How to Plant, Grow, and Care for ‘Pancho’ Cold-Hardy Avocados

If you want to grow your own delicious avocados in your home garden, pick a species that thrives in your zone. Hardy down to zone 8 and perfect for indoor or outdoor containers, 'Pancho' avocados deliver high yields of tasty fruits on an ornamental tree. Join gardening expert Melissa Strauss to learn how to grow this cold-hardy cultivar.

A close-up of a 'Pancho' avocado tree, featuring vibrant green fruits and leaves gently swaying from its sturdy branches.

Contents

Avocados are a nutritional powerhouse fruit. Yes, that’s right, I said fruit! Don’t let their color and savory rather than sweet flavor fool you. An avocado is a fruit through and through. To be more specific, they are a type of berry. 

Avocados are rich in healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals that contribute to many health benefits. Their creamy, buttery texture and mild flavor make them a wonderful addition to many dishes. There is a good reason so many folks are willing to pay extra for guacamole, avocados are amazing!

Overview

A close-up of 'Pancho' avocados, showcasing their green hue and rough, textured skin, hanging delicately and promising creamy richness within.
The ‘Pancho’ Cold-Hardy Avocado is a semi-evergreen plant.
Plant Type Semi-Evergreen
Family Lauraceae
Genus Persea
Species Americana ‘Pancho’
Native Area Central and South America
Exposure Full sun
Height 25’
Watering Requirements Moderate
Pests and Diseases Avocado thrips, western avocado leafroller, mealybugs, loopers, orange tortrix, avocado lace bug, root rot, canker, black streak, verticillium wilt, avocado scab
Maintenance Moderate
Soil Type Loose, Rich, Well-draining
Hardiness Zones 8-11

Cold-hardy avocado tree

‘Pancho’ cold-hardy avocado trees:

  • handle temperatures down to 20°F (-7°C)
  • are ornamental with bright blooms and glossy leaves
  • grow well in-ground or pots and containers
  • are self-pollinating

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What are ‘Pancho’ Cold-Hardy Avocados?

Generally speaking, avocado trees are not especially cold-hardy. A mature Hass avocado tree can tolerate some light freezing weather. However, it can be difficult to get these trees established because of their intolerance to cold when they are young. There are cold-tolerant varieties available. But I’ve found that most of them don’t live up to their tropical cousins in terms of flavor and texture. 

Enter the ‘Pancho’ avocado. ‘Pancho’ has the ideal size, texture, and flavor of a tropical avocado. It also has excellent cold hardiness. Among its qualities, ‘Pancho’ matures early and thrives in a variety of light and soil conditions. On top of that, it is a Type A avocado, meaning that it is self-fertile. You can plant one or a dozen of these trees, and you’ll have tasty avocados either way. Let’s dig into this delicious avocado and discuss how to grow one of these great trees in your own garden. 

Native Area

A lush orchard bathed in warm afternoon light showcases rows of 'Pancho' avocado trees, their vibrant green leaves shimmering under the golden rays.
The plant has been cultivated for at least 5,000 years.

‘Pancho’ avocado is a hybrid, so it technically has no native range. However, since it is a hybrid of Persea americana, we will say that its native range is the Americas. Specifically, this species has varieties that are native to Mexico, Guatemala, and the West Indies.

We know that avocados have been in cultivation for at least 5,000 years. The Mesoamerican people were consuming them close to 10,000 years ago. 

Characteristics

A healthy 'Pancho' avocado tree stands adorned with lush green leaves, bearing plump fruits ready for harvest.
These avocado trees self-pollinate and produce creamy, pear-shaped fruits.

‘Pancho’ avocado is a large tree, reaching up to 25 feet tall when planted in the ground. It also makes a good container plant, as you can train it to remain smaller and still bear fruit. This tree has large, attractive foliage. New leaves are light green with a pink tint and gradually darken to glossy, deep green as they age. They are long and elliptical and pointed at the ends. Avocado tree roots are shallow, reaching only about three feet deep at maturity. 

Avocado flowers are interesting little things. Large, fingerlike sprays of slender stems spread out in the spring. At the end of each thin stem, a small, greenish-yellow flower blooms. Pancho is a Type A tree, which means that it is self-pollinating. You only need one of these trees to produce fruits. However, planting more than one in proximity will often result in a more bountiful harvest

Now for the important part. ‘Pancho’ produces lovely and delicious fruit. The avocados are ideal in size, at about six to eight ounces. They are pear-shaped with bright, lime-green skin. The flesh of this avocado has a reputation for being very creamy, with a rich and pleasant flavor. 

