How Long to Germinate Avocado Seeds

If avocados are a staple in your pantry, try your hand at turning pits into plants.

July 22, 2019



Photo by: Francesco Dibartolo

Francesco Dibartolo

Inside an avocado’s yummy green flesh lies a big, can’t-miss seed. Get it to germinate, and you’ll have a shiny-leafed houseplant that’s equal parts handsome and carefree.

Sprouting an avocado seed is kitchen upcycling at its best. The only skill you need to coax that seed to crack is patience—because it usually takes six to eight weeks to get a sprout. Some sources say avocado seeds grow in two to six weeks, but in most regions it’s a long haul. Embrace the process with that mindset, and you won’t give up too soon, thinking your seed is dead.

The best part of growing your own avocado plant from a pit is that you probably already have everything you need to get started. Follow these simple steps to germinate an avocado seed.

Step 1: Prep Your Seed

Gently rinse the seed to remove any remaining green flesh. If bits of fruit are sticking to the seed, soak it for 10 minutes or so to soften the flesh. Don’t scrub so hard that you damage the brown seed covering.

Step 2: Grab Some Toothpicks

Look at the seed to figure out which end goes up. This is the end where the stem will emerge. Roots grow from the bottom of the seed. The top end is slightly pointier, while the bottom is flatter. The way the seed is arranged inside the fruit gives you a good clue to top and bottom. The top is near the stem end of the fruit. Once you’ve solved the top vs. bottom issue, insert three to four toothpicks around the outer edges of the seed. These toothpicks are going to suspend your seed in a glass of water. Insert them firmly, angling slightly downward.

Step 3: Bring On the Water

The trick to getting an avocado seed to sprout is keeping the bottom of the seed moist. To do this, insert the seed into the top of a drinking glass or small-mouthed jar. Use the toothpicks as a scaffold to hold the seed in the top of the container. Add water so that it covers the bottom half of the seed. The bottom of the seed must stay moist to produce roots, so add water as needed to replenish the reservoir.

Step 4: Wait

Place your seed in a spot that’s warm and bright, but out of direct sunlight. Change the water once a week or anytime it becomes cloudy. Before the seed starts to sprout, the top of the seed dries out, the outer brown covering falls off, and the pit splits open from top to bottom. Eventually, a small root emerges from the bottom of the pit. The root grows first, and a shoot appears later, rising from the top of the pit. Once the root forms, do not let the water level drop. Roots need to be submerged to survive.

Step 5: Prune, Then Plant

When the avocado stem grows 6 or 7 inches tall, cut it back to 3 inches. This causes the plant to branch and become bushy. As new leaves appear, the root will thicken. When the plant is 6 inches tall again, plant the seed in a 10-inch-wide pot with commercial potting soil. Bury the bottom half of the seed; the top half should stick out of soil.

Step 6: Grow and Pinch

Place your potted avocado in a sunny window. When stems grow 12 inches tall, cut them back to 6 inches to promote branching. Follow this pruning pattern each time stems grow another 6 inches. Water frequently enough to keep the soil moist. Don’t allow your avocado to dry out so much that leaves wilt. In summer, move the plant outdoors for brighter light. Bring it indoors before autumn nights drop to 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

Troubleshooting Tips

  • If leaves turn yellow, you may be overwatering. Allow the soil to dry more before watering to avoid drowning the plant.
  • Keep an eye out for aphids. Remove them from plants with a gentle spray of water (outside or in the sink or shower). Spray insecticidal soap or neem oil to keep aphids from returning.

Will It Form Fruit?

The chances that your tree will produce avocados one day are quite small. Germinating an avocado pit is more about the fun of watching what happens and gaining a new tropical houseplant. If you want to raise avocados at home, your best bet is to purchase a tree from a reputable nursery.

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