The Ultimate Guide to Growing Avocado Trees

The Ultimate Guide to Growing Avocado Trees

If you are interested in growing avocado trees, then you’ve come to the right place.

Without exaggeration, this is the most in-depth and practical guide to growing avocado trees that you will find on the internet. The contents of this grow guide are derived from:

  • My own personal experience with growing avocado trees
  • Interviews with the Best Avocado Growers in the United States
  • Guidance from the University of Florida, University of California, University of Hawaii & Penn State

Furthermore, I want to give a special “Thank You” to Tom Siddons from Sleepy Lizard Avocado Farm for doing an exclusive interview with TropicalTreeGuide.com and contributing to this guide.

Tom has invaluable knowledge from his 10+ years of growing 300+ avocado trees in Homestead, Florida. When Tom is not harvesting and shipping his delicious Florida avocados around the country, he can be found on YouTube, where he uploads educational (and entertaining) videos talking about the wonderful world of avocados.

Warning: There is A LOT of information on this page. It’s not called the ‘Ultimate Guide to Growing Avocado Trees’ for nothing 🙂 With that being said, all the information on this page is objective, practical and to the point.

Whether you are here to get a quick answer or wanting to learn everything you can about growing avocado trees, please use the table of contents below to jump to whatever you care about the most 🙂

NoteTropicalTreeGuide.com is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, I may earn an affiliate commission. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Basic Requirements for Growing Avocado Trees

Avocado Tree Climate Requirements

Avocados are considered tropical trees that can be grown in USDA Hardiness Zones 9B – 11.

If you don’t know what your USDA Hardiness Zone is, you can input your zip code into the USDA’s Hardiness Zone Map (they recently changed in 2023). I have also included the latest and greatest map below:

As we can see, the states where we can grow avocado trees generally translates to areas found in Florida, California, Hawaii, Texas, Louisiana, Arizona, and Puerto Rico. And while there are Mexican avocado varieties that are more cold-tolerant and can be planted in Zone 9A (low 20s), it’s generally recommended to stick to Zone 9B+ to decrease the chances of a particularly hard freeze killing the tree.

With that being said, how successful an avocado tree will grow in a particular area (even when located in USDA Hardiness Zones 9B – 11) also largely depends on an area’s relative humidity levels. More specifically, avocado trees tend to thrive in areas with relative humidity levels consistently above 50%.

However, maintaining a minimum humidity level is not as crucial as providing consistent moisture. This is especially important when growing avocado trees in regions with drier climates such as Arizona, Texas, and California (see the ‘Avocado Tree Water Requirements‘ section for more information).

In addition to being in an applicable USDA Hardiness Zone with an appropriate level of humidity, avocado trees should also be planted in areas that receive full sun (6+ hours / day)

Avocado Tree Soil Requirements

Avocado trees thrive in sandy-loam soils that are well-draining

For those growing avocado trees in Florida, the native sandy soil is perfect. However, one should avoid planting avocado trees in clay or clay-loam soils that are poor draining.

Florida Soil is Perfect for Growing Avocado Trees
Florida Soil is Perfect for Growing Avocado Trees

That is because avocado trees do not like having “wet feet” or prolonged exposure to excessive water.

In fact, poor draining soil and the resulting root rot infection is the most common way that I have seen avocado trees die. Unsurprisingly, Tom from Sleepy Lizard also mentioned that root rot is often the biggest (and most preventable) problem that people face when growing avocados.

However, if you are in an area with either a clay or clay-loam soil (California, Arizona, etc.), all hope is not lost. The key to successfully growing avocado trees in these types of soil is digging a hole 2 – 3 feet deep and 2 – 3 feet wide, and most importantly, planting the avocado tree on a mound that is 2 – 3 feet high.

Side Note: Even for Florida Growers, cultivating avocado trees on mounds can also be a particularly beneficial strategy due to potentially having an elevated water table.

The idea behind digging a hole with these dimensions is that we are:

  • Giving the avocado tree’s tap root to grow
  • Providing the young roots with an aerated soil that will allow the roots to breathe
  • Enabling the water to drain through the mound and topsoil/backfill

Additionally, for those with clay-based soils, it’s particularly important to avoid digging into the clay layer.

That is because digging into the clay will create a giant ‘clay bowl’ underground where water can then accumulate and worsen the soil’s already slow drainage. Instead, we want to leave the clay layer undisturbed which will help divert the water away from our avocado trees, reducing the risk of root rot developing.

Water Drainage by Soil Type To Consider When Growing Avocado Trees

Additionally, from a soil pH perspective, avocado trees prefer a soil pH between 6.0 – 6.5. If your soil is more alkaline, you’ll want to use sulfur to lower your soil’s pH. On the other hand, if your soil is more acidic, you’ll want to use lime to raise your soil’s pH.

Alternatively, if you are interested in growing avocados in containers, I outline my recommended soil mixture in the ‘How to Grow Avocado Trees in Containers‘ section of this guide.

Avocado Tree Water Requirements

The most effective way to watering avocado trees is by deep watering” at longer intervals and allowing the soil to dry out in between waterings

A simple and effective trick to knowing whether or not an avocado tree needs water or not is by sticking your finger a few inches deep into the soil. If the soil feels moist, then the avocado tree doesn’t need to be watered. If you don’t want to get your fingers dirty all the time, you can also opt to use a moisture meter

Newly planted avocado trees should be watered twice a week for the first two months, with waterings then dropping down to once a week for another two months

Growing Avocado Trees - Avocado Tree New Leaf Flush
Avocado New Leaf Flush (Image Credit: Big Daddy Fruit Trees)

Once an avocado tree flushes new foliage growth, it is considered established. With that being said, young avocado trees would still benefit from being watered every 1-2 weeks for the first few years of their lives. This is especially important for areas that are currently experiencing drought conditions.

It’s almost important to note that consistent watering becomes more crucial when growing avocados in areas with prolonged periods of low humidity, such as in California and Arizona. A general rule of thumb for less humid climates would be watering our avocado tree every 3 – 4 days; however, always make sure to check the soil moisture prior to watering using either of the methods mentioned above.

Growing Avocados by Seed vs Choosing a Grafted Avocado Cultivar

Growing Avocados From Seed

While it may be trendy to grow avocado trees from seed, it may not be the best idea.

Not only can avocado tree seedlings take upwards of 5-10 years to produce their first fruit, but they also do not grow ‘true to seed.’ In other words, the seed from a Hass Avocado will not yield another Hass Avocado Tree.

That is because an avocado tree seedling is the product of sexual reproduction between the two avocado trees that yielded the fruit. As a result, the fruit from a seedling can taste either better or worse than the original fruit.

However, we wouldn’t know whether or not we have a “winner fruit” until the trees reaches sexual maturity (5-10 years) and is capable of producing flowers and fruit.

In addition to not knowing how the fruit will ultimately taste, growing avocado tree seedlings can also be problematic for those wanting to grow avocado trees in containers. Let me explain.

By the time our seedling tree is ready to flower and fruit, both the canopy and root system will be rather extensive in size. So unless one is committed to continually up-potting our tree into larger and larger containers (we are talking 50+ gallon containers), growing avocado trees from seed can be quite labor-intensive in the long-run.

Choosing a Grafted Avocado Cultivar

When it comes to growing avocado trees, choosing a grafted & known cultivar is usually the better route to take.

Not only do we know the exact fruit that we are getting, but grafted avocado trees also generally begin producing fruit within 1 – 3 years (depending on the pot size).

However, with over 900 varieties of avocados, the question then becomes: which one is the ‘best’ to choose?

Avocados come in all shapes and sizes
Avocados come in all shapes and sizes (Image Credit: Sleepy Lizard Farms)

To answer that question, we have to look at a variety of different factors, including:

To help you decide which avocado cultivar is the ‘best’ for your situation, I’ve created a few summarized tables below that break down and categorize some of the most popular avocado cultivars.

Note: I’m in the process of creating cultivar-specific grow guides (i.e. Hass Avocado, Lula Avocado, Bacon Avocado, etc.) 🙂 So if you want to be notified when I publish these grow guides, you can sign up for our monthly newsletter below:

Avocado Cultivars by Ecological Race (And Cold Tolerance)

Avocado Trees are classified into three ecological races based on their region of origin and adaptation to specific environmental conditions. These races are Mexican, Guatemalan, and West Indian.

