Avocado (Persea americana), or alligator pear, is a tropical fruit tree that grows best in zones 9, 10 and 11. Avocado trees prefer the warmth and frost-free areas of the tropical and subtropical regions of the U.S. The three types of avocados that are cultivated are the Mexican, Guatemalan and West Indian. Mexican's are the hardiest of the three, with the Guatemalan being the most sensitive to frost. Growing an avocado tree is not hard, provided you meet its growth requirements. It will reward you with years of delicious fruit.
Select an area in your landscape that is large enough to allow the avocado tree to reach mature height without interfering with a structure or powerlines. Avocado trees can reach a height of 20 to 40 feet, depending on the variety.
Choose an area to plant the avocado tree that receives at least five hours of sunlight each day.
Remove any weeds or grasses from the planting site, keeping it clean at all times. Mulch around the base of the tree to keep the area weed free and help the soil retain moisture. Use pine bark, cypress mulch, leaf debris or pine needles.
Amend the planting site with compost, peat or manure. Work the organic material a foot deep into the soil. Be sure the planting site drains well, as avocados do not like to live in flooded conditions and will die.
Plant the avocado in a hole that is twice as large as its root ball but is no deeper. Remove the plant from its container and place into the hole, being careful not to damage the root system. Pack the dirt firmly around it.
Water the avocado tree regularly once to twice per week during periods of heat and dry weather. Cut back to once every two to three weeks during winter and wet periods. Do not keep the planting site soggy.
Fertilize the avocado with a high-quality citrus fertilizer high in nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and zinc after it has been in the ground for one year. Apply a fresh application of compost to the planting site in the spring. Fertilize the avocado tree once per year in the spring with the citrus fertilizer.
Prune the avocado to control its size and to remove any dead wood. Prune any limbs that are beginning to cross over each other. Prune before your particular variety of avocado sets flowers.
Protect a young avocado tree from frosts or freezes by covering with a blanket, hanging lights on it, or setting a lamp under the blanket for warmth. Water the soil deeply the day before the frost is expected. Mexican varieties are hardy to 18 degrees, and other varieties are hardy to 32 degrees.