Gavin Shoebridge – an electric vehicle nut, a keen environmentalist

                Electric Car Conversion Blog By Gavin Shoebridge

November 19th, 2010 at 11:39 pm

Pollinating Your Avocado Tree

Our Healthy, Four Year Old Avocado Tree

Our Healthy, Four Year Old Avocado Tree

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.

A Typical Avocado Flower

A Typical Avocado Flower

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:

Manually Pollinating an Avocado Flower with a Very Soft Brush

Manually Pollinating an Avocado Flower with a Very Soft Brush

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.

Successful Pollination: A Baby Avocado Emerges

Successful Pollination: A Baby Avocado Emerges

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!

Another Lovely Avocado Growing on the Tree

Another Lovely Avocado Growing on the Tree

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.
Happy growing!

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30
  • Rashid
    2:54 am on April 24th, 2011 1

    How do you avoid growing an avocado from seed and ending up with the bad tree with no fruit? Any tips? :)

  • alvin
    2:51 am on April 25th, 2011 2

    Hi Gavin,

    Thanks for the picture of a very attractive tree. Did you grow it from seed or was it store bought?

    I have grown several trees from seed but none have flowered or borne fruit. Is there anything I could do to help them flower?

    Many thanks,

    Alvin

  • gavin
    5:13 pm on July 8th, 2011 3

    Hi there,
    Our tree was store bought and I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news for you guys: If you grow a tree from a seed, you’ll be looking at about 7 to 10 years before it fruits.

    Therefore it’s always better to “Graft” a tree, which means taking a sprout from an existing tree branch, making it grow roots, then planting it.

    A grafted tree fruits within about 3 years on average. Plant shops only sell grafted trees too, as customers don’t want to wait a decade for lunch! :)

    I think you’ll both have a few years to wait before fruiting. You might even want to cut your losses and buy a young, grafted tree instead.

    Good luck!
    Gav

  • Tom in San Diego
    11:35 am on February 2nd, 2012 4

    Gavin,

    What you described is not grafting. It sounds more like cloning.

    Grafting is when a plant (rootstock) is grown from seed or cloned from another root. Then a cutting (scion) from the desired plant is joined to the rootstock.

  • Sam
    1:09 am on February 12th, 2012 5

    I have a three year old avocado tree in a large pot. I grew it from an avocado pit / seed. The leaves are big and beautiful.Should I transplant it on the ground this spring? Will this tree eventually bear fruit?

  • Geo Fan
    12:19 pm on May 5th, 2012 6

    We have an avocado tree, planted from a sprouted seed, about 25 years ago. It often blooms, at least once every springtime, but never has borne any fruit. I was told that you must have a male and a female plant.

    I look forward to trying this technique. The tree is just now beginning to blossom.

  • Geo Fan
    12:22 pm on May 5th, 2012 7

    Another thing, when the weather is very hot and dry, the leaves do tend to turn brown. We irrigate about once a month.

  • George
    2:09 pm on May 29th, 2012 8

    Thanks for the info! Too late for this year but will definitely try this method at the next flowering season.
    By the way, I think you bought your brush in the local stationEry shop. :-)

  • Rich
    4:22 pm on July 8th, 2012 9

    I have a self pollinating Haas that is in its third year and about 8 feet high. Its large and full, but never flowers…what can i do to change this so it will produce fruit?

  • Gef
    3:10 am on July 10th, 2012 10

    Hi Gavin, and many thanks for this article, it’s very exhaustive and useful. I’ve got 3 avocado plants from seed, 1 week ago I planted one of them, the bigger one (at the oment 30 cm with 6 large leafs on top), into a pot. I would like to know if it is better to leave the plant in full sun (in my garden I have full sun for 10 hours per day, 35° at the moment) or it’s better to prefer penumbra ’till it’ll get bigger ?

    Regards,

    Gef.

  • Adrian
    1:20 am on August 27th, 2012 11

    Thanks Gavin for the information about hand-pollinating Avocado trees/ We have a large Fuerte tree in our garden in Perth, Western Australia and, although we get lots of flowers every year, we rarely get anything more than a dozen or so avocados. We never seem to see many bees around so I’m going to see if following your guide improves our crop.

