Several of my family members are growing avocado trees in their backyards, and the most common question I hear from them is, “how long will it take the avocado trees to fruit?“. I know a bit about avocado trees, but I wanted to do more research to find out more. Here’s what I found.
If you purchased an avocado tree, it was likely grafted and will take about 3-5 years to mature and fruit. If your avocado tree was grown from seed, it can take up to 10-15 years to mature and fruit. Sufficient soil, nutrients, water, sunlight, pollination, and climate also contribute to how well avocado trees fruit.
So, while several factors contribute to how quick or slow avocado trees fruit, what are more details around this, and how can we get avocado trees to fruit faster? Let’s take a closer look.
5 Common Reasons Why Avocado Trees Don’t Produce Fruit
If your avocado tree isn’t producing fruit, it’s most likely because it’s too young or it was grown from seed. Other reasons are a lack of pollination, excessive stress, wrong climate, and biennial bearing (having a heavier fruit set every other year). Many avocado trees bloom but don’t produce fruit.
Age is the biggest factor when it comes to why avocado trees don’t fruit. Generally, avocado trees take anywhere from 3-15 years to fruit, with those that are grafted growing quicker than those grown from seed. This is because the seed is new DNA from the parent tree and needs to mature, while grafted trees are a mature tree fused onto a younger rootstock.
Aside from quicker growth and fruiting, other advantages of getting a grafted avocado tree are:
- Increased disease resistance
- Improved hardiness
- The same fruit as the parent tree
When you grow an avocado tree from a seed, it’s similar to how we have children—they’re a new version of us, with new DNA. So, they need to mature (up to 10-15 years). Because of this, there’s a chance their fruit will taste different than their parent’s, and occasionally be bitter and inedible. Sometimes they won’t ever fruit.
On the other hand, grafted trees are essentially clones of the parent tree, so the only waiting you have to do is for the canopy and roots to mature (around 3-5 years). Most of the time, if you bought your avocado tree from a nursery, it’s grafted.
Once the avocado tree reaches about three feet tall, it should begin producing fruit. Keep in mind, these fruits might be small and inedible until the tree matures further.
2. Lack of Pollination
Avocado trees are a bit different than other fruiting trees as they have two different types—type A and type B.
Even though avocado trees are often classified as self-pollinating, they do best if they have another avocado tree next to them that’s of a different type. For example, Hass avocados (type A) have a hard time self-pollinating but do well if a Fuerte (type B) is planted near them.
Most of the time, avocado trees are mistakenly either grown alone or with others of the same variety. This can pose a problem with the timing of the flowers and pollination. Without being properly pollinated, the blossoms will never become fertilized and develop into fruit.
Avocado trees of a single type means their male and female flowers open at different times, which makes it difficult for pollination to occur.
Essentially, due to the different timing of the flowers blooming, pollen from male flowers won’t be available when the female flowers are open, and vise versa.
If it helps, here are two examples of the timings for male and female flowers on a single avocado tree:
Day 1 AM: female open; PM: closed
Day 2 AM: closed; PM: male open
Day 1 AM: closed; PM: female open
Day 2 AM: male open; PM: closed
The best thing to do to increase an avocado tree’s pollination is to plant another type of avocado tree that opens at different times. This staggers the timing and will have the male flowers from one tree pollinate the female flowers of another and vice-versa.
This can sometimes get confusing, so I put together a table of all of the common varieties of avocado trees and their flowering type.
|Type A Avocado Trees||Type B Avocado Trees||Both Type Avocado Trees|
|Hass||Fuerte||Wurtz (Little Cado)|
|Stewart||Wilma (Brazos Belle)|
For example, grow a Hass avocado (type A) near Fuerte or Bacon avocado trees (Type B).
You can also boost your avocado tree’s pollination by planting flowering companion plants such as lavender and comfrey. For more about the companion plants for avocado trees, see my other post: The 10 Best Companion Plants for Avocado Trees.
3. Excessive Stress
Some stress is good for plants and animals, but too much and major systems like the immune system begin to fail.
Avocado trees that have too much stress from weather, nutrients, animals, and more will stop their growth and fruiting, and reserve their energy for attempting to outlast the stress (such as frost). If this goes on for too long, the tree will continue to decline in health and die.
Because of this, try to make sure your avocado tree is cared for (but not pampered). Here are some tips to care for your avocado tree that may help:
- Grow in USDA hardiness zones 9-11
- Plant in areas with 6+ hours of daily sunlight
- If you don’t get at least 36″ of rain annually, supplement with water
- Use soft water if possible
Compared to other fruiting trees, avocado trees are highly sensitive to things like chlorine and salts, which are commonly found in tap and irrigation water. A build-up of these can lead to symptoms such as brown leaves. This is why soft waters such as rainwater, distilled water, and reverse osmosis water are recommended.
