Friday, January 22, 2016

How To Grow An Avocado Plant from A Pit

Most of us avocado-lovers have at least tried to grow an avocado plant from a pit with 4 toothpicks resting along the rim of a jar of water.  As below:
Courtesy of Wikipedia
Some of us have had luck in that the pit sprouted within about six weeks and we were able to transfer the sprouted pit to a pot of soil and have a "tree" grow in the container.  Some of us faithfully kept the tepid water going and never saw a sprout, ever, until we finally faced the music and threw the fruitless pit away!

The avocado plant was a big hit in the 70s when I was at University.  As I recall, avocados had only fairly recently been introduced as edible fare into our Vancouver mindsets, and we were thrilled and excited by any sort of potted plants that would grow in our cozy apartment windows.  The exotic pit of the avocado suspended over tepid water, broad end down, brought up all kinds of fantasies of producing our own prolific avocado trees, in a container in said cozy apartment.  Then we would, of course, propagate small subsidiary plants for our friends.  And we would enjoy guacamole from thereon in.  Ha ha.

But many people did produce good sized houseplants, so the dream lived on.

Purchase this print by New Yorker's Michael Maslin
However, unless you were living on a plot of farm land in California or other similarly pre-disposed climes, the avocado fruit didn't grow.  Who knew that that was such a complicated process?

Today you can grow the fruit anywhere in a greenhouse if you are diligent, use the right 'root stocks', and know what you are doing.  But growing the fruit from the pit you just tossed out of your guacamole? A little tricker...

However, to grow an avocado plant, a pretty little tree that can grow to a huge tree, or large container plant, is still an accomplishment that will add some greenery to your cozy apartment or deck space.  So, go for it!  Find the general step-by-step instructions below along with some tips about pits that don't sprout and a couple of excellent short youtubes.
  1. Take the pit you just salvaged from the avocado flesh that you used in your recipe (guacamole, avocado-chickpea hummus, etc.) Wash it off with cool water and pat gently dry.  Sometimes the avocado has been refrigerated and the pit will not sprout (although some people claim they always refrigerate their avocados and have no problem sprouting them).  Washing the pit will remove the soft flesh that will mould.  Carefully, with your fingers, peel off the outer skin.
  2. Turn the pit fat-side/broad-side down and stick in about 3 toothpicks about an inch from the bottom so that the toothpicks evenly support the pit over a jar/glass of tepid water.  Fill with water up so one inch of the pit is submerged.  Check daily and keep this level consistent.  
  3. I would suggest that you place the jar in a warm place with adequate sunlight.  On the other hand, some folks suggest placing the container away from sunlight (in a warm cupboard, door shut) until the first sprout.  You could also place a brown paper bag over the jar and keep it on the warm top-of-the-fridge surface until the first sprout (?).  
  4. When the first sprout appears, put it in a sunny or indirectly lighted area and keep water until a good root mass has developed.
  5. Pot and continue to give it good light and water. See the second video for more information around when to transplant from the jar to a pot.
  6. An alternate way to sprout it is to bury the pit in your compost pile (mark its location in some way) and check back in a few weeks.  Dig it up if it is rooted and starting to sprout, and pot.
  7. If you have followed all the above instructions and the pit still hasn't sprouted in 6 months, throw it away.  Start over with a new unrefrigerated avocado pit, if you still have the dream.
Mr. Eastcoast is a little strident, but he appears to be passionate about growing avocado plants and is probably a model of success to learn from. (7 min. Time Lapse)

This short video talks about how to know when to transplant from the water container to the container with soil in it.
The video above shows a possum thoroughly enjoying an avocado that has dropped out of a tree-- some material online suggests that animals today eschew avocado but that prehistoric mammals (like the Giant Sloth) used to eat the avocado whole and propagate the trees through their defecation.  Not sure if this possum did any propagation, or if he/she, indeed, died from ingesting the toxic persin chemical.  The video-maker told me that the pit was gone the next morning.  The rest is mystery!

Don't be put off by the fact that you won't likely grow
an avocado fruiting tree from planting your sprout--
just the process of growing a sprout (or better yet, root stock)
is an exciting venture for anyone, particularly for 
parents, grandparents, and kids who have rarely seen this beautiful
creative process in action!
courtesy of
Have a look HERE at some other plants you can grow yourself cheap or free! 

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