Mexican Avocados (Persea americana var. drymifolia) are adapted to subtropical highland climates and are best suited for growing in areas with mild, frost-free climates, such as California, Arizona, and parts of Texas. Mexican Avocados are the most cold-tolerant among the avocado races (20 – 24° F).

Guatemalan Avocados (Persea americana var. guatemalensis) thrive in subtropical to warm-temperate climates and are best suited for areas with warmer conditions, including the southern parts of California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida. Relatively speaking, Guatemalan Avocados are more cold sensitive than Mexican Avocados (26 – 30° F).

West Indian Avocados (Persea americana var. americana) are adapted to tropical lowland climates and are not commonly grown in the continental United States due to their preference for tropical conditions. However, they may be suitable for cultivation in the warmer regions of Florida and southern Texas. West Indian Avocados are the least cold-tolerant race, with a threshold of 32°F.

With this information in mind, here is a table breaking down some of the most popular avocado cultivars by ecological race:

MexicanGuatemalan West Indian
AniseAnaheimCatalina
Brazos BelleBrooksDonnie
BrogdonMalamaDupuis
Fantastic/PryorMeyaHardee
JoeyNishikawaImproved Pollock
Lila/OpalReedLara
Mexicola San MiguelPollock
Mexicola GrandeTaylorRussell
PonchoTonnageSimmonds
Waldin
Avocados by Ecological Race

Additionally, there are also avocado hybrids that combine traits from different ecological races. These hybrids offer cultivars that have a blend of characteristics from Mexican, Guatemalan, and West Indian avocado types.

Here is a table breaking down some of the more popular avocado hybrids:

Mexican
X West Indian
Guatemalan
X West Indian
Guatemalan
X Mexican
Complex
Hybrids
DayChoquetteBaconOro Negro
Indian RiverHallFuerte
KampongHass
LulaWinter Mexican
Marcus PumpkinWurtz
MonroeZutano
Avocados by Ecological Race (Hybrids)

Avocado Cultivars by Season

Below is a table breaking down some of the most popular avocado cultivars by season and individual month (X = In Season For that Month):

Side Note: Some cultivars can span multiple seasons. This is perfectly normal given how avocados have an extended season of maturity. Additionally, this information should be used in conjunction with the details provided in the ‘How to Pick Avocado Fruit‘ section of this guide.

Early Season Avocados (Summer Season)
VarietyMayJuneJulyAugust
DonnieXX
JoeyXXX
DupuisXX
HardeeXXX
PollockXXX
PonchoXXX
SimmondsXXX
BrogdonXX
LilaXX
MexicolaXX
Mexicola GrandeXX
MiguelXX
NadirXX
NesbittXX
RussellXX
BetaX
CatalinaX
FantasticX
Hialeah RedX
LorettaX
Tower-2X
Florida Early Season Avocados
Mid Season Avocados (Fall Season)
VarietySeptemberOctoberNovember
BetaX
BrogdonX
HardeeX
LilaX
LorettaX
MiguelX
PollockX
SimmondsX
Tower-2X
BaconXX
CatalinaXX
SharwilXX
TonnageXX
DayXXX
FantasticXXX
Hialeah RedXXX
Super HassXXX
WaldinXXX
Booth 7XX
Booth 8XX
Brazos BelleXX
ChoquetteXX
Florida HassXX
LulaXX
MalamaXX
Marcus PumpkinXX
HallX
Oro NegroX
WurtzX
Florida Mid Season Avocados
Late Season Avocados (Winter Season)
VarietyDecemberJanuaryFebruaryMarch
Booth 8X
Florida HassX
ChoquetteXX
Lamb HassXX
Oro NegroXX
Winter MexicanXX
WurtzXX
Booth 7XXX
HallXXX
LulaXXX
MeyaXXX
MonroeXXX
KampongXXXX
ReedXXXX
TaylorXXXX
BrookslateXXX
RonnieXX
Florida Late Season Avocados

Avocado Cultivars by Pollination Type

According to the University of Florida, “less than 1% of the flowers on an avocado tree ultimately produce fruit.

That is because, while avocado trees are technically self-pollinating, fruit production in avocado trees is greatly influenced by the presence of other avocado trees nearby. More specifically, we can drastically improve fruit production by planting certain avocado trees together. Let me explain.

Growing Avocado Trees: Swelling Avocado Flower Buds
Swelling Avocado Flower Buds (Image Credit: Big Daddy Fruit Trees)

Avocado trees are classified into two types: Type A and Type B, distinguished by their different flowering patterns.

Type A trees open female flowers in the morning and male flowers in the afternoon, while Type B trees follow the opposite schedule, with female flowers opening in the afternoon and male flowers in the morning. Therefore, to maximize fruit production, it’s beneficial to have both a “Type A” and “Type B” tree planted together.

With this in mind, below is a table breaking down some of the most popular avocado cultivars by pollination type:

Type AType B
ChoquetteBacon
DonnieBeta
DupuisBooth 7
HallBooth 8
HassBrogdon
Lamb HassFuerte
LulaHardee
MalamaKampong
NadirLoretta
NesbittMarcus
ReedMiguel
RussellMonroe
SimmondsPollock
WaldinTonnage
Avocado Cultivars Based on Pollination Type (Type A, Type B)

However, if you only have room for one tree, there are two things we can keep in mind to optimize our fruit yields:

  • If you have a neighbor with an avocado tree, plant a tree that is the opposite type as theirs
  • Consider planting a cultivar that has been observed to set fruit well (regardless of type), such as Taylor, Lula, or Walden

Avocado Cultivars by Fruit Production

As we mentioned in the previous section, an avocado tree’s fruit production is going to vary significantly based on whether there are alternate pollinator types nearby. Therefore, assuming there is an adequate pollinator nearby, the table below breaks down some of the most popular avocado cultivars by fruit production:

  Low Moderate   High
DupuisBrogdonBeta
MeyaDonnieBooth 7
Oro NegroHallBooth 8
PollockMarcusChoquette
_NesbittHardee
RussellKampong
SimmondsLoretta
TonnageLula
Tower-2Miguel
WaldinMonroe
Reed
Winter Mexican
Avocado Cultivars by Fruit Production

Bonus: Delicious Cultivar That Isn’t As Well-Known

When I asked Tom from Sleepy Lizard what variety isn’t as popular to grow but he thinks a lot of people would love, without any hesitation, he quickly answered, ‘Lula.’

While Tom recognizes some of the downfalls of Lula, such as small fruit size, a large pit, susceptibility to scarring, thin flesh, and vulnerability to Laurel Wilt, he also mentioned that every avocado farmer he knows has Lula in their personal backyards! 😃

How to Plant an Avocado Tree in 7 Steps

1. Choosing the Perfect Location for an Avocado Tree

The best time of year to plant an avocado tree is during your particular area’s wet season. In Florida, that translates to the months of May to October, whereas in California, it’s from October to April.

When choosing a location for an avocado tree, there are five primary considerations to keep in mind: 

  • Spacing: Does the tree have enough space to grow?
  • Sun Exposure: Does the location receive full sun (6+ hours / day)?
  • Elevation: Will the location not flood in the event of a normal rain? 
  • Wind Exposure: Does the location provide sufficient protection from high wind gusts?
  • Soil Type: Does the location have a sandy loam soil with good drainage or can easily be planted on a mound? 

If you answered “Yes!” to all the above questions, then it is likely a great location for growing an avocado tree.

Growing Avocado Trees - Catalina Avocado in a Container
Catalina Avocado in a pot (Image Credit: D’s Fruit Trees)

However, I want to take an extra moment to talk about avocado tree spacing. That is because when I chatted with Tom from Sleepy Lizard Farm, he said this is by far the most asked question that he receives.

Tom recommends planting avocado trees 16 feet X 16 feet (the same spacing he does in his grove).

With that being said, Tom also mentioned that the tightest spacing that he would recommend for homeowners (assuming a proper pruning schedule, etc.) would be a minimum of 13 feet X 13 feet.

2. Dig a Hole & Prep the Surrounding Area

Now that we’ve chosen the perfect spot for our avocado tree, it’s time to dig a hole and prepare the surrounding area.

As we discussed earlier in the ‘Avocado Tree Soil Requirements‘ section, we should dig a hole that is 2 – 3 feet deep and 2 – 3 feet wide, with the crucial step of planting our avocado tree on a mound that is 2 – 3 feet high. In areas with clay soil, it’s essential to take extra precautions to avoid digging through the clay layer.

