Pruning an Avocado Plant

By Ellen Brown

Question:

I have grown an avocado seed and it is 2 years old and approximately 9 feet tall. I have had it outside and need to bring it in for the winter, but it is too tall for the ceiling. Can I cut it back or should I just leave it alone?
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Thanks,
Michelle

Answer:

Michelle,

This is a tough one, as I would hate to see anything slow down a 9 ft. tall avocado tree. I'm not sure how a 9 ft. tall avocado will respond to being pruned. Is it tall and spindly or have you pruned it back before to encourage branching from below? I'm going to assume since it has grown so tall in just two years time that you may have never pruned it before. If you have a fair number of strong, leafy side branches I wouldn't worry about cutting it back far enough to fit it indoors.

If the plant consists primarily of one stem, you might want to let the top bend at the ceiling and cut a few of the side branches back to try to encourage more branching. If new branches start to emerge, you can safely cut back the top. You don't say what zone you're in, but if you live in 9b or above you probably won't have to keep it indoors long enough to worry about causing a permanent change in its appearance. As long as there are enough leaves left on the plant to maintain food production and the plant is in good overall health, I wouldn't worry too much about cutting it back. Clearly you have a knack for growing avocado plants. If something should happen to this one as a result of you cutting it back, you might consider keeping any future plants to ceiling height with regular pruning.

Ellen

About The Author: Ellen Brown is our Green Living and Gardening Expert. Click here to ask Ellen a question! Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com

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Answers:

Pruning an Avocado Plant

It's my understanding that the Avocado is semi-tropical, so I'd not take chances by leaving it out in colder than 50 degrees. 60 or above would be better, and I'd put it in the garage, pot double wrapped in a blanket, stem/trunk wrapped in pipe insulation (inexpensive from hardware store) on a stepping stone base, under a 24 hour light of 100 W. I've found grow bulbs in regular bulb shape, but they're not so cheap.

The idea is to keep the plant warm, but not in darkness. It gets it's health from the leaves, so they
will be the final determination if you are able to save the plant. Whatever you do, use caution that you do not set up a fire hazard for yourself and the plant.

It takes several years before it will produce fruit, I understand, but I'd encourage you to use Sea Kelp, if it were mine, for this season. It should keep it healthy throughout the year. If you know of anyone who'd let you borrow a space in their greenhouse, that would be the ideal.

I sort of believe that unless there are branches and leaves well below the 6 foot height, you might actually kill the tree by cutting it back since you may also bring it inside, which causes plants to suffer some degree of shock.
(I have so little sunlight that I know I'd kill one. )

If it's pot is really deep, perhaps you could gain a foot and a little more by transplanting gently to a less deep pot, and lightly trim it's roots, "very gently" with scissors?

If no one has a greenhouse, look for a friend with a higher ceiling, although I have visions of the plant getting scorched by the heat that rises naturally to the ceiling.

This is a tough call for you, having raised it from seed, as I once did as a young girl, then somehow did something wrong and lost it years ago. Most likely I forgot to water it back then.

As I say this, there is one more possibility that sounds strange, but might work. Is the plant flexible enough to try bending it over towards an east or south window, just for the winter? (We get many months of growing season here in Texas, so it might not work if your season is short there). I thought I'd help you exhaust all options. I'm not an expert, only gardened inside/out for best of 35 years and also lived in Hawaii for three years, a plant's paradise. God bless you in your efforts. (09/28/2006)

By Lynda

Pruning an Avocado Plant

I trimmed mine and it bushed out a little bit and it looked so much better. When spring came it put on extra branches and leaves. It was wonderful looking.
Good luck.

Tina (01/11/2007)

By trbrown22

Pruning an Avocado Plant

To all and to anyone. Go ahead and prune your avocado trees as much as you wish. The plants that you have propagated from seed will never bear fruit. If for some reason they do bear fruit, the fruit is highly unlikely to resemble the quality of the original fruit.

If you wish to own a tree that bears fruit go to Home Depot and for the low price of $23.95 buy a Hass avocado. These trees will usually bear fruit within a year. The trees are about 2 years old and will start fruit soon enough. Your trees do not fruit, because they are not grafted from the the original parent plants.

So to answer all questions, feel free to cut and shape your tree as much as you want. (07/29/2009)

By elmeromero

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