Caring for an Avocado Tree

Avocado trees whether grown from seed or purchased from a nursery will need to proper care to thrive. This is a guide about caring for an avocado tree.
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March 1, 2016 Flag

I have an avocado tree that was 4 ft high when I got it and growing well. I did not realize at the time that I needed to cut it back and it was 6 ft tall before I realized the the top was bushy, but the stalk was not growing. Since then I have pinched it back, it has a lot of new growth at the top, but the now 8 ft tree still has a stalk no thicker than an inch or so. Should I cut it down to the bottom completely? Or should I let it go and keep pinching back the new growth? I am at a loss. All of the info I can find says to pinch it back, but I haven't been able to find out how to correct this.

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February 25, 20170 found this helpful

I have grown several avodado plants, and have a lot of funny stories related to successes and failures. My elderly Italian relatives all had green thumbs and grew all kind of fruit trees from seed. They didn't have any kind of experience with most of the trees they were growing; none of these plants were native to Italy. Still, the old folks who I observed as a child had some real talent and a peculiar facination with tropical and citrus plants.

With that background in mind, I assumed that growing an avocado would be easy, or that I might have inherited some natural instincts giving me success in this area. Alas, if only that were the case! I think that speaking Italian to the plants may be in some way beneficial, but that doesn't help me much since I never learned the language.

To the point, however, it seems that it is always a good idea to pinch indoor plants back so that they don't get "leggy". Basically, in order to have a nice, thick stem or trunk, plants and trees have to grow tall slowly. From the look of your plant, it looks like it got very leggy, and you supported it with some trellice stakes so it could support its weight as it grew leaves.

Judging from the size of the plant, it looks like the little guy is about 3 years old or so, and that's actually a pretty good accomplishment in itself. It also looks like the plant is growing out of a pretty small pot, and is probably getting a little root bound by now.

Although I have my avocado growing in a rather giant pot, I did make the same mistake of letting the plant get leggy and support it with stakes. I recently pruned it back to help correct this, but probalby have more to do. By not pinching my plant back, I got the same results you did. I grew and avocado with an assymetric canopy atop a rather vine-like trunk.

Unfortunately, the solution for this is probably a hard one to handle because it comes with risk to the plant as well as your own emotional connection to the little guy. Judging by the obvious care you put into staking the plant, it appears you are rather attached to it and want it to thrive.

If you want the plant to really flourish, however, I think you need to do more than supporting the plant. You will need to go big or go home and make two potentially hazarddous interventions for the sake of the plant overall.

The first intervention is to repot the plant into a new and larger pot with some good fertilizer. Everyone will tell you to expect your plant to loose his leaves and get angry for a while when you do this, but I have had some good luck with root bound plants by simply cutting the old pot away or breaking and not disrupting the roots at all. Just put the root ball right into another pot and pack new, fertilized dirt around it. Soak it liberally when you do this to help the roots settle and give the plant a much needed drink. Give the plant a few weeks and I expect he'll loose a few leaves, be a little crabby, and then look fine again.

What seems to be happening when a plant goes into transplant shock, whether mild or severe, is that repotting triggers a cahnge in a plant's priorities. The root bound plant can't do much with its roots, so it focuses on making a lot of leaves to make a bunch of energy. When you repot the plant, it puts a whole lot of metabolic octane into shooting out new roots and stretching its legs, so to speak. After a little adjusting, the plant goes back to putting its energy into normal trunk and leaf growth.

You can stop here and go no further. you can continue to trellice the tree, and he'll probably grow for a few more years. If you want to really make the little guy flourish you will need to do a second, more drastic, intervention - or shall I say surgery. you need to cut the plant down to about half it's height, or cut it down and graft it.

Just cutting the plant takes a little faith in Mother Nature because while plants, including trees are in their infancy and childhood, you can chop them down or pinch them and they will just start new growth. Cut down a mature tree, and you might have a new shoot that grows off the side or from the base of the tree, but chances are that the tree with just die. It's kind of rolling the dice.