Propagation

A wooden table hosts two young avocado saplings in brown pots, alongside clear jars containing seeds in various stages of propagation.
These plants can be propagated through seeds and cuttings.

Avocado tree propagation can take on many forms. These versatile plants take well to planting from seed, rooted cuttings, layering, and grafting

Seed

A dark, rich soil cradles an avocado seed, its surface cracked, as a tiny sapling pushes through, reaching for sunlight in the earth's nurturing embrace.
Encourage growth by exposing the seed’s top above warm, bright soil.

You’ve probably observed an avocado seed in someone’s kitchen window, suspended above water by toothpicks. This method works sometimes, but the germination rate is subpar, and the risk of rot is high. Growing avocados from seed is the least reliable method of propagation. It often results in trees that don’t produce fruit for five or more years, if at all. Avocado seeds don’t breed true, either, so there is no guarantee that your new tree will have fruit that tastes like the parent. 

For this method you will need a ripe avocado, paper towels, and a ziplock bag, that’s it! After you’ve enjoyed your delicious avocado, wash the seed to ensure that there is no flesh left behind to rot. Dampen a few paper towels or a tea towel, and wrap the seed in the damp towels. 

Now, simply drop your wrapped seed into a ziplock bag. Don’t seal it, and set it in a cool, dark space. Check on your seed every four days or so to see if it has sprouted, and ensure that the towels stay moist. The seed will crack at one end when it begins to germinate. Let it crack on its own, don’t try to expedite the process by cracking the seed by hand. 

Keep your seed in the damp, dark environment until the root is about three inches long. Plant your rooted seed in a six-inch flower pot. A slightly larger pot will work just as well. Fill the pot halfway with potting mix, and place the seed on top, then fill in with more soil around the seed. 

Leave the top of the seed exposed above the soil, giving it light to promote growth. Place the pot in a warm spot with bright, indirect sunlight and watch it grow!

Cuttings

Rows of black plastic pots, each cradling avocado seedlings, soak up the sunlight, nurturing the young plants as they prepare to grow into fruitful trees.
Propagate plants from fresh, green branches by cutting a 5-6 inch piece at an angle.

Propagation by cuttings is a good way to do that job, as it ensures a consistent producer. The fruit on trees grown from cuttings will be the same as those on the parent plant. The best time to take cuttings is in the spring when there is an abundance of new growth.

Take your cuttings from new, green wood. Try to take your cutting from a branch that has unopened leaves. Cut a five to six-inch piece, cutting the branch at an angle. This creates more space for roots to grow. 

Remove any leaves on the bottom third of the cutting, and scrape the bark or score the stem at the bottom. A centimeter or two is enough to scrape off. This promotes rooting. Dip this end into rooting hormone for an additional boost. 

Plant your cutting in a pot with a mixture of moist peat moss and perlite. You can cover the cutting with plastic to create a small greenhouse at this point, avocado trees like humidity. Keep your cutting warm, moist, and exposed to indirect sunlight for most of the day. Your cutting should have some root developed in about two weeks. You can leave it in the pot until it outgrows it, then transplant it. 

Layering

An avocado tree branch up close, highlighting expertly executed air layering technique; promoting robust growth and bountiful fruit production in the flourishing orchard.
Select a promising branch and score it in two places just above the juncture.

When I first heard about layering, I’ll admit it was a bit intimidating. In reality, it’s quite a simple and effective process and a great way to propagate an avocado tree. To carry out this method, you’ll need some coconut coir or peat moss, a sharp knife, and a propagation ball or plastic wrap. Optionally, you can add rooting hormone to expedite the process. 

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Choose a branch that looks like it will make a nice tree on its own. Just above the juncture of the branch, use your knife to score all the way around the branch in two places. Space these two rings an inch or two apart. Use your knife to gently scrape the bark from the branch in between your cuts. This is where the roots will form. 

Using damp peat moss or soil, you want to encase the wound on the branch. This is easy to do using a propagation ball, but plastic wrap works in a pinch. Keep the potting medium moist, and allow the roots to grow. Give your branch about two months to produce roots. 

When your branch has plenty of healthy roots, cut the branch just below the root ball. Plant it in a pot with high-quality, well-draining soil. 

