Persea americana
Common Name: avocado
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Lauraceae
Native Range: Central America
Zone: 10 to 12
Height: 30.00 to 60.00 feet
Spread: 20.00 to 30.00 feet
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer
Bloom Description: Greenish-yellow
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Evergreen
Fruit: Showy, Edible
Other: Winter Interest

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 10-12 where it grows best in rich, loose, evenly moist, well-drained soils in full sun. Plants will tolerate some light shade, but are best in warm and sunny conditions. Intolerant of frost. Commercial varieties are planted by rootstocks or grafting. Houseplants are often grown from seed which may be sprouted in water or directly in soil. For sprouting in water, wash the seed, insert three toothpicks into the side of the seed halfway up and suspend the seed in a glass of water (broad end down) with water covering the bottom 1/3 of the seed. Change water regularly. When seed splits and roots appear (2-6 weeks), transplant to a pot with plotting soil. Pits may also be planted directly in soil (rather than using the water glass routine), with 2/3 of the pit under an evenly moist but not wet soil. Established plants like sunny windows. Fertilize mature plants regularly in spring and summer. Indoor plants are attractive but normally will not produce fruit.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Persea americana, called avocado, is a multi-stemmed tropical evergreen tree that is native to Mexico, Central America and South America. It typically matures to 30-60' tall, however grafted varieties generally grow shorter. Avocado leaves (to 4-8"long) are typically glossy, elliptic to ovate and dark green. Small greenish-yellow flowers bloom in panicles, followed by green-skinned, pear-shaped to rounded fruit. Each fruit has a very large central seed or pit surrounded by an edible fruity pulp. Mature fruits ripen off the tree, with the edible flesh turning yellow with a rich buttery consistency. Avocados are rich in vitamins and monounsaturated fat. Avocado is a fruit, but is commonly used as a vegetable, in salads and for guacamole. Varieties have different blooming/fruiting seasons, hence avocados in general are harvested year round. Avocados are grown commercially in southern California and southern Florida. Typical California varieties (e.g., Haas, Gwen, Pinkerton, Fuerte and Reed) are mostly Guatemalan types that have thick pebbly skins. Typical Florida varieties are West Indian (e.g., Donnie and Simmonds) and Guatemalan-West Indian hybrids (e.g., Booth 8, Choquette, and Monroe) that are larger and smooth to slightly pebbled skinned. In the U.S., approximately 95% of the commercial crop comes from southern California, with Hass accounting for about 80% of that crop.

Genus name comes from the Greek name persea for an Egyptian tree (Cordia myxa).

Specific epithet means of the Americas.

Avocado comes from an Aztec word meaning testicle in apparent reference to the fruit shape.

Problems

Currently avocado trees are threatened by laurel wilt. Laurel wilt is caused by Raffaelea lauricola and vectored by several ambrosia beetle species. Trees infected with laurel wilt usually die within 4 to 8 weeks. Houseplants may develop root rot in overly wet soils. For more information see: Problems Common to Many Indoor Plants

Garden Uses

Fruit tree for frost free climates. Interesting house plant that may easily be grown from seed.