Regardless of our location, it’s advisable to plant our avocado tree on a mound. In Florida, planting on a mound offers extra protection against elevated water tables. Whereas in California and Arizona, planting on a soil mound aids in drainage, helping to prevent root rot.

Furthermore, planting on a soil mound also prevents the tree from sinking below ground level which can lead to the formation of a basin around the tree that can otherwise collect water during storms.

Once we’ve dug our hole, we should prepare the surrounding area. In a nutshell, this just means removing any grass or weeds within 2-3 feet of the hole. This will provide the following benefits:

  • Preventing plants with shallower root systems from stealing water from our young avocado trees
  • Preventing avocado trees from being harmed when landscaping (most landscapers don’t care)
  • Decreasing humidity around the tree leading to decreased disease pressure

3. Prepare the Avocado Tree for Planting

Before placing our avocado tree in the ground, we need to prepare the tree so that it has the best chance of establishing a healthy root system. This involves preparing both the root system and canopy prior to planting.

Preparing the Root System

Before preparing the root system for planting, it’s critical to note that AVOCADO ROOT SYSTEMS ARE EXTREMELY SENSITIVE, AND EXTRA CARE SHOULD BE TAKEN TO AVOID BREAKING UP THE ROOTBALL. Unlike mango trees, avocados do not easily recover if their root system is highly disturbed.

With that being said, if our avocado tree appears to have been recently potted up (a small tree in a large pot), it would be advisable to keep the tree in a pot for a little longer. This is because the root ball may have lost some structure during its most recent transplanting.

As a precaution, it’s best to allow the root ball to ‘heal’ and develop more structure before planting. Once the tree flushes new growth (and that growth has hardened off), it is ready for planting. While it is technically possible to plant a recently potted tree, extra caution should be taken to avoid damaging the young and fragile roots.

On the other end of the spectrum are avocado trees that have been in pots longer than they should have been and have become pot-bound. Classic signs of a pot-bound avocado tree include:

  • Thick roots emerging from the bottom of the pot
  • Roots that have circled around when taken out of the pot.

If your avocado tree has circling roots, they will need to be lightly and carefully root-pruned before planting.

That is because planting an avocado tree with circling roots can lead to continued circular growth, restricting the roots from extending beyond the initial root ball to access essential nutrients and water. This, in turn, significantly increases the risk of stunting the tree for its entire lifespan.

A common mistake when root pruning is simply grabbing and pulling the roots. Not only can this damage the roots, but it can also result in the roots matting up, increasing the chances for infection.

Instead, we’ll want to use a pair of pruning shears that have been sanitized with either alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. When it comes to root pruning, I prefer using needle nose sheers. Given that avocado soil from nurseries often contains a significant amount of sand, which has the potential to dull the shears, I ensure to regularly sharpen them using a blade sharpener

To root-prune an avocado tree, simply remove the tree from the pot and lightly clip any roots that have touched the container. Whatever you do, do not cut into big feeder roots. After root pruning, it’s natural for the tree to experience some shock; this can be mitigated by keeping the tree well-watered.

If we end up cutting a lot of roots, then we’ll also have to prune the canopy back. That is because our tree now has a smaller root system that can no longer support the canopy’s original size. If we don’t cut the canopy back after root pruning, the tree can die. 

Preparing the Canopy

Prior to planting, we can prune the canopy into our desired shape.

As an example, if the avocado tree is long and skinny but we prefer a lower-branching tree, it’s perfectly OK to take off some of the top branches/trunk to promote that structure. I personally prefer promoting lower-branching trees because I have found that they are less susceptible to wind damage and are easier to control in terms of height.

Growing Avocado Trees - Avocado Tree New Leaf Flush
Avocado New Leaf Flush (Image Credit: Big Daddy Fruit Trees)

Additionally, we shouldn’t plant an avocado tree with new/tender foliage growth. That is because the new foliage is more susceptible to wilting, due to increased rates of transpiration, relative to the more mature leaves.

If we want to keep the new growth, that’s OK – we just need to keep the tree in the pot until the new leaves have hardened off. With that being said, it’s perfectly OK to plant a tree with swelling buds.

4. Place the Avocado Tree in the Hole

DO NOT PUT FERTILIZE (ORGANIC, CHEMICAL) IN THE HOLE!

According to the University of Florida:

Adding slow release fertilizer of any type at planting has never been associated with improved or reduced survival. There are only a few documented growth increases associated with fertilization applications made at or soon after planting (Gilman et al. 2000). Response to fertilizer applications at planting is most likely to occur in poor soils, and response is likely to be minimal. Application of slow release fertilizer is not likely to hurt the plant provided it is applied according to the directions on the product. On the other hand, adding soluble fertilizer to a newly installed plant could burn roots if too much is applied. Burned roots will injure the plant and could kill it under some circumstances”

University of Florida

With that being said, every avocado tree that I have ever planted has received three amendments at the time of planting:

  1. Absucular Mycorizhae
  2. Small handful of earthworm castings 
  3. Small cup of Azomite

For more information on why I use these specific amendments, see the ‘How To Fertilize Avocado Trees‘ section of this guide.

When placing a grafted avocado tree in the hole, it’s a good idea to have the graft facing north.

That is because the graft represents one of the weakest parts of the tree and can easily get sun-burned when facing east or west due to the additional sun exposure. Whenever possible, I like to be safe and use a “sunscreen” to prevent the trunk from getting sun burnt by using a product like Plant Guard by IV Organics

After placing the tree in the hole and making sure that it’s straight, backfill the hole with the original native soil.

Afterwords, go around the diameter of the root ball with a screwdriver/stick to remove any air pockets. Then lightly stomp around the diameter of the new tree to help the soil get settled; do not make the soil super compact (roots still need air!).

5. Top Dress the Soil with Compost & Mulch

After the tree is planted, we can take 1 – 2 bags of our favorite compost and top dress the surrounding soil area that we prepared earlier in Step 2. Make sure the compost is at least 6 inches away from the tree trunk (not touching).

At this point, we should put several inches of mulch on top of the compost. This will assist with soil moisture retention and temperature control that will make the soil more attractive for the roots to grow out into.

Additionally, this will also create a mini mulch berm that we can use to more easily deep water our avocado tree.

6. Water the Tree Deeply

Using the mini mulch basin that we’ve created, we can now deeply water the tree. 

Do NOT rely on overhead water from an irrigation system

The technique that I like to use is filling the basin full of water and then letting the water slowly steep into the ground. I will repeat this 3-5 times to make sure that I know I got all the roots wet. It’s that easy 🙂

With that being said, here are some additional tips in regards to watering our tree for the first time:

  • It’s better to plant a smaller gallon avocado tree because they require less water to get established.
  • The best time to plant an avocado tree (or any tree for that matter) is before a thunderstorm because all the surrounding soil will definitely get wet. 
  • If you are watering with a hose, make sure that you are not directly hitting the root ball with water.

7. Continue Watering Tree Until Established

After planting our avocado tree, we’ll want to continue watering infrequently and deeply. 

A good rule of thumb for watering newly planted avocado trees is watering twice a week for the first two months, with waterings then dropping down to once a week for another two months.

A simple and effective trick to knowing whether or not an avocado tree needs water is sticking our finger a few inches deep into the soil. If the soil feels moist, then the avocado tree doesn’t need to be watered. If we don’t want to get our fingers dirty all the time, we can also opt to use a moisture meter

Once the tree pushes out new foliage growth, it is established! However, if we live in an area with ongoing drought conditionsit is a good idea to continue deep watering our avocado trees at least once a week.

How to Fertilize an Avocado Tree

Fertilizing Avocado Trees: General Considerations

Consider Getting a Soil Test

Before fertilizing our avocado trees, it would be a good idea to first get a soil test done in order to gain a better understanding of our current soil nutrient levels. We can get an inexpensive soil test done by contacting our local university extension office.