Propagation by grafting is a more involved and complicated process. I won’t go into too many details on this method. If you know how to graft or are brave enough to take on the task, it is an effective way to propagate an avocado tree. 

Planting

Fingers gently place an avocado sapling in rich soil inside a pot, basking in bright, unforgiving light.
Dig a hole three to four times the size of the root ball.

Avocado trees are fairly tolerant of different soil types. Loosening the soil is more important than amending it in this case. Choose a spot where your tree will have space to spread out. A ‘Pancho’ avocado tree will grow to about 25 feet tall and about as wide. Make sure there is adequate space for the branches and the roots to spread. 

Dig a hole that is three to four times the size of the root ball. That is depth and diameter. This loosens up the soil to encourage faster root development. Backfill the hole with native soil so that the root ball sits at the top at or just above the level of the surrounding earth. Fill in the hole around the root ball with native soil. Tamp down lightly to remove air pockets, and water thoroughly. 

How to Grow

Avocados are moderate-maintenance trees. They are heavy feeders and enjoy a fair amount of water, especially when newly planted. 

Light

A close-up of avocados, displaying shades of green and deep purple, showcasing their rich, ripe textures and contrasting colors.
The trees thrive in full sun or partial shade with 4-6 hours of daily sunlight.

‘Pancho’ avocado trees are flexible when it comes to exposure. Your tree will grow and produce well in full sun as well as in partial shade. Aim for at least four to six hours of sun daily to keep this plant happy. The afternoon sun tends to be a bit harsh for avocado trees, causing the leaves to soften and droop. If you have a space that receives plenty of sun early in the day, that is ideal.

Water

A close-up of avocado leaves adorned with glistening water droplets, basking in radiant light.
Mature avocado trees benefit from consistent watering during dry spells.

A newly planted avocado tree will need watering regularly. An avocado tree in a container will also need frequent watering. When first planted, water your young tree at least one to two times per week for the first two months. These trees mature faster than most avocados, but they still need to have a steady moisture supply for the first few years. 

During times of drought, water your avocado tree twice a week. Give it the equivalent of two inches of rainfall per week. During the rainy season, you can reduce or stop watering if the tree is getting two inches of rain weekly. A mature tree will continue to benefit from watering in times of drought or dry weather. 

Soil

Rich brown loam, a blend of sandy soil, ideal for nurturing plants with ample drainage and nutrients.
Sandy soil promotes healthy root development but requires regular fertilizing.

Avocado trees are versatile when it comes to soil types as long as there is proper drainage. Poorly draining soil types will result in root rot for this tree. Soggy soil can cause nutrient deficiency, dieback, and even death for this tree.

Planting this tree in sandy soil is fine, but know that it will need regular fertilization in poor soil. That said, loose, sandy soil does promote healthy root development. 

Temperature and Humidity

A close-up of a vibrant avocado branch, showcasing lush green leaves and a single ripening fruit hanging amidst the foliage.
Optimal humidity levels of 40-80% are crucial for avocado tree growth.

Most avocado trees are only tolerant of a light freeze. When the thermometer drops below 30°F (-1°C), you risk losing any tree, but especially a young tree. ‘Pancho,’ on the other hand, is more cold-hardy than most. This tree can withstand temperatures in the range of 20-28°F (-7 to -2°C) for shorter periods. A prolonged, hard freeze won’t be well received, but you should be fine to plant this tree in Zone 8. Farther north, you’ll want to grow this as a container tree to be brought indoors for the winter. 

Avocado trees are tropical, so they thrive in high humidity. A range of 40-80% is good for this tree, with the higher end being best. Low humidity will cause brown, wilted leaves. Your tree is unlikely to grow to its full potential in lower humidity. 

Fertilizing

Ripe green avocados dangle gracefully from a branch, nestled among lush, verdant leaves, promising a delectable taste of creamy goodness in each succulent fruit.
They require regular fertilization with a 2-1-1 ratio fertilizer for the first year.

Young avocado trees need a significant amount of fertilizer. Specifically, they need nitrogen and zinc. Use a 2-1-1 ratio citrus fertilizer every four to six weeks for the first growing season. An established avocado tree needs fertilizer about three to four times per year.

Feed in spring, summer, and fall. Top-dressing your tree with some organic compost once a year will help to provide long-term nutrients and acidify the soil. 

Maintenance

A farmer reaches up to prune an avocado tree with a chainsaw, as the warm glow of the sun bathes the tranquil scene in morning light.
Prune avocado trees by thinning out the interior to increase airflow.

