RedZoneOS
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My indoor avocado tree disaster :(

Hi guys first post here and desperately need some help!
I purchased an 8' indoor avocado tree from an internet nursery about 2 years ago. I didn't notice it right away but it came with some little white cottony bugs (mealybugs is what I've assumed). I've tried many things from rubbing alcohol to dishwashing soap to actual insectides, but nothing seems to rid my tree of these filthy creatures. More recently I made the unfortunate mistake of bringing my tree in too late (cold weather in chicago), and most of the tree has lost its leaves, only bald branches remain.

Based on pictures I've found of container avocado trees, this tree has a very poor growing habit also. The trunk is barely an inch in diameter, the tree must be supported or it would hunch and break, and only has 4 major branches all at the crown and growing at uneven lengths/angles etc. (1 or 2 really short branches below the crown about half way up the trunk).

So that's all the background info and tree description. QUESTIONS:

1. At this point, there's barely any healthy leaves on the tree anyway, its a little too tall, and is too weak to hold itself up.... If I were to drastically prune, can I just cut off the entire crown, and change the height of the tree to about 6' safely???

2. If I did the above, would it be smart to remove all support, so when the tree re-grows its leaves/branches, it can support itself??

3. How can I make the trunk get thicker, it seems that's really the only part of the tree that hasn't grown at all. Do I need a bigger pot? (Currently using one that is 15" I believe)

4. Mealy bugs. If I can do step 1 safely all I will have left is the trunk. any suggestions on how to get rid of these bugs while the tree is completely bare?

pleeeeeaaase help.

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applestar
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Wow an 8 ft tree. That's a lot of area to cover when dealing with mealy bugs :x
But only 1" diameter at the base plus the description of structure sounds like it hadn't been given a very good growing environment even before you got it, and it must be very difficult to take it outside for the summer months at that size, or even turn it so it is exposed to even light while inside during the winter.

I suspect it hadn't been given sufficient sun so that the limbs stretched out. 15" pot for an 8 ft tree definitely sounds too small. I would want a 24" pot for a 6 ft tree. Doesn't it try to topple over?

How long are the longest/largest leaves? That may provide some indication of its age. What variety/cultivar avocado is it?

All that said, I love growing avocados from seeds and have been for a while, so I'm familiar with all kinds of woes when it comes to indoor avocado care during the winter. BUT I have yet to grow one to flowering/fruiting size, so caveat emptor. :wink:

I can tell you that it's OK for them to lose their leaves especially after being exposed to cold temperatures, and they are very forgiving of severe pruning. I would even consider lopping it down to 4 feet so that when new shoots grow, there will be some room to grow the newly structured tree.

Key here is to do it when the buds wake up and are ready to start growing -- usually around end of January to mid-February here when the daylight hours have been lengthening for a while, AND to provide plenty of strong (but not too strong) light so that sturdy new branches will grow. You'll want to lop it off just above a node with a good cluster of buds.

Once that's done, it will definitely be easier to keep your eye out for the pesky mealy bugs -- Personally, I would just keep at them with cotton swabs and rubbing alcohol.

I would uppot in spring when the tree is ready to go outside.

I'm actually planning to do something similar with some of mine as part of my avocado pruning experiment, though I'll be trying to graft fruit-bearing age avocado onto the seed grown trees except for one that will be unceremoniously beheaded. :twisted:

I'm not sure what you have been doing in terms of support. A picture will help. But if it's pruned down to the main trunk, it shouldn't need any support at all, it seems like.

ETA : Yeah, I just went and measured -- my 2-1/2 ft trees are 3/4" caliper at soil level, and my 3 ft tree is 7/8". I didn't feel like measuring my 4 ft tree since it takes a bit of effort to get to it, but I'm pretty sure that one is 1". :P

RedZoneOS
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thanks for your reply applestar. I'm really not familiar with anything gardening related so I'm not sure I can provide any more specific answers then I already have. As far as type of avocado, here's a link:
[/url]https://www.fast-growing-trees.com/Cold- ... ee.htm[url]

As far as toppling over, if I understand you correctly, then yes. This is part of the reason why I want to cut all growth from it, and leave bare trunk. I currently have a wooden "pole" that supports it and keeps it upright. Unfortunately if I remove the pole, the tree will not stay upright on it's own. My hope is that if I bring it down to trunk only, and then put it in a bigger pot (24" per your suggestion), then it can grow strong enough to stay upright on its own???

Don't have a ruler on me right now, but best branch has leaves that are about palm length (edge of wrist to tip of finger), so about 7ish inches.

Any specific way to take the entire crown off? Can I just grab some shears and chop it across at the height i want? I don't want to kill it! :)

Obviously you've politely suggested that I haven't done the best job caring for this tree. I'll admit that I havent. It was my mother's idea to get this tree, but its become my responsibility to care for it!! After I start my regrowing process, if you have any tips please share. Rotating/sunlight/watering, basically anything that you feel can help a fool like me haha

thanks![/url]

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applestar
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I hope I didn't come across in a mean kind of way -- I was just trying to illustrate possible scenarios succinctly. I'll be happy to tell you what I know, so ask away. :wink:

Here's a picture of one that I lopped this fall just before they have a growth spurt. It's about 1/2" diam in a 6"Dx7"H nursery container so it was probably 20-24" tall when I chopped it down to a 5" stick.
Image

I'm keeping it under a 4-tube T-8 shop light with 6500K daylight tubes and I think 4400K tubes, but not all the way close like I would with other plants -- it's been probably 6-8" below the tubes. This one's newest leaf is 9-1/2" long. The 7/8" tree's biggest leaf is 18" long (it had a bigger leaf but it didn't like the cold draft and the low light, turned brown, and fell off :roll: )

RedZoneOS
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applestar, thanks for your help so far!

I haven't taken any action yet, but I think I've come up with a game plan that I wanted to run by you, and maybe get some suggestions about.

I've decided to just chop the whole thing down to about 4 feet tall (from the top of the planter). Do you think I still should get a larger planter or is the 15" one I have sufficient even when the tree re-grows?? As of right now I plan on keeping it 4 feet, maybe 5 feet maximum if it starts growing nicely... Do I need to cut it a certain way, or can I just chop it straight across the trunk?

Also, I'm planning on relocating it to my living room where there's very little direct sunlight because I'm hoping to use a grow light instead. I saw in your post that you were using them, so any suggestions on what to buy?? price doesn't matter too much, but energy use does. it'll be the only plant that uses the grow light, and I would prefer to keep it as unnoticeable/minimalist as possible...

Last question, off topic but related to grow lights. I've never used or even seen a "grow light" lit up before. Would they be really bizarre to use as regular bedroom type lights (as in replacing my current ceiling CFL's in my bedroom with a CFL grow lights)??

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