Just to give you a little confidence, however, I have observed that Leggy, vine-ish plants are survivors. they are fighting for life, and I think that gives them an advantage over a typical, mature plant, but that's my own humble opinion.

If you are nervous that the plant will just die and not develop new shoots and leaves, you can try a really effective method for grafting the plant that might be a little less risky and also provide some cool results by maintaining some leafy branches. This is also a lot more fun.

It sounds complicated, but it's not. The process of grafting is really simple and you just cut the top of your plant off at an angle where it has leaves. Next make a cut in the "trunk" of the tree further down and get rid of the middle portion of the plant. cut this angle to match the angle you used to cut the top off the plant. Press the ends together and wrap them with cecil twine or grafting tape you can buy at a hardware store or online. If you use cecil twine, you need to put plastic over the graft when you are done and tie the plastic above and below the joint so that it doesn't dry out.

Whether using twine with plastic or grafting tape, some people like to hold the pieces together and paint the joint with grafting compound, wax, or pruning sealer, then use the twine or grafting tape to hold it together and maintain moisture. I think that this is probably best.

The grafting compound, pruning sealer, or wax all do the same thing. they seal the joint so the cortex of the stem doesn't dry out. All these supplies are "dirt" cheap. Pruning sealer is a few dollars, grafting tape is no more than a dollar. Wax is free if you have a candle on hand that you don't mind melting a small chunk of. You probably have cecil twine sitting in a drawer somewhere.

To be even more creative, you can cut both leaf bearing branches (These are called scions, by the way) and graft both of them to the same trunk. With any luck, the main trunk and both branches will survive and start to flourish. Don't worry if the leaves fall off. If the trunk/branches stay green, they will eventually start budding again.

Make sure that you support the graft by supporting the plant above the graft with a trelice steak just like you did for your current plant. At this point, though, don't let it grow taller untill it gets wider and continue to pinch new buds off the top of the plant until it can support itself. This could take a long time - like over a year. Who cares how long it takes, however. the plant will look fine and be an interesting conversation topic.

At the risk of getting WAY too long winded, there is one final option that I have never tried but have been interested in for a while. It is to use cloning gel to create new roots high up on the plant. All you do is make a slice in the plant just below the scion. Now wrap the cut area in rockwool and soak it with cloning gel (online for about $7 or twice that at a nursery). Cover this with a plastic bag and tie it above and below the cut to prevent it from drying out. When you see roots growing out of the rockwool, cut the stem below the new roots and simply plant the new roots with the attached scion in new soil. Voila! New roots from your old plant. With any luck, you can cut the rest of your old plant down to about two feet, water it and that one will come back as well. Now you have an avacado for you and one for a friend.

I hope that helps. If you end up doing it, I'd love to see a photo of the results. I'm going to graft my plant when it leafs out a little more this summer. I will also clone a branch just to experiment. I do a lot of growing in a greenhouse and prefer to do this kind of stuff there where there is plenty of sun. It looks like your window also gets a good amount of sun, so you may not have to wait until summer to have both warmth and sun.

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October 6, 2016 Flag

I have a great looking Hass avocado tree, about 6 years old. I get avocados, but they always stay green and hard and never get mature looking. Any ideas what can be wrong?

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November 16, 20160 found this helpful

As someone has already said they dont ripen on the tree, when the friuts lose their shine, i.e. go dull looking, that apparently is the time to pick. Ripening time usually 7 to 10 days

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October 10, 2016 Flag

I have been told to cut the plant after it's about 12" tall down to 6" to make it fuller. Is this a good idea?

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January 31, 20170 found this helpful

That is generally a good thing to do to plants to make sure that they grow fuller. If they are allowed to grow tall, all the leaves gather at the top, because they're essentially looking for sunlight, and the stem/stalk/trunk is left empty. THink about what a forest looks like.