Avocado trees, like most fruit trees, need regular pruning. If you struggle with reaching the fruit on top of a 20-foot tree, it’s possible to keep your tree more accessible. Avocado trees don’t mind losing a branch or two, so at the end of the season, simply cut off the tallest limb or two. This will encourage the lower branches to get stronger, and the tree will produce new limbs from the cut. 

Avocados bear fruit on new wood, so don’t shape this tree by cutting off the ends of branches. Prune your tree by thinning out the interior and removing any crossing branches. This helps increase airflow and prevent fungal diseases. Remove waterspouts, as well. These are new branches that grow straight up.

Harvesting

A close-up of a ripe avocado being harvested by a gloved gardener using shears; its blurred backdrop featured a green foliage of the garden.
Check their ripeness by cutting the stem close to the fruit.

When it’s time to harvest your avocados, you’ll want to grab a pair of sharp, clean hand shears. The nice thing about avocados is that they will continue to ripen after you harvest them. You can begin harvesting as soon as your fruits are full-sized, which is about six to eight ounces. A large handful. 

Use your hand shears to cut the stem that holds the avocado as close to the fruit as possible. The trick to determining if an avocado is ready to eat requires leaving that small piece of stem intact. When the avocado nears ripeness, pull the stem off. If the color inside is green, it’s ripe. 

Uses

A dark table hosts ripe avocado slices alongside a rustic guacamole in a clay bowl, complemented by two slices of bread adorned with the same flavorful dressing.
Avocados provide healthy fat and moisture without the need for less healthy dressings.

I’m sure that there are lots of ways people use avocados that I haven’t heard of, but I will share a few of my favorites with you. Guacamole is probably the most well-known way to eat an avocado. I also like to use them in smoothies to give them a nice, creamy texture and a boost of good fats and nutrients. They are great for your skin and hair, as well. 

Avocados make a great substitute for other less healthy fats and oils in baked goods. They work well in brownies and banana bread, especially. Try them to add moisture to sandwiches and salads, cutting down on the use of dressings that contain less healthy fats. They truly are an all-around wonderful fruit! 

Common Problems

Avocado fruits have a pretty tough skin to protect them from most pests and many diseases. The tree itself is not impervious to many of these issues though. An unhealthy tree won’t produce the best fruit, so it’s best to keep an eye out for potential issues.

Fungal Diseases

A base of an avocado tree displays signs of rot, evidenced by darkened, decaying sections indicative of the disease affecting the plant's health and vitality.
Careful watering and copper-based fungicide treatment prevent fungal problems.

Because they like a lot of moisture and typically grow best in humid environments, fungal diseases are the most common issue. Most of these diseases occur as the result of poor drainage, overwatering, or crowding of branches. Planting your tree in an area with good drainage will prevent much of this issue. Regular pruning to remove crowded branches is another practice that can help.

Prevention is the best solution to fungal issues, although some you may not be able to avoid. You can treat many of these diseases with a copper-based fungicide. Root rot is often fatal to the tree, so be careful about watering during the rainy season. 

Pests

A close-up of avocado shoots hosting clusters of tiny aphids, their brown bodies feeding on the tender green leaves.
Get rid of pests with a direct stream from the hose.

Mites, thrips, lace bugs, and aphids are all pests that might turn up on your avocado tree. Often, a strong stream of water can go a long way toward knocking down an infestation.

Neem oil and horticultural oils are effective against these pests, as well. Use them in the late afternoon and never when plants are flowering to help minimize the damage to pollinator populations. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Avocados be Frozen?

Yes they can. Make sure that you freeze them while ripe, and remove the skin. They will last in the freezer for at least a month.

Are Avocado Pits Edible?

While not poisonous, an avocado pit would be very difficult to chew, and to digest. It is not recommended.

Are Avocados Toxic to Pets?

Not in small amounts. The flesh is generally safe for pets, but in large amounts it can cause heart problems. Avoid giving them to dogs and cats, who can experience negative effects from the fungicidal toxin, persin.

Final Thoughts

It’s probably obvious by now that I am a big fan of avocados and the trees they grow on! In addition to being attractive trees with large, glossy leaves, avocado trees produce avocados. ‘Pancho’ avocado trees have a distinct advantage for gardeners living in cooler climates.

Make sure to plant your ‘Pancho’ avocado tree in well draining soil, and give it the moisture and fertilizer it needs. In short time you will be harvesting plump green avocados in your own backyard!

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