Fortunately, once avocado trees are mature, they don’t need much supplemental water (as long as they get around 36″ inches of annual rainfall). However, watering sufficiently does lead to better fruiting.
Most of the familiar fruit trees grown in Miami-Dade can survive with little need for supplemental water once established, although it is often necessary to water (March through May) for trees maturing a crop (e.g., mango, avocado).John McLaughlin, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Avoid over-watering as it can stress the tree and cause root rot.
Fortunately, there’s a trick that will help prevent under and over-watering your avocado tree.
As a general rule, only water when the first 2-4 inches of soil are dry. You can check this by pushing a finger into the soil. This is typically around once per week, although factors such as strong sunlight and wind can dry the soil faster.
Additionally, provide 2 inches of compost and 4 inches of mulch under the drip line of the tree. Compost greatly improves water retention and nutrients, while mulch protects the soil from drying out in the sun and wind. Keep the compost and mulch at least 3 inches from the trunk to prevent mold growth.
4. Wrong Climate
Avocado trees are natively from the tropics, so they have little to no tolerance for frost. Because of this, they do best in USDA hardiness zones 9-11. In colder zones, insulate the trees, provide shade, or adjust their climate. You can do this by growing avocado trees indoors, in greenhouses, or in microclimates.
If you’re growing avocado trees outside of these zones, or have an unusually hot or cold season, here are some tips that might help:
Cold Weather Tips
- Insulate the tree’s canopy with bedsheets or its trunk with cardboard. Provide windbreaks if possible.
- Plant avocado trees facing the south to get the maximum amount of sunlight and warmth. Planting along southern facing walls also helps.
- Apply mulch to help insulate the roots.
Hot Weather Tips
- Provide compost and mulch to prevent the soil from drying out and baking in the sun.
- Check the soil’s moisture often, especially on hot days. Water when it’s dry.
- If possible, shade the tree when temperatures exceed 100ºF or if you notice scorched leaves.
Keep in mind that moving avocado trees indoors can cause leaves to droop or fall off. This is either due to a sudden temperature swing (of 20ºF or more), or the central heat is drying out the leaves.
For example, last winter I moved my Meyer lemon tree inside and the central heat started stressing it out. Its leaves started to drop. I then moved the tree to a cooler room, without heat or fans (which can also dry out the air) and the tree’s leaves started growing back immediately.
If you’re interested in learning more about growing your plants in microclimates and stretching your hardiness zones, check out this cool video by Gardener Scott.
5. Biennial Bearing
Some fruit trees, including avocado trees, fruit heavier every other year. This is called biennial bearing or alternate bearing cycles, and it’s a fairly normal occurrence in nature.
Avocado trees have a tendency to adopt an alternate bearing cycle — an on-crop/off-crop cycle across two years that results in a large crop of small avocados in one year, followed by small crop of large avocados the next year.California Avocado Commission
While biennial bearing isn’t too concerning, some believe it’s due to the tree getting stressed, leading to inconsistent crops—which then become perpetuating.
If you’d like to avoid biennial bearing on your avocado tree, reduce the following for your avocado trees if possible:
- Extreme low or high temperatures
- Drought stress
- Lack of nutrients
- Over pruning
When it comes to nutrients, chemical fertilizers can be effective in the short term, but they have long-term negative effects on the soil and tree. For this reason, compost is one of the best fertilizers for your avocado tree (for both potted and planted trees).
If you’d like to see the best fertilizers for avocado trees, check out my recommended fertilizer page.
How Often Do Avocado Trees Fruit?
Avocado trees generally produce about 200-300 fruits once per year. However, this can be more or less depending on if the tree is in a biennial fruiting cycle. For best fruiting results, provide quality soil, nutrients, sunlight, water, climate, and pollination. Avocado trees typically bloom between February to May.
Will Potted or Seed-Grown Avocado Trees Grow Fruit?
If a potted avocado tree is from a graft, it should grow fruit within 3-5 years. However, if it’s grown from seed, fruiting can take 10-15 years (and some never fruit). For the best chance of fruiting, get a grafted tree and repot it every 3-5 years into a larger pot with fresh potting soil. Pollinate by hand if possible.
Overall, if you’d like an avocado tree that fruits sooner, and has a better chance of fruiting (with edible fruits), buy a grafted avocado tree from a nursery. You can also ask them if it’s grafted to confirm. And they don’t have to be expensive either—my parents bought young avocado trees from their nursery for around $50.
If you follow the tips listed in this article, your avocado tree should have the best chance of fruiting, as well as faster fruiting.
Remember, it can take years for the tree to mature enough to put out fruit. This is why avocado trees are trees and not plants! Just because an avocado tree blooms doesn’t mean it will fruit!