I also remember from my days living in pacific climates that avocado fruit does not do well when the trees are let to grow untrimmed. The fruit becomes small and brittle.

so this makes sense to me.

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September 19, 2016 Flag

I started 2 avocado trees from the seed. They are about 10 inches high. I have them in pots right now, but on one of them the leaves have started curling down all along the edges and turning yellow and orange. Do these trees lose their leaves in the fall? Or is something wrong with my seedlings? Also when should I put them in the ground? I hope you have an answer for me.
Thanks.

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February 1, 20170 found this helpful

These trees only really do well in a California type of climate, which is essentially dry and mild.

I have tried planting avocado in Georgia, and they did not like the weather, and did not like it when fall/winter came.

You might want to make sure that it diesn't have a virus, or that you are neither over nor under watering it.

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April 12, 2014 Flag

I recently planted a 5yr old avocado tree that was beginning to flower. I (thought) I did everything I was supposed when planting, including fresh soil and deep watering, but since I planted the tree all the leaves have died and turned brown, but the branches are still green. It has been about three weeks since planting. I have sprinklers set to twice a week, but if am wondering if it is not getting enough water from them. I have deep watered only twice since planting. The tree sits on the north east end of my yard and gets plenty of sun after about 10am. Does it sound like the tree can recover? If so, what do I need to do?

By Shawn H.

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October 13, 20151 found this helpful

Avocados can handle winter temperatures if prepped the right way every avo I had survived winter in my house and it probably gets around 50 degrees to 45 the least until I use heat. When planting avocado you can burry seed or display half since seed will eventually rot, display half so when rotting is spotted you can simply remove the huge stale seed note only when the avo is ready though! Else you would be depleting it of butrients, avocados is very finicky plants they like loose soil and damp to dry soil and indirect light and some full sun is required, with out it slow growth and leggy plant will happen. As far as brown leaves check for over watering, over fertilizing and or root bound, or insufficient lighting, all is fixable if root bound repot cut back dead black roots and the main tap root a couple inches to encourage more root branch out growth . Fertilize lightly for avocados half the recomended and probably once every two three months , with all these factors new leaves will grow back just monitor plant.

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May 27, 2016 Flag

I started my own seed in water with toothpicks. My plant is 14 inches tall now with 4 leaves at the top. I have read so many articles on this plant and my confusion is, should I cut it back to 6-7 inches to encourage gowth again to make it fuller? And I have it in indirect light on my summer porch. Can I leave it outside? Does it need sun?

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March 13, 2013 Flag

My avocado tree started growing brown on the leaves. How would I check if it's root bound?

By Alicia

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March 18, 20130 found this helpful

I don't know if this is true or not, but I've heard that this is from using chlorinated water when you water your plant.

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February 1, 2014 Flag

I currently have 5 avocado trees no taller than 1 foot. It seems, no matter how hard I try I can't keep them alive past 1 year. The leaves have fallen off all 5 plants. I only water them every 10-14 days. As we speak the soil is comfortably moist. It's so aggravating because I literally can grow anything. Perhaps I'm paying them too much attention?

By Lorelei N.

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March 11, 20160 found this helpful

Cari, this was great to know about the tiny, bugs. I didn't think twice about these tiny pests. I thought they were fruit flies. Looks like I have some changes to make here soon.

I wanted to comment because I have been trying to do avo plants since 2008. No matter what, for two years struggled to get them to root. Suggested by a friend to put the seed in a cupboard. because the darkness would enhance the root. Whatever the case may be, it worked, however doing this for some time now, I get them to root in soil (although is longer) and water, and in the sunlight, and in the cupboard.

