Grow avocados in florida

Avocado

Already well known as a delicious and healthy fruit, avocados are seeing a surge in popularity lately. People are going wild for guacamole, and avocado toast is being served in trendy restaurants.

But it’s not always easy being green; the laurel wilt disease has the potential to hurt Florida’s avocado industry. The fungal pathogen, spread by tiny beetles, is responsible for killing more than 13,000 commercial avocado trees in South Florida since 2012. But scientists are racing to find solutions to this disease, and as a home gardener the risk may be worth the reward of growing your own guacamole ingredient in the backyard.

There are many varieties of avocado. The varieties best for growing in South Florida are commonly called Florida avocados or green-skin avocados. These are not the dark green ‘Hass’ avocados grown in California; Florida avocados are bright green and have lower fat and calories than their California counterparts.

Characteristics

Avocados (Persea americana Miller) are classified into three groups or “races”: West Indian, Guatemalan, and Mexican. The avocados we grow here in Florida are West Indian types; this group sets fruit early in the season. Guatemalan-West Indian hybrids and Guatemalan types set fruit later in the season. The first table in the UF/IFAS publication “Avocado Growing in the Florida Home Landscape” can provide you with more information on these avocado groups.

Florida’s avocado trees grow to be between 30 and 65 feet tall. These trees are classified as evergreens, although some varieties lose their leaves for a short period of time before and during flowering. The tree’s canopy can range in shape from low, dense, and symmetrical, to upright and asymmetrical.

There is variation in the shape and size of avocado fruits. West Indian types are recognizable by their smooth, bright green skin, and the hybrids (Guatemalan x West Indian) have smooth to slightly bumpy skins. Winter Mexican types grown in Florida are quite small and have a dark, wrinkled peel. Because of their lower fat content you may have seen Florida avocados marketed in the store as a “slimcado”. Besides the benefit of having less calories, a lower fat content means that when cut up, Florida avocados hold up a bit better. This makes them a great choice for using sliced or diced in salads or tacos. The taste of these avocados varies, with some varieties very mild (even bland) to many with a nutty flavor. Some people prefer the taste over that of the ‘Hass’ avocado; UF researcher Edward “Gilly” Evans describes Florida avocados as far more flavorful.

Planting and Care

You can’t discuss avocado trees without discussing laurel wilt. This deadly disease kills tree species in the laurel family (Lauraceae), of which avocado is a member. Laurel wilt is caused by a fungus that is introduced to the trees by several species of beetles. This disease is currently threatening the avocado industry in Florida, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider planting a tree in your backyard. If you’re in an area where avocados are not being commercially grown, it’s most likely that you can safely grow avocados in your landscape. Be sure to only purchase avocado trees from registered nurseries. For more information, see the latest news from UF/IFAS on avocados.

As a rule, avocado trees do best in areas of Florida that don’t freeze. There are a few moderately cold-tolerant varieties like ‘Choquette’ or ‘Booth 8’ that can be grown with good site selection and freeze protection.

When purchasing avocado trees you should know that they are divided into groups. Varieties are classified into A and B types, depending on the time of day flowers are open for pollination. Type A varieties have flowers that are receptive to pollen in the morning and shed their pollen in the afternoon. Type B varieties have flowers that shed pollen in the morning and are receptive to pollen in the afternoon.

Varieties will also differ on whether they set fruit with self-pollination (meaning you need only one tree) or cross pollination (meaning you would need two different tree types). Varieties that set fruit well when planted alone are ‘Waldin’, ‘Lula’, and ‘Taylor’. On the other hand, the varieties ‘Pollock’ and ‘Booth 8’ need a type A tree planted in the same area. The intricacies of avocado varieties can become a bit complex—if you want to dig a little deeper, you can check out “Avocado Growing in the Florida Home Landscape.”

It can be a fun experiment to try and sprout a seed from an avocado in your kitchen, but this project isn’t likely to provide you with a tree that grows tasty fruit. Trees grown from seed may take four to ten years to flower and fruit. For desirable fruit, grafted avocado trees from registered nurseries are best. (If you want to learn more about grafting, an excellent resource is the book Propagating Fruit Plants in Florida, available from the UF/IFAS bookstore.)

When looking for a tree, try to find one that is about 2 to 4 feet tall in a 3 gallon container. Don’t worry if your tree seems small; they grow fast. Grafted avocado trees will begin to produce fruit after three to four years. Trees should be planted at least 23 to 30 feet away from buildings and electrical wires, as well as other trees to ensure that they receive enough sunlight.

