Why would you want to sprout an avocado seed? Well, the most simple answer: because you can! There are not many fruits and vegetables that are near as fun to grow from seeds as avocados. Some seeds are a real pain to get started. For instance, seeds of peaches, plums, and apricots need to be either subjected to cold stratification or their hard pits broken mechanically before planting.
The tiny seeds of tomatoes need to be cleaned off the slimy pulp, and some seeds with hard seed coats need to be slit and dipped into boiling water or soaked overnight before they are ready to be planted. There are no such hassles with avocado seeds.
Why are avocado seeds easy to sprout?
Avocado seeds are large and easy to handle. In case you’re interested in watching what’s happening as you wait for the seedlings to pop up, you don’t need a magnifying glass.
You can buy avocados almost anywhere and anytime. And every time you cut one open for a dip or a salad, out pops the mammoth seed. Whatever the size and shape of your avocado, you are sure to find a relatively large seed inside (except in “cukes” and cocktail avocados, of course).
How to sprout and avocado seed
Keep in mind that if you are trying to sprout a commercial avocado seed rather than an agricultural quality seed developed by a grower, there are many unknowns, such as how mature the fruit was at the time of harvest, whether it was refrigerated while in storage or if chemicals were used to ripen it.
The key to success is to sprout multiple avocado seeds at a time for better results.
The water and toothpick method
This seems to be a very popular way to sprout avocados, if not necessarily the most successful.
- Wipe the seeds clean or wash them to remove any pulp still hanging around.
- Insert 3 or 4 toothpicks into the seed –not too deep—and suspend it over a glass of water.
- Make sure the flat side of the seed is facing down, and the pointed side is pointing up.
- Adjust the water level so that the flat side is touching the water.
- Keep the glass in a warm and bright place.
- Top up with water when the level goes down, and also completely change the water once a week.
You will be lucky if you see the seeds split in two weeks, but it may take a month or more. Usually, the root starts growing first from the bottom end of the seed and then the stem shoots up through the crack.
When the seedling has 4-5 leaves, pot it up in well-draining soil. Water it liberally every day for a week, and then 2-3 times a week. When pants are 2 feet tall, cut their tops off to encourage branching. Give them as much sun as possible
Direct to soil method
In warm areas where avocado trees grow outside, the seeds from the fallen fruit grow without much fuss. So there’s no harm planting the seed directly in a pot. In fact, some claim that they have better success with the direct to soil method.
- You need a pot of well-draining soil. Slightly acidic (pH between 6 and 6.5) is ideal.
- Loosen up the soil in the pot and water it lightly.
- Wipe the avocado seed clean and press the flat side halfway down into the soil.
- Water liberally and keep in a warm, bright place.
If your seed came from a rounded or oval fruit, it might be more or less spherical, and it might be tricky to identify the top and bottom. Pear-shaped Hass avocados are the most commonly available, so you’re not likely to have this issue.
Some gardeners cut off the pointy tip of the seed before planting, and some scrape off the skin, to accelerate sprouting. That’s not really necessary, but you can try it, especially if you’re planting several seeds.
Also, some completely bury the seed while others keep it halfway above the soil level.
More ways to experiment!
I like to keep the tip above soil level to watch the seed cracking and the seedling peeking out.
As an added bonus, with the direct sowing method, you don’t have to bother about transplanting the seedling.
Now, what’s there to not like about the little avocado seedlings?
When someone proudly shows them off in online plant groups, at least a handful of people would comment “it will not bear fruit,” “it will take years,” or it will not come true to type” etc. All of that is true. However, it’s still worth growing avocado plants from seeds because they make handsome houseplants.
You don’t expect your fiddle leaf fig trees to give you fiddles or figs. Still, they’re nice to have in the house or on your porch. When you grow something from seeds yourself, they’re even more lovable. And, if someone falls in love with growing plants in general because of a seed-grown avocado plant, it’s totally worth it, right?
Seed grown fruit plants usually take years–anything between 6 to 15 years in the case of avocados–to bear fruit, and even then it’s only if the growing conditions are right. Seedlings may grow up to be very different from their parents, as well because of cross-pollination.
Commercial growers use the seedlings as “stock” and graft high quality “scion” on to them to overcome both of the above issues. If you would like to try your hand at grafting, your avocado seedlings can be the best candidates.
Just enjoy your avocado tree
If you live in a warm climate, plant your tree outside. If not, large planters can support avocado trees almost indefinitely. Enjoy their lush green foliage that is so beautiful. And who knows, you might just end up having a tree that bears delicious avocados one day!
-Susan Patterson, CBHC and Master Gardener