3 fun ways to grow avocado trees from seed

You will be surprised how easy it is to grow avocado trees from seed using store-bought avocados.

Plant your avocado seed or pit and watch your avocado plant grow and thrive into an avocado tree.

But you will need to be patient.

Update: Writing this article I planted 3 avocado seeds from store-bought Hass avocados using 3 different methods on July 19, 2021. The image at the top was updated on October 5, 2021 for you to see how the avocado plants have grown in less than 3 months.

If you are impatient you can read the whole progress report here.

Will my avocado plant or tree bear fruit?

The short answer is probably not, despite all the promises and vague maybe’s you see everywhere.

Avocados grow in subtropical climates. The avocado fruits we buy at the supermarket are typically harvested from 7-12 meters tall trees and are often at least five years old.

But there is, of course, always a chance.

If you ask me I think you should start three plants. There are three different and fun ways to grow an avocado tree from the seed or pit of a store-bought avocado.

So why not test all three methods? After all, your chances of getting fruit will increase with more than one plant. You see, avocados are not usually self-pollinators but need a partner. 

How to grow avocado trees from seed

Here in this article, we will learn three different methods. All methods use the same prep work to prepare the pit (or seed) and require very little material or equipment.

The methods are:

  1. Place avocado seed in water using sticks
  2. Plant avocado seed in regular potting soil
  3. Wrap seed in a moist paper towel and store in a plastic bag

Let’s start with the preparation and then move on to the best way of planting the seed or pit for each method.

Learn how to grow Microgreens with an easy to build self watering paper towels system in the article: Growing Microgreens on paper towels at home

1. Preparing the avocado seeds for planting

For all three methods, you start with store-bought avocados. Make sure that the avocados you choose are ripe.

You can test this quickly. While feeling firm in your hand, a ripe avocado will give slightly when gently squeezed. If the avocado feels hard or solid, it is not ripe.

Try to purchase avocados that are grown organically. After all, we are hoping to grow avocado trees that will produce avocados for consumption down the line.

The first four steps below are mandatory. Steps 5 and 6 are optional but will speed up the time it takes for the avocado seeds to germinate or grow roots.

1. Using a knife, cut through the skin around the avocado without touching the pit with the knife. 

2. Next, hold the bottom half of the avocado in the palm of one hand. Place the other hand on the top half and then, with a twist, separate the halves.

3. When the pit is exposed, gently remove the pit (seed) using your fingers or a spoon.

4. Wash the pit in room temperature water. When the pit is clean, place it on a piece of cloth or kitchen towel.

5. (Optional) Using your fingers, gently remove the skin surrounding the pit. To make it easier, you can place the pit in a dry and warm place with no direct sunlight. The skin will dry and crack in 2-3 days, and you can then more easily remove it with your fingers (avoid using your nails).

6. (Optional) To further speed up the process, use a sharp knife to make a small diagonal cut on the top of the pit. The top is the pointy end. If the pit you use is round, the top is the side with no bump or marking.

And there you have it – your avocado seed or pit is ready to go.

Don't forget to squeeze lemon juice over the avocado fruit that is left over. Lemon juice will prevent the avocado from going brown if you plan to use it later that same day. 

2. Planting the avocado seeds 

All three methods listed below work and produce good results.

However, methods 1 and 3 are more fun as we can follow the progress and see how the pit (or seed) develops and changes over time.

And as it can take time for the seed to germinate, the visual confirmation does make a difference. 

It can take 3-4 months for a pit to germinate. But from my experience, it rarely takes longer than 6-8 weeks. And it is not unusual to have roots sprouting within three weeks. 

Method 1: Place seed in water using sticks

Materials needed: one avocado pit, three toothpicks, water, and a glass (jar).

Growing avocado seed in water
Growing avocado plant in a water glass

First, we locate the top and the bottom of the pit. The top is the more pointy end.

If the pit is entirely round, you will find that the top is smoother than the bottom of the pit. Also, the bottom of the pit often has a bump and almost a belly button look. 

Use your thumb and index finger to hold the pit by the top and bottom. 

Next, insert the toothpicks into the avocado pit and space them evenly to create separation between the top and the bottom of the pit.

Fill your glass with room temperature water.