The issue is I haven't had them live past 3 years old. I moved back to Oregon from California a couple years ago, and one tree is going on 3 years old. It's from my family's tree. The other four are from store bought avocados. Each one is slightly different because their leaves are different. My 3-year old, started to get black on top of the stem last December. Worried, because this black sucks the life out of the plant and kills my tree. This time, I thought I'd check to confirm if it's the roots. And surely the roots were brittle and mostly dark brown, tan, and limp. I cut what I thought was the dying roots.

I went to local garden shops, one of them, the man is from Santa Monica, but there is no knowledge on avocados. I search online and I get the name of a fungus. I never know if it applies or not. I took a risk and transplanted the tree in new pot and new bought soil in hopes to bring it back to life. Then I cut the "rotten" roots. The next day all the leaves just drooped and died. My poor plant went into massive shock, December was snowy, and chilly out but we keep the heat on, I should also say we went away for Thanksgiving weekend, no heat was on in the house and I think that's what started this situation, we saw our breath inside our place :(

I didn't want to remove the leaves but I did. I cut off the black inch on top, and then wrapped the top with a small plastic baggy. I did add (Hydrozyme & Thrive Alive B-1 Green) to the new soil in hopes to rejuvenate the healthy roots.

I placed back into its normal spot, and just left it alone.

Just last month I noticed a bud developing. With super joy, my naked tree was not dead. The black didn't spread, and at the base (now) is a sprouting stem leaf.

However, I just watered all my plants last weekend. (Typically once a week and skip a week for the avo trees) Today I noticed there is blackening at the top, again. I am afraid I watered it when I shouldn't have. I have cut the tops like this before previous years, but that never stopped the black from coming back down.

I have great levels of pH on all the trees I've checked them and they're around 6-6.5. Which I'm told is what they like.

Any thoughts on this blackening top? The stem is about 13"... But to be fair, I watered because of the new sprouting :( I'm so bummed.

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April 8, 2016 Flag

I had an avocado plant; it was growing good it was already 8 feet tall, but one day I went out and when I got back home my plant was cut. They cut the top part off where the leaves were growing. What can I do to get it to grow again? The steam is still green!

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April 10, 20160 found this helpful

Hello !

Don't worry an avocado is a tree and it will start new branches from its trunk. Some people "pinch" or cut the top of the avocado shoot at a very early stage of its growth so that it will start new branches and get stronger. You too would have had to cut it anyway. Just relax and watch it grow.

Catherine

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September 9, 2016 Flag

We are renting and our well pump broke. It took over 4 months to fix and so these trees have been through a summer in Ojai California (high temps) all summer. The landlords say that now that the well if fixed we just have to start watering, but I am not so sure. I am looking for expert advice hopefully and thank you!

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March 15, 2015 Flag

Our avocado tree is dropping its fruit too early. They are small, milky once ripened, and tasteless. We have watered, but not fertilized her for a few years. Help?

By Gabs

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Anonymous Flag
October 26, 20150 found this helpful

Dude, you HAVE to fertilize! With nitrogen in fall or winter.

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September 12, 2011 Flag

I have a mature 10 ft 8 yr old avocado tree and the leaves are turning yellow and the 30+ fruit on the tree are red skinned, but turn brown when picked and stored. It's close to another avocado tree which has the normal dark green leaves. It receives normal fertilizer annually. We are 200 meters from sea. Other avocado trees nearby in the settlement are normal. Is my tree dying or can it be saved? Thanks for any help.

By Allan M

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September 13, 20110 found this helpful

Hi Allan... Well, I did a quick check. Went to AskJeeves (well, I guess it's just Ask now!) and got to a section of eHow.com that talked about avocados in Florida. I went there because they mentioned red. There is a Hardee avocado with red skin. Also a Puebla and Gotfried, they have purple skin.

I messed around at that site a bit and found info on yellowing leaves: Yellowing leaves indicate iron deficiency, that can be caused by over-watering or lack of nutrients. They say a chelated foliar spray containing iron will correct this deficiency. Don't know your feeding setup, but they suggest they be given a multipurpose fertilizer 4x a year.

