Avocado trees can grow in Ohio, but …

Forget about serving homemade guacamole

Q: We love avocados. Is there a way we can grow an avocado tree?

Is there ever a chance we’ll get fruit?

• Jeremy from Youngstown

A: Yes, you can grow a tree. But you will probably never grow fruit.

I have personal experience here, but I encourage you to grow a tree. It is a great experience.

Growing up, my parents were plant enthusiasts. We always had house plants and I was quite young when my father showed me how to grow an avocado tree. You can do this, too.

After cleaning the pulp out of the avocado berry (yes, it is a berry), take out the seed and thoroughly wash and dry it.

Avocados are from Mexico and Guatemala, and throughout history, people have improved this product for consumption. In the jungle, the trees reach up to 60 feet, with large, leathery, shiny leaves. One tree fertilizes another to make the 3-to-8-inch wonderful berries we love to eat. They are rather rapid growing in a humid, sunny location.

Now back to the seed. You take three toothpicks and insert them into the upper third of the pointy end of the seed. This is where the shoot will come out. The flat end is where the root emerges.

Fill a glass of water, set it in a sunny window. And position the avocado seed over the top of the glass, with the bottom of the seed in the water. Check on your seed periodically making sure the water level stays the same, and over a few weeks you will see the root emerge first. Then the shoot will emerge.

At this time you can remove the toothpicks carefully, and transplant your seed into a potting medium. Carefully place the seed halfway into the mix. Keep moist, not wet. Soon, you will be tree begins to grow. You will be rewarded with a small leaf or two, as your avocado tree grows.

If you wish to take your baby tree outdoors, you must slowly harden it off. A week in a dense shade introduces it to the outside environment. Moving to shady areas allows it to acclimate to lighter climes and wind. Be sure to keep it moist.

Weeks later, move it into partial sun, and later into the sunny location it is sure to love. It must be brought in before danger of frost, as it will die.

Replant as it outgrows the pot you have it in.

Avocado trees grown for production are grated on rootstocks of trees that are more tolerant of cold soils. Because of the large size of the trees and light requirement, they are difficult to grow unless you have a heated greenhouse. Production from seed is 13 to 17 years.

Other important information: Avocados are poisonous to animals. Dogs and cats have a toxic (making them sick) reaction to the flesh. The flesh, leaves, skin and pit are very poisonous to rabbits, rats, fish, birds, large animals (horses, cows, sheep, goats, etc.), and guinea pigs.

Hughes is an Ohio State University Extension Master Gardener Volunteer.


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