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Question from Jon:
I am enjoying you book greatly and also enjoyed listening to you at the Master Gardner lecture you gave earlier this year.

I am interested in planting a Haas Avocado tree (24″ box). I would like to start harvesting in a year or 2. I was told that I need to plant another tree of a different specimen Avocado in order for them to cross pollinate and produce. Fuerte Avocado was recommended. . I really don’t want a 2nd specimen as Haas is the only one I’ve found with any flavor. What would you recommend? Thanks in advance.

Answer from Pat:
Homegrown avocados in areas where there are many avocado trees may bear a pretty good harvest without a pollinator, but it’s much wiser to provide a pollinator so you can be sure to get enough fruit. Fortunately there are several space-saving methods of accomplishing this. One way is simply to graft about three branches of a cross-pollinating variety onto the tree you have. Sometimes you can find trees that already have the correct type of pollinator grafted on the tree. Providing a pollinator can also help spread the harvest over a longer time span, but you do need one that blooms at the same time.

Avocado varieties differ in their types of flower, type A and type B. Cross pollination requires you chose a pollinator with the other kind of bloom. ‘Hass’ has excellent flavor and type A flowers. You will need a variety with type B flowers to pollinate it and ‘Fuerte’ fills the bill. ‘Pinkerton’ and ‘Reed’ are two other varieties with type A flowers that I personally find very flavorful but if you’re just growing one tree, ‘Hass’ is a better choice. There are also a few flavorful types that have B type flowers include ‘Yamagata’, ‘Sharwil’, and ‘Stewart’, any of which might also make a good pollinator for ‘Hass’. (The most recent edition of Sunset Western Garden Book has a list of varieties and their various characteristics on page 210. Some of these varieties may require a search, but several suppliers in Southern California grow them, including Andersons Growers and Growquest Nurseries in Santa Paula.)

Occasionally one can find a ‘Hass’ avocado tree with a type B pollinator already grafted onto it. Your nursery may be able to order it for you. If you can’t find one, and if you decide to go this route, I would suggest you learn to graft yourself or attend some meetings of the Rare Fruit Growers Society to find a person who can provide the scion wood and graft the branch onto your tree. (You may have to pay a fee for the service.) I have grafted deciduous fruit trees and had excellent success on my very first attempt, but I tried grafting an avocado and did not succeed, which leads me to believe that grafting avocado takes more skill and patience than grafting deciduous fruits. Once you have successfully grafted the branch or branches in place, then you need to prune to it, that is take off competing growth so it will develop into being an integral part of the tree.

But there is yet another space-saving way to go in the home garden and that is to purchase two types of avocado (types A and B) and plant both in one hole so they grow together and take up no more space than one tree. Prune out more branches of the one that is your chosen pollinator. In this way you will get more of the fruit you want.

Delighted you enjoy my book and last spring’s Master Gardener seminar.

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5 Responses to “Pollination of Avocado trees”

  1. Lynn Jamison February 19, 2012

    Where can I buy a very large avocado tree? I am looking for a tree in a 24 inch box minimum, and I live in L.A., but can travel to Ventura. I really want something with spread.

    I am also interested in knowing how far apart two avocado trees can be in order to pollinate. Is 300 feet too far?

    Reply
    • Large avocado trees can sometimes be found for sale in boxes at large tree farms, but usually will be severely stressed. I am strongly opposed to planting large-size avocado trees. It is much wiser to plant smaller sizes—no bigger than 15 gallons, if that, since the smaller trees will get going faster and within five years will outpace and outgrow the larger ones. They will also be healthier and have less chance of arriving with root rot or other problems. Three hundred feet is a little far for cross pollination. However, most likely it will work if there are bees. Optimum is twenty feet. Or you can graft some pieces of the other variety onto your tree or purchase a tree with two varieties already grafted. Better yet plant the two varieties together in one hole. That will give you a bigger tree right away in a safer way than buying a large tree.

      Reply
  2. How close must avacado trees be for pollination?

    Reply
  3. Thank you for the great info. I wanted to let you know that I visited Growquest Growers and I was initially very excited about what they offered – especially in Avocado trees. But then I found some very scathing information about them at this website (and others too):

    http://davesgarden.com/products/gwd/comments.php?compid=3143&type=2.

    I thought you might want to know about this since you are putting forth their name as a possible recommendation.

    On a separate note, I am interested in doing some citrus trees in containers – kumquat & meyer lemon. Do you have any recommendations about how to go about that i.e. what type of soil I should use, container size, etc. I have purchased a 7 gallon kumquat and will purchase a 15 gallon meyer.

    Thanks again in advance.

    Reply
    • Dear Jon:

      Thanks for the heads up about Growquest, but I am also aware that scathing information on the internet is not always correct and is sometimes malicious.

      That said, I reread what I wrote and noticed that I was not recommending Growquest, but only naming sources. I have never been there and know nothing about the company. Your comment is well-taken, however, since from now on I should refrain from suggesting sources in case readers think my mention of them is a recommendation when in fact my only desire is to be helpful.

      Regarding kumquat and lemon. I have seen kumquat grown as an ornamental patio tree and thriving in a pretty big Italian clay pot, 20-inches across or so filled with potting soil.

      As far as Meyer Lemon goes, be sure to get a dwarf ‘Meyer Lemon Improved’. They grow very well in whiskey half-barrels. Drill about 14 large holes in the bottom of the barrel. Cover each hole with a piece of broken crockery and fill the barrel with a good quality potting soil. Garden soil won’t work in containers. Fertilize regularly during the warm months of the year with an organic fertilizer recommended for citrus.

      Reply