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April 17, 2003
Learning from Ahuacatl

I really thought I had finally killed it. I thought that this was it, the end, no more hope for the little guy. The birth was a bit of a miracle, the death seemed to be a month long process, really sad. I had put an Avocado pit into one of my plant pots by the window some time ago in September and what looked like a great surprise at first, (I had not followed instructions for planting the avocado tree at all) turned into a growth spurt and then slowly but surely into a picture of misery. When I wrote about the more than 12 inch tall stem of an avocado plant in September, it still had six leaves. For the last few months it barely managed to have two at a time. They were nice leaves, yes, they would be at the opposing ends of the tip of the stem, they were about 5 inches long, about an inch wide. The two leaves would die off after a week or so though and be replaced by new leaves, which would then again... die. A picture of misery. For months. I somehow assumed that the problem might be that the plant was sharing a pot with a Jade plant. About two weeks ago the Avocado plant got a new, private pot with a view. I was surprised how rich the network of roots was compared to the sad outside of the plant. The large avocado pit had basically exploded under ground. There was a large root going to the bottom of the plant pot (a tap root?) and a very dense network of more hair-like roots in large areas of the pot. What was supposed to be a rescue mission for the poor avocado plant suddenly felt like a very needed relocation of an underground choker. I am not an expert in plants, I really have no clue. I tried to injure the roots as little as possible by making sure that the soil was dry at the time of the replanting, for example. I placed the plant in its new home, prepared with some fertilizer and a fluffy airy bed of good soil and then added waaateeer. The two large leaves on top of the long strong green-blue stick seemed to wave happily (they did not, but can you imagine?). There was a little fresh green tip between them, giving me hope that maybe this time there would be more than two wings on this little beast.
About three days later, the left leaf died. It just curled up into a brownish ball and fell off. A few days later, the other leaf died half way and then just hung on by a ridiculous greenish stem for days, until i just took it out. What I had hoped could be the bud for new leaves, just turned into a silly, tiny, soft claw and then also died. Great. After 19 (I counted the "scars" on the stem) attempts to survive, the thing was finally dead. I now had a stick in a pot. A strong and almost straight stick, a tall and energetic stick, but, after all, nothing more than a stick. I obviously had no clue how to deal with avocado plants. I bought a new avocado (for the purpose of planting,) ate the green deliciousness with some lime juice, left the pit on the kitchen table for a day or two, and then pushed it ad deep as i possibly could next to my stick in a pot. There. The old plant would just completely wither away, providing nutrition for the new and hopefully happier avocado. Macabre, I know, I was risking a mad-avocado plant here, but at this point in time, with the stick in a pot, this is all I could come up with. I certainly did not want to throw out the old dead plant.
What I discovered this morning however, will have me digging into the pot very soon. The seemingly dead stick now appears to have been just a bit of a probe. I thought that all I was left with were these 19 or so scars on the stem, it turns out these scars, the places where two leaves had fallen off, are in fact areas where the tree can push some energy to. I now have a pot with a stick and the stick has 8 (eight!) new bright green buds, each one of them ready to turn into probably at least two leaves. This is fantastic news of course. The tree was obviously just setting the stage for a much larger entrance, was probing the space outside of the soil, was getting ready. I was obviously thinking in terms of house plants. The tree is "thinking" bigger. It is a big, real tree, not some tiny pot plant. We shall see. I am ready for some slow motion avocado tree action. Big time.
I might be too happy, too soon, of course. There is not a single leaf out yet. I do have my hopes though. As we are just about to enter spring time, as the greatest time for plants with leaves lays ahead, we might be about to have some fun here.
Oh, and the other pit needs to get out of the pot as quickly as possible. We would not want to confuse the avocado phoenix with a new roommate. The new pit will get its own soil filled pot. Let's see what might develop. The two pits are from two very different kinds of avocados and if I am lucky enough for both plants to develop, we might be able to see the difference in character some time soon.
Oh, the stick tree is one of these giant avocados, as far as I remember... ; ) Yeah! Giant-Ahuacatl-phoenix-survivor-tree.
One of the many lessons learned? Sometimes things are not quite as dead as they seem to be...


I think I am known as the Mad Plant Lady in my office because I keep taking in plants, no matter what condition they seem to be in. My apartment has no light, so no plant will thrive there. But happily, my office has almost floor to ceiling windows that let in lots of sunshine. My poinsettias are like your avocados -- sometimes they seem like sad sticks in the earth, but with a little love and attention, they can bloom again.

Posted by: matilda on April 17, 2003 09:36 AM

How many avocados can one tree have ? Do you plant lemons too? I think a lemon plant would look so pretty next to the avocado plant.
: )

Posted by: T on April 17, 2003 10:26 AM

I have yet to make a citrus tree survive. All of my previous attempts turned into sticks and did not return. : |
Maybe some time soon. : )
The second avocado pit now has a new home, btw. : )

Posted by: witold on April 17, 2003 10:43 AM

Yay! What a great story.

Posted by: Brenda on April 17, 2003 11:17 AM

I really love reading stories like this! wow.

Posted by: Richard on April 17, 2003 01:23 PM

this gives me hope. we sprouted a little avocado in a glass of water last fall. it took forever to sprout — i didn't realize you could just plant them in the soil like that. we just potted the sprouted pit recently and it's been looking sad. the two leaves have been slowly shriveling. another baby plant of mine lost all its leaves when it was repotted, so maybe plants are just sensitive to their space..

Posted by: keight on April 17, 2003 03:14 PM

forever the optimist.


Posted by: - s - on April 20, 2003 03:58 PM

My avocado plant is 20 months old. I put him in water and he was promptly named "Stubby" because he grew to about three inches and stayed there for months. No growth, no splitting.
One day I came in to work here and he had split, and had a leaf! Now he is about 20 inches tall, and very top heavy (he has 10 leaves with 2 more coming in). I am worried about putting him in soil - his predecessor was good in the soil for about two months, and then became a stick also. Any advice?

Posted by: Kim on April 28, 2003 06:12 PM
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