Finally, place the avocado into the glass using the toothpicks to keep the top of the pit dry.

Ensure that the bottom part of the pit is submerged in water.

Place the glass in a warm and light place without direct sunlight. Make sure to keep the water level topped up and replace the water at least every other day.

Method 2: Plant seed in the soil

Materials needed: one pit, potting soil, terracotta or plastic pot, water, and plastic bottle.

Growing avocado plant in soil and homemade greenhouse
The top of a bottle creates a moist greenhouse climate

This method is much more like the traditional planting of seeds, except that we do not want to submerge the entire seed (or pit).

The avocado pit prefers a moist but not wet growing environment. The pit will rot if you water too much. 

Use well-drained soil like a cactus soil mix or potting soil mixed with perlite to create good drainage.

Using plastic pots will help retain moisture if you are planting the seed during summer when temperatures are high.

For other times of the year, I always use terracotta pots as it helps regulate moisture naturally and prevents overwatering.

Water the soil thoroughly and allow excess water to run off, leaving the potting soil wet to moist. 

Next, plant the pit in the soil, leaving ⅓ of the pit exposed above the soil line.  

I am more concerned about overwatering than the occasional mild dry-out. To create the ideal moisture level, I use the top half of a plastic bottle to create my little mini greenhouse.

The plastic bottle will help retain the moisture and it should be sufficient to water once or twice a week.

Place the pot in a light and warm place but avoid direct sunlight. Now and then, tilt the bottle slightly to air out your greenhouse. 

Spraying the pit with water will speed up germination.

Method 3: Wrap the seed in a moist paper towel

Materials needed: one pit, paper towel, plastic bag, water, sharp knife

Germinating avocado pit in wet paper towel
Getting ready to germinate avocado seed in a wet paper towel

This final method is very straightforward.

1. Soak the paper towel in water. Squeeze out the excess water leaving the paper towel wet to moist, not soaking.

2. Wrap the avocado pit in the paper towel and fold it tight

3. Place the towel with the pit inside the plastic bag and fold it to shut

4. Use the knife to cut holes in the plastic bag to ensure air circulation

Place the plastic bag in a light and warm place without direct sunlight.

Make sure that the paper towel remains wet and re-apply water should the paper towel dry out. 

Do not pour water into the plastic bag. 

Instead, remove the paper towel from the plastic bag before you add water. 

3. Caring for the planted pit

Place your planted pits in a warm and light place. To avoid dry outs, avoid direct sunlight and keep the growing environment moist.

For method 1, be sure to keep the water level topped up. Replace with fresh water at least every other day. 

Feel the temperature of the water you are replacing. Try matching the same overall temperature. No need to be exact, but it is better to avoid cold water straight from the tap.

With method 2, you keep the growing environment inside your greenhouse moist. Now and then lift the bottle to air out the greenhouse. 

Use your finger to control the moisture level. The pit will rot if sitting in soil that is soaking wet. 

Using method 3, keep the paper towel around the pit moist but not wet. Do not be afraid to remove the paper towel from the plastic bag. I look at the pit at least once a week and gently roll it up again.

4. Transplanting the avocado plants into pots

With method 2, you plant in soil from the beginning, and nothing much seems to happen until you finally see growth above ground. It takes time, but you do not have to transplant a fragile root system.

Avocado pit planted in soil
Avocado pit planted in soil

The method is effective but not as fun as there is a long wait with no easy way to check progress.

The image above shows a pit that I lifted from the soil when I saw growth from the top.

Method 1 and 3 are, on the other hand, more fun to watch as the seed develops in front of our eyes. And these methods are at least as effective as directly planting the pit in the soil.

Using method 1 or 3 you will need to transplant the avocado pits at some point. You can continue to grow avocado trees with water as the medium. But for me, it makes more sense to use soil.

When transplanting the seeds, use loosely structured potting soil. Think cactus soil mixes or potting soil with perlite for air supply and a looser structure.

Method 1: Removing toothpicks and moving to a pot

Time to move avocado pit from water to soil
Avocado pit thriving in water

With method 1, I transplant the seed into a pot with soil when the avocado plant reaches 7-10 centimeters (2-3 inches). 

It is, of course, possible to wait longer and let the avocado tree develop further. But I find that transplant shock happens more often when I allow the plants to grow for longer.

