Avocado Tree Growth Stages | Life Cycle

Avocado trees are tropical evergreens often seen growing in warmer parts of the United States and similar climates. If you live in an area like Southern California, Florida, or Mexico, you might already have a few avocado trees growing in your own neighborhood.

Avocados are surprisingly easy to grow if you have the right planting environment. The trouble is that it can take new trees about 15 years to bear any fruit. 

I’ve broken down the various avocado tree growth stages below to give you a better understanding of how this tropical mainstay matures.

Conditions for Growing Avocado

The first thing you need to know about growing avocados is that these fruit trees need warmth to survive. Most varieties grow in USDA zones 9 to 11, although there are a few tougher cultivars that can tolerate zone 8.

Avocado trees make excellent landscape plantings in these warmer climates. Cool-climate gardeners may be able to grow smaller varieties in containers. Note that fruit production on container-grown trees is quite rare.

While different cultivars may flower and bear fruit at varying times throughout the year, the majority of avocados are harvested in early fall. Blooming typically occurs between March and May.

Your avocado tree ideally needs a location with full sun exposure and very well-draining soil. Sandy soil is often the best choice. Avocados require neutral or slightly acidic soil with a pH of 5.0 to 7.0.

Avocado trees need about 2 inches of water per week on average. Young trees naturally need more water to thrive. I recommend irrigating infrequently but deeply to saturate the entire root system.

Fertilizing throughout the growing season will yield the best results when it comes time to harvest. Most avocado trees respond well to an NPK ratio of 2-1-1 but I always recommend testing your soil for the most accurate approach.

Growth Stages Of Avocado Tree

There are many different avocado varieties available to choose from, the most popular of which is ‘Hass’. ‘Hass’ avocados typically reach 20 feet tall. Meanwhile, the most popular dwarf cultivar, ‘Wurtz’, only grows to about 10 feet tall. 

When grown from seed, avocado trees generally take 13 to 15 years to bear fruit for the first time. In my experience, most people who start avocados from seed intend to keep them as houseplants, so growth rate and fruit production aren’t big concerns.

If your goal is to grow a large landscape tree or harvest your own avocados for eating, I recommend starting with a grafted nursery sapling. These trees can produce fruit in as little as 3 to 4 years after planting.

1. Seed Germination 

Avocado trees grow from the large pits (or seeds) contained within the fruit. Each avocado fruit generally contains one seed.

It usually takes 30 to 60 days for an avocado seed to germinate at temperatures above 60°F

Once germination occurs, it’s normal for the pit to split in half. Splitting allows the primary root and stems to emerge from the seed. 

Some types of avocado trees are polyembryonic. This means that the seeds of such varieties contain multiple embryos and are, therefore, capable of sending up multiple sprouts.

In polyembryonic seeds, only one of the resulting sprouts will contain genetic material from a mother and father. The rest will be exact clones of the mother tree.

2. Seedlings

Avocados are dicots, which means that each tree starts life with two cotyledons. Cotyledons are proto-leaves that develop within the seed embryo.

In many plant species, the cotyledons are the first foliage to emerge from the soil. 

When it comes to avocado seedlings, however, the cotyledons stay inside the seed coating. They act as a vital energy source while the seedling works to produce its first ‘true’ leaves.

avocado Seedlings
Avocado pits are fun to germinate at home

Avocados are dicots, which means that each tree starts life with two cotyledons. Cotyledons are proto-leaves that develop within the seed embryo.

In many plant species, the cotyledons are the first foliage to emerge from the soil. 

When it comes to avocado seedlings, however, the cotyledons stay inside the seed coating. They act as a vital energy source while the seedling works to produce its first ‘true’ leaves.

3. Vegetative Growth

An avocado tree can grow 30 to 36 inches per year. In addition to growing taller, your tree will also grow wider, and thicker, and produce more foliage as it matures.

Avocado leaves are oblong and measure about 4 to 12 inches in length. Since avocado trees are evergreen, they don’t lose their leaves in the fall. However, it’s perfectly normal for leaves to drop and be replaced with new ones throughout the year.

4. Flowering

Avocado trees typically only flower after reaching maturity. They also need a dormancy period with temperatures averaging 32 to 45°F to trigger flower development.

Avocado flowers bloom in panicles and are green, yellow, or cream in color.

avocado Flowering panicles

5. Pollination

Since avocados are fruit, you need successful pollination to produce a harvest. This typically requires at least two trees within relatively close proximity of each other.

Most pollination occurs when insects or the wind transfer pollen from a male-functioning flower to a female-functioning one. 

While the flowers technically have both male and female reproductive systems, these parts don’t function at the same time. The female half operates when the flower first opens but ‘shuts down’ by the time the male half begins releasing pollen. 

According to the University of Florida, avocado trees are commonly categorized by the time of day their flowers normally function.

6. Fruit Development

After pollination, the ovary inside the flower will begin to swell. It doesn’t take long for the fruit to resemble avocados — albeit very small ones.

Each panicle contains several individual flowers, so you might see a number of avocado fruit begin to form on a single stem. 

Fruit Development avocado
Avocado fruit buds forming

After pollination, the ovary inside the flower will begin to swell. It doesn’t take long for the fruit to resemble avocados — albeit very small ones.

Each panicle contains several individual flowers, so you might see a number of avocado fruit begin to form on a single stem. 

When To Harvest Avocado

The average avocado fruit takes about 250 days (or about 8 months) to mature. It’s common practice to harvest avocados when they are slightly immature and allow them to finish ripening off of the tree.

The University of California recommends harvesting your tree’s largest avocados and allowing them to ripen until soft. You can then check the quality of the fruit and determine if the rest of the tree is ready to pick as well.

You might also like to read Mango Tree Growth Stages | Life Cycle

FAQ Avocado Plant Stages

What Is The Average Lifespan Of An Avocado Tree?

In the wild, avocado trees can live for 200 to 400 years if undisturbed. When grown in the home landscape, however, the average lifespan of an avocado tree tends to be 50 or so years.

Citations

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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.