gardenphyllisophyBy Phyllis Galowitz

Lined up on the back of my kitchen sink are ten avocado pits waiting to be rooted. Fortunately, I love to eat avocados, so there’s always one at some stage of development, in a jar, waiting to grow up to be an avocado tree or, at least, a beautiful houseplant. Of course, it will never produce a fruit. Andes’ climate is just not right for that, but the plant is pretty and I keep trying. Avocado plants like the warmth and humidity of the tropics. The kitchen is generally perfect for starting the seed, with the protection of the cabinets keeping it from drafts and near a source of water and away from direct or artificial light.

I place the pit in a glass of tepid water, at least 5″ tall, anchored with toothpicks, pointed end up. It may take a few weeks before you see a root emerge from the bottom. The seed will split. Picture7The root becomes hairy. As long as the water is clear, the seed is healthy. If the water becomes cloudy, start another seed; that one is contaminated. Keep the seed immersed in water at a constant level. As it splits, which may take several weeks, a pale green tendril will shoot up in the air and tiny leaves will form at the top, while the roots develop and grow in the water. When the stem reaches about 7″, cut it back to half its height, or about 3″. This will strengthen the plant. Keep pinching back new growth to give it a nice shape as it adds strength. A fresh shoot will emerge after a week or two. When the new leaves appear and the roots look strong, it’s time to pot it in soil.

Use an 8″ to 10″ pot. Place broken crockery around and over the drainage hole before adding soil. Use a good, humus-enriched mixture and add a well-balanced plant food. Place a support dowel of at least 3′ tall in a pot, an inch or two away from the seed, being careful not to injure the roots. Fasten the dowel to the stalk. Keep more than half of the seed exposed when filling the pot with soil. (The soil will settle when it is watered.) Pour the water from the glass over the seed and use tepid water to pour over the soil until it runs into the plate below the pot, to a depth of 1″.Picture6

Now that the plant has been potted, it should be moved to a place where it will get several hours of sunlight a day, or good, strong artificial light, such as two 100 watt bulbs or a frosted, white fluorescent tube. Keep the plate under the pot wet. Water with warm water only. During the summer, the plant can be placed outside in a protected area, such as a covered porch, to keep the leaves from scorching. Bring the plant indoors before cold nights kill it. Keep it away from drafts and heat sources.

It’s satisfying to start this beautiful plant from the pit contained in the delicious avocado that you just enjoyed for lunch and watch it grow.  ~