A soil test is a great investment because the results will give a more accurate picture of how and what we should be fertilizing with. That is because blindly applying fertilizers can result in excess levels of nutrients

While excess levels of nutrients sounds like a good thing, it can actually have a detrimental effect on the health of our avocado tree. That is because excess levels of specific nutrients can result in other nutrients being “locked up” and not being accessible to the tree. Below is a table showing the impact of excessive nutrients on other nutrients:

In Excess… Ties Up…
NitrogenPotassium, Calcium
Potassium (raises pH)Nitrogen, Calcium, Magnesium
PhosphorousZinc, Iron, Copper
Calcium (raises pH, looses soil)Boron, Magnesium, Phosphorous
Magnesium (raises pH, tightens soil)Calcium, Potassium
IronManganese
ManganeseIron, Molybedum

Selecting a Complete Fertilizer with Micronutrients

When selecting a fertilizer, it’s very important to look beyond the 3 large numbers: N-P-K (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium). Ideally, the fertilize that we select should contain secondary nutrients (i.e., Calcium, Magnesium, Sulfur, etc.) as well as a healthy supply of micronutrients (i.e., Boron, Manganese, Iron, Molybdeum, etc.)

Florida’s native soil is deficient in a lot of these minor elements. As a result, selecting a more complete fertilizer will keep our trees better nourished and less prone to certain diseases and malformations. As an example, calcium deficiencies in avocados can result in the edible fruit having a more rubbery consistency as well as increased susceptibility of fruit decay.

In my fertilizer program below, I go over specific products that we can use in order to make sure that our trees are getting the essential nutrients needed for a healthy tree canopy and fruit development.

Avocado Tree Fertilizer Program

Growing Avocado Trees - A lot of Avocados Hanging on the tree

The following avocado tree fertilizer program was designed from a combination of my own knowledge/experience along with specific recommendations from Tom at Sleepy Lizard Farm. 

The goal of this program is to get our avocado trees’ root systems well-established, quickly develop a canopy that can support fruit production & controlling the long-term size of the tree without sacrificing fruit yields

Note: While this fertilizer program is designed for homeowners in Florida, that doesn’t mean that the program/specific products can’t be used elsewhere, but should be taken with a grain of salt. 

The program is split into three phases: 

  • Phase 1 – Newly Planted Avocado Trees
  • Phase 2 – Established Non-Fruiting (Young) Avocado Trees
  • Phase 3 – Established & Fruiting Avocado Trees

After detailing each phase, I will provide an explanation of why I use or recommend the specific products I’ve chosen:

Let’s dive in!

Phase 1 – Newly Planted Avocado Trees

ProductApplication Rate Application AmountSpecific Products
Arbuscular Mycorrhizae PowderOne-Time Only
(In Hole)
Sprinkled InGreat White Premium Mycorrhizae
Arbuscular Mycorrhizae 
Soil Drench
One-Time Only
(Base of Tree) 
Follow Label Instructions 
(Watered In)
(Choose One):
Kangaroots OR Microbe Brew
Earthworm CastingsOne-Time Only
(In Hole)
Very Small HandfulEspoma Earthworm Castings 
(or fresh if you have available!)
AzomiteAt Planting
(6 Inches From Trunk)
1 CupAzomite
Mushroom CompostAt Planting
(6 Inches From Trunk) 
2 Bags / TreeOrganic Mushroom Compost

Phase 2 – Established Non-Fruiting Avocado Trees

ProductApplication Rate Application AmountSpecific Products
‘TTG Special’ 
Foliar Spray
Bi-Weekly
(Tree Canopy)
Min. 70% Canopy Coverage*Recipe in 
Component Description*
Fish EmulsionMonthly
(Base of Tree)
Follow Label Instructions
(Watered In)
Neptune’s Harvest
Granular FertilizerFollow Label Instructions
(Tree’s Drip Line)
Follow Label InstructionsGranular Fertilizer (Choose One):
Citrus Tone (Organic)
 OR
Citrus Gain (Conventional)
OR
Gardenera (Conventional)
Mushroom CompostSemi-Annually
(Tree’s Drip Line) 
2 Bags / TreeOrganic Mushroom Compost
AzomiteAnnually
(Tree’s Drip Line)
1 CupAzomite

Phase 3 – Established & Fruiting Avocado Trees

ProductApplication Rate Application AmountSpecific Products
‘TTG Special’ 
Foliar Spray
Bi-Weekly
(Tree Canopy)
Min. 70% Canopy Coverage*Recipe in 
Component Description* 

Granular Fertilizer
Semi-Annually
(Tree’s Drip Line)
Follow Label InstructionsGranular Fertilizer (Choose One):
Citrus Tone (Organic)
OR
Citrus Gain (Conventional)
OR
Gardenera (Conventional)
AzomiteAnnually1 CupAzomite

Avocado Tree Fertilizer Program (Rationale Behind Each Component Explained)

Growing Avocado Trees - My Recommended Avocado Tree Fertilizers
My Recommended Avocado Tree Fertilizers (Not Pictured: Compost / Citrus Tone / Compost Tea)

Below is an explanation for each of the specific products I’ve chosen for this program:

Arbuscular Mycorrhizae Powder + Soil Drench

Earthworm Castings

‘TTG Special’ Foliar Spray

  • The ‘TTG Special’ Foliar Spray is comprised of 50% rainwater, 50% Aerated Compost Tea, 1 Low Dose Aspirin & 1 TSP of Maxicrop Liquid Kelp.
    • Rain Water
      • Rainwater is free of chloramines (found in city/tap water) that would otherwise kill the beneficial bacteria in the foliar spray. If you don’t have rain water readily available, you can leave the water uncovered at room temperature for at least 24 hours and the chlorine will evaporate.
    • Aerated Compost Tea Solution(Stump Tea)
      • Aerated Compost Tea has beneficial enzymes and bacteria that can boost the tree’s immune system and help protect from common diseases when over 70% of the canopy is sprayed.
      • I include Stump Tea in my foliar spray because I can get it for free/pre-made at my local gardening store. However, if you don’t want to make your own Aerated Compost Tea every other week (can be tedious) feel free to either add this in every few months or not at all. 
    • Low Dose Aspirin
    • Maxicrop Soluble Seaweed Powder (0-0-17)
      • Maxicrop soluble seaweed powder is derived from seaweed and supplies potassium, vitamins, enzymes and more than 60 different minerals that can assist with our tree’s response to environmental stressors including but not limited to: flooding, drought conditions and cold weather. 
      • Note: Buying the powder is much more cost effective than buying the pre-made liquid solution and doesn’t contain any added preservatives.

Fish Emulsion

  • Fish emulsion provides Established Non-Fruiting Avocado Trees with a low dose of immediately available nitrogen in order to speed up the canopy development process. According to a research paper by Scientia Horticulturae, fish emulsion also acts as a “nutrient source for…beneficial microbes.”

Choose One: Citrus Tone 5-2-6 OR 8-3-9 Citrus Gain OR Gardenera 6-6-6

According to the University of Florida:

Fertilizer mixtures containing 6 to 10% nitrogen, 6 to 10% available phosphorus petnoxide, 6 to 10% potash, and 4 to 6% magnesium give satisfactory results with young trees. For bearing trees potash should be increased to 9 to 15% and available phosphoric acid reduced to 2 to 4%. Examples of commonly available fertilizer mixes include 6-6-6 and 8-3-9.”

University of Florida
  • Citrus Tone (Organic)
    • Citrus Tone is a ‘complete’ slow release organic fertilizer provides a balanced amount of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium to Established Non-Fruiting Avocado Trees.
    • While the fertilizer’s guaranteed analysis (5-2-6) is rated slightly below UF’s recommendations, it is 100% organic and also contains calcium/magnesium/suflur as well as a variety of micro-organisms.
  • Citrus Gain 8-3-9 (Conventional) 
    • Citrus Gain is a great conventional fertilizer for Established Non-Fruiting Avocado Trees due to it’s ideal N-P-K ratio as well as added micronutrients (hard to find a synthetic fertilizer that checks both boxes).
    • Tom from Sleepy Lizard applies 5 pounds / tree of 8-3-9 in his grove twice a year (September / February).
      • Note: If you decide to use a conventional fertilizer, it should be noted that applying more than 2 pounds of synthetic fertilizer / 1000 sqft will kill most soil microbes. This is because synthetic fertilizers are made of salts
  • Gardenera 6-6-6 (Conventional)
    • Gardenera 6-6-6 is another awesome conventional fertilizer for both Established Non-Fruiting & Fruiting Avocado Trees. When it comes to growing avocado trees in pots, 6-6-6 is Tom’s Go-To recommendation.
      • Note: If you decide to use a conventional fertilizer, it should be noted that applying more than 2 pounds of synthetic fertilizer / 1000 sqft will kill most soil microbes. This is because synthetic fertilizers are made of salts.

