Avocado Tree: Transplanting from Jar to New Home

Transplanting avocado tree from jar to pot

From jar to pot in one piece!

A wee avocado tree is a snap to transplant the first time, from jar to pot. All you have to do is take it out of the jar and put it in the pot. Right?

Well, almost.

An avocado tree is fun to grow indoors (unless you’re a cat)

Back in May this year, I posted about growing an avocado tree from seed, and included a couple of videos with minimum conflicting advice. I followed the average of all the advice, hung an avocado seed in a small jar by a trio of sturdy toothpicks, kept it watered and fed and amused, and almost entirely safe from harm. It grew quite nicely (despite a close encounter of the cat elbow kind).

With Mr Avocado Tree (Ms?) rapidly outgrowing his (her?) fourth and final mason jar —the largest one I own— it’s become evident that I need to start buying 5-gallon pickle jars worthy of a country store counter, or get this kid into his own dirt.

The avocado tree does not listen to experts

It is possible to watch too many how-to videos. Read too many advice articles. Listen to too many experienced horticulturists. Try to sort out too many conflicting Thou Shalts and You Absolutely Musts.

That’s the trap I found myself in this morning.

Since I’m still a certifiable newbie gardener, I immediately asked Professor Google how to transplant the avocado tree. Faced with 299,000 results, I gulped down a mug of coffee and settled in to speed-read.


So I had to decide to:

  • Wait until it’s three inches tall or
  • Wait until it’s ten inches tall.
  • Don’t transplant until it has three leaves or
  • Wait until it has 20 leaves.
  • Use a very small pot where the roots barely fit or
  • Use a very large pot to give it lots of room.
  • Position the tree so that the seed is above the level of the soil or
  • Position the tree so that the seed is right at soil level.

and furthermore…

  • Make sure to keep the toothpicks on or
  • Snip them off to avoid damage to the seed.
  • Use a mix of vermiculite, soil, worm castings or
  • Use a mix of soil, compost and sand (or many more variations).
  • Water the pot lightly or
  • Water the pot thoroughly and let drain.
  • Fertilize with —

Oh, the heck with it.

I decided to think like an avocado instead.

Avocado falls from tree, bird picks it up or it rolls down hill. Avocado gets stuck in some dirt or rolls into highway. Avocado grows or it doesn’t grow. Probably not if it’s on highway.

Avocado tree being supervised by Wingnut.

Apprentice Supervisor cat reports: Soil is all nicely floofed and patted and pawed and watered.

There’s no flock of wee garden gnomes following avocados around, toting bags of soil amended with vermiculite, worm castings and sand, fur-padded trowels to move the stranded ‘cado into just the right spot without bruising their minute toes, and bottles of specially balanced nutrient rich avocado-tree food.

So I dumped some dirt into a 6″ pot, floofed it up with my fingers and even tossed it a bit in the air (to emulate the effects of a windy hillside, don’tcha know), made a hill of it, took the tree out of the jar, put the tree in the pot, and watered it.

Enough fussing around. If it grows, it grows. If it doesn’t, it’s probably lucky that it won’t have to try to deal with Annie Godzilla Wingnut, my assistant apprentice gardener supervisor cat.

To your garden success!
Casey – the Garden Lass

Partly Cloudy, 100% Chance of Gardening

partly cloudy sculptures

Partly cloudy over the Sierra Nevada range at 6:55 am

This morning was one of those hopeful cloudy mornings where the wind had sculpted miles of clouds into fantasy drawings. It’s rare to get this sort of calm, cloudy, overcast morning out here in the desert, or for the clouds to last much past daybreak if we do.

So at 6:55 a.m., all the signs were in place for it to be a great cloudy gardening day.

Why rejoice at cloudy mornings?

A few reasons for looking forward to cloudy mornings come to mind. The temperature is a bit cooler, the little humidity we get is a bit higher.

The air is standing still, which means not having to chase leaves and seed packets and trash bags down the hill every few minutes.

Cloudy mornings are easier on seedlings waiting to be transplanted. There’s less stress on their leaves, less tension in the roots since they won’t have to stand up to 40 mph gusts.

The ground doesn’t dry out as fast when it’s a cloudy morning. This means there’s less need to keep sprinkling the soil while planting seeds into the ground or hardening off seedlings from indoors to out.

The sun isn’t as blinding on a cloudy morning, which means the dark RayBans can stay indoors for a change and we can enjoy the beauty of the true colors of flowers we’re moving from flat to ground.