When choosing a planting location for your tree, there are a few things to keep in mind. Avocado trees can get quite big if unpruned; to keep a tree under 15 feet, a few judicious pruning cuts each year are necessary. Limbs can be broken by strong winds or heavy crop loads. And finally, these trees don’t tolerate flooding or poorly drained soils.

Did you know that avocado fruits don’t actually ripen on the tree? Avocados ripen between three and eight days after being picked. Still, it can be difficult to determine just when to pick green avocados from the tree. Generally speaking, if you see fruit dropping you can assume the tree is ready to be picked. You don’t need to harvest all fruits at the same time; you can pick them as you need them. Be aware though, as the season progresses, the fruit will eventually drop off the tree. Florida avocados will ripen best when it’s over 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit outside. “Avocado Growing in the Florida Home Landscape” includes a table showing the general time period various avocado varieties can be harvested.

With avocados being so in vogue at the moment, why not try growing them if you have the space?

UF/IFAS Publications

  • El Aguacate en Florida (en Espanol)
  • Avocado Growing in the Florida Home Landscape
  • South Florida Tropicals: Avocado

Also on Gardening Solutions

  • Tropical Fruits

Garden Help: Avocados might grow here, but there are a lot of ‘buts’

Based on the calls coming into the office, local nurseries have avocados for sale. This has prompted a lot of calls asking if we can we grow avocados in Jacksonville? The answer to that question is complicated.

When I first moved here, folks told me avocados were not cold hardy and would not grow in this area. However, I found one along the river in a protected microclimate in the Arlington area that was flourishing. Whenever I needed a cutting for teaching plant identification, I knew where to go. That was in the past and that tree is no longer there.

The bad news about avocados is that they are in the same family (Lauraceae) as our native redbay. Both are susceptible to laurel wilt disease, a fungus that clogs the flow of water in the tree causing wilt and death. The disease is transferred to trees by the redbay ambrosia beetle, a tiny beetle measuring 2mm or 0.08 inches long. This beetle carries the spores of the fungus as it bores into the tree. They are considered “fungus farmers” as the beetles and their larva feed on the fungus while in the tree.

Most ambrosia beetles attack stressed trees, but this one is an exception and attacks healthy trees. If the beetle is not carrying the disease causing fungus, it will likely not kill the tree. Other plants that are susceptible to the disease are swampbay and sassafras, and it has also been found in camphor trees.

Back to the question: Can we grow avocados in Jacksonville?

Chances are good that the avocado will be infected and killed, so you are taking a huge risk. Yes, there are varieties that are considered to be cold hardy. There are three distinct races of avocado – West Indian, Guatemalan and Mexican. The Mexican race is the most cold hardy, followed by Guatemalan with West Indian having the least. West Indian race has high salt tolerance and because of this trait is often used as a rootstock.

Mature avocado trees reach 30 to 60 feet tall, so they require lots of room. Non-grafted varieties will take up to 10 years to bear fruit, so purchase a grafted variety to speed up the process. Grafted trees begin to produce in three to four years, but only 1 percent of flowers will produce fruit. Mexican and Mexican hybrid types may withstand temperatures in the low 20s and include varieties such as Brogdon, Ettinger, Gainesville, Mexicoloa and Winter Mexican. Some of these are available at area nurseries.

If you decide to take a chance and plant one of these, select a site that is in full sun away from buildings and power lines in the warmest part of the landscape. Plant in an area with good drainage and do not add compost or organic matter to the planting hole; stick with native soil.

Water as needed to get established and fertilize with a quarter pound of fertilizer every one to two months during the first year. Most of the recommendations are for the more tropical areas of Florida and it would stand to reason that trees should not be given nitrogen fertilizers going into winter months in our area. Fertilizers with a 6-6-6-2 or 8-3-9-2 ratio are recommended with numbers representing nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium-magnesium.

As the tree matures, fertilizer applications can be divided into three to four applications and rates never exceed 20 pounds per tree per year. When trees are bearing, increase the potassium rates to 9 to 15 percent and reduce the phosphorous rates to 2 to 4 percent. Applications of micronutrients also are recommended.

There is a good publication that provides more detail to variety selection, care and pest/disease problems (edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mg213). However, this was written before laurel wilt disease surfaced. University of Florida researchers have tested Florida varieties for susceptibility to this disease and all of them are susceptible. While all are susceptible, there appear to be some differences in disease severity.

