Persea americana or avocado is a tree that originates from Central and South America and is now grown around the world in tropical areas for its fruit: the avocado.
The name avocado comes from the Aztec and means testicle. The fruit was known as an aphrodisiac and for its fertility stimulating properties.
The tree grows quite quickly but is not hardy.
This is a plant that should be grown as a patio plant and overwintered indoors. It is pretty fun for kids because the seed is so large,quickly germinates quickly and grows quite rapidly after germination.
Persea americana is a tree that can grow up to 20 m high but usually it is only 10 m high. It is an evergreen but sometimes it loses its leaves before or during flowering; the new leaves are already present though, so the tree is never bald. The trunk is covered with a gray and furrowed bark.
The leaves are alternate. They are 12-25 cm long, oval and dark green.
The flowers are small and green, 5-10 mm in diameter.
The fruit is pear-shaped, ovoid or round, 7-20 cm long, 100-1000 g. It is a berry with dark green or dark brown skin, smooth or warty. The flesh is yellow and creamy. The fruit contains a single seed, 3-5 cm long.
The tree is mainly cultivated for its edible fruit. It is also grown as a shade tree.
Laurus persea, Persea americana var. angustifolia, Persea americana var. drymifolia, Persea americana var. nubigena, Persea drymifolia, Persea edulis, Persea floccosa, Persea gigantea, Persea gratissima, Persea gratissima var. drimyfolia, Persea gratissima var. macrophylla, Persea gratissima var. oblonga, Persea gratissima var. praecox, Persea gratissima var. vulgaris, Persea leiogyna, Persea nubigena, Persea paucitriplinervia, Persea persea, Persea steyermarkii,
Persea: Derived byMiller from the Greek name Περσέα (persea), used by Theophrastus and Hippocrates for an undetermined Egyptian tree
Americana: from the English America with suffix -ana (from America)
Avocado: from the Nahuatl ahuacatl (testicle, referring tot the shape of the fruit)
Tropical areas of Central and South America
USDA zone 9-11, -4 °C. The plant dies above ground at -2 °C.
Nutritious and well drained
Partial shade for young plants: the leaves burn easily in the sun
Needs ample watering and feeding during growing season and will reward you with very fast growth. An avocado tree can grow about 1m in the first year when happy.
Not very drought resistant: it will drops leaves very fast after they turned an ugly brown. Diminish the watering in the winter but maintain humidity in the air, otherwise the leaves will turn brown and drop and you plant will look quite emaciated with a very long naked stem and a couple of minuscule leaves at the top.
Fertilize weekly with universal liquid fertilizer during growing season, monthly during winter
Don’t hesitate to cut your plant, preferably during growing season: it will help keep the plant at a reasonable size as it tends to want to hit the ceiling as fast as possible and cutting the top will force side branches to grow, you will have a bushier plant instead of 1 single (and slender) stem
- remove the seed from an avocado you bought at your local supermarket or grocery store by cutting it in 2 lenght wise. Put the halve containing the seed on the counter and stick a knife in it. Now give a 1/4 turn to the knife, the seed will come out easily. Don’t worry about damaging the seed, it really doesn’t matter. But do mind your fingers!! The seed is very hard and the knife could easily slip from the seed.
- remove the fine brown layer by pushing the knife point under it. This is easier if you leave the seed to dry for 1 day.
- the easiest way of sowing: in a pot with light soil, water, put in a plastic bag and close the bag. This way you won’t have to worry about watering, you can check every once in a while. Even after germination you may leave the baby plant for a while in the plastic bag, he will love you for it and reward you by growing fast.
- the fun way for kids (and big kids): prick 3 toothpicks in the avocado seed as shown in the picture below. Put it on the rim of a glass, beaker or whatever your fancy and fill with water till the bottom of the seed hangs in the water. Be sure to refill with water to maintain its level as the water evaporates.
- if you planted it in soil: when the roots are starting to peek out under the pot, check regularly
- if you tortured it with toothpicks and put it on water: when the roots and some stalk have grown. As long as you don’t let the water go stagnant and smelly, it can like this stay for quite some time: the two halves of the seed provide ample food for the baby plant.
Okay, I admit I must have murdered dozens of avocado’s in my life: forgotten to water them, lost them when moving to a new house, forgotten to put them indoors before frost arrived… I keep fishing the seeds out of the garbage where my heartless family members have thrown them and I keep putting this one in water, that one in soil… It must be one of the cheapest and easiest tropical plants to experiment with (if you eat avocado’s of course), so I admit I’m a little careless with them. This year I’ll be a nice girl, I’ll take care of them. Really, I promise…
This is the seed when you got it out of the avocado:
The same one after I peeled the brown layer. As you notice, it was already germinating inside the fruit
Planted in soil in the lower half of a plastic soda bottle which I’ve cut in 2 pieces.
We put some more soil on top:
And water it:
Then we slide the upper half of the soda bottle over the lower half (I say slide, making it look easy but it takes some swearing and grunting in real life) and voilà… you’ve got yourself a miniature greenhouse for absolutely no money at all. This avocado goes in the garden in a semi-shaded place.
This other one germinated 1 month ago and was going to explode the container, the roots are really too big for the pot and I had to cut it open to repot it.
The seed looks dark brown: that’s actually sunburn. Even without the sunburn, it will turn a darker color, shrivel and disappear in a couple months. When repotting, you may bury it: the plant doesn’t care and personally I think it’s ugly.