Can You Grow Avocado Trees in Tennessee? Will They Survive?
Thinking of adding some avocado trees to your Tennessee home or yard? Tennessee is covers two different hardiness zones (5b-8a) and the growing conditions are slightly different in each zone. In this article, gardening expert Madison Moulton considers if you can grow avocado trees in this southern state.
Tennessee has an ideal climate for growing many fruit trees. The mild weather – winters that aren’t too cold and summers that aren’t too hot – is perfect for people and plants.
Tennesee is a wide state and spans several different growing zones. This means that there are going to be different plants that function better across different areas of the state. Tennessee growing zones range from 5b to 8a, which is a fairly diverse climate.
You may have avocados on your list of must-grow fruit trees, but will these trees thrive in the Tennessee climate? Read on to find out if you should be growing these trees in your Tennessee garden, or if you should be sticking to more well-known Tennessee-friendly fruit trees like apples.
Avocado Growing Conditions
Avocado trees (Persea americana) are native to parts of Mexico, Guatemala, and India, but can be found growing in tropical and Mediterranean climates across the world. Historical evidence suggests these trees, or more accurately, the precursors to these particular tree species were widespread millions of years ago.
Avocados can be quite picky about their growing conditions. They grow impressively tall and produce plenty of fruits, but need a lot of support to do so. The first things they need are high heat and little wind, growing in USDA Zones 9-11 and occasionally 8. These trees cannot handle frost at all, and will die when exposed to temperatures under 25F, sometimes 20F for hardier cultivars.
They also require masses of water to produce fruits. Studies show it takes around 85 gallons of water to grow just one avocado – three times more water than is used to grow apples. This makes them ideal for climates with plenty of rainfall, to reduce water usage and impact on the environment.
Unfortunately, the climate in Tennessee does not at all match the avocado’s very specific growing requirements. Tennessee USDA zones range from 5b to 8a, lacking the warmth needed to grow avocados successfully. In winter, temperatures state-wide drop well below the threshold of 20F – and that’s just for hardier Mexican cultivars.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to grow avocados in parts of Tennessee. Those in Zone 8 have a chance of growing avocados outdoors successfully, with a bit of extra care over the winter. Gardeners in Zones 5-7 can take another popular route – growing indoors.
Growing Avocados In Zone 8
The key to growing avocados in cooler climates than they’re used to is to start with the right variety. Mexican avocados are the most cold-hardy and some are classified as subtropical plants, making them suitable for growing in Zone 8 (depending on the region’s temperatures). Some prefer dryer climates, while others enjoy rainy weather. It is up to you to assess the microclimate of your garden and choose the most suitable avocado variety.
The second is to choose a tree as old as possible. The older the tree and the more established the roots are, the more likely it is to handle cold weather. Young plants have tender leaves and branches that will die back with the first sign of frost. Aim for the biggest tree you can find to give you the best chance of keeping it alive.
Finally, your avocado tree may require some extra care when outdoors in Zone 8. Keep a close eye on the weather forecast are place a frost cover over your tree when the temperatures dip below 25F. While hardier varieties can withstand slightly colder weather than this, a few new leaves may still become damaged and die off – not something you want in a healthy tree.
By choosing the right tree, monitoring the conditions, and protecting it from high winds and cold drafts, you should be able to keep your avocado tree protected until it is established and can take a bit of cold damage on its own. Keep in mind that these are not ideal conditions for fruit production either, so you are likely to get fewer avocados from your harvest than you would in tropical climates.
Growing Avocados Indoors
You may look up at a 24m avocado tree and think there is no way to grow it indoors. But, as with many things in gardening, there is always a way. Due to their tropical environments, avocados are well-suited to indoor growing, with a bit of extra attention paid to their care.
When growing avocado trees indoors, opt for a dwarf variety that will handle the confines of a pot well and won’t outgrow your roof height too quickly. Some experimental gardeners may choose to grow from a grocery store avo seed, following the advice of many a viral video. However, to give your plant the best start indoors, it’s better to choose a healthy grafted tree from a nursery.
Plant in a large pot with plenty of space for growth and leave near a bright window with direct sun. In the right spot, your avocado tree should grow into a glossy foliage plant in a few years. They will need regular watering and plenty of fertilizer to make up for the confined conditions of a pot.
Growing indoors does come with one major caveat – you are unlikely to get any fruit. The restrictions of containers and indoor light make adequate growth for fruiting difficult. If you’re willing to wait several years, you may see a few fruits, but they will not be nearly as tasty as avocados grown outdoors.
If you’re looking to grow fruit trees in Tennessee, avocados shouldn’t be your first choice. In specific regions where the temperature doesn’t dip too long, and with the right variety, you may find some success – but it is not guaranteed. You can also grow your avocado tree indoors, but it is highly unlikely to ever bear fruit.
Instead of spending all your time and money on growing avocados (they tend to majorly increase your water bill), try one of the 11 Best Fruit Trees To Grow In Tennessee. These plants are tried and tested and will give you a strong harvest outdoors without all the extra fuss.