The Best Soil for Avocado Trees of 2021 – Picks from Bob Vila – Bob Vila

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BobVila.com and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Photo: istockphoto.comA popular childhood experiment involves learning how to grow an avocado seed over a jar of water. Within a few weeks, thread-like roots appear, spreading throughout the jar, then a tender green sprout emerges from the top of the seed, and voila, an avocado seedling appears.Now the fun begins. When the sprout develops four or five leaves, it’s time to transplant it into a pot where it can grow into an attractive houseplant. Outdoors, avocado trees can reach 30 or more feet in height, but when grown in a container, the plant tops out around 6 to 7 feet, which is a good height for a specimen indoor houseplant.Growing an avocado tree is relatively simple if the plant’s basic needs are met. Using the right soil for avocado trees is essential because the plant enjoys moisture but won’t tolerate standing water. Ahead, learn what to look for when choosing soil for this plant, and find out why the following products are among the best growing options. The best soil for avocado tree health will drain well, retain moisture, and resist compaction.BEST OVERALL: FoxFarm Ocean Forest Plant Garden Potting Soil MixBEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Miracle-Gro Moisture Control 50 qt. Potting Soil Mix BEST ORGANIC: Black Gold All Purpose SoilBEST MICRONUTRIENTS: FoxFarm Happy Frog Potting SoilALSO CONSIDER: Proven Winners Premium All Purpose Potting SoilPhoto: homedepot.comWhat to Consider When Choosing the Best Soil for Avocado TreesThe avocado tree (Persea americana) is native to Mexico and commercially grown in tropical climates, including the warmest regions of California and Florida where frost does not occur. Elsewhere, it’s grown as an indoor houseplant. While avocado seeds are commonly sprouted and then planted in pots, grafted avocado plants also are available from gardening centers. A commercial soil mix is usually the best option for growing avocado as a houseplant.Types of SoilMost all-purpose soil mixes for houseplants and container-grown fruit trees will be suitable for growing avocado plants as well, but there are a few factors to keep in mind. The soil should retain enough moisture to keep the plant’s roots slightly damp between waterings. Garden soil is not recommended because it tends to compact over time, and it often contains bacteria or insects that can spread to other houseplants.Some avocado tree growers will want the soil mix to be organic as well. Products that display an Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) label are certified organic by the institute. Commercial soil mixes for growing avocados will likely include one or more of the following ingredients.Peat moss: Sphagnum peat moss—harvested from moss bogs—is light and airy and a prime component of commercial grow mixes. It keeps the soil from becoming compressed, and it absorbs water and then releases it slowly to help keep roots damp.Coconut coir: Recycled from the husks of coconuts, coco coir is also a common ingredient in soil mixes, and it performs the same function as peat moss—keeps the soil light and retains water.Bark: The most common types of bark used in soil mixes come from pine and fir trees. These larger chunks help create air pockets in the soil, which give avocado roots access to oxygen.Perlite: This ingredient is a fluffy, natural byproduct of volcanic glass, and it keeps soil from compacting while retaining some moisture.Sand: Including horticultural sand increases drainage while adding structural integrity to the soil—a boon for anchoring tall avocado tree roots to keep the plant from toppling.Micronutrients and pH LevelAvocado trees will tolerate both acidic and alkaline soils, but they do best in slightly acidic soil with a pH level of around 6 to 6.8 on the pH scale. The pH scale runs from 0 to 14, with 7 being considered “neutral.” Fortunately, most commercial soil mixes fall within the optimal range for growing avocados so it’s not a major consideration. You can easily test soil pH with an inexpensive pH tester from a garden center if there is a concern.In addition, avocado trees like soil that’s chock-full of nutrients. This can be supplied by feeding the plant with a fertilizer high in phosphorus (the middle number in the fertilizer’s NPK ratio), such as a 10-30-10, while the plant is young. If the avocado tree begins producing fruit, switch to a fertilizer that’s higher in potassium, such as a 10-5-20 NPK.Some commercial soil mixes come with added fertilizers and micronutrients, including trace minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Still, these can also be added via a commercial fertilizer as the plant grows, so it’s not essential to buy a soil mix that includes them.DrainageDrainage is an essential part of avocado tree care,so in addition to selecting a soil blend that contains ingredients that encourage drainage, plant