Avocado Propagation: advice from experts, please!

citrusfishee(4)April 3, 2012

I've gotten really into growing avocados lately. I love to eat them, and love growing plants, so I figured it was a great project! Despite doing TONS of research online, I still have some questions about avocado growing/propagation that I just couldn't find definitive answers to elsewhere online.

Can anyone shed some light on this for me?

1. Pollination. I've read conflicting things about whether or not avocados are self-pollinating. As I understand, they contain flowers that are both male and female, but at different times (A and B flower types being opposite of each other). I would think it is theoretically possible to get fruit from one plant, but not likely. If you have two plants for cross-pollination, can you have two A flower types (i.e. two Hass plants) successfully pollinate each other and set fruit? Or is it required that an A flower type be cross-pollinated by a B flower type (say, Bacon or Fuerte) in order to set fruit?

2. Grafting. I really don't want to wait 15 years for my Hass plants (started from seed) to produce fruit. As I understand it, the primary goal in grafting is to bypass the juvenile plant phase that seedlings and young plants go through (during which they will not set fruit). If I have a seedling (say, a year old), and I graft a bud from a mature plant onto the seedling (using the seedling as my rootstock), will this effectively bypass the juvenile phase and give me fruit sooner? (also the other way around, if I graft a young bud onto a mature rootstock, will this bypass the juvenile phase and set fruit sooner?) Or would I need to graft a mature bud onto a mature rootstock in order for the shortened fruit waiting time to be effective?

(Also, could I successfully graft a B type onto an A type? Say, Fuerte grafted onto Hass?)

I hope that all makes sense. I know starting them from seed isn't the preferred way to propagate avocados, but I really can't afford $80-$200 for a mature plant, and even if I could, I get a lot of satisfaction out of doing it on my own! I'm sure some or most of you can relate to that ;)

As an aside, some of you may have noticed I'm in zone 4b. Not avocado climate. I am growing them in pots, which presents its own difficulties, but I know it's at least possible! Fortunately we have hot, humid summers in 4b, and my apartment gets great southwestern sun exposure for when they're indoors during the winter.

Thank you so much in advance, everyone!

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eahamel(9a)

You do know that avocados are large trees, right? I've seen them in Mexico, 40-60' tall. The ones I've seen at fruit tree sales have been around 10-15' tall and they weren't large enough to make fruit.

I'm in Houston and it's only been the last few years that varieties have been developed that will take our freezes (mid 20's, maybe to high teens), and our freezes only last a few days, then it's warm again.

That said, there is a variety that is self-fertile now. But most aren't, and you need two trees. Some people here who grow them get one and a neighbor gets one, so one person's yard isn't completely taken over by one large tree.

I found some info about growing them:
http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/homefruit/avocado/avocado2.html

Here's a link to one of the local fruit tree sales, and you can look at the varieties that will grow in our mild climate. The self-fertile one is described in the listing. Since they need a warm climate most of the year, and full sun, I don't think you'd get any avocados at all, but they do make good house plants (and it's fun to dream!).

Here is a link that might be useful: Fruit Tree Sale

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 12:35AM
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yukkuri_kame(Sunset 19 / USDA 9)

Many consider most avocados to be self-fertile in California. Some say that is because there are so many backyard avocados there is always a pollinator around - but seeing as most folks plant haas, I don't entirely buy that.

But the most reasonably explanation I have seen is that the wide temperature swings between day and night mix up the cycle of female-male flower opening enough that trees become self-fertile, whereas they are not self-fertile in a more stable tropical climate.

In any case, adding a B to your A or A to your B may improve pollination. Having plenty of year-round bee forages will also help.

My haas seems to be VERY fertile. I haven't seen many avos in the neighborhood, but, who knows there could be a zutano lurking 2 yards over?

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 11:05PM
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eahamel(9a)

Citrusfishee is in a very, very cold climate and won't be able to keep a tender avocado outside more than 3 or maybe 4 months out of the year, then it will have to be indoors with inappropriate lighting, etc. Not likely to have conditions for an avocado to bloom and produce fruit at all.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 9:46AM
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citrusfishee(4)

Don't be so pessimistic, eahamel! Haha.

If there's one thing I know, it is that it's at least POSSIBLE. I know the odds are stacked against me, but I'm really determined. Vision to fruition. Literally.

I think what I've decided to do is, when my rootstock is a bit stronger, graft mature scions from an A and B type onto the same rootstock. That way, though genetically they will be two separate plants (well, 3), I'll, in effect, have one "self-pollinating" tree.

Also, based on the research I've done, I think what matters more in fruit production, eahamel, is the age/maturity of the tree, not so much the physical size of the tree. With a lot of care and pruning, it's certainly possible to keep a 20 year old avocado tree at a manageable height, and get fruit. The size of the tree doesn't change its age. At least that's my line of thought ;)

Thanks, everyone!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 3:06AM
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