Bohowland
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Need Tips on Pruning Avocado Tree

I have an avocado tree that I have grown from the seed. It is about 4 years old and is starting to look a little rough. It used to be full of leaves & really healthy. I think my main problem is that I am not sure how to prune it now that it is big. I am pretty sure it needs to be pruned, but am always afraid of cutting the wrong branches. Here is a picture of how it looks now. Any advice would be much appreciated. I am not sure which branches to cut or if I should cut any at all.

One thing to note is that a large branch fell from a neighbors tree a little less than a yr ago & landed on my avocado tree and knocked off a bunch of its leaves and they have never grown back. So it went from looking healthy and full of leaves to more bare and skinny looking. It's still a tall tree, but not many leaves or growth in last year or two.

5/4 UPDATE: Scroll down to see new post with pictures of how much better it looked when i originally grew and planted it.
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Last edited by Bohowland on Thu May 04, 2017 6:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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applestar
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Re: Need Tips on Pruning Avocado Tree

Well, my experience with avocado is limited to growing them in containers, but I have been growing them for over a decade (I think?) so I guess I have some opinions :>

Looking at your avo, I'm jealous because it takes mine twice as long to reach the multi-branched, multi-growing points branch tips that yours has in ... 4 years? My avos spend 7 months indoors because it gets too cold outside, so I'm guessing it's the difference in the length of growing season and of course the tiny containers they are forced to live in.

Pruning -- WELL -- I HAVE to prune to get them to fit in the house. I understand though, that avocado wants a certain number of growing points/branches to believe it is mature enough to bloom/fruit. I follow the basics -- keep the branches growing outward, cut off inward growing branches and cut above a bud growing out. Avoid crossing branches. Rather than cutting, you will be better off training the taller branches downward by bending them -- tie them down or hang weights. I've been doing that by tying the branches down to nearby, fences, even down to the handle of the bucket they are in.

You could cut the central leader if you want to keep the tree from getting too tall and easier to manage/care for, but ordinarily, avocado's are big trees. Watched a YouTube video of how they were keeping avocados short for ease of harvesting at a commercial orchard, though.

As for why your tree hasn't leafed out. I have a couple of guesses and questions, one possibly a bad thing.

So, when the big branch fell, did the avocado lose protection from blazing sun? Was it exposed to more sun than it was used to and get sunburned? -- Black patches? Crispy leaves?

Are you fertilizing your tree regularly? I keep hearing avocados are heavy feeders. They sell fertilizers formulated for "Citrus and Avocado" -- I have to special order them, but I assume they are generally available where you are.

Along the same line of thought -- those big palm? trees behind the fence -- could they be stealing nutrients from your avo? What about the tree that dropped the big branch?

My avos have started leafing out already -- usually they have a growth spurt right around Spring Equinox. Three of them that are flowering bloomed starting around mid-Feb, and others that aren't yet started budding out with new leaves. Of course mine might be following a completely different schedule due to their indoor lifestyle. It's *almost* time to send them outside for their short growing season.

OK... the bad thing. (Hopefully not the case) are those white powdery patches on the trunk? I had a purchased "Day" avocado grafted onto Haas. It became listless and weak, and then started to lose entire branches. I couldn't understand why until patches of white starting creeping up its trunk. Where the white patches grew along a branch, the branch died. It's some kind of disease. I looked it up and was pretty sure, but I couldn't get confirmation. Before it spread to the entire tree and killed it, I took cuttings and grafted them onto some of my other seed-grown avos and two of them survived, so I was able to "save" it.
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Bohowland
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Re: Need Tips on Pruning Avocado Tree

First off I would like to thank you for your reply. I really appreciate it. I should've probably given the full story with more pics in my original post to help with some of the background.

I live in central Florida. Back around December of 2012 or 2013 a neighbor went to south Florida to visit family and her family has a huge avocado tree. She brought me back a giant avocado. I saved the seed and buried it in a pot not really knowing what to expect. 2 shoots came up and I just kept taking care of it from there. I did some research a year or 2 later and am pretty sure it was a Choquette Avocado. Much larger fruit than hass. Once it got a little big for the smaller pot I started it in, I moved it to a bigger pot and added my homemade compost. The tree took off from there as you can see in the pictures here of it in the red pot. It was really healthy and green looking.

After a few month to a year in the pot I noticed it was getting too big for the pot and planted it in the ground. It seemed to do really well in the ground for the first year and then it started loosing leafs and looking worse.

Now that I am thinking back on it, I think it was a mix of the branch falling knocking off some leafs and drought. My air conditioning broke in my house last July & I couldn't get it repaired for 3 weeks, so I stayed at my folks house. During this time we didn't get much rain & I wasn't at my house to notice the avocado tree needed water. This last picture I posted shows the leafs starting to wilt. A few months later more leafs were falling and I did notice they turned brown on the edges.

I do have a citrus avocado fertilizer that I have been using for a few years now. Also I always add fresh compost around the base of the plant. I did some big renovations to my yard last year, but I wouldn't think any of those would have effected the tree that much. I cut down a tree that was near the avocado, that probably provided it with extra shade, because now it is in full sun most of the day. I am assuming that is what has caused the damage. Too much sun not enough water.

