There’s a lot of misinformation out there regarding avocado trees. In fact I’ve asked the question, “Do avocado trees pollinate themselves?” many times, while always getting different answers.
Turns out, they do self-pollinate, but they’re a complicated plant, so let’s break the complex stuff down into simple, plain English – which admittedly is one of my strengths.
First off, many varieties will pump out a great crop one year, and a rubbish crop the following year. The climate plays a big part in this cycle. Therefore you should try to keep your tree protected from the cold weather if you can. But you’ll have serious trouble with keeping your tree alive if you live in an area which snows.
Avocados mature on the tree – but then ripen off the tree. They also have to be big and mature to ripen properly. When big enough, pluck you avocados off and store them at room temperature for 3 or 4 days.
They’ll ripen faster if stored with other fruits such as apples or bananas because of the ethylene gas those fruits expel.
As for pollinating, they do it themselves, but they’re strange and complicated things.
The flower that eventually turns into an avocado (if sucessfully pollinated) is both a male and a female!
Depending on which type of tree you have (an “A” type, or a “B” type) the flower will start the day as a female and end the day as a male, or the other way around.
The “A” varieties are: Hass, Gwen, Lamb Hass, Pinkerton, Reed.
The “B” varieties are: Fuerte, Sharwil, Zutano, Bacon, Ettinger, Sir Prize, Walter Hole.
The “A‘s” open as females on the morning of day 1, closing around lunchtime. On day 2 they opening as males in the afternoon.
The “B‘s” open as females on the afternoon day 1, close in the late afternoon. On day 2 they open as males in the morning.
So how do the flowers pollinate?
Well, on our tree they’re helped along by ants. Every time a flower opens on our tree, there’s a handful of ants nibbling at the nectar, helping to pollinate the flower. In your case it might be bees or other insects.
Either way you can give nature a helping hand by manually pollinating the flowers yourself, by using a tiny, ultra-soft paint brush each morning before work, and each afternoon after coming home. This is what I’ve done this year with fantastic results:
For the past two weeks (since flowering began) I’ve been using a feather-soft paint brush from the local stationary shop and brushing the flowers both morning and night. Be very gentle as you do this, because the little flowers are brittle and can snap off.
A few days after flowering, each flower will start to go brown. The ones that have not pollinated will drop off the tree within a few days. The ones that have pollinated however will start to produce tiny avocados underneath the dying brown flower petals (like the picture above).
Want to keep your tree healthy? In that case, whatever you do, don’t over-water it. One of the leading killers for avocado trees is “Root rot”. Avocados don’t mind the dry, and you should only be watering them if it’s been exceedingly dry for longer periods of time. Here in New Zealand that’s not often a problem!
At the end of each summer you should have a lovely bunch of avocados appearing on the tree. Just be careful that hungry insects don’t get at them first!
Concerned that your tree is getting too much water? One easy way to tell is to look at the leaves. Dark brown leaves mean your tree is slowly drowning. If your leaves are going brown lay off the water immediately!
If you want to fertilize your tree, try to use a dry fertilizer such as sheep pellets mixed with “Blood & bone” powder. Mix them together into the top soil above your tree and let the next rain shower do the work for you!
Feel free to leave any tips or tricks in the comments section below.