Name: avocado, avocado pear, alligator pear, Persea americana cvs.
Height: typically 5–10m+ with age. Dwarf forms of +/–4m are also available.
Plant type: evergreen, but varies slightly with climate and conditions.
Climate: prefers warm temperate, sub-tropical and tropical regions, however there are varieties available that will tolerate cold to around –5°C.
Soil: prefers deep, well-drained soil, but is adaptable to most soil types except clay. Drainage must be excellent.
Position: full sun, protected from strong winds.
Flowering and fruiting: small yellowy-green fragrant flowers appear in spring. Fruit can take 12 months or more before it is ready to pick.
Feeding: feed regularly with a balanced, controlled-release fertiliser for fruiting trees.
Watering: young trees require reliable watering as they establish. Older trees may need supplemental watering in very dry periods.
As an evergreen tree, the avocado will shed leaves in cold weather or during dry periods. Avocado leaves are large, dark, and glossy green above with a lighter shade underneath. This gives them a very tropical look. Their canopy is generally very dense, providing cool shade.
In warmer regions, an avocado will grow steadily throughout the year. In cooler zones, it'll be more likely to have a couple of obvious growth surges in spring and summer.
Form and size varies greatly with the variety. This can range from 4m high with low branches and a broadly spreading crown to over 10m with a typical tree-like canopy. Make sure you select a variety that will suit your garden.
An avocado tree is a great garden addition for a tropical look, even in cooler zones, and makes a brilliant shade tree once it starts to develop a good canopy. Avocado trees become very handsome, so plant yours where you'll appreciate its appearance.
There are some varieties that are suitable for pots. Just make sure the pot is large and has good drainage holes, and that the variety you select is a dwarf form.
Full sun is a must for avocado. Try to choose a location that is protected from strong winds. Established trees are very hardy, but a tree that remains waterlogged for as little as 48 hours can die, even if it is quite mature.
Soil should be good quality and free draining. Improve average soil with quality compost before planting. If you have clay soil, create a large planting mound above the clay. Avocados will tolerate soil from slightly acid to slightly alkaline. Anywhere from pH 6 to 7 is ideal.
It's important that you select trees that are appropriate for your particular climate zone. Cold-tolerant varieties will have a strong aniseed-like smell to their foliage.
You'll find different varieties described as 'A-type' or 'B-type'. Although avocado is technically self-pollinating, its flowers open at different times of day, switching sex each time they do so. This makes pollination patchy, and is more of an issue in warmer zones. To increase the size of your harvest, plant both an 'A' and a 'B' type tree, as they have opposite opening cycles.
Feed at recommended rates with a quality controlled-release fertiliser that's blended for fruit trees. This avoids generating excessive leaf growth.
Plants should be kept reliably watered while becoming established. Once settled in, additional watering may be required during extended dry periods.
Young trees need to be protected from extreme sun, frosts and strong winds. If necessary, attach a screen of shade cloth to a series of stakes around the tree. If frost is likely, the top can be covered overnight too.
The ideal shape for an avocado is to have a spreading but dense crown. Prune back vigorous central shoots while the tree is still young. Beyond that, pruning will likely be limited to what's needed to contain its size, removing deadwood or branches that are crossing over or congesting the canopy.
The vast majority of problems that an avocado is likely to suffer relate to excess water and fungal disorders. These can be avoided by planting in a location with quality drainage. Adding gypsum and organic matter to the soil will help improve drainage and reduce the likelihood of root rot issues.
Avocados are very easy to grow from seed. Just pop a fresh seed into some quality potting mix with the wider side of the seed facing downwards. Use a pot at least 15cm in size to avoid repotting. It'll be around 10 years before a seed-grown tree bears fruit.
Avocado doesn't grow well from cuttings. Aerial layering can be successful, but this requires an established tree to layer from.
The most successful technique is grafting, but this requires a high skill level and you will need to source appropriate root understock.
If applying fertiliser to the edible parts of plants, delay harvesting for a few days and rinse well before eating. If using products to deal with pests, diseases or weeds, always read the label, follow the instructions carefully and wear suitable protective equipment. Store all garden chemicals out of the reach of children and pets.
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