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How to Grow an Avocado Tree Indoors

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There are many reasons people learn how to grow an avocado tree indoors. Your interest may be driven by a love for houseplants and their decorative value or because you’d like to eat your own home-grown avocados someday.

There are no wrong reasons for learning how to grow avocado trees indoors. But you should know early on that if you’re hoping to get fruits out of your indoor avocado tree, it’s unlikely to happen.

Avocado trees take up to ten years to bear fruit, especially when grown indoors, and it’s still not guaranteed that they will bear fruit after all this time. They also require copious amounts of sunlight which are hard to get indoors.

If you hope to see fruits from your indoor tree, consider purchasing a dwarf tree instead of growing it from scratch. But if you just want a nice, cozy houseplant, you might enjoy growing it from its seed.

This guide will teach you how to grow an avocado tree indoors from scratch. You’ll also learn how to care for this tree, whether you’re starting from scratch or starting mid-way with a dwarf tree.

How to Grow an Avocado Tree Indoors

We’ll go over two ways to grow avocado trees indoors. Both methods involve growing the tree from the seed (also called pit or stone) of the avocado fruit.

Method 1: The Toothpick and Water Method

This method involves planting your tree in a glass jar until it develops some roots and leaves, after which you transplant it into soil to grow as a normal tree.

Most people you ask how to grow an avocado tree indoors will teach you this method because it works well, and also because it’s really cool.

Watching your seed grow roots and slowly take on the beginnings of a tree in a glass jar is its own reward. The transparency also helps you track your seed’s progress in real-time as opposed to simply waiting for it to germinate in the soil.

Materials Needed

  • Glass jar
  • Toothpicks (3 or 4)
  • Plant pot with drainage hole (6 to 8 inches wide)
  • Potting mix or well-drained soil
  • Avocado seed
  • Water

Tools

  • Screen or gauze
  • Secateurs (for pruning)

Steps

Step 1 – Wash your avocado seed in water. It’s best to peel the outer covering of the seed because not doing that might cause it to develop mold when placed in water.

Step 2 – Once the seed is clean, insert three or four toothpicks into the pit. You should insert the sticks around the middle or slightly towards the upper part (i.e the narrower end) of the seed.

Ensure you don’t insert the toothpicks into the suture lines running along the seed. Doing so might break open the seed too early.

Step 3 – Suspend the seed over a glass jar using the toothpicks so that only the bottom half (i.e. the broader end) of the seed is inside the jar.

Step 4 – Fill the glass jar with water until about an inch of the seed is covered, then place the jar near a window or some other place with good lighting. Continually renew the water to the same level.

The seed will break open within two to six weeks, sprouting roots and a stem. If the roots don’t sprout in eight to ten weeks, you could discard the seed and try another one.

Keep in mind that there are hundreds of avocado varieties. Some take longer than others to grow, so do some research about the specific type you’re using to know how long to wait.

Step 5 – When the plant is about 7 inches tall, cut the stem down to about 3 inches. This is to encourage the development of much stronger roots that will thrive better in soil.

Step 6 – When the roots are thicker and the stem has leaves again, plant the seed in a pot containing potting mix or humus-rich soil. The soil should also have plenty of coarse sand for good drainage.

Wet the soil or potting mix to moisten it before moving your seed into the pot. Place a screen or gauze over the pot’s drain hole before filling it with soil so some soil doesn’t leak out the hole over time.

It’s best to hold your seed over the pot when filling the pot with soil. Cover the floor of the pot with soil, then fill the space around your plant with soil, leaving the stem and top half of the seed exposed.

Step 7 – Water the soil immediately after transplanting your avocado tree to reduce the chances of transplant shock. However, the soil shouldn’t get waterlogged to prevent root rot.

Step 8 – As your plant grows, water the soil any time it starts to dry and treat it with fertilizer every couple of months.

Step 9 – Transplant your avocado tree to a new pot every time it outgrows the old one, but never use a pot that’s big enough to leave plenty of space around the plant. (More on this later.)