  • riyadh
    8:26 pm on November 4th, 2012 12

    Hello, can i grow Avocado in Tunisia?? and how to grow a field for about 100 to 200 trees? from where i can get babe plants, its not available here in Tunisia! any help please? and is hass brand is best for our kind of climate!?

  • gavin
    3:02 pm on November 5th, 2012 13

    Hi there, I looked at climate data for Tunisia, and it looks like a Avocado tree’s paradise. Endless sunshine, and no sub-zero temperatures. Perfect for avocados. I don’t know about the brand that is best suited to Tunisia, but “Hass” is very popular in New Zealand.

  • gaylene
    11:53 am on December 6th, 2012 14

    hello

    where would one be able to purchase avocado trees from in NZ.Im situated in the eastern bay of plenty,NZ and would like to start avocado growing.I have looked on other sites but really dont no what im doing

    Much appreciated

  • Rick
    6:47 pm on February 4th, 2013 15

    Growing an avocado from seed is fun and an attractive plant will be the benefit. The problem is that any fruit that are eventually borne by the avocado tree will not be the same genetics of the fruit that the seed came from. All commercial avocados that are in stores came from trees that were grafted to the root system of other avocados. A Hass grafted tree, for example, is the only way to grow Hass avocados. Growing a tree from the Hass seed will produce fruit that may be totally different from a Hass and never the same as the Hass. The most satisfying way to get high quality fruit is to buy a named variety of avocado, grafted to a clonal root system. There are clonal root systems that have been bred to survive well in conditions of root rot, high salinity or other soil conditions that are harmful to avocado trees.

  • Donna
    2:53 pm on March 1st, 2013 16

    If you have a tree that is not bearing fruit, I was taught this secret that sounds crazy but works. Clip a switch off the tree not bearing fruit and beat the heck out of the trunk with the stick and then lean the stick up against the trunk and the next season you will have fruit. The 95 year old farmer that told me that, said \"trees are like women, you have to beat the hell out of them once in a while to make them wake up and do what they were born to do.\" I had an orange tree and a from seed avacado tree I did this to and both bear lots of fruit every year.

  • kennia
    10:41 am on April 7th, 2013 17

    Hi… I read that you said we can help pollinating by hand and a brush … but what exactly do I need to do? do I mix a concoction of something and brush it on the flower? I just bought a house with an Avocado tree in the backyard… :-) all new to this … again – I read that we can help pollinate – but I am confused as to with what??? please help !!! thank you

  • Catherine
    5:41 pm on April 7th, 2013 18

    1. That is awful, Donna. Violent garbage like that should not be repeated as humor just because he was old. I like the elderly and wish everyone can live longer. But the benefit is when they die, so do their nightmarish outdated *sensibilities*. Same will happen to us.

    2. How long does an avocado flower? My Hass has been flowering for about a month. I put a potted Zutano next to it (flowering also). It has been there for weeks. How long does it take? The Hass flowered last year but it did not fruit. But I also did not monitor it. This year I have the time to pay attention to progress. I am going to try the brush method, too.

    3. How long does pollen’s efficacy last? If I swathed male flowers from both the Hass and Zutano and drove to my dad’s Hass 20 minutes away, will the pollen be alright? I figure I can use his own pollen on his own tree, but I figured what-the-hey, it cannot hurt. And it is something I have always wanted to know.

    Thanks to anyone who can answer.

  • Simon
    7:18 pm on July 11th, 2013 19

    I have 11 avocado trees. We love avocados, 1 tree, 28 years old, is about 25 feet high. This tree bore about 300 fruit the year before last, about 7 fruit last year and no fruit this year. I have a beehive directly beneath the tree. Another tree was grown from stone (pip) and is about 38 years old.7 years ago this tree had 6 magic fruit, looked like hass but tasted sweeter. the following year it had 2 fruit, for the last 5 years, no sign of any fruit. The other 9 trees have all been grown from stone (pip) and are all abhout 20 years old. large (more than 20 feet) trees, all flower profusely twice a year (July and November) one tree sets some fruit, but they do not mature. Lovely trees but not for food!