We get clouds more often than we used to – or perhaps I’m noticing them more now that I’m gardening. It’s a morning smile, even if it brings rain – even more of a rarity to this part of the desert.

What tasks to save for cloudy mornings?

Keep a list and be prepared, if cloudy mornings are rare in your neck of the woods. Some ideas for your list:

  • Deep soak watering
  • Deadheading flowers and trimming
  • Preparing seedlings for hardening off
  • Seeding vegetables into outdoor rows
  • Mulching and weed blocking
  • Hose and sprinkler repair and rerouting
  • Footpath and stepping stone maintenance
  • Patio and driveway sweeping

Sure, some of these can be done on sunny mornings and quite often are. But some require spending time in the bright light and heat of the high desert – and when it can be 85F by breakfast time, it’s important to schedule outdoor work carefully (and buy lots of sunscreen).

So take advantage of your cloudy mornings when the weather is 100% perfect for a serious gardening session.




Transplanting by Plant Personality Type and Needs

when to transplant a jalapeno

Transplanting jalapeno,
an impatient hothead

Transplanting a plant should be an easy exercise. If it’s too big for the pot it’s in, it needs a new pot. Right? It’s not like the plant is going to care. Right..?

Well, yes and no. For instance, I spent this afternoon transplanting the jalapeno from a little peat pot starter into a larger pot, even though it was still not all that big compared to its starter pot. BUT —and here’s where the fun happens— when it started growing, it was smack dab up against the edge of the peat pot, and it was way too small to move without risk. So I waited, for nearly a month as it turns out, until it had gotten a good enough foothold to be able to withstand the move. But transplanting the jalapeno meant learning what sort of a plant personality I was facing.

Transplanting the Drama Queen

Plants will mess with you. Some transplanted plants are Drama Queens, screaming their fool heads off about how terrible you are as a steward and how you abuse them at every turn. Threatening to alert the authorities, call the neighbors, raise a ruckus. Then the next day they’re all comfy and happy and settling in.

Transplant in the morning while it’s still sleepy, and maybe you’ll get the task done before it starts to panic.

Transplanting the Stoic

Then there’s the Stoic. Go for it. No, no anesthetic. I can take it. Just give me a log to bite down on and —(muffled) AARGH. No, nothing. Just a scratch. A shot of whiskey would be good. Thanks, dude.

REAL Transplanting Guide

  • Water the day before.
  • Transplant when cool or overcast.
  • Water just before digging up or taking out of its pot. Soak the root ball.
  • Water the hole here the plant is going.
  • Place plant into hole and fill halfway with water. Wait while it settles the soil.
  • Firm up the soil around the plant.
  • Water the whole plant.
  • Shield from direct sun (3-5 days).

When you’re not looking, the Stoic one faints dead away. Act fast before it wakes up.

Transplanting the Collaborator

There’s the Collaborator. All full of opinions and guidance. No, not that one. Too small. That one’s a mite wide. No, let’s go with terra cotta; gray just doesn’t do a think for my eyes. Mulch and a handful of —YES, that soil, that soil. No, not that one. That’s got that bleach odor to it. Well, ok. Yes, I can live with — wait! What about that one in the corner? Four days later it wants to move again.

Distract it and transplant based on your own logic.

Transplanting the Diva

There is never a good time to transplant the Diva. You are, after all, interrupting her routine and insulting her previous choice of pots by insisting on this gauche process. I mean, goodness. They certainly don’t make us do this sort of thing in Bel Air. Come now. Let’s get it over. I have a mani-pedi at 11 and tennis with Giorgio at 2. Oh for GAWD’s sake put down a tarp. That’s a 19th Century Kurdistan Herati!

Aim for late afternoon, and before the dinner party starts. She’ll want time to change.

Transplanting the Hothead

You might as well transplant this at high noon on a hot sidewalk or at midnight by the light of the New Moon; it’s going to want you to hurry no matter what. The jalapeno started yammering the moment I took it away from its nice warm perch in the growing room window, and didn’t stop until I got its roots firmly buried in a brand new 8″ self-watering pot worthy of a plant ten times its size.  Done yet? Done yet? Done yet? Oh for Pete’s sake are you done yet? You’re slowing me UP. I gotta GO. I gotta MOVE. C’MONNNN!

Aim for a nice quiet afternoon, with earplugs in place when you start.

Bottom Line

There are going to be some plants that were born mad, who don’t want to be pleased, don’t want to be happy, and don’t want to be transplanted smoothly no matter how careful you are. Work calmly and confidently, and don’t stop to pick a fight.