When I plant the pit in the soil, I use the toothpick marks and an imagined waterline as my guide.

Be gentle when removing the toothpicks, as they tend to get stuck.

Do not bury the whole seed; leave approximately ⅓ of the pit above the soil again.

Again I use a plastic bottle to create a greenhouse effect for the growing plant.

Keep in mind that the pit, until recently, grew in water.

Introduce soil as the new medium gently by ensuring that the potting soil remains moist.

Method 3: From paper towel to a pot with soil

With method 3, I want to see a healthy root system and, if possible, some growth on top before I transplant the pit.

Avocado pits with root system and sprouts
Pits sprouting in wet paper towel

Here I cover the entire avocado pit with soil.

But there is no need to plant the pit very deep. It is enough to cover the pit with a thin cover of soil.

Be gentle, as the root system is fragile and brittle.

5. Transplanting the avocado trees into larger pots

When the avocado plant reaches 25-30 centimeters (10-12 inches), I transplant it into a larger-sized pot or container.

I move the entire contents of the smaller pots into the larger-sized pots. If the plant is pot-bound, I create small tears and rifts in the root system.

A pot-bound plant will have a root system that fills the entire pot, and it needs to be torn and disturbed to help the roots spread and grow in the new larger pot. 

Always observe the soil level when you transplant into a new pot. Do not plant the avocado seedling deeper when moving it to a new and larger pot.

6. Caring for the avocado tree

The avocado tree wants a moist growing environment. But do take care not to overwater the plant.

One trick is to spray the plant lightly with room temperature water once or twice a week. The key is to mist the leaves – do not soak them. And ensure never to spray when the plant is exposed to direct sunlight.

You can also place the pot in a tray filled with water. The water will evaporate and create a moist and humid environment for the plant. 

However, make sure to prop up the pot to ensure it sits above water level. The root system will rot if left to sit in soaking wet soil.

I recommend topping the tree when the plant is established. Topping the plant will encourage the avocado tree to develop a bushier form.

I usually wait for the plant to reach 35 centimeters (14 inches) to top the plant. Cut the plant just above the second pair of leaves counting from the top of the plant. 

Make sure to use a sharp pair of garden scissors for a good and precise cut.

Avocado trees do not like cold weather. We are located in zone 7a, so we cannot keep our avocado plants outdoors year-round. 

This is one reason we grow avocado trees in containers that we can keep outdoors during summer and move indoors during the year’s colder months.

Progress report on how to grow avocado trees

As you may have already seen from the top image, all three avocado seeds have grown and developed into healthy plants.

The photos below show each method’s result after approximately three months has passed.

And if I have to pick which method I prefer, I will give you two answers.

Fun project growing avocado trees with your children

If you are growing avocado trees from store-bought avocados with your children, there is no better method than placing the avocado seed in water using toothpicks.

It is a fun method, and it is easy to track progress. For the best results, choose a bright spot but avoid direct sunlight and extreme heat.

The method I will use going forward

I prefer to use the method where I place the avocado seed in a moist paper towel.

It is easy to follow the progress and the seed develops a healthy root system and a stem to match.

Avocado tree after 3 months when planting seed in water using toothpicks
Avocado seed placed in water

The avocado seed that was planted in water using toothpicks has developed nicely.

The plant is however more "leggy" compared to the other methods.

This comes as no surprise as the seed (and plant) developed in a glass container with full light from day 1.
Avocado tree after 3 months planting avocado seed in soil
Avocado seed planted in soil

The avocado seed that was planted in soil was slow to develop.

For the longest time there was no visible development. The root system was growing but there was no way to know. 

The plant has been the slowest to develop and the least interesting to follow. 
Avocado tree after 3 months placing seed in moist paper towel
Avocado seed in moist towel

The avocado seed that was placed in a moist paper towel looks really heathy with strong and even growth. 

It has also been easy to follow the progress by simply looking once or twice a week. 

Looking back this is my favorite method.

Frequently asked questions

Meet the author: Mattias is an experienced gardener spending most of his free time on his knees among herbs, plants, and garden vegetables. For the past two years, he has been sharing gardening projects and how-to tutorials on the NordicLavender website and YouTube channel.