the young tree in a pot with holes in the bottom that will allow water to run through. Adding an inch or two of pea gravel to the bottom of the pot will also encourage drainage and keep the holes from clogging.While the plant is small, consider placing it in a sink or tub when watering to allow the water to drain out completely. For bigger avocado trees, select a pot that features a water-collection tray that sits below the level of the pot’s drain holes to keep the soil from reabsorbing the water, which can make the soil soggy and increase the risk of root rot.SaltsOver time, salt crystals can form in any soil type if the water used for watering contains sodium. This typically appears as a white residue on the top of the soil, and an avocado plant may develop brown leaf tips as a result. If the soil forms salt crystals, the best solution is to repot the plant into a larger container with fresh soil. At minimum, scoop off the top inch of soil and replace it until you can repot the plant.Salt crystals are more likely to form if the home’s water is filtered through a water softener. Overuse of fertilizer also increases the risk. If a water softener is used in the home, consider watering houseplants with distilled water.Container Tree ConsiderationsGrowing avocado trees in containers makes for tall, attractive plants that can be moved outdoors to a protected spot on a patio or terrace during warm summer months. Consider the following when selecting a container.Size: The pot should be large enough to accommodate the tree as it grows. Avocado roots are relatively shallow, but they spread outward, so choose a pot that’s at least twice as wide as the plant’s current root ball.Material: Terra-cotta and clay pots offer stability in windy areas, but they should be painted or sealed to keep them from drawing moisture from the soil, which can dry out the tree’s roots.Tree selection: Growing an avocado tree from a seed is fun, but most of the avocado fruit found in today’s produce aisles comes from hybridized trees. The avocado tree grown from a seed may not produce any fruit. If fruit production is desired, consider selecting an avocado tree from a garden center.Our Top PicksTo qualify as a top pick in this soil roundup, the potting mix must drain well yet retain the moisture necessary to keep avocado trees healthy and happy. It must also contain components that keep it from becoming compacted over time. It doesn’t necessarily have to include added fertilizers since those can be added later during regular plant feedings, but it’s a plus. Any of the following soil mixes are well suited to growing avocados. This Ocean Forest indoor or outdoor potting soil from FoxFarm provides a lightweight, quick-draining foundation that’s well suited to growing avocado trees in pots. Its all-natural blend of sphagnum peat moss, forest humus, and sandy loam creates a premium mix that will encourage strong root development.The inclusion of horticultural sand offers structural integrity to this mix and will help anchor the roots of even large avocado trees to keep them from tipping out of the soil. In addition to the main ingredients, Ocean Forest has been amended with earthworm castings, fish meal, and crab meal to give plants a healthy boost.Product Specs Ingredients: Peat moss, forest humus, sandy loamAdded nutrients: Earthworm castings, crab meal, fish mealOrganic: NoProsDrains quicklyRetains moistureContains natural nutrientsConsPricey Photo: homedepot.comFrom a nationally known garden products manufacturer comes Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Potting Mix that’s budget-friendly and specially formulated to offer plants a consistent level of moisture so they can thrive.Moisture Control contains sphagnum peat moss, perlite, processed forest product, and coco coir in a blend that drains quickly yet retains 30 percent more moisture than similar mixes to protect the plant in case the grower misses a watering. Like other Miracle-Gro mixes, Moisture Control contains added fertilizers to boost growth, so no additional fertilizing is needed for the first 6 months.Product Specs Ingredients: Peat moss, forest product, coco coir, perliteAdded nutrients: Balanced fertilizerOrganic: NoProsRetains 30 percent more moisture than similar productsDrains wellAffordableConsFertilizer is synthetic Photo: walmart.comWhile many avocado tree enthusiasts grow the plant strictly for its attractive addition to a room or patio, others grow hybridized avocado trees, hoping to produce real fruit. For fruit production, it’s tough to beat Black Gold All Purpose Soil, which is certified organic, so growers can rest assured no chemicals or synthetic ingredients will leach into the fruit.Black Gold is made from a mix of Canadian sphagnum peat moss, bark, forest humus, compost, pumice (volcanic pebbles), and perlite to provide a healthy environment for plant roots that both drains well and retains moisture. The pumice also helps anchor the roots of large tree specimens in the pot. The addition of earthworm castings boosts