Avocado Trees Losing Leaves

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.

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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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August 2, 20154 found this helpful
Best Answer

I can't really tell much from the pictures, but I have a few suggestions. I've had a lot of luck growing avocados indoors in Canada and I'm pretty familiar with some of the problems that you can run into with these plants (e.g., root damage, sciarid flies). Although I can't quite tell what the problem is from the pictures, I have a few suggestions that might help.

First, you should no plant multiple avocado plants together in the same pot. Avocado tree roots like to spread out and do not deal well with crowding. If planted together in the same pot, the plants can strangle one another (untangling them when this happens is horrible, trust me). Planting them together in the same pot can also mean that any diseases are easily transferred between the plants. The pot can also become root bound extremely quickly with multiple plants, meaning that the plants will stop getting adequate water and nutrients in a matter of months. For example, if you put two avocado trees in a pot that is the ideal size for one plant, the pot become root bound in half the time (i.e., 6 months instead of 12); the smaller the pot (or the less soil in the pot) the bigger a problem this becomes. It is best to put each seedling in its own pot that is fill 9/10 with fertilizer.

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Second, you need to put the plants in a window that gets a lot of direct sunlight. If the plants don't get enough sunlight, they won't be able to produce enough nutrients to support their leaves (extra fertilizer will not fix this, either). A lack of sunlight can cause the leaves to yellow, then brown and fall off. If you live in a basement or anywhere that doesn't get at least 6 hours of sunlight in the spring and summer, the avocado trees won't last long.

Third, if your plants are on the ground floor directly adjacent to the window, you will eventually end up with sciarid flies. These flies look like fruit flies, but they have black, vein-less wings and kind of aimlessly flutter around the pots. If you can't catch one to examine to check if it is a sciarid fly, breathe on them. Sciarid flies are attracted to carbon dioxide and will fly all around your face when you exhale. The adult flies will munch on any dead leaves that are in the pot and will lay eggs in moist soil.

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The larvae are what you really need to worry about: after hatching, sciarid larvae eat the roots of the plant. These larvae can be devastating for seedlings. The easiest way to protect against them is to put up sticky fly traps and apple cider vinegar traps to kill the adults, and put a 1-2 inch layer of pebbles in the last 1/10 of your pot. If the adults can't reach the soil, then they can't lay their eggs, and then the larvae can't destroy your plants' roots.

Fourth, avocado trees require a more nitrogen rich fertilizer than most plants. The nitrogen helps support growth. Most fertilizer bags will have three numbers on the front to indicate the percentage of nitrogen, phosphate, and potash. Well-balanced potting soil for indoor plants (considered safe to use on a variety of houseplants) typically has about .2% nitrogen, which is extremely low for an avocado tree. Avocado trees will require something closer to 6% nitrogen to really thrive. Adding fertilizer to your potting soil every month or so can help give your plants the nitrogen they need.

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Fifth, avocado trees like fast draining soil; they like it when the soil is moist, but they don't want to be in a puddle. There are a lot of people who suggest putting gravel at the bottom of pots, but DO NOT DO THIS. Avocado tree roots grow down as well as out, and they will seek out areas in the pot that have the most moisture (i.e., the bottom of the pot). In addition to limiting the amount of space the roots have to grow, if you put gravel at the bottom, the roots will very likely wrap themselves around the rocks, making it more likely that you will damage the plant when re-potting. Having drainage holes at the bottom of the pot is fine for draining excess water.

Finally, sometimes you just get a bad seed. Last year I sprouted five avocado trees. One of the sprouts, no matter what I did, would grow a few leaves and then lose them a couple weeks later. It ended up dying after about a year. The other four trees, however, that were grown in identical conditions, are all fine (one of them is more than 4 feet tall). For whatever reason, every now and then you'll get a seed that just doesn't take.

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I hope this helps!

Cari

Reply Was this helpful? 4
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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Anonymous
August 19, 20160 found this helpful

I had tons of those tiny flies on my soil, it creeped me out. I sprayed raid on the dirt ( lightly ). Then again in a week. No more flies. Ha. Just blocked the pit and stems as i did it

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September 17, 20170 found this helpful

I have an avocado tree that I am growing indoors and it is 3 ft tall. Question I have is do the bottom leaves that came out first do they always die off

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February 8, 20180 found this helpful

Cari

Such good information! I need help too!

Grew my tree from a seed (pretty sure I have a Mexican avocado not hass). It's about 2 feet tall now probably about 2.5 years old. The pot has a hole and its in a saucer with no standing water ever.
The leaves got brown spots and now they are falling from the bottom of the plant. They are totally brown when they fall off.

I live in coastal SoCal and its pretty mild here year round. He's outside now and I take him in when it gets below 50* at night or if it's real breezy.

New leaves keep growing out the top of the plant.

Any advice?

Tracey

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July 12, 20180 found this helpful

HI Cari! Wonderful information you have shared with us! Thank you :) I have a question about my little avocado tree. The leaves have started to fall from the bottom up at a steady pace. They turn yellow and then brown and eventually fall off. On the inner side of the damaged leaf there are lots of little black dots and some areas look like they are rusting. Is it the normal way for avocado leaf to die? Or is it some kind of a disease? Any ideas?

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February 11, 20150 found this helpful

I don't have the answer, I just wanted to comment that I have the same problem. For the first time I had one that bushed out! It was so beautiful and now, the black stem is starting from top down and I want to cut it and stop it but the last 3 I did that and nothing stopped it. I have no answers anywhere, one site said it was disease from not watering enough, but I made sure this one was moist. I have one left, and it's super tall and scrony. I haven't touched this one at all, no trimming in fear I can't get it to grow. :( Have you heard why they do this, what are we doing wrong?

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May 21, 20171 found this helpful

I also have grown Avocado Trees. It sounds like you are not watering your plant enough, I water mine just about every day, it loooooooooves a drink. I have the container sitting in a bowl, there is usually water sitting in the bottom of it, moist all the time. My leaves are green and healthy and plant is 3 feet 6 inches tall. Good luck with yours !!

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