Mushroom Compost

  • Compost (organic material) provides a slow-release food for both the avocado trees and soil microbes.
  • I prefer organic mushroom compost because cow/horse manure can contain herbicides such as Grazon.

Azomite

  • Azomite is a rock dust containing trace minerals and elements that are typically lacking in soil, especially in Florida’s native sandy soil. 
  • Because we are adding these trace minerals and elements back to the soil for our trees to use, our avocados are going to end up being more nutritious as a result.

How to Prune an Avocado Tree

Pruning avocado trees is not an exact science. How we decide to prune our avocado trees is highly dependent on our individual goals (i.e. keeping trees small, maximizing production, aesthetics, etc.).

If you have never pruned an avocado tree because you don’t want to “hurt” the tree, don’t worry. Avocados are highly resilient trees that can greatly benefit from an active pruning regimen. As a general rule of thumb, we can remove between 25% – 30% of an avocado tree’s canopy without impacting next year’s fruit production.

Before we go into the details, it’s important to keep the following pruning best practices in mind:

  • Pruning should only be done once a year after the last fruit has been harvested.
    • For later varieties, we may need to wait until after the danger of a frost has passed
  • Make any large cuts at angles (not parallel to the ground) to prevent water pooling on the cut branches
  • If you can, always try to cut above a branch node
  • If you make significant cuts (like topping), always make sure to protect the newly sun exposed canopy
  • Promote low branching wherever possible to control for size

With that being said, there are three main components to successfully pruning avocado trees:

Avocado Tree Tipping

Tipping our avocado trees is the most powerful thing that we can do to increase our fruit yields.

“Tipping” simply refers to removing the “tips” of the branches. Here is a brief explanation on how it works:

  • Pruning branch tips results in us removing that particular branches primary apical meristem (the part of the branch that is actively growing)
  • The energy flowing to that branch now needs somewhere else to go, so the tree will send the energy to the buds at the end of the branch that was cut 
  • These buds will then create additional branches via new apical meristems

Instead of a single branch, we now have new 3-4 branches. And if we continue to tip those new branches, we can create even more branching and complexity to the canopy. By having significantly more branches, we can exponentially increase the number of flowers that the tree can produce which in turn can increase our fruit yields.

And more fruit = slower growing tree 🙂 

A common rule of thumb is allowing a branch to grow out “two hand lengths” before tipping. However, because people’s hand sizes can vary considerably, a better approach would be tip pruning every 12-16 inches from the last point of branching. 

It’s recommended to tip prune our trees 2 – 4 times a year. The more aggressive that we are with our tip pruning (closer to the four times), the quicker the tree will develop a dense enough canopy that can support fruit production on a consistent basis.

Note: We should allow any new flush that we are planning to tip to first harden off and mature prior to tipping.

Similar to mangos, we should stop tip pruning 4 – 5 months prior to when our avocado tree is expected to bloom. This gives our tree a chance to be dormant and rest prior to flowering. When exactly we should stop tip-pruning varies from cultivar to cultivar.

Finally, and most importantly, don’t overthink it 🙂

Avocado Tree Shaping

There are two primary goals/benefits associated with avocado tree shaping:

  • Creating a healthy canopy
  • Maintaining a desired aesthetic

Let’s talk first about canopy health. Actively pruning our avocado tree canopy is one of the most natural/effective options that we can implement in order to decrease disease pressure.

Common shaping practices that we can implement include: 

  • Removing branches that point back into the middle of the canopy
    • Note: This does not mean creating a “vase-like canopy” similar to what is found with apple and peach trees. I am referring to crossing branches that would otherwise create a dense middle canopy.
  • Removing diseased and dead branches.
  • Removing very-low branches (<3 feet above the ground) that would produce fruit touching the ground.
Growing Avocado Trees - Russell Avocado Tree with a Open Canopy
Russell Avocado Tree with an Open Canopy (Image Credit: D’s Fruit Trees)

By increasing sunlight and air flow into the canopy, we are creating an unfavorable environment for the proliferation of common fungal diseases. This in turn significantly decreases our chances of having to spray our trees in order to maintain high levels of fruit yield

Aesthetically speaking, we want to keep our avocado trees at a manageable height and width. I personally prefer keeping trees short and compact so that I can more easily pick the fruit. This usually consists of:

  • Standing 10 – 15 feet away from the tree.
  • Picking a branch for my desired reference height, grabbing a ladder and pruning off all the branches above that height.
    • Note: I’ll usually go above or below the cut that I made in the previous year but not in the same spot.
  • Seeing which sides are growing more vigorously and prune them back to the desired width.
Growing Avocado Trees - My Favorite Pruning Tools
My Favorite Pruning Tools: Corona Hand Pruners & Pruner Sharpener

As I said previously mentioned, pruning is not an exact science. As long as we are not removing 25% – 30% of the avocado tree canopy, we can still reasonably expect our tree to fruit the next year with no problems.

Avocado Tree Wood Removal

We are not growing avocado trees for the wood, we want the fruit! 

As a result, we should do our best to encourage the tree to have a high leaf-to-wood ratio. We can accomplish this by promoting leaf growth through tipping and removing excess wood. Removing wood is especially important because flower buds will not form on mature wood. 

My Favorite Tool for Removing Wood From Avocado Trees
The Corona Razor Tooth Saw is My “Go-To” Tool for Wood Removal

For homeowners, removing wood is usually the “scariest” part of pruning. However, if our goal is to maintain a small tree, that requires us to make a few “hard prunes” in order to cut out any excess wood.

In addition to keeping our avocado tree small, this will allow for increased sunlight and airflow into the canopy which can result in decreased disease pressure. Additionally, removing wood can boost fruit production by increasing the total leaf surface area exposed to sunlight.

Growing Avocado Trees: Simmonds Avocado with Apical Dominance
Simmonds Avocado with Apical Dominance (Image Credit: D’s Fruit Trees)

Furthermore, we do not want to promote apical dominance (having a single large central trunk). By making hard prunes, we are encouraging our tree to use it’s energy to grow more branches. With that being said, we do not want to prune the tree into an “open-vase” design that is commonly used with peaches and apples.

Instead, we should aim for a complex and complete canopy.

In my backyard orchard, I have personally had success with Dr. Richard Campbell’s recommendation of replacing the entire tree’s canopy over a period of 4-5 years. In practice, this usually translates to removing 1 major scaffolding limb every year. My favorite tool for this is the Corona Razor Tooth Saw.

With this technique, we will end up with a hole in our tree’s canopy. However, don’t worry – the branches will grow back and completely fill that area back in within 1 – 2 seasons. In the meantime, we should be making sure that are providing protection of the now sun-exposed canopy with a product like Plant Guard by IV Organic.

Finally, when making our cuts, DO NOT CUT INTO THE COLLAR. Cutting into the collar may lead to an infection and subsequent decay spreading into the tree’s trunk.

The University of Florida has a helpful diagram on pruning and maintaining trees.

How to Pick Avocado Fruit (What to look for)

Fun Fact: Avocados do not ripen on the tree.

Because of this, after the fruit reaches maturity, the avocado tree essentially acts like ‘nature’s refrigerator,’ providing us with an extended season to enjoy the fruit. In fact, once an avocado has reached maturity, it can technically be left on the tree for another 90 to 120 days. 🤯

Cluster of Avocado Fruits Hanging on the Tree
Cluster of Avocado Fruits Hanging on the Tree
(Image Credit: Incredible Edible Landscapes)

However, it should be noted that leaving avocados on the tree for an extended period after reaching maturity can result in a decline in fruit quality, specifically leading to a dry and mealy texture. So keep this in mind when planning out your harvests 😊

Unlike mangos, mature avocados provide very few visual and aroma-based cues. Instead, we should be looking for the fruit to be full-sized and firm (not rock hard) with a little bit of give.

Nevertheless, certain varieties may exhibit subtle indicators, such as a slight shift in color or a reduction in glossiness. The presence of these cues largely depends on the ecological race of the fruit.

For instance, Mexicola Avocado’s skin can turn black:

Avocados should not be picked too early (when they are rock hard) because they will inevitably shrivel, the consistency will be rubbery, not creamy, and the fruit will ultimately not taste great.

Additionally, fruit that is picked too soon can also show signs of stem end rot, indicated by the top of the fruit turning black, along with a feeling like ‘air’ is trapped in the fruit when pressed. We can decrease our chances of stem end rot occurring by leaving the pedicel (fruit stem) attached to the fruit.

