Avocado trees are typically grown in the commercial setting, but also make a lovely addition to the home landscape. If you want to try growing your own avocados, there are several varieties to choose from. However, these trees can get large so experts recommend planting them at least 20 to 30 feet from buildings and trees. If you have limited space, there are dwarf avocadoes available that thrive in our growing area.
Avocado is a member of the Lauracea family that was first imported into Florida in 1833. Classified as an evergreen, this tree produces medium sized to large fruit that has a single seed and a smooth, buttery pulp. While there are several cultivars to choose from, Guatemalan x Mexican hybrids are cold tolerant and grow best in central Florida. “Mexicola,” “Gainesville” and “Brogdon” are all good choices for home gardeners.
When selecting avocado trees for planting, be sure to purchase healthy trees free of pests and diseases. Most avocado trees are grown in 3 gallon containers. Avoid buying large trees in small containers, as these trees are often root bound and do not grow well after planting.
While avocado trees grow well in a variety of soils, they do not tolerate excessively wet or poorly drained soils. When choosing a planting site for avocado, be sure to select an area that does not flood. If you have low-lying areas in your yard, you can plant your tree on a 2 to 4 foot mound of soil to promote drainage. Avocado trees planted in full sun produce the most fruit and grow the fastest.
After planting, there are a few things that you can do to ensure the growth of a healthy, productive tree. New plantings require water every other day after planting for the first 7 days, then once a week for two or three months.
If the summer weather is hot and dry, you will need to water twice a week until the tree is well-established. Be sure to reduce watering frequency when the summer rains begin to avoid overwatering. Experts recommend applying fertilizer every two months during the first year. However, do not exceed 20 pounds of fertilizer in one year.
Florida is well-known for its insect population and there are a few pests that attack avocado trees. Most insect infestations in the home garden are not significant enough to cause reduced production in fruit. Control methods are not recommended until insect populations are large or the tree is suffering damage.
Avocado thrips and red-banded thrips are two common pests of avocado that can affect fruit growth. These tiny insects lay their eggs on the inside of fruit and underneath plant leaves. While the quality of fruit is not affected, the surface is scarred.
Two species of mites are known to attack avocado in our area. Avocado red mites and avocado bud mites are often found feeding on the leaves and buds of trees. Infested leaves can drop prematurely when infestations are heavy. Experts recommend checking your avocado trees for mites in January, February and December.
While there are a few damaging diseases that can affect Florida-grown avocado, most do not require chemical control methods. Cercospora spot, anthracnose, powdery mildew and avocado scab are all fungal diseases that can occur in these trees. Root rot is common in trees growing in wet or flooded soils. Selecting healthy trees at purchase and choosing an ideal planting location is the best way to avoid diseases in avocado.
Avocado fruit does not ripen on the tree but is picked when it’s mature. To determine if your avocado are ready for harvest, pick one avocado from the tree and place it on your kitchen counter. Mature avocado will ripen within 3 to 8 days after harvest. You can leave fruit on the tree for a few days after it reaches maturity, but it will eventually drop from the tree.
Florida-grown avocado typically ripen best in temperatures of 60 to 75 degrees. You can store ripe fruit in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat it. Avocados are highly nutritious and can be eaten raw or used in a variety of recipes for appetizers, salads and dips.