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Fact Sheet HS-52

April 1994

Avocado Propagation1
Julian W. Sauls2

The avocado seed readily lends itself to home end up to about half its depth. The pot is then placed in
propagation and few people can resist the temptation of a warm, well-lighted place and watered as needed.
growing avocado plants from seed. There are two
different approaches to avocado propagation, depending To encourage branching and prevent the plant from
on whether the plant is to be grown as a houseplant or developing into a single-spindly stalk, the stem should be
for fruit production. cut back about half-way when it gets 15-20 cm (6-8 in.)
tall. Each resulting branch should have the tip pinched
PROPAGATION AS A HOUSEPLANT off after growing 15-20 cm (6-8 in.) to encourage
multiple branching. Tip pruning should be repeated as
The seed from a fresh avocado will germinate within many times as necessary to develop the desired fullness.
a few weeks if given water, light, air and room
temperature. The easiest way to grow an avocado plant Regular applications of a soluble houseplant-type
is to insert 3 or 4 toothpicks horizontally into the seed fertilizer coupled with good light and watering as
near the pointed or rounded end and suspend it (pointed necessary will maintain the lustrous deep green foliage
end up) over a glass of water, with about a third of the characteristic of a healthy avocado plant. As with most
seed submerged. The glass should be placed in good houseplants, the avocado can be moved outdoors to
light and the water replenished as needed. Germination shady locations during warm weather. Eventually the
should occur in 2-6 weeks. The plant can be left in the plant will become pot bound and should either be
glass until the roots fill the container, when it should discarded, transplanted to a larger container or pruned
either be planted in a pot with soil or discarded. back severely.

Avocado seeds can be planted directly into a pot PROPAGATION FOR FRUIT PRODUCTION
with soil for germination. A large pot 15-25 cm (6-10
in.) in diameter should be used. The pot may be plastic, Avocados grown from seed rarely produce fruit
clay, ceramic or other material, but it must have a before 8 - 10 years, and such fruit may be of poor
drainage hole at the bottom. Any sterile, well-drained quality. Commercial avocado orchards are planted with
potting soil is suitable. budded or grafted trees of named varieties of known fruit
quality. The homeowner who wants an avocado tree for
Germination may be enhanced by removing the seed its fruit production should either obtain a young grafted
coats or by cutting off the top centimeter (half-inch) of tree from a local nursery or propagate his own. Budded
the pointed end of the seed. The seed is planted pointed or grafted trees will produce fruit within 2 or 3 years as

1. This document is Fact Sheet HS-52, a series of the Horticultural Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and
Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Publication date: April 1994.
2. Julian W. Sauls, Former Extension Horticulturist, Horticultural Sciences Department, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural
Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer authorized to provide research, educational
information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap, or national
origin. For information on obtaining other extension publications, contact your county Cooperative Extension Service office.
Florida Cooperative Extension Service / Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences / University of Florida / John T. Woeste, Dean
Avocado Propagation Page 2

compared to the 8-10 or more years required of seedling VENEER GRAFTING


avocados.
Veneer grafting can be used anytime that stocks are
Avocados may be propagated by several methods actively growing and budwood is available. The stock
which involve the use of rootstock and scions. The is trimmed of its lower leaves and cleaned of any soil or
rootstock provides the lower trunk and root system and other foreign matter. A tangential cut 5-7 cm (2-3 in.)
the scion forms the top of the plant. Rootstock plants long is made through the bark and just into the wood in
which are to be budded or grafted are usually seedlings an area where the stem is straight, approximately 7-10
4-8 months old. Scion material for buds or grafts is cm (3-4 in.) above the soil. A short second cut is made
taken from a mature, bearing tree of the desired variety. at the base of the first one, forming a notch. A scion
with two or three buds and of equal or slightly smaller
The necessary equipment consists of a very sharp diameter than the stock is prepared by making a slanting
knife and wrapping material such as polyethylene cut on one side equal in length to that made on the
budding tape or an adhesive tape. stock. A small cut is made at the base of the scion on
the opposite side so that the scion will fit into the notch
on the stock.
ROOTSTOCKS
Commercial propagators in Florida use the largest The scion is placed into position on the stock with
seeds possible, as these usually produce graftable stocks care to line up the juncture between bark and wood on
sooner. Seeds are taken from cull fruit of West Indian at least one side. The entire graft should be secured
varieties which mature in late summer or early fall. Any with wrapping material in a spiral beginning at the
healthy avocado seeds will be suitable for home bottom, taking care to maintain alignment of the cut
propagation. edges of the stock and scion.

Avocados are commonly planted in large CLEFT (TIP) GRAFTING


polyethylene tubes filled with sterilized soil, but any
large pot with suitable drainage is adequate. Seed Cleft (tip) grafting can also be used for avocados,
should be planted as previously described and the using similar stocks and scions as previously described.
containers should be in full sun. The seedlings should The top of the rootstock is cut off approximately 7 - 12
not be pruned, as grafting requires one large stem. Well- cm (3 - 5 in.) above the soil level, discarded and the
cared-for seedlings should attain graftable size, about 6 stock is then split 3 - 5 cm (1½ - 2 in.). A scion is
mm (¼ in.) in diameter, in a few months. trimmed into a two-sided wedge with long tapering cuts
about equal in length to the cleft in the rootstock. The
scion is then wedged into the cleft in the stock and the
BUDWOOD
graft is wrapped securely, leaving the terminal exposed.
Budwood for veneer grafting, side grafting and cleft
grafting is obtained from the terminals of small branches CHIP BUDDING
on healthy, vigorous, mature, bearing trees of the desired
variety. Terminals should be dormant (not in a flush of Chip budding uses a scion with only one bud instead
growth), or barely pushing, free of pests and have well of the several buds previously described for grafting. A
developed buds at the tip and along the side. Each thin slice of wood is removed from the stock about 7 -
terminal is cut 10-12 cm (4-5 in.) back from the tip and 10 cm (3 - 4 in.) above the soil line by making a smooth
the leaves are trimmed to short stubs with pruning downward cut 2 - 3 cm (1 in.) long and just into the
shears. wood. A second cut is made at the base of the first one,
forming a notch. A chip with a scion bud is removed
Budwood for chip budding is collected from the base from the scion in the same manner. The chip is then
of the current growth flush after it has matured and inserted into the notch on the stock and securely
hardened. Again, the leaves are trimmed to short stubs. wrapped. (Note: Chip budding of avocados in
The same is true for budwood used in cleft (tip) grafting. containers is often unsuccessful in Florida.)
Budwood that is to be stored for several days should be
put in a plastic bag and placed in the vegetable drawer
of a refrigerator.
Avocado Propagation Page 3

FORCING AND AFTERCARE TOP WORKING


The cleft graft will commence to grow without Seedling avocado trees or potted plants are often
assistance but the other propagations will require forcing planted in the yard. Later it becomes apparent that the
the buds into growth, assuming the scions are still seedling is not going to bear fruit at an early age and the
healthy and green. Forcing should be done 3-4 weeks question of grafting with known varieties arises. Older
after propagation. The wrapping can be left on the trees can be grafted or budded, but it becomes difficult
grafts for a month or more in warm weather or 2-3 as the plant gets older. There are two options:
months in cool weather, but it must be removed from the
chip bud during forcing. It can be removed easily by 1. A vigorous, healthy tree may be cut off 1-3 feet
cutting with a knife on the side of the stem opposite the above the ground and painted (white latex and
propagation. water, 1:1) to protect it from sunburning. Several
sprouts will grow out from the trunk and one or
The best way to force the buds onto growth is to more can be grafted or budded as previously
make a horizontal cut into the stock 2-5 cm (1-2 in.) described with scions of the desired variety.
above and on the same side as the scion. Then when a
scion bud has grown out several centimeters, the stock 2. A tree with a good framework can be cut back to
can be cut off on a slant as near the scion as possible the main scaffold branches and painted (white latex
with a sharp pair of hand shears. and water, 1:1) to protect it from sunburning. Either
the stubs or sprouts from the stubs can be budded or
Only one shoot is allowed to grow -- all others grafted as previously described.
above and below it should be removed as they appear.
The young shoot will need to be tied loosely to a stake This will require two or three propagations per
for support as it grows. The framework of the tree is branch and more intensive aftercare, particularly
started when the scion is 30-45 cm (12-18 in.) tall. The regarding staking to prevent the young scions from being
tip should be pinched off and 4-6 well-spaced lateral broken off by winds. Frequently, one or two branches
branches are allowed to develop if natural branching are left intact for a year or more to sustain the tree and
does not occur. shade the propagations until they have grown out
sufficiently.
Budded or grafted plants can be planted almost
anytime after 6 months, but planting is usually delayed
for 12 - 18 months.