How to Propagate Pineapples, Avocados, and Citrus Trees

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You don’t always have to buy seeds or young plants to grow fruit trees, as most of them already have seeds inside them. The tricky part is extracting them in a form in which they can be properly planted, finding the right growing conditions, and then exercising a little patience.

Fruit plants can take a long time to grow, but the process is all part of the fun. Even if they never bear fruit, the beautiful foliage of citrus, pineapple, and avocado plants can be a rich reward.

Citrus Seeds

Oranges, lemons, and limes, oh my! Any citrus fruit has seeds you can extract and replant. For most of these seeds (including lemon, lime, and orange) you'll want to limit air exposure to a bare minimum. You'll also need to clean the fruit (meat) off of them.

One of the best ways to do both these things at the same time is to pop the seeds you're working on directly into your mouth. This will keep them moist while exposing them to very little air, and your saliva’s natural enzymes will help clean their surfaces, preventing potential rotting once they're placed into soil. Pretty cool, right?

If you aren’t into saliva-cleaning your seeds, simply place them in water overnight. Do not let them dry out.

When they are clean, place them directly into dirt about half an inch down. Some people like to wrap them in a wet paper towel inside of a plastic bag or container, which will, if left in a sunny spot, will also lead to germination in three to ten days. By placing them directly into soil, though, you save a step and skip the need for some materials. Either way, ensure the seeds are in a warm, moist environment.

Once they germinate, citrus plants prefer dry, well drained soils, and will struggle if their soil is too wet. They do best outside in sunny, hot climates, but can be overwintered if kept near a sunny window or greenhouse. The plants will eventually develop into trees and potentially bear fruit in three to six years. In the meantime, their leaves and branches make a beautiful and interesting addition to any plant collection.

citrus seeds germinating

Pineapple Tops

Propagating the top of a pineapple is relatively simple with the right method and some patience. To start, grab the fruit with one hand and the leafy stem with the other. Give it a twist until the growth at the top is free. Remove the lowest few layers of leaves, since the bottom of the stem will eventually get submerged in water and the leaves will start curling down into it. Leaves in the water will cause rot and bacteria, which can slow your progress or even kill the plant.

Place the top on its side in a well-ventilated area so the bottom can scar over. Depending on the humidity and temperature, this usually takes around seven to 10 days. Let the bottom fully harden—this prevents it from rotting when it is submersed in water. Don't wait too long, however. If all the upper leaves die, the plant won’t have enough energy to grow roots.

Once the bottom is firm to the touch (not wet or squishy when you press it) put it in water. Use a round vase or container that can support the plant upright, keeping the leaves out of the water, while maintaining an even level at the bottom for the roots to eventually grow. Keep your once and future pineapple out of direct sunlight for both the drying and submersion phases. Filtered/indirect light is best for these parts of the process.

Change the water every one to three days, or whenever it becomes murky. This is where the patience comes in—it can take two to three months to start seeing root growth. Once you’ve established several roots measuring a few inches each, the pineapple can be potted. At this point, full sun is best, as it will help the plant grow faster, but baby pineapples can also tolerate diffused light. In fact, their exotic, palm-like leaves make excellent indoor ornaments.

Do not over-water your pineapple-to-be. Keep the soil moist, but make sure it drains well enough that it doesn't stay fully wet. In two to three years, your plant will be ready to flower. If you want to encourage this, seal your three-year-old plant in a bag with some pineapple slices and keep it away from direct sunlight for three to seven days. Then return it to light and remove the bag. It should eventually flower, and then develop into a full pineapple over about six months.

When your pineapple is ripe, the original plant will die, but it should have sent out some shoots by then. These can be divided and replanted to continue the cycle.

avocado pit sprouting

Avocado Pits

Getting the pit out without ruining the fruit of the avocado can sometimes be tricky. Puncturing the seed with a knife a little to get it out is okay, as long as you don’t go too deep. Wash the pit and place the bottom (rounder) half in the soil of a plant you already have. Choose a plant you water about once a week or more so the pit stays wet regularly.

As with many larger fruits, it may take many months (sometimes over six!) before anything happens. So, this method allows you to “set it and forget it!” As long as you keep the pointy end up when planting, this is a foolproof way to germinate an avocado tree (no toothpicks necessary).

Once a seedling emerges from the pit, its trunk and leaves will look similar to a money tree. As long as it has plenty of sunlight and well draining soil, it will start to grow tall, and its leaves will get broad and top-heavy. The young tree will need regular watering, but its soil should dry out in between drinks.

A mature tree that's moved into a large pot or a sunny, fertile area can start producing avocados in three to 15 years. There is no guarantee an avocado tree will bear any fruit, but it will always be a beautiful plant that adds vibrancy to your home or garden. That's a pretty great return on your initial investment of one avocado.

Other Tips

For these three plants, patience is the key. Moving them from indirect light to full light right away, or subjecting them to other drastic changes like extreme wind or swinging temperatures, can be deadly.

Citrus trees tend to be the easiest (and fastest) to sprout. They can also be fairly resilient once established, and they are the quickest to produce fruit. Pineapples take the most effort, but once they sprout new growth at the top, or start a new plant out the side, they are incredibly hardy! Avocados take the most time to germinate, and also can be a bit pickier with light or temperature changes, or when being transplanted, but the reward for the effort is a tree that grows super foods in your own backyard.

Organic produce will have a higher likelihood of sprouting and producing fruit, since it's subjected to less chemical tampering. Although there is a risk even these plants may never bear fruit, especially if they aren’t in their native climates, their tropical foliage can make unique additions to your home, indoors or outside. Citrus, pineapple, and avocado plants can also be a lot of fun to grow, whether you are an experienced green thumb or just starting out.