Anxious avocado aficionados ask for advice

Q My wife and I have been growing avocados for a couple of years. Unfortunately, we do not know much about this plant. We just put the stone into some earth at home, and half a year later it appeared. It seems to dislike much sun and is fond of being watered. Could you give some more precise information? Is it likely to bloom in a small pot?

- V.K., St. Petersburg, Russia

A "Avocados are quite commonly grown as houseplants by children or people who want to experiment with seeds," says Larry Hodgson, author of "Houseplants for Dummies," who calls them "a great foliage plant." If you are looking for one that will produce fruit, buy a grafted dwarf variety available as a potted plant.

Alternately, if you don't mind the absence of fruit and just want foliage, you can plant the large, dense, and smooth seed from the middle of an avocado. Take off the outer skin, half bury it in a container of potting soil, and it will grow slowly, but surely (it can take as long as six months). But there's a more fun method. Simply stick four toothpicks into the seed and prop it on the edges of a full glass of water with the slightly pointed end of the seed facing upward. After a while you'll be able to watch the roots emerge - this is the time to plant the avocado seed.

The avocado plant will take just about any kind of light indoors, but it does prefer bright light. Avocados are a tropical plant, so cold temperatures are best avoided. Water the plant well when the soil becomes dry. Pinch the plant regularly, because it does not tend to branch on its own. Cutting the top off will force the plant to branch out and make it look fuller.

Readers: Pose your questions and we'll seek out experts on home repairs, gardens, food, and family legal issues. Send queries to the Homefront Editor, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail

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