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Tropical Horticulture Project

Mango two weeks old

Mangos and avocados are both easy to grow. Mangos sprout sooner, but require more light and better soil. Avocados grow really quickly once they sprout. The trick with either one is to germinate the seed before you plant it in the dirt. Seeds require humidity, water, light, and warmth, and you can get that by filling the bottom of a sealable container with water, wrapping the seed in a damp paper towel, and sealing the seed in the container. Every few days you should open the container to let the air exchange. When the seed germinates, plant the seed in loamy soil with good drainage, orienting the root down. A mango will take up to a month to germinate. An avocado may take several months. This same basic technique of germinating seeds works for “easy” seeds, too, like peas and beans.

Avocado seed very early in germination
(note the seed coat cracks)

Avocado seed wrapped

When germinating a mango, be sure to take the husk off the seed first. Parts of an avocado’s brown seed coat will flake off naturally as it germinates.
It’s hard to tell if a seed is good without waiting a few weeks. A safe bet is to buy ripe fruit from a gourmet grocery store in a warm climate. On the other hand, buying avocados in December from Rainbow Foods in Minneapolis might give you a few duds. The fruit probably was picked unripe to facilitate shipping, and the fruit might have been damaged by frost in transit.

Germinated avocado with perciatelli taproot

If you open up an avocado and you see small root-like fibers going to the seed, it doesn’t mean the seed already sprouted! The avocado root is shaped like perciatelli pasta and the seed will split before it comes out. You will know it when you see it. In this picture, the reason you don’t see root hairs is that the root has very recently sprouted. One trick to see if a germinated avocado is still viable to rotate the seed so that the tip is not pointing down. Over the next day, the root will grow a visible amount, straight down, making a bend at the end of the root. You can see several bends at the end of this avocado’s root. As a side note, you should get the avocados in the soil as soon as they germinate. You should not let the root grow as long as I did in this illustration.