Method 2: Direct Planting

You can grow an avocado tree indoors by planting it directly in the soil, but this method doesn’t get as recommended as the toothpick method. That’s because growing an avocado tree directly in the soil can be tricky, especially when starting from a seed.

Beginners often have trouble deciding how much to water the soil while they wait for it to sprout. This problem is compounded by the fact that the seed often takes a slightly longer time to sprout water-grown avocado trees.

People used to growing avocados in jars sometimes give up and dig out the seed too early because they think it isn’t growing well. Only after removing it do they see that it’s been growing.

While avocado seeds take time to sprout when planted in the soil directly, they grow fast once the seed breaks out a visible stem. This growth is as fast as (and sometimes much faster) than that of avocado trees first grown in a glass jar.

Materials Needed 

  • Plant pot with drainage hole (6 to 8 inches wide)
  • Avocado seed
  • Water
  • Potting mix or well-drained soil

Tools

  • Screen or gauze
  • Secateurs (for pruning)

Steps 

Step 1 – Moisten your potting mix or humus-rich, well-drained soil with water. Ensure the soil doesn’t get soggy with water.

Step 2 – Use a gauze or screen to block your pot’s drainage hole, then fill it with soil.

Leave about an inch between the soil surface and the pot’s rim. This space helps accommodate any displacement caused by the plant’s growth and prevents water from running over the pot’s edge when watering.

Step 3 – Wash your avocado seed and peel the back, then bury the seed bottom-first in the upper part of the soil. The seed bottom is usually broader and flatter than the top, and it often also has a very short, stalk-like base.

Step 4 – Place the pot in a warm environment with good lighting and water it frequently when its moisture reduces. The soil should always be moist, but never soggy.

Roots often sprout within six to eight weeks, but you may not see any activity above the soil for up to 10 weeks. Timing depends on several factors, such as the avocado variety and planting conditions.

Some varieties take more than 10 weeks to sprout a stem even if roots have developed inside the soil.

Step 5 – Continue to water your avocado as it grows, fertilizing it about twice a year. Ensure it gets good lighting.

Step 6 – Transplant your avocado tree into a new pot every time the old pot gets too small for it. Like water-grown avocados, avoid using pots much bigger than the tree.

How to Care for an Avocado Tree Indoors

Avocado trees are long-lived plants that can last many decades once established, depending on the variety you plant. These trees do better outdoors, especially in warmer climates, but they will also do well indoors if you care for them properly.

These trees are easy to care for, but it’s also easy to go wrong when caring for them. Here are things to pay attention to when growing them indoors.

Lighting and temperature

Avocado trees require full sunlight exposure and a fairly constant temperature to grow well, which is why they perform better in the tropics. In colder climates, you can address this need by placing your tree in a location where it receives adequate sunlight.

Consider using indoor plant lighting to augment what it gets from the sun. A full spectrum bulb is the best choice for indoor plants.

You can place your plant lighting anywhere around the plant as long as the lighting is directed towards the plant. However, letting the light shine down from about 5 or 6 inches above the plant is ideal.

Indoors, avocado plants do well when the temperature is between 65 to 85 °F. In cold winter months, consider placing your plant pots on a heating pad or setting your thermostat within this range.

You can turn off artificial lighting and lower the ambient temperature at night to create natural daytime and nighttime cycles for your tree.

Watering

Avocado trees don’t like dry soil, so you’ll need to constantly water your avocado houseplant throughout its life. However, you must take care to never get the soil too wet and soggy.

Avocado trees are prone to root rot. So if the soil is soggy for too long, root rot will set in and destroy your plant.

To ensure you’re only watering when the tree needs it, always let the soil dry slightly before watering again. Use your finger to feel the moisture of the upper soil layers or push a wooden stick into the first inch of the soil.

If the soil remains attached to the stick when you pull it out, the soil is moist enough to not require watering. However, if the soil falls off the stick, the soil is drying out and needs to be watered.