Avocado growers are advised to avoid pruning trees and to scout weekly for signs of the disease. If trees are infected, burning is the best means of control. Insecticidal sprays using permethrin with a spreader sticker applied twice 15 days apart and then rotating with malathion sprays will offer some control to adult beetles before they enter the tree. Growers have also received a special permit to use a fungicide to combat the fungus, but research is still under way to determine the efficacy of the product.

The bottom line: If you want to try growing avocados in our area, go for it, but don’t bet the family farm that you’ll get a return of fruit on your investment. Maybe down the line, researchers will come up with resistant varieties or techniques to battle this deadly disease.

Terry Brite DelValle is a horticulture extension agent with the Duval County Extension Service and the University of Florida/IFAS.

Zone 9 Avocados: Tips On Growing Avocados In Zone 9

Love everything with avocados and want to grow your own but you live in zone 9? If you’re like me, then you equate California with growing avocados. I must watch too many commercials, but do avocados grow in zone 9? And if indeed there are avocados suited for zone 9, what varieties of avocados trees will do best in zone 9? Read on to find out about the possibility of growing avocados in zone 9 and other information about zone 9 avocados.

Do Avocados Grow in Zone 9?

Avocados are not native to USDA zone 9, but yes, they will definitely grow there. There are 3 types of avocado: Mexican, Guatemalan and West Indies. Of these, Mexican varieties are the most cold hardy but not salt tolerant, and Guatemalan comes in a close second for cold tolerance and is somewhat salt tolerant. West Indies avocados are more commonly found growing in Florida, as they are the most salt tolerant and least cold hardy.

So when choosing zone 9 avocados, look for Mexican or even Guatemalan avocado varieties, hardy in USDA zones 8-10.

Varieties of Mexican avocado trees for zone 9 include:

  • Fuerte
  • Mexicola
  • Stewart
  • Zutano

Guatemalan types of avocado for zone 9 include:

  • Bacon
  • Hass
  • Gwen
  • Little Cado
  • Reed
  • Pinkerton

While Guatemalan doesn’t handle frost as well as Mexican avocados, they do handle it better and are more likely to be commercially grown and shipped.

Growing Avocados in Zone 9

Avocados do not like boggy soil, so select an area for your tree with well-draining soil. They are tolerant of a wide range of soil types, however. If you live in an area that is prone to lower temps, plant the tree on the south-face of a building or underneath overhead canopy.

If your goal is fruit production, be sure to select a site in full sun with at least 6 hours per day. Remove any weeds prior to planting. The best time to plant avocados is in March through June.

Mature avocado trees only need watering every other week and often even less, but when they are young, be sure to water them deeply once a week. Once the tree is planted, add 6-12 inches (15-30 cm.) of mulch around the base of the tree, keeping it away from the trunk.

Depending upon the variety, it may take 3 years or longer to see fruit. Some types of avocado are ripe in the fall and some in the spring. Oh, and there is a good reason I think California when I think avocado – 90% of them are grown in that region.

Patience: The Key to Avocado Fruit

Taylor A Ritz

Avocados are healthy, delicious, and easy to grow with an Avoseedo grow kit. Once you’ve sprouted your avocado and watched it grow for several years, it can be disappointing when you fail to see any fruit on your tree.

In this article, we will discuss a few issues that might be causing the lack of avocados on your tree.

Avocado Tree Growing Requirements

USDA Zone 9 – 11
Age of Maturity 10 to 15 years
Soil and Sun Sandy loam, full sun
Temperature 70-100 degrees Fahrenheit
Minerals Zinc and Manganese

Do You Live in the Correct Agricultural Zone?

Avocados are native to tropical areas of Mexico and Central America. All three commercially-grown species, Persea nubigena guatamalensis, Persea americana drymifolia, and Persea americana americana, are hardy in USDA zones 9 through 11. If you’re not sure what agricultural zone you live in, check here.

USDA zones are based on average winter temperatures in a particular area. If you don’t live in USDA zones 9 through 11, you can still grow an avocado tree, but you will need to keep your growing tree inside through the winter.

Is Your Avocado Tree Mature?

Growing an avocado tree to the age of bearing fruit is a lesson in patience; if you grow your avocado tree from a pit, it won’t bear fruit for at least 10 years. Some varieties may take as long as 15 years to begin bearing avocado fruit.

If you don’t want to wait that long, consider purchasing an avocado tree from a nursery or garden center. These commercially-sold trees are grafted from mature specimens and will begin to produce avocados after 3 or 4 years.

Do You Have Multiple Avocado Trees For Pollination?

