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How to Care for Avocado Trees

by Teresa O'Connor

Ever wonder how to grow an avocado tree?


Native to southern Mexico, avocados (Persea americana) are subtropical trees that grow best in semi-humid climates in zones 9 to 11, with temperatures ranging from 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

This makes these trees ideal for California's coastal climate, where the weather stays moderate, and doesn't get too hot in summer. Avocados become less productive in temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Above is a Southern California garden, where an avocado tree grows near a red Japanese maple just starting to leaf out for the spring. The avocado tree has lots of new flowers blooming for future harvests.

Avocado trees grow best in full sun in a fine sandy loam soil with excellent drainage. They won't tolerate heavy, clay soils well. Pick a spot for your avocado tree that is protected from heavy winds, which can cause fruit drop and defoliation. Dig a hole that is as deep as the root ball, and slightly wider on the sides. Gently ease the tree into the hole, as the root ball is fragile.

Don't add manures when planting avocado trees, as the high amounts of salt and ammonia can lead to root burn and tip burn on the leaves, according to University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Water deeply and regularly; let the tree dry out slightly before watering again. To conserve moisture, mulch trees with 3 or 4 inches of coarse wood chips. Always leave several inches between the mulch and tree trunk.

Some experts don't recommend fertilizing avocado trees the first year. After that, use a balanced citrus tree fertilizer, and follow the instructions.

Only prune your avocado to shape the tree and control its size. Avocado trees don't like to be overly pruned, especially when they are producing fruit. You can, however, remove dead branches at any time.

Want to grow an avocado tree, but live in a colder climate? Try growing a Wurz (Little Cado) avocado tree in a container, which can be moved indoors during the winter. Even this dwarf avocado tree will eventually grow about 10 feet tall, according to University of California Orange County Master Gardeners. So, it's probably only a temporary arrangement, but worth a try.

Indoors, place the tree in a south-facing window, which gets plenty of light, and then move the tree back outside when temperatures warm up.

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Incidentally, avocados don't ripen on the tree. Pick avocados at their mature sizes and while still firm. Then let them ripen at room temperatures for a week or two, until the avocados become soft and ready to eat.