing.
Make your life easier with the most dependable pruners in the market.
Signs to Look out while Growing your Avocado
As mentioned previously, yellow leaves are a sign that you’re giving your avocado tree too much water.
Another sign to look out for is a browning of the tips of the leaves, which could indicate a buildup of salt in your pot.
The first problem is the easiest to remedy — simply pull back on the watering and the plant should bounce back.
Resolving the second problem involves changing to rainwater or distilled water rather than tap water for watering your avocado tree.
You might also need to give the pot a good flush out by running distilled water through the entire pot for several minutes.
4. Harvesting Your Avocado Fruit
After years of toil and potentially moving your tree outdoors, your avocado tree is finally beginning to bear some fruit.
Congratulations! It’s normal in the first year of fruiting to have a large harvest and many fruits that fall on the ground.
This is nothing to worry about. When the fruits have turned black (for the Hass variety), pick one or two and sit them in the window to see if they soften (ripe) or shrivel up (unripe).
Continue testing with one or two fruits until the avocados become soft and creamy.
Your avocados are ripe for harvest! Pick as many as you need for your summer salads and leave the rest on the tree — they’ll be there waiting for you to pick as you need them.
Wrapping Up How to Grow Avocados Indoors
Growing an avocado tree indoors does take a lot of patience but can be incredibly rewarding — whether or not it bears fruit.
If your avocado seedlings turn out to be a success, consider sprouting more of these beautiful trees for your family and friends.
They’re sure to be delighted with such a rare and practical gift once you learn how to grow avocados!
Jordan McDowell is a writer and content strategist. He specializes in practically-oriented B2B and B2C content for a number of companies, including Fruit Growers Supply Co.