In order to produce fruit, two avocado trees are required in close proximity to one another. Avocado trees either produce type-A flowers or type-B flowers. Both types produce pollen and are receptive to pollination, but at different times of the day. The best pollination occurs when type A and type B producing trees are grown together. This cross-pollination produces the best fruit.

Are You Meeting Your Tree’s Growing Requirements?

Avocados, like many other plants, require specific growing conditions to produce a healthy crop of fruit.

Soil, Sun, and Water

These trees prefer sandy loam soil and full sun. Though the tree will survive in shade, they will likely not produce fruit under these conditions. Soil with poor drainage or regular flooding will harm and possibly even kill your avocado tree.

To avoid overwatering, water your tree when a ball of dirt from underneath the tree crumbles in your hand.

Any sustained temperatures above 100 or below 70 degrees Fahrenheit can cause low or no fruit yield.

Fertilizing Your Avocado Tree

Fertilizer can encourage your avocado tree to begin bearing fruit. Many young trees benefit from fertilizer up to 6 times per year. Trees that are at least 4 years old can be fertilized four times each year. According to Home Guides fertilize your avocado as follows:

Age of Avocado Tree Amount of Fertilizer per Year Feedings per year
1 year 1.5 to 3 lbs 6
2 years 3 to 6 lbs 6
3 years 6 to 9 lbs 6
4 years 9 to 10 lbs 4
5 years 10 to 14 lbs 4

Add an extra 2 lbs of fertilizer per year up to 20 lbs. Your young avocado tree can also benefit from zinc, boron, and manganese six times per year. These minerals can often be found in nutritional plant sprays. Older trees can still benefit from zinc and manganese and can be sprayed 4 times each year.

Other Factors

Your soil may be alkaline and, as a result, deficient in iron. Solve this issue by applying iron chelate soil drenches between early and late summer.

Poor weather such as cold or heavy rain during pollination may discourage pollinators from visiting your trees. Consider taking a paintbrush and cross-pollinating your trees yourself.

Growing your own avocado tree and producing your own avocados takes time (a lot of it!) and patience. Not many gardeners make it to the final product.

Are you growing your own avocado tree? How far have you gotten? Let us know!

by

Mexicola Seedling Avocado Tree

Mexicola Seedling Avocado Tree is prized for its hardiness, early ripening and excellent fruit quality. Great for salads, guacamole and all the other ways we use this delicious black skin avocado. Please note that while hardy enough to survive colder areas fruit will not set where there is winter frost.

Latin Name: Persea americana var. drymifolia
Site and Soil: Avocados like full to 1/2 day sun and well-drained soil. If growing in pots, use coarse, well-drained, potting soil and water sparingly.
Pollination Requirements: These seedlings should be partially self-fertile. Planting two trees will increase yields.
Hardiness: Mexicola seedlings are hardy to about 15 F.
Bearing Age: 3-4 years after planting.
Size at Maturity: 10-12 ft. in height, smaller with pruning.
Bloom Time: Late winter/early spring
Ripening Time: Winter
Yield: 20-30 lbs.
Pests & Diseases: Avocados are not bothered by significant pest or disease problems.
USDA Zone: 8
Sunset Western Zone: 9, 16-24 & warmer locations in 8, & 14-15
Sunset Northeast Zone: Not listed

Eating Local in the Tropics

People got so mad when I wrote about how I can’t stand Florida avocados that I still get comments on those old posts. I really got it handed to me on this subject, which seems ridiculous because honestly, who cares what someone else likes or doesn’t like to eat? I was corrected numerous time about even calling them Florida avocados. I guess that isn’t politically correct. A couple years later, I stand my ground. I only like Hass avocados and anyone who has a problem with that can suck it. You might also be interested in knowing that I can’t stand mayonnaise. Does that cause you similar ire? I don’t like salmon either. Thank God that’s not local.
I’ve been told for years that Hass avocados won’t grow in Florida but you know what? It isn’t true. My grandmother has proved this wrong by growing, from seed, a Hass avocado that bore plenty of fruit. There’s the photographic evidence above with her four fruit on the bottom compared with a commercial, California or Mexican Hass from Publix.
About six or seven years ago my grandmother, who lives in one of those old folks’ communities up in Delray, started growing a tree from a seed using the toothpick/ glass of water method of avocado cultivation. It got bigger and she put it in a pot. When it outgrew the pot, she put it in the ground outside her front door and it just kept growing. This year it finally fruited and made enough that she brought us some because she couldn’t eat them all.
Unfortunately, several of her avocados were stolen by landscapers but she caught them red handed and made them return the fruits even after they tried to lie about taking them. This is a big, big problem down here. I was even told to put all my fruit trees in the backyard because people have no qualms about stealing fruit right out of other people’s yards. I can’t even imagine, but I’ve caught strangers stealing mangoes and lychees from my neighbors many times. How rude. I’m so glad my grandmother, who is the most tenacious human being I’ve ever met, had the nerve to confront the thieves and get her fruit back.
These avocados are a little on the small side, and I was afraid maybe they wouldn’t taste good, but lo and behold – they taste even better than store bought avocados. Way better. They were even more rich and buttery and perhaps this is because they were allowed to ripen on the tree. I honestly don’t know. Maybe the smaller size made the flavor more concentrated?
So there you have it. Hass avocados will grow in Florida.
By the way, and more on this later, my husband and I purchased a small avocado tree known as a Florida Hass, which is specifically formulated to thrive in this climate. It’s doing well so far but is much too young for fruit yet.

