Growing Fruit Trees From Seed – By Mark Govan, Host “Florida Gardening”

Over the past few weeks I have been inundated with people asking me the proper way to start tropical fruit trees from seed. In this article I am going to explain to you the proper way to grow Mangoes and Avocado trees from seed. I will also discuss how to keep your plants growing once they have sprouted and whether or not the fruit produced on the seedling tree will be like the parent plant. I will also tell you about how long you will have to wait before you can expect your new tree to produce its first fruit. This is a great time of year to start your new trees from seed so lets get started.  

            If you have a mango tree all you need to do is pick a couple of fruit and remove the seed. If you do not have a tree you may have a friend that has one and you can probably procure a few mangos from them or you can purchase a mango from the local grocery store and retrieve your seed husk from there. The actual mango seed is found within the seed husk and must be removed before planting. The husk is usually very slippery because of the pulp which is still attached to the husk. Removal of the seed must be done very carefully as not to injure the seed within. The best seed comes from ripe mangoes planted immediately because seed left for days or weeks lose their vitality and reduces germination

            The husk can be opened with a butter knife by cutting around the convex edge and carefully removing the seed. The seed will be smooth and once the husk is opened, the seed should readily slide out. By removing the husk you will speed up germination of the seed and avoid cramping the roots. Once the seed is out it is time to plant the seed.

            You will need potting soil and a one gallon pot for each seed you wish to plant. Fill the pot with the soil and push the seed into the soil with the curved edge up leaving at least one quarter of the seed above the soil line. Mango seeds will need to be kept moist but not wet and in full sun for germination. Germination takes about eight to fourteen days. After germination continue watering the plant to keep the soil moist and let it continue to grow in the pot until the plant is at least two feet in height. Once a mango attains this height I recommend the tree be either repotted in a larger container or planted in a sunny part of the yard where the tree will have ample room to grow. Most mangoes in our area will attain heights of ten to fifteen feet or larger with a spread of about the same.

            Planting an avocado seed and watching it grow can be fun for the whole family. Even my children have grown avocado seeds using a glass of water and toothpicks to hold the seed above the waterline. All you need to do to grow an avocado seed is to pick or purchase a ripe avocado and slice the avocado in half exposing the tan colored seed. Remove the seed from the avocado. Push three toothpicks into the middle of the avocado seed making sure they are secure. The toothpicks will support the seed on top of a glass of water. Place the pointed end of the seed up, this is where the foliage will appear. Fill the glass with water making sure you cover one third of the seed. Place the glass in indirect sunlight and remember to add water to maintain the water level. In about two weeks you will notice roots growing from the base of the seed.

             When the leaves and roots are well formed (about six weeks) you will need to plant the seed in some potting soil. I plant my starter plants in one gallon pots you can pick up at any garden center. Fill the pot about a quarter full with a good quality potting soil then retrieve your starter plant from the glass of water.      Next, remove the toothpicks which were supporting the seed in the glass of water. Be careful to protect the new roots which were grown in water as they are very tender and easily break off. Lightly lower the roots into the one gallon pot and make sure all roots are inside the pot. As you continue to lower the plant into the pot be sure to add soil around the roots gently compress the seed into the pot. The top of the seed should be about one inch from the top of the one gallon pot when you have finished adding soil around the roots. While holding the seed, add water to the soil to fill in any gaps around the roots. Add additional soil if necessary. Once you have the seed set in the pot add enough soil to cover the seed about halfway. Make sure not push to hard on the seed as the roots will break off easily. Finally, keep your plant moist but not wet and continue growing your new plant in a shady area.           

            You do not want to place your new avocado plant in full or direct sun until the plant has had time to acclimate to the new soil. This process takes about three months. During this time you may notice some leaf loss but this is normal. Once the plant stats growing again you can slowly move the plant into morning sun then as the plant responds you can move it into a sunnier location. Be sure to watch your watering. As the plant grows you will need to water more often. After three months you can start fertilizing the plant with Osmacote. If the plant starts to show roots coming out of the bottom of the pot you may need to repot the plant into a larger container or place it in the ground. If you root your plant in late summer you may want to keep the plant in a pot until spring. This is a good way to protect your new plant from a possible freeze.       

            Once your mangoes and avocados have achieved the desired size (I like to wait until the tree is at least three to five feet tall) you should pick out a sunny place in the garden and plant them. Enrich the soil where your plants are going to be planted with peat and perlite and be sure to add a layer of mulch over the top to conserve water. Be sure to continue watering and fertilizing the new plants about once a month with a cup of fertilizer spread out on the soil around the trunk. Your new trees will take anywhere from five to seven years to produce their first fruit. Fruiting usually depends on the care and amount of fertilizer you have given the plants so set up a schedule of light monthly feeding and stick to the schedule for the first two years. After that you can fertilize every two months but do not forget to slowly increase the amounts of fertilizer as you tree grows. Remember, too much fertilizer will send mangoes into vegetative growth rather then fruiting, so be careful. 

            Mango trees grown from seed may bloom and produce fruit every year but trees ten years or older tend to be alternate bearing. Some people complain about this and think they may have done something wrong to the tree but this is just how mangoes grow. Avocadoes on the other hand may take longer to produce their first crop but the diversity of avocado seedlings can give you a tree that produces large melon sized fruit to small baseball sized fruit. If you have neighbors with avocado trees nearby, the probability of more fruit being produced on your avocado tree is hastened because of better pollination.

            I also want you to be aware the mangoes grown from seed may be inferior, superior, or equal to that of the parent tree the mango seed came from. Do not be discouraged if your tree does not produce the tree that the mango came from. This is the process we go by to introduce new cultivars of fruit to the world. Who knows, your tree may be the next variety everyone else wants to copy! Avocadoes are always good. Some may be smaller in size but others may be huge, and they all taste good.

            I hope after this article there will still be a few mangoes and avocadoes left in the local stores for me to purchase. Anytime you can use part of a fruit to grow another plant for free has got to be a good thing for everyone. With these few easy steps I have outlined above you will soon be on your way to planting your own trees. Good luck, be creative and have fun with gardening and as always remember, without plants we would not be here.    

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