  • Christy
    8:23 pm on July 19th, 2013 20

    I live in Texas, will avocado trees grow here?

  • April Greenough
    4:11 pm on August 20th, 2013 21

    Hi, Great information. I still have avocado’s on my tree from last year and just take them off as I require them. Soon it will be flowering again, do you know if should I be removing all this fruit or is it ok to leave it on? thanks April

  • Laurie
    9:00 pm on October 20th, 2013 22

    Great photo essay Gavin!

    The grafted varieties Hass and Reed are the only reliable self fertile trees.

    The brush technique might be useful to increase the size of the crop on these two, but under NZ conditions, as long as it is relatively warm for about 3 days and nights, fruit will set.

    Trouble is, not so many bees (the main pollinator) fly in overcast conditions, and that is where hand pollination might be a very useful technique. Pollen may be present, but if conditions are windless and beeless, not much pollen may be knocked onto the female part.

    In any case, Hass, the king of avocados, will crop poorly the year after a heavy crop. That\’s just how it is.

    Rather (too!) detailed information on avocado pollination in New Zealand is here:

    http://www.lauriemeadows.info/food_garden/fruit/Avocado_Pollination.html

  • Lisa
    9:52 pm on November 16th, 2013 23

    I started a pip from my Uncle’s 50 year old bacon avocado tree in November 2012 and now my tree in a clay pot with moisture control soil which I planted in June. It is now over 3 ft tall. It is a B tree. So now I need an A tree to pollinate. In my region in So. Cal it seems that a Mexican avocado tree is needed to pollinate.

  • Peter Gabbitas
    6:12 am on January 18th, 2014 24

    I have grown avocados from pips for many years indoors
    I have a plant/bush that us now approx 6feetx6feet and for the first time ever it looks as if it about to flower
    I am really excited and would appreciate any advice on temperature and pollination
    The outside temperature is close to freezing and internally it’s between 12 and 20c
    Will this be a problem for fruiting
    Thanks
    Peter

  • Anita
    8:18 am on January 28th, 2014 25

    H, So if you grow an avocado tree from seed is the fruit (that is not the same) edible? good to eat?

  • Joyce
    8:38 pm on January 31st, 2014 26

    Has anyone successfully grown two advocate trees in the same hole for space saving in urban block. With height control measures like building a sturdy planter box1.5mx1.5m, which contains the roots and elevates to prevent root rot, yet the planter is bottomless. So the natural worm and soil life can happen too.

    What are the cautions or tips for planting multiple avocados in one planting hole?

  • Curious
    11:00 pm on March 25th, 2014 27

    Hi Gavin,
    Could you elaborate on pollinating with a brush.
    You brush the flower in the morning and again in the afternoon when the opposite sex flower is ready, do you shake the pollen off the brush into a container and then reapply in the afternoon or do you just leave whatever pollen adheres to the brush and transfer that?
    Do you transfer between flowers on the same tree or two different trees?
    Do you do this for the month or so that flowers are on the tree or just a several days.

  • Victor
    12:55 pm on May 1st, 2014 28

    Hi Gavin,

    I live in Southern California and I have a 4 year old Hass tree that does not have a lot of leaves and trunk is not as thick as your tree. Its bearing fruit and drops most of it, also the leaves look healthy but like I said there are not many on the tree and are not wide. I can sent a picture if desired. Ahhh and I purchased the tree from a nursery. I’m simple words its a bold skinny tree that does not look sick??

  • jennifer le
    4:39 am on June 21st, 2014 29

    Cool, nice info Gav lots of pics. Did you grow them all from scratch?? I have several trees and so far they have done very well, I have had them for about 13 years and got the first really good crop about 3-4 years ago. I enjoyed reading all your tips, so many thanks.

    thank you for the info, Jennifer.

  • David
    12:38 am on July 25th, 2014 30

    hi. i got an avocado seed from Colombia and is growing on water for the past 20 months. i live in las vegas and i am a little hesitant about my tree making it and giving fruit now that i transfer it to soil. do u have any tips, or advice for me on how to keep it healthy and growing here in las vegas nevada.

 

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