Furthermore, it should be noted that while the presence of black spots can be a sign of natural oxidation, the appearance of large black spots indicates that the fruit has begun to spoil.

Side Note: Despite avocados being rock hard, they do bruise very easily.

While determining a fruit’s maturity can be difficult and require some trial and error, I have developed a repeatable process (regardless of cultivar) that has worked great for me:

  1. Consult the internet (or this guide😉) for a particular variety’s picking period.
    • Fun Fact: Tom from Sleepy Lizard mentioned to me that the biggest fruits on the tree can sometimes be picked 2-3 weeks earlier than what the picking schedule says.
  2. Pull a single fruit off the tree and allow it ripen for 3 – 8 days (at room temperature)
    • Delicately create small indents all around the fruit using your fingers.
      • If you detect a mixture of hard and soft spots, the fruit is not yet ripe.
      • Conversely, uniform softness (not super soft) throughout the fruit indicates that it is ready for consumption.
  3. Taste the fruit – is the taste or consistency off ?
    • If the fruit tastes great, the rest of the avocados on our tree are ready to be harvested
    • If the fruit tastes sour/foul/rancid, wait another month and repeat the process with another single fruit
      • Fruit that are picked too early will often become black/inedible.

After confirming that the avocados on our tree are mature, we can begin developing our ‘avocado pipeline.’ This involves picking some fruit to ripen on the counter for more immediate use while also placing others in the refrigerator to be used later. By adopting this approach, we can ensure a continuous supply of ripe avocados.

Common Avocado Tree Diseases & How To Treat Them

Avocado Scab

Avocado scab is a fungal disease characterized by slightly raised, purplish-brown oval spots on the fruit. As the fruit matures, these spots can merge, forming a pattern reminiscent of a giraffe’s spots. Scab can also cause lesions on the underside of younger tree leaves.

However, because the spots are often small and more likely to occur higher in the tree’s canopy, it can easily go unnoticed. While scab does not directly impact the edibility of the fruit, it can create lesions that may eventually lead to internal fruit rot, rendering it inedible.

Similar to Powdery Mildew, avocado scab thrives in cooler weather with high humidity. As a result, we will want to begin a spray-based prevention program when the tree’s flowers buds begin to swell (but are not open). For a list of fungicide products, see the ‘Anthracnose‘ section.

Anthracnose

Anthracnose is a plant disease caused by various fungal pathogens, characterized by the appearance of dark, sunken lesions on leaves, stems, fruits, or other plant parts.

Anthracnose thrives in warm and wet weather. While it’s not usually a huge problem along the coast, it can be much more of a problem in higher humidity areas like in the Florida interior. 

Cultural practices that we can implement to prevent Anthracnose include:

  • Not overfeeding our avocado trees with nitrogen 
  • Spacing and pruning our trees to maximize air flow and sun exposure
  • Clearing plant growth under our avocado trees (decreases humidity levels)
  • Keeping our avocado trees well nourished (more resistant to infections)

We should be prepared to spray multiple products in order to keep Anthracnose under control. This includes rotating between two main controls:

  • One type of Copper (either copper oxide OR copper sulfate)
    • High quality copper can not be found at Walmart/Home Depot/Lowes (liquid copper or copper soaps are a waste of time and money). 
  • Another Class of Biological Fungicide (that doesn’t include copper); organic options include:

Organic fungicides are much more effective in drier areas near the coast. In more humid areas, one may have to use a synthetic fungicide such as Dithane.

Always follow the specific spraying guidance outlined on the product’s label. The label is the law.

Do not spray copper on open flowers (closed flowers only). Spraying open flowers can sterilize the pollen.

Cercospora spot

Cercospora Spot is a fungal disease that can form on avocado fruits and leaves. It is characterized by the presence of tiny, angular, dark brown spots that enlarge as the disease progresses. On the leaves, there may also be the faintest yellow halo accompanying these spots.

While Cercospora Spot does not directly impact the edibility of the fruit, it can create lesions that may eventually lead to internal fruit rot, rendering it inedible.

Cercospora Spot thrives in high-humidity environments, particularly during the summer months with abundant rainfall. Although the disease primarily spreads through wind and rain, we can proactively control it with the fungicidal products discussed in the ‘Anthracnose‘ section.

Root Rot

Root rot is a fungal disease mainly impacting avocado trees planted in poorly drained soils.

We need to pay attention to root rot because it is one of the most common diseases when it comes to growing avocado trees. Symptoms of root rot include but are not limited to:

  • Leaf Wilting: Leaves may exhibit wilting, even if soil moisture is adequate.
  • Leaf Yellowing: Yellowing of the leaves, starting at the tips and edges, can occur.
  • Leaf Drop: Premature dropping of leaves, particularly in the lower canopy.
  • Twig Dieback: Progressive dieback of twigs and branches.
  • Stunted Growth: Reduced growth and overall stunted appearance of the avocado tree.
  • Reduced Fruit Yield: Avocado trees affected by root rot may produce fewer or smaller fruits.
  • Canopy Thinning: Thinning of the canopy due to loss of branches and leaves.
  • Bark Lesions: Bark lesions may be present near the soil line, often with a dark, sunken appearance.
  • Root Discoloration: Brown or black discoloration of the roots, especially in the feeder roots.
  • Root Rot Smell: In advanced stages, a foul odor may be noticeable from the rotting roots.

Because root rot thrives in poor draining and flooded soil, the best way to treat root rot is through preventative measures. For more information, check out the ‘Avocado Tree Soil Requirements‘ section of this guide.

Powdery Mildew

Powdery Mildew is a fungal disease that presents itself as a white or grayish powdery growth on the leaves, stems, and flowers of plants, inhibiting their growth and photosynthesis.

Powdery Mildew is common during the late fall and early spring. This type of fungus thrives when temperatures are in the 60s-70s, there is high humidity and no rainfall. Powdery Mildew is particularly nasty because it can potentially destroy all of an avocado trees’ blooms and result in no avocados for the year.

Cultural practices that we can implement to prevent Powdery Mildew include:

  • Cutting off parts of the tree that have an active infection (good for small spots here and there, although don’t remove entire canopy if it’s infected)
  • Spraying the tree with water; rain/water is a natural fungicide that removes the fungus from the tree
  • Keeping our avocado tree well-nourished (more resistant to infections)

When it comes to chemical control, copper is not as effective in preventing powdery mildew. Instead, we will want to use a sulfur-based agent. However, it should be noted that sulfur is ONLY a preventative measure and will not have any meaningful impact on an active infection (can’t do anything about an active infection).

One of the products that Alex from Tropical Acres Farms recommends is MilStop.

However, if this is too expensive or if you have only have a few trees, the key is for a product’s active ingredient to be potassium bicarbonate. You’ll want to apply an application when the panicles have emerged and continue in accordance with the label’s instructions until you have fruit set. If you get good coverage, you’ll have fruit set with no powdery mildew. 

Prior to spraying, take a look at the weather forecast over the next few days.

Do not spray if the temperatures are in the high 80s, wind is present, or if there is a chance of rain. Furthermore, sulfur doesn’t dissolve in water unless it’s agitated… so ensure that you have a sprayer that has an agitation mechanism so the sulfur doesn’t just sink to the bottom of your sprayer’s tank.

Laurel Wilt Disease

Laurel Wilt stands out as the most serious and perilous disease in avocado tree cultivation. This affliction is often considered the ‘citrus greening’ equivalent for avocados, as there is currently no cure, and it can swiftly kill trees within a relatively short timespan—ranging from a few weeks to a few months.

In essence, Laurel Wilt is a fungal disease transmitted by the invasive ambrosia beetle. As an infected beetle bores into an avocado tree, the fungus will inoculate itself in the tree’s xylem tissue, the part of the tree responsible for water transport. This sets off a real catch-22.

The infected avocado tree will try to isolate the fungus from spreading; this is an impossible task as the disease easily outpaces the tree’s biological control mechanisms. Consequently, the tree eventually chokes itself to death by blocking off so much xylem tissue that the tree becomes incapable of supplying water to the canopy.