Cold Tolerance Of Avocado: Learn About Frost Tolerant Avocado Trees

Avocados are native to tropical America but are grown in tropical to subtropical areas of the world. If you have a yen for growing your own avocados but don’t exactly live in a tropical climate, all is not lost! There are some types of cold hardy, frost tolerant avocado trees. Read on to learn more about them.

About Cold Tolerant Avocado Trees

Avocados have been cultivated in the tropical Americas since pre-Columbian times and were first brought to Florida in 1833 and California in 1856. Generally, the avocado tree is classified as an evergreen, although some varietals lose their leaves for a brief period prior to and during blooming. As mentioned, avocados thrive in warm temperatures and are, thus, cultivated along the southeast and southwest coast of Florida and southern California.

If you are a lover of all things avocado and do not reside in these areas, you may wonder “is there a cold tolerant avocado?”

Avocado Cold Tolerance

The cold tolerance of avocado depends on the variety of tree. Just what is an avocado’s cold tolerance level? The West Indian varieties grow best in temperatures from 60-85 degrees F. (15-29 C.) If the trees are well established, they can survive a short-term minor dip in temps, but young trees must be protected from frost.

Guatemalan avocados can do well in cooler temperatures, 26-30 degrees F. (-3 to -1 C.). They are native to high altitudes, thus cooler regions of the tropics. These avocados are medium-sized, pear-shaped green fruits that turn a blackish-green when ripe.

The maximum cold tolerance of avocado trees can be attained by planting Mexican types, which are native to the dry subtropical highlands. They flourish in a Mediterranean type climate and are able to withstand temperatures as low as 19 degrees F. (-7 C.). The fruit is smaller with thin skins that turn a glossy green to black when fully ripe.

Types of Cold Hardy Avocado Trees

Slightly cold-tolerant varieties of avocado trees include:

  • ‘Tonnage’
  • ‘Tayor’
  • ‘Lula’
  • ‘Kampong’
  • ‘Meya’
  • ‘Brookslate’

These types are recommended for areas that have infrequent below freezing temps between 24-28 degrees F. (-4 to -2 C.).

You can also try any of the following, which are tolerant of temps between 25-30 degrees F. (-3 to-1 C.):

  • ‘Beta’
  • ‘Choquette’
  • ‘Loretta’
  • ‘Booth 8′
  • ‘Gainesville’
  • ‘Hall’
  • ‘Monroe’
  • ‘Reed’

The best bet for frost-tolerant avocado trees, however, are the Mexican and Mexican hybrids such as:

  • ‘Brogdon’
  • ‘Ettinger’
  • ‘Gainesville’
  • ‘Mexicola’
  • ‘Winter Mexican’

They may take a little more searching for, but they are able to withstand temperatures in the low 20’s (-6 C.)!

Whatever variety of cold-tolerant avocado you plan to grow, there are a couple of tips to follow to help ensure their survival during the cold season. Cold hardy varieties are adapted to USDA plant hardiness zones 8-10, that is from coastal South Carolina to Texas. Otherwise, you probably better have a greenhouse or resign yourself to purchasing the fruit from the grocer.

Plant the avocado trees 25-30 feet (7.5-9 m.) apart on the south side of a building or underneath an overhead canopy. Use garden fabric or burlap to wrap the tree when hard freezes are expected. Protect the rootstock and the graft from cold air by mulching just above the graft.

Lastly, feed well during the year. Use a well-balanced citrus/avocado food at least four times a year, as often as once a month. Why? A well-fed, healthy tree is more likely to make it during cold snaps.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *