A Guide to Growing Avocados

Growing avocados has become popular as gardeners recognise that given the right conditions, growing avocados isn’t too difficult. If you can grow a lemon, you can grow an avocado.

If you plant several varieties, you will increase pollination with better fruit set. As they fruit and ripen at slightly different times, you’ll have a supply for a longer period.

When to plant avocados

Plant your avocado in mid to late Spring when the soil temperature is warmer and the weather is clearer. Due to popularity, there is often a backlog to purchase an avocado tree. Get in early because it is worth the wait!

Where to plant avocados

Site selection is critical to success. Avocados grow best in a sunny spot with well-drained soil. They also need protection from strong winds and frosts, especially when they’re young.

Once established, they can withstand frosts to -2C and are tolerant to salt.

Avocado trees need a bit of room to grow. If you leave them to their own devices, they can eventually grow up to 12m high and 6m wide. Grafted trees will produce fruit after four to seven years.

If you’re short on space, you can grow an avocado in a large pot or container.

If your tree is given the correct nutrients, watered often and is in a sunny but sheltered spot, it will yield fruit, although this will be less than an unrestricted tree. If you’re planning on growing in a pot or container, we recommend that you opt for the Reed variety.

Once you’ve planted, add a thick layer of mulch like Tui Mulch & Feed and water deeply.

Pollination

Avocado trees have an unusual arrangement with their flowering and are classified into ‘A’ type and ‘B’ type varieties. While they can self-pollinate, they’ve developed an odd method of achieving genetic diversity. The plants flowers have both male and female flowers on the tree, but only one gender is active at a time.

‘A’ Type Flowering Pattern (Hass & Reed)

The female opens in the morning of the first day for two to three hours and then closes. The male flower opens in the afternoon of the second day for two to three hours then closes.

Cross pollination of two varieties helps in warmer climates. In cooler climates opening and closing of the flower tends to overlap therefore making them more self-fertile.

Cross pollination should be from a ‘B’ type flowering variety such as – Hashimoto, Bacon or Fuerte.

‘B’ Type Flowering Pattern (Bacon, Fuerte & Hashimoto)

The female part opens in the afternoon on the first day for two to three hours then closes. The male part opens the morning of the second day.

During cooler weather flowering can be delayed and quite erratic. This can mean the opening and closing of the male and female flowering can overlap, increasing rates of self pollination.

When the temperatures are warm, 21C or above the flowering becomes much more regular.

Note: All varieties are self fertile. Weather conditions will play a significant part in the amount of fruit set. If you have issues with fruit setting then planting a mixture of both ‘A’ and ‘B’ flowering types will increase the pollination.

Avocado Varieties

  • Hass – NZ’s favourite, a tasty fruit and heavy cropper. Fruit mature from September to March, ‘A’ type flowering pattern, cross pollinated by Fuerte or Bacon.
  • Reed – Large cannon ball fruit, heavy cropper and nutty flesh. Fruit mature from February to June, ‘A’ type flowering pattern, cross pollinated by Hashimoto, Fuerte and Bacon.
  • Fuerte – Vigorous green skin with some cold tolerance. Fruit mature from September to December, ‘B’ type flowering pattern, cross pollinated by Hass and Reed.
  • Bacon – Smooth skinned green avocado, with fruit maturing July to September, ‘B’ type flowering pattern, cross pollinated by Hass and Reed.
  • Hashimoto – Vigorous green skin avocado with some cold tolerance. Fruit mature June and July, ‘B’ type flowering pattern, cross pollinated by Hass and Reed.

Pruning avocados

There are no set rules when it comes to pruning. You should aim to maximise the amount of light the tree gets and also manage size and shape. Dead wood removal at any time is encouraged. Major structural pruning in Summer should be avoided to prevent sunburn.

Other growing tips

  • Growing avocados requires patience
  • It’s not uncommon for trees to shed their leaves in late Spring especially during flowering
  • Avocados typically follow an alternate bearing pattern. They will have lots of fruit one year and very little the next.

And if you need another reason for growing avocados:

Spiced Chocolate Avocado Mousse Recipe

growing avocados

View recipe

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