Symptoms of Laurel Wilt in avocados include but are not limited to:

  • Sudden Wilting: Rapid and severe wilting of leaves, often affecting one or more branches.
  • Yellowing of Foliage: Yellow discoloration of the leaves, starting from the tips and edges.
  • Brown Necrosis: Browning and necrosis of the leaf margins and entire leaves.
  • Vein Discoloration: Dark streaks or discoloration along the veins of affected leaves.
  • Rapid Canopy Decline: Quick and noticeable decline in the overall health and appearance of the tree’s canopy.
  • Branch Dieback: Progressive dieback of branches, usually starting from the top of the tree.
  • Reddish-Brown Streaking in Sapwood: When affected branches are cut, reddish-brown streaks may be visible in the sapwood.
  • Fungal Oozing: Sometimes, dark fungal streaks or staining may be observed on the wood, and a reddish-brown, foul-smelling liquid may ooze from entry points.
  • Bore Holes: Tiny, round bore holes on the trunk or branches, often created by the ambrosia beetle as it introduces the fungus.
  • Tree Death: In severe cases, Laurel Wilt can lead to the death of the avocado tree.

According to the University of Florida, “there are no approved fungicide treatments to prevent or cure Laurel-Wilt-affected avocado trees in the home landscape.” As a result, if you know that your tree has become infected, one should remove the tree from their yard ASAP.

When I asked Tom from Sleepy Lizard about the impact of Laurel Wilt on his grove, he mentioned that he generally removes 2-3% of the trees every year due to Laurel Wilt. Interestingly enough, when I asked how this number was so low (I expected a slightly larger number given the spread of the disease in FL), he attributed this to two factors:

  • Tom interplants mango trees as a sort of “buffer” to prevent a rapid spreading in one area.
  • Tom routinely walks/scouts his grove for signs of Laurel Wilt. If he observes symptoms early enough (impacting several branches), he will immediately remove them from the tree and grove.

As a result, we should make sure that we are actively looking for signs of the disease. As early diagnosis and swift treatment in the form of removing impacted limbs can potentially save a mature avocado tree’s life.

How to Grow Avocado Trees In Containers

1. Purchase an Appropriate Container

When selecting a container, the only hard requirement is for the pot to have sufficient drainage.

If I know that I am keeping an avocado tree in a container permanently or for a long time, I will usually opt to keep them in airpots. While they can be a little more expensive, they can help substantially decrease the amount of time that we have to dedicate to root pruning (more on this soon).

2. Create the Perfect Avocado Soil Mixture

Unfortunately, there are no good options when it comes to “ready to use” soil that we can purchase for growing avocado trees in containers. That is because most soil mixtures are designed around maximum water retention.

However, avocado trees need a very well-draining soil. 

Below is my recipe for the perfect avocado tree soil mixture (same that I use for mangos). I use this mixture when I am either potting up avocado trees or am planning to have a particular avocado tree in a container for a long time:

   Component Soil %  Recommend Products
Sand40%Native Sandy Soil From Your Yard
OR Silica Sand 
Peat Moss / Coconut Coir30%Coco Loco OR Happy Frogs
Wood Chips 
(not pine bark)
30%Cedar OR Cyprus Mulch
(Home Depot / Lowes)
How to create your own avocado tree soil

3. Root Prune

When growing avocado trees in containers, we’ll have to root prune every so often to make sure that the root system remains healthy. Otherwise the roots can become circled and girdled.

For more info on how I root prune, please go to the ‘How To Plant an Avocado Tree‘ section of this guide. 

Personally, I do not enjoy root pruning (espeically with avocados).

That is because I don’t particularly like removing large and heavy trees from containers while trying to minimize root ball disturbance. Unfortunately, root pruning is a necessary evil to maintaining a healthy root system when it comes to growing avocado trees in containers. As a result, I usually will opt to spend a little more money for an airpot to minimize the amount of time that I have to root prune. 

The science behind airpots is simple: as the tree’s root tips hit the edge of the container and encounter air, the tips will naturally dry out instead of continuing to grow and circle around the pot. The avocado tree will then respond by producing more fibrous lateral roots, resulting in significantly less circling roots. 

Using airpots has significantly reduced the amount of time that I have spent on root pruning. Which is good for me because I’m usually lazy when it comes to that type of care 🙂

4. Fertilize Appropriately

When Tom from Sleepy Lizard is growing avocado trees in containers, his go-to routine is to apply a small dose of 6-6-6 every 60 days (easy enough to remember!).

For more specific product recommendations, see the ‘How to Fertilize Avocado Trees‘ section of this guide.

How to Transplant an Avocado Tree

It cannot be overstated that extra caution is crucial when transplanting an avocado tree.

According to the University of California, “avocado root systems [are] very sensitive and great care should be taken not to disturb the root system when transplanting.”

The best time to transplant an avocado tree in Florida is between March – May

This is because avocado trees transplant more successfully in warm weather. If we transplant an avocado tree during hot weather in the mid to late summer, disturbing the tree’s feeder roots (which are not as effective while getting re-established) makes the tree more vulnerable to heat and sun damage.

Furthermore, we should avoid transplanting avocado trees between November and February due to a higher chance of temperatures dropping into the 50s, which can put additional stress on the transplants.

For optimal results, it’s recommended to slowly root prune and trim the tree’s canopy over the course of several months before transplanting.

However, if you choose to immediately move the tree (highest chance of killing the tree), you’ll need to, at a minimum, trim part of the canopy a month prior to transplanting in order to reduce transplant shock (we want to avoid subjecting the tree to two stressful events simultaneously). It is crucial to trim the tree’s canopy because the disturbed and reduced root system will not be able to support the original canopy’s size.

Speaking of roots, the ideal scenario involves moving the entire root system with minimal disturbance to the main rootball. However, achieving this is nearly impossible for larger trees without the use of large mechanical equipment, as the “roots of mature avocado trees spread beyond the drip-line of the tree canopy.”

Whether we are root-pruning over the course of several months or immediately moving the tree, our avocado tree will require ample water post-transplanting. Transplanting during the early summer (when the rainy season is starting) can provide the added benefit of keeping the soil moist while the tree is re-establishing itself.

How to Graft an Avocado Tree

My Avocado Tree Grafting Supplies
My Avocado Tree Grafting Supplies

Below are my top avocado tree grafting tips/advice:

  • According to the University of Florida, “[Avocado] grafting is most successful during the cooler months from November through February or March, but can be done from June through March if plant material is available.
  • The easiest type of graft for beginners is the cleft graft.
  • Scions with swelling buds (active growth) are much easier to graft.
  • Only concentrate on lining up one side (graft will still take) One of the biggest mistakes I consistently made with my cleft grafts when I first started was trying to line up both sides… this is nearly impossible to do. Make sure the scions are the same size as the branch that you are grafting onto.
  • When grafting, make sure that you have a knife that is extremely sharp; making clean cuts are critical to grafting. Jagged/uneven cuts will lead to the cambium tissue not lining up precisely. Razor blades will absolutely work, however I like using a FELCO grafting knife for better control. Whatever we decide to use, it’s important to make sure that it is is sterile (hydogen peroxide solution or rubbing alcohol work fine).
  • If we are wanting to graft multiple cultivars on a single tree, we should make sure the cultivars have the same growth pattern or one will eventually dominate the other.
  • Here is a link to the parafilm that I use.
  • Here is a link to the buddy tape that I use.

However, grafting is one of those things that is definitely better with a visual aid. 

Not only do the University of California and the University of Hawaii have some great visual examples, but I’ve also included a helpful video below from Tom’s YouTube Channel that has helped “sharpen” my avocado grafting game as well 🙂

Where to Find Avocado Trees for Sale

I am a firm believer in supporting local nurseries in your area. 

With that being said, I also understand your local nursery may not have the specific avocado cultivar that you are looking for (I’ve been there many times). If that is the case and you are considering order an avocado tree online, there are two reputable nurseries/farms that I feel comfortable with recommending:

Sleepy Lizard Avocado Farm is a farm and nursery run by Tom Simmonds (who contributed to this guide) who grows 300+ avocado trees in Homestead, Florida. Tom also sells avocado fruit from June – January.

Lara Farms is a nursery run by Julian Lara that specializes in rare tropical fruit trees located in Miami, Florida. They have a large variety of avocados available and can ship to anywhere in the United States.

Frequently Asked Questions about Growing Avocado Trees

Are avocado trees easy to grow?

Yes – Avocado trees are easy to grow provided that they are being grown in a climate meeting their basic requirements (for more information, see the ‘Basic Requirements for Growing Avocado Trees‘ section).