the soil’s nutrient level.Product Specs Ingredients: Peat moss, bark, forest humus, compost, perliteAdded nutrients: Earthworm castingsOrganic: YesProsCertified organic by OMRIDrains quicklyRetains moistureNutritious blendConsOn the pricey side Photo: amazon.comBearing the cheerful name of “Happy Frog,” this indoor/outdoor potting mix is an optimal blend of ingredients to which natural micronutrients have been added. The base mix contains sphagnum peat moss, perlite, and forest humus to provide enhanced drainage, moisture retention, and the aeration that avocado roots love. Leonardite, a natural, mineral-based soil conditioner, has been added to improve the blend’s ability to anchor large plant roots.Happy Frog also contains natural microbes and micronutrients in the form of bat guano, earthworm castings, ground oyster shells, powdered dolomite lime, and humic acid. This soil mix is nutrient rich and ideal for growing avocado trees of all sizes.Product Specs Ingredients: Peat moss, perlite, forest humus, LeonarditeAdded nutrients: Bat guano, earthworm castings, ground oyster shell, powdered dolomite lime, humic acidOrganic: NoProsFortified with natural nutrientsDrains wellRetains waterHelps anchor rootsConsPricey Photo: homedepot.comProven Winners Premium All Purpose Potting Soil contains a blend of Canadian sphagnum peat moss, softwood bark, and perlite to provide a growing base that drains quickly yet retains the moisture avocado tree roots crave between waterings. This is a dry mix, so the manufacturer has incorporated a wetting agent to help the dry peat moss absorb water the first time it’s moistened. After that, the moss will quickly absorb water with each watering.The mix also contains an all-purpose fertilizer to get newly transplanted avocados off to a healthy start and will continue to provide nutrients for up to 6 months.Product Specs Ingredients: Peat moss, softwood bark, perlite, wetting agentAdded nutrients: All-purpose fertilizerOrganic: NoProsDrains wellOptimal aerationFertilizer addedConsFertilizer is syntheticOur VerdictAny of the soil mixes in this lineup are well suited for growing healthy avocado trees, but the Best Overall pick—FoxFarm Ocean Forest—checks all the boxes. It contains all-natural ingredients, drains quickly, retains moisture, and includes sand to help anchor large plant roots. Those looking for a more affordable option for growing avocado trees might consider Miracle-Gro Moisture Control, which contains fertilizer and protects plant roots if a watering is skipped.How We Chose the Best Soil for Avocado TreesBefore choosing the above soil mixes, we extensively researched dozens of growing and potting mixes, looking for the ingredients that would enhance both drainage and moisture retention. We also considered the addition of nutrients and fertilizers, which help ensure the transplanted avocado trees get off to a healthy start.While we looked carefully at manufacturer reputation—Miracle-Gro is known nationally for producing quality gardening products—we did not rule out smaller (or niche) manufacturers that are turning out premium mixes with high-quality ingredients. Additionally, we factored in price when awarding points for each product. The result is a lineup of soil blends that all qualify as the best soil for avocado trees.FAQsAvocado trees are not difficult to grow, whether from a seed suspended over a jar of water or from an established nursery seedling, but they do best when planted in optimal soil. Those who plan on growing avocado from seedand those looking to purchase an avocado tree will likely have some questions about avocado tree care.Q: How do I prepare soil for an avocado tree?Most commercial potting soils come already prepared. For those mixes that come completely dry, the soil should be poured into a large bowl or bucket and moistened before transplanting the avocado tree.Q: Can avocado trees be grown in pots?Unless you live in a low desert or tropical region that never receives frost, the only option is to grow avocado trees in pots. Avocado trees grow well in pots, where they typically reach a mature height of 6 to 7 feet.Q: Is sandy soil good for avocado?Sandy soil should be amended with organic matter, such as compost, before planting avocado trees. However, potting soils containing horticultural sand are optimal for growing large avocado trees in containers because the sand encourages drainage and helps anchor the plant’s roots.Q: Can avocado trees grow in clay soil?While clay is high in nutrients, its particles are extremely fine so they compress easily, and since the soil does not drain well, clay is an ill-suited choice for growing avocados.Q: Do avocados like coffee grounds?Coffee grounds are acidic, so adding them to the soil will increase its acidity. Before adding any grounds, test the soil with a pH tester kit. If the soil’s pH level is higher than 6.8, you can add a small amount of coffee grounds. But don’t overdo it, or you risk making the soil too acidic.
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