Hope this helps. I so would like to grow some avocado trees, but just about the time I think I'm settling in somewhere I move! I have 'grown' avocados from seed from time to time, ever since I was a little gal! They don't get too big n bushy for me, tho. Some day, some day! Best wishes, good luck!

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April 30, 2016 Flag

I discovered that the top 80% of my avocado broke off in the wind storm today. What do I do to protect it and help it to heal?

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August 6, 2013 Flag

My avocado tree is about 12 years old. It's planted in the ground, in Orlando. Each branch is turning brown and looks like the tree is slowly dying. It gets adequate water and fertilizer. I am not sure why it's dying. Is the root rotten?

By Sabrina b

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October 13, 20150 found this helpful

When you are seeing your avocado die back immediately stop fertilizing and cut back majorly on the watering, water ever is normal schedule do 1 third of it for example if once a week then once a month if once a month than once every three weeks because over fertilization can happen and root rot. Since there is no way to check just do those to steps and pray it recovers if not then next time you'll have this experience as a tool, happy growing and don't worry it may recover and things happen.

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November 1, 2015 Flag

3 weeks ago my 1 year old avocado tree was hit by a wind storm that almost uprooted it. Since then, I moved it indoors, where it spent its first winter, last year. More recently, about 1 week ago, part of its leaves, mainly the oldest, but also some of the younger ones began to turn dark and dry. Is it a normal reaction to having less sunlight or is it something I should worry about?

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October 8, 2015 Flag

Sorry if this is repetitive. I planted my tree in the ground about 1.5 years ago and I believe I overwatered it. As a result the leaves browned and have since all fallen off. The branches are still green and I actually noticed some new leaves started to come up, but they have since stopped growing. Do you think it's done? How do we know if the tree is fully dead? How long should I wait to give the new leaves time to come back, if at all?

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September 29, 2009 Flag

Please help me I am in desperate need of assistance. I live in East Lansing, Michigan and have been growing an indoor Avocado plant since this summer. Everything seemed to be going very well until recently.

Firstly, let me say that I do not know the type of seed nor have I ever pruned my tree (I don't know how to or if I should). Right now, my plant is a little taller than 1 foot. It is pretty straight up (spindly) and gets a good amount of sunlight.

Here is the problem: recently, I have noticed that almost all of the leaves have fallen off. There are still a few leaves at the top and there even appears to be new leaves sprouting from the very top. Some of the larger leaves literally fell off at the slightest touch. Is this simply a natural phase my plant is going through or are there any measures I should be taking to improve my plant's health.

I would be really upset if it died and would really appreciate any help you can provide. I do not give it plant food, but I do have it planted in potting soil containing time release plant food. How often should I completely change all the soil and how do I do that without damaging the tree?

So, in sum, why is my plant so ugly (for lack of a better word)? why are all the leaves falling off? What kind of soil and/or plant food would you recommend? Should I change the soil? If so, how do I do it? And finally, should I prune it? If so, how do I do it?

Please help.

Hardiness Zone: 6a

By attys from East Lansing, MI

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October 2, 20090 found this helpful

I think you may have over watered it. If that is the case it probably will not make it, sorry. I would not feed it either we have never fed ours and we have about 30 trees(my hubby just can;t throw those seeds away!). Let it dry out a little between watering, then water completely till it runs out the bottom, but do not let it sit in water.

I usually cut mine back at about a foot high down to 6" or so. Avocados do not like to be repotted, that is why they suggest to first pot it in a fairly large pot. Remember It is really easy to start a new one if yours does not make it and fairly inexpensive. Think guacamole, yum. Just google starting avocado trees and you will get lots of help.

Hope this helps, good luck!

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February 13, 2008 Flag

My 3 year old avocado's new leaves are browning.

Hardiness Zone: 7a

Jamie from Hampton, VA

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February 25, 20080 found this helpful

Contact your local nursery -- they'll have the answer! =D

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