What factors should I consider when choosing an avocado cultivar?

Tom from Sleepy Lizard recommends considering the following when choosing an avocado cultivar: Tree Type (A vs B), Cold Hardiness, Harvest Window (Early vs Late) & Flavor.

Are there any dwarf or semi-dwarf cultivars of avocado?

Yes – Wurtz (also known as Little Cado) is an avocado cultivar that has been observed to grow slower and has a shorter maximum height compared to other avocado cultivars.

However, if you are planning on keeping a tree small regardless via proactive pruning, Tom from Sleepy Lizard recommends that you should choose a variety that you enjoy and keep the tree pruned to your desirable height.

How large do avocado trees get?

Avocado trees typically range in height from 30 – 60 feet, with mature trees generally reaching an average height of about 40 feet. However, with a proactive pruning regimen, avocado trees can easily be kept between 10 – 20 feet.

How do I prevent avocado trees from becoming too tall?

To prevent avocado trees from becoming too tall, regularly prune the tree to control its height and shape. Pruning encourages lateral growth, keeping the tree more compact, and can be done during the tree’s dormant season.

Feel free to be aggressive with your pruning! As long as you limit the pruning to removing 30% or less of the canopy, you won’t compromise the tree’s ability to produce fruit in the following year.

Can I grow avocados indoors?

Yes – Avocado trees can technically be grown indoors provided that they are located in an area that satisfies their light/humidity requirements (see the ‘Basic Requirements for Growing Avocado Trees‘ section). However, they are not likely to thrive under these conditions.

What are the best avocados to grow in Florida?

In Florida, the best avocado varieties to grow include the Choquette, Brogdon, Lula, and Monroe. These varieties are well-adapted to Florida’s climate and soil conditions, offering good yields and quality fruit.

Can I grow a Hass Avocado in Florida?

Yes – It is possible to grow Hass Avocados in Florida.

However, Tom from Sleepy Lizard says that the problem with growing Hass in Florida is that the tree does not have enough leaves to prevent the fruit from getting burnt by the intense sun, a result of the proximity to the equator.

If you do want to grow Hass Avocados in Florida, Tom recommends planting them in semi-shaded environment to prevent the fruit from getting sun burnt (yellow splotching) and shriveling up.

What are the best avocados to grow in California?

In California, popular avocado varieties to grow include Hass, Fuerte, Bacon, and Reed.

What is the best tasting avocado?

Everyone has different tastebuds and flavor preferences. The best tasting avocado is the one that you like the most 🙂

With that being said, I personally enjoy Maria Black, Oro Negro and Lula (this is also Tom’s favorite😉).

When is avocado season?

Avocado season generally runs from June – February in Florida and April to September in California.

What is the best size avocado tree to purchase?

The best size avocado tree to purchase depends on your goals.

If you want fruit ASAP, then it’s best to buy a larger tree (7 + gallons). This is the more expensive option. With that being said, I personally prefer buying smaller trees (1 – 3 gallon). Not only are they much cheaper, but smaller trees also tend to establish themselves a lot faster.

That is because they require less water to get established as well as they are able to spread out their roots earlier in their lives. I have observed that smaller trees generally tend to be healthier over the long-term.

Should I plant a “Type A” Avocado with a “Type B” Avocado to help with pollination?

Yes! Planting a “Type A” avocado tree with a “Type B” avocado tree is recommended for effective cross-pollination.

Fun Fact: Many commercial Hass Avocado farms strategically interplant Zutano Avocado Trees, a clever practice stemming from the fact that Hass is a Type A variety while Zutano is Type B. As a result, interplanting different flowering types is a noteworthy strategy for those wanting to maximize their own avocado harvests.

How long does it take for an avocado tree to bear fruit?

How long it takes for an avocado tree to bear fruit depends on whether the tree is grafted or grown from seed.

Generally speaking, a grafted 1 gallon avocado tree can start consistently bearing fruit in 2-3 years. On the other hand, avocado trees grown from seed can take anywhere between 5-10 years before they start bearing fruit.

Why isn’t my avocado tree flowering?

There are many reasons why an avocado tree may not have flowered, including but not limited to:

  • The tree is located in area experiencing drought conditions
  • The tree is not getting enough sunlight
  • There is not enough potassium in the soil

If your avocado tree is getting plenty of water and sunlight, I would recommend switching out your fertilizer to a 0-0-50 mix to make sure that the tree is getting enough potassium.

Moreover, if your avocado tree is a seedling, it may not have reached sexual maturity (typically 5-10 years) and, as a result, is not old enough to produce flowers and fruit.

My young avocado tree has set flowers and has some fruit, what should I do?

Allowing a young avocado tree without a mature canopy to fruit can permanently stunt the tree. 

As a result, if the avocado tree’s trunk doesn’t have a few inches of girth and at least 4-5 feet of canopy spread, let the tree develop small little fruit and then simply twist them off. Do not snap/cut the flowers off – this will only result in the avocado tree using extra energy to flower again.

Can cold weather impact my avocado tree’s flowers?

Yes – Cold weather can adversely affect avocado trees by damaging their sensitive flowers. Frost and low temperatures can lead to flower loss, reduced pollination, and potential fruit drop.

What insects pollinate avocado trees?

Avocado trees rely mainly on bees, especially honeybees, for pollination, although other insects like beetles and flies may also contribute.

When should I stop collecting avocado budwood for grafting?

Avocado budwood is generally available throughout the year, with the highest abundance during the winter when the trees are dormant. It’s advisable to collect budwood during this dormant period for optimal grafting success.

When should I prune my avocado tree?

Avocado trees should only be pruned after the last fruit has been harvested from the tree.

However, Established Non-Fruiting Avocado Trees that are not mature enough to support year-to-year fruit production can be tip-pruned/shaped immediately in order to stimulate growth into one’s desired form.

How often should I water my avocado tree?

How often we should water our avocado tree depends on the maturity/age of the tree:

  • Newly Planted Trees – Deep water twice a week for two months until established
  • Established Trees – Deep water every two weeks (once a week in drought conditions)

Can you graft multiple cultivars of avocado on one tree?

Yes – You can graft multiple cultivars of avocado on one tree.

Why are my avocados dropping?

Avocado trees will often set more fruit than they are able to hold to maturity. As a result, the tree will go through a natural self-thinning process and drop the fruit that it can not support. This is perfectly normal.

With that being said, there are ways to minimize fruit drop including, but not limited to:

  • Decreasing drought stress by irrigating the tree twice a week for the first 6-8 weeks during initial fruit development. Once the fruit have gotten to about the size of a golf ball, we can stop this supplemental irrigation because the fruit have a greater chance of not dropping.
  • Practice good pruning practices and have a great canopy with tons of foliage.
  • Keep our trees nutritionally healthy to prevent nutrient deficiencies and canopy dieback.
  • Manage disease pressure through a proactive spraying regimen.

How do I prevent avocado sunburn?

Avocado sunburn occurs when abrupt changes in growing conditions happen.

To prevent avocado sunburn, gradually acclimate the tree to its new environment. For instance, if the tree was in a nursery with limited sun exposure, introduce it to sunlight gradually: 2-3 hours for the first week, 4-5 hours the next, and 6-7 hours in the following week.

How do I protect my avocado tree from extreme heat ?

To protect your avocado tree from extreme heat, provide ample mulch around the base to retain soil moisture and regulate temperature. Additionally, one can shield the tree from intense sun by using a shade cloth or planting companion plants nearby to reduce direct exposure to intense sunlight during peak heat periods.

What is the biggest avocado myth of all time?

This was my favorite question that I asked Tom from Sleepy Lizard, both for his answer and how he responded 😂

He mentioned that leaving the avocado pit absolutely does not prevent the fruit from browning. He went on to emphasize that the only foolproof way to prevent an avocado from turning brown (oxidizing) is by tightly wrapping it in cling wrap.

Final Thoughts

This ultimate guide to growing avocado trees took a very long time to write, edit and fact-check. 

If you found anything in this guide helpful,  please consider sharing. It helps support the website 😊

Thank you for reading 😃

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Matthew Rowlings

I have an Associates Degree in Biology from the University of Florida and am also an active Florida Master Gardener. I am located in Central Florida (Zone 10A) and have 6+ years of experience with growing 20+ types of tropical trees. You can learn more about me and why I started Tropical Tree Guide on my about page.

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