Make sure to check your soil moisture frequently so the soil doesn’t dry out.

Pot type and size

The type and size of pot you house your avocado tree are critical to its survival. Although some people have success planting avocado trees in non-drained pots, your tree is most likely to survive when its container has some type of drainage.

Non-drained pots increase the chances that the soil will get soggy and cause root rot. Pots with drainage opens reduce that likelihood since excess water can exit the soil via the drains.

The size of the pot should also never be too large for the plant. Instead, use a pot that isn’t much bigger than your avocado tree.

A good rule of thumb is to use a container where the plant occupies about two-thirds of the pot. If the plant gets too big for the pot, move it into a slightly bigger pot with the same two-thirds plant to one-third pot space dimension.

It may seem wiser and less taxing to use a bigger pot right away since the plant will eventually grow to fill up the space, but that’s a terrible idea.

Avocado trees have small roots, so a small plant in a big pot won’t be able to use all the water in the soil around it efficiently. The excess water in the soil will cause the root to get soggy, creating the perfect conditions for root rot to set it.

Using small pots and repotting when needed solves this problem.

There are no hard rules about this, but repotting is best done in spring and early fall. Winter is generally tough on avocado trees because of the falling temperatures, so avoid repotting in winter.

Fertilizing

You should fertilize your avocado tree at least twice a year if you want it to grow well. Applying fertilizers is necessary because growing in a restricted space like a plant pot cuts it off from nutrients present in the external ecosystem.

You can fertilize your tree using granular or spray fertilizers formulated for houseplants. Apply spray fertilizer directly on your tree according to the instructions on the package.

Spray fertilizers are more expensive than granular fertilizers, but they help plants absorb nutrients quicker. They also have less salt content than granular fertilizer, which reduces the chance that your tree will suffer from a buildup of excess salt in the soil.

You can also apply granular fertilizers according to the package instructions. You can spread the fertilizer over the soil around your plant or dig two or three-inch holes to pour it in.

If your fertilizer has mycorrhizal fungi, pouring it into tiny holes in the soil helps the fungi get to your plant roots more quickly. Mycorrhizae have symbiotic relationships with plant roots, boosting nutrient absorption and plant resistance.

Pruning

Prune your tree a few times a year to keep it healthy and encourage the growth of newer branches. Cut off leaves that aren’t doing too well and stems that you want to see branch out, but don’t cut off the bulk of your plant’s leaves.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most asked questions about how to grow an avocado tree indoors.

Is avocado a good houseplant?

Yes. While avocado trees take several years to grow, their attractive appearance makes them worth the investment.

Bear in mind that if you have very active pets, this may not be the right tree for you. Avocado trees contain compounds that are toxic for most pets, including dogs.

What is the fastest way to grow an avocado tree?

The fastest way to grow an avocado tree indoors is to purchase a tree and tend to it using the care instructions present in this guide. If you choose to grow your own tree, it’ll take significantly longer before the tree matures.

What is the best avocado tree to grow indoors?

There is no best indoor avocado tree. However, small avocado trees like Gwen and Fuerte are popular varieties in the United States that grow fast.

Can indoor avocado trees bear fruit?

Yes, but the chances of that happening are really slim.

You need to plant the right dwarf tree and tend to it with plenty of care for several years before the tree produces anything viable. If you’re growing your tree from seed, it takes even longer.

Conclusion

Avocado trees are long-lived tropical or sub-tropical plants that prefer growing outdoors but are also capable of thriving indoors. You can grow this plant indoors by purchasing a dwarf tree or grow yours from scratch using its seeds.

Growing an avocado tree indoors takes time, but the result is often worth the wait. It gives your home aesthetic appeal and can last several decades in its lush state if you care for it well.

Now that you know how to grow an avocado tree indoors and the commitment required, you can decide if you still want to go ahead with growing this tree.

If you have questions about growing avocado trees or have extra tips to share, please let us know in the comments.

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