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Are avocado trees suitable for Chiang Mai?

October 13, 2011

In an earlier blog I concluded that in Chiang Mai avocado makes blossom already at age three. Then how come that Tops supermarket and Rimping here in Chiang Mai import avocado from Australia and sell them at a cost of 45-50 Baht each? It is hard to explain, especially since I picked up gorgeous avocado in Mae Sai recently. I paid 100 Baht for 3 kg, and since they were huge I ‘only’ got eight avocado fruits for that price. The locals do sell them immature and very hard, but if you keep them at room temperature (not in the fridge or they will spoil) they will soon mature which you can see by the darkening of the rind.

So why don’t we see more avocado in the Chiang Mai gardens? There are at least four reasons.

1. Avocado must have a well drained soil. A few hours of standing water and the roots drown. Yes, plant roots breathe oxygen like you and me. Different plant species have different tolerance, and some like mangrove or lotus grow totally submerged. Avocado is sensitive. When the roots die the leaves lose their turgor and they hang down like rags. The paradox is that the leaves dry out due to flooding! Due to this year’s flooding I guess many Thai avocado trees were killed. Luckily Dokmai Garden was not too badly affected and so three of four specimens survived.Planting it in a slope is good, and so many avocado trees grow in the mountains.

2. Avocado can not stand a prolonged drought. Make sure you can water it during the dry season November-April.

3. One avocado tree is usually not enough. Many avocado cultivars demand cross-pollination between different individuals. If your garden is small (an avocado can reach 20 meters), maybe ask a neighbour if they wish to plant an avocado too, and then both of you benefit.

4. Finally, to the Thais avocado is still something of a novelty. Good cultivars can be a bit hard to find, but if you are not picky simply plant a seed. Yesterday I made a basic guacamole (two huge avocados, three large cloves of garlic, three chili peppers, the juice from one lime fruit and a pinch of salt, all mixed with a mixer). The Thais were a bit reluctant even to try it, but to my great satisfaction they liked it very much. Guacamole is much more healthy than cream-based dips.

I do think avocado should be planted in the Chiang Mai gardens since it is an evergreen, fast-growing and beautiful tree with gorgeous fruits. As long as you meet its requirements you should be successful. Do you rather prefer trees with colourful blossom? Then let a colourful creeper trail up in your avocado. The New Guinea Creeper (Mucuna bennettii) is most suitable.

Eric Danell

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. October 13, 2011 7:54 AM

    Yes lots of delicious cheap local avacadoes. There needs to be a “Boycott Imported Avacadoes Campaign” BIAC – the name should stick??

    I like your flowering climber suggestion. Chiang Mai has a gorgeous climbing red flowered Butea superba, now in the DokMai Garden collection.
    Perhaps when it flowers seed can be grown and presented = planted, to grow on road side trees and hopefully persuade the authorities to plant more local evergreen trees rather than exotic Lagerstroemias and already over planted Butea monosperma (Tong Gwaw)

    • October 13, 2011 9:51 AM

      Yes, I’d love to promote Butea monosperma, but I want to know more about it first. Ours are still small and I should be happy to cultivation advice.

      Cheers, Eric

    • June 25, 2015 11:17 PM

      no ways!!
      Haas Avocados are way more tasty than the Thai Avocados.
      the Thai Avocados ripen very badly… often black inside.
      far less reliable than the haas avocado.
      Why on earth do thai farmers grow those breeds of avocados? or are they watery and tastless because of the badly kept soil ?
      i wish thai farmers all switched to HAAS avocados. then i will gladly stop buying expensive imported avocados.

  2. October 30, 2011 2:36 PM

    Yes there are lots of avocados suitable for growing in Chiang Mai, and most of Thailand. My guess is that main reason avocados are not commonly found there already is that most Asians are not fond of avocados. Or rather they don’t know how to use them. Avocados are rare in most of Asia. (In most of South Pacific Polynesia they are considered pig food only.) Still it would make a very good high profit crop in Thailand for farang tourists. I saw a few being sold this was in specialty markets and restaurants.

    • October 31, 2011 9:42 AM

      I think farang settlers might be largest consumers at present. Once that habit spreads into the Thai culture those who have avocado trees will be able to produce without severe competition for several years.

  3. November 3, 2011 11:54 AM

    As I understand it from my reading, male and female flowers on individual trees open weeks apart, precluding self-pollination. Best pollination occurs among a large population of avocado trees, where there are multiple, overlapping periods of flowering. Also, raising avocados from seed is largely futile; to reliably get good quality fruit grafting is a must. Even when seed is from a perfect fruit, it is always a hybrid (for the reason stated above), so that a plant from seed will not produce fruit like one from which it came. The odds are hundreds to one against getting good fruit from seed—but it does happen. This I know from experience.

    • November 3, 2011 3:04 PM

      You are right! The reason I go for home-made avocado from seed is the joy of following a plant since its childhood, and since I am curious to know how the love child will turn out. I mentioned this in a previous blog ‘To care for a plant individual’. If you want a production of tasty avocados in your garden you should absolutely try to get a cloned name variety.

      In biology ‘hybrid’ is a term normally reserved for crosses between species. The mule is a hybrid, the off-spring of a shire horse and a pony is not, although in daily language ‘hybrid’ is used in a broader sense, simply meaning ‘mix’ or ‘crossing’.

      Eric

  4. kentiopsis permalink
    November 4, 2011 2:23 AM

    Thirty-five years ago, when I was young and much more ignorant, I thought it was fun, after I’d finished eating the fruit, to throw avocado seeds into the brush on my four acres in rural Puna, Hawaii. I’d say that nearly all of them germinated and grew into mature trees, and there were 100s of them. Two of those trees produced superb fruit; I’ve never had any other so good, and I deeply regret not cloning them. After 10 or 15 years, a severe drought weakened the trees, rendering them susceptible to a type of boring beetle that killed them.

    One other of those seed trees produced edible fruit, but it was watery, and the seed was very large. The rest of the trees, it wasn’t worth walking out to pick up the tasteless, stringy fruit. Avocados are large trees that cast very dense shade, and they became a nuisance. It was a big job removing the unwanted one. One more drawback of avocado trees where I lived was that the fallen fruit attracted wild pigs, which are extremely destructive animals. I don’t know if that’s a problem in Chiang Mai.

    You’re right, I was using the term hybrid too loosely.

    • November 4, 2011 9:56 AM

      If you had not done it, you would only be able to recite what others had told you. Now you know, and have interesting personal stories to tell. We do have wild boar in the jungles, but hunting of any animal bigger than 5 cm is still so common that you would never see wild boar outside the national parks. Being native here in Thailand, they were once the main prey of the tiger. We breed them in a pig pen, and they reproduce at a tremendous speed!

      Cheers, Eric

  5. Bangkok permalink
    October 28, 2013 11:08 AM

    Since Tops sells hass avocado’s from the Royal Project i guess the import of Australian ones will soon be over. 4 for 95 baht is what i paid yesterday and they are excellent but a tiny big smaller then imported ones.

    I also bought 3 huge thai avocado’s in Tops, they call them “Hek” avocado. No idea how they taste because mine are still hard and round as cannonballs. They look like booth#7 but no idea if the Thai call that one “Hek or Heck or Hack”.

    Also Tops still sells the imported Hass from Australia, 1 for 99 baht yesterday…totally insane!

    I still have no idea what variety i m growing myself here in BKK , I’m still looking for a place where i can buy some more grafted variety’s. All tips are welcome, also scions will do.

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