The tree still is growing tall and the top of branches seem to be getting new sprouts of leafs. That's one reason I am afraid to prune it even though I think it needs it. I just hate cutting the top branches that finally seem to be getting new growth. I definitely don't want it to be a real tall tree though, so I think it needs to be done.

These pics help tell the story. Thanks again!!
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In Ground1.jpg
In Ground2.jpg
Drought.jpg

imafan26
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Re: Need Tips on Pruning Avocado Tree

If you can I would cut it back to about half that size. If you can dig up the avocado and move it away from the fence utilities and foundation. It is going to become a very big tree in the ground typically 50 ft tall in the tropics. The roots are fine but they spread and so does the canopy . You want at leat 20-30 ft from structures and utilities if you can do that. People do plant it in smaller yards. The typical spot is the back left corner of the yard. It just works out that way. If you don't want the neighbors complaining or avocados falling on your roof you need to give it space for the canopy to grow.

Since this is a seedling it is probably good for rootstock. Try to see if you can find someone to graft it for you. You will need scions from a good tree. Grafting is done just before a tree flushes. It may be possible to double graft and A and B variety on the same tree. If you succeed , and the scions were from a mature tree you can get fruit in a couple of years.

Most avocadoes are not self fertile so the seeds usually don't come true. You won't find out till the tree is about 7 years old.
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Bohowland
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Re: Need Tips on Pruning Avocado Tree

Unfortunately I live in what's called a Patio Home. It's kind of like a townhouse, but only connected on the 1 side for about a 5 ft section and I have a back, side, and front yard, but not a ton of space. There is 1 spot I could probably move it where it would have much more space, but might not get as much sun. Although that might be a good thing considering the full sun is what I think caused the leafs to fall off in the 1st place. I have other plants in that other spot now that seem to be doing fine. It might be worth a shot.

My original plan was to try to keep it pruned so it stays at a smaller size. Again though it is hard to prune the tops when they are getting new growth and nothing growing at the bottom.

My tree has never bared fruit, so I am also a little worried about it not being fertile. I guess I will have to wait another 2 - 3 yrs to find out though. I did recently start another avocado plant from a store bought hass Avocado. I started it again from the seed. I was thinking maybe my Choquette might be type A and the hass type B or vice versa. I also have some other fruit trees in pots near by because I thought I read somewhere they attracts bees and other insects to help pollinate each other.

I am very curious about the graphing option you mentioned. I just wouldn't know where to begin trying to find someone local that could do that for me. There are 2 nurseries near my house, but I don't think they sell fruit trees. They mainly sell landscaping plants. Do you think that would be the type of place to check if they can do the graphing? Or should I look elsewhere for that?

Another option would be to try to buy an already established avocado plant/tree of a different A or B type than my Choquette tree. Again though, I have never seen any buds or flowers on my Choquette. Just new leaf growth.

Thanks for all the help!

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applestar
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Re: Need Tips on Pruning Avocado Tree

I would concentrate on the new growths on the side branches and cut the main trunk/stem that is growing straight up right above the first side branch. Then, like I mentioned above, hang or stake down and bend the tips of those side branches in arcs so the growing tip of the branches are not so high up and more within reach. Once the branches harden to that shape (are trained) you can remove the tie-downs.

The "leader" is the shoot/branch that has the highest growing point. Trees naturally concentrate most energy to that growth point -- this is called apical dominance. When the leader is cut off, the tree will transfer/confer the apical dominance to the next highest point. When you bend the branches to a less steep angle, closer to horizontal, the energy distribution is less concentrated to the highest point, and the other branches receive more, and they are able to mature faster. (This may not be entirely correct, but basically the right idea.) avocado is in such a hurry to grow upwards that if you arch the branch completely and the growing tip is lower than the top of the arch, it will try to grow straight upward growing new shoots from the top of the arch -- this happens with other trees, too.

Blooming, first, then worry about fruiting. But it would be a good idea to research what type the original fruit was. Grafting a known variety is a good idea too since seeds of avocados will tend to be hybrids because of the type A and B thing.
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applestar
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Re: Need Tips on Pruning Avocado Tree

You might find some of the posts in this thread interesting.
Try starting from this page :arrow: Subject: My potted avocado is going to bloom! ...now what?
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imafan26
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Re: Need Tips on Pruning Avocado Tree

There are dwarf avocadoes that get about 12 ft tall. Logee's do sell them. You might be able to contact your local master gardener association and find out if they have grafting classes or have a referral to someone.

As far as keeping the tree short, you will have to keep topping it. Avocadoes have long branches so you will have to pinch them when they come out to promote branching instead. Usually we don't remove all the leaders. Leave one. Otherwise you make work for yourself as the other branches vie to be the new leader. When the leader gets too tall select another leader then top it below that one. Very few people prune avocadoes here. Pruning reduces fruit load and it takes 9 months to get any fruit so no one wants to reduce the load. Enough fruit will fall on its own. There are two kinds of avocadoes, one fruits in the Spring and other in the Fall. Avocado pollination is designed to maximize genetic diversity. The male and female flowers on the same tree normally will not be open at the same time, unless you have grafted and A and B variety on the same tree. Avocadoes and mangoes are popular yard trees so usually most people only have to plant one avocado, someone nearby will have a mate for it. An avocado planted in a lot above my friends 30 ft hill had roots going almost down to the bottom of the hill. My mom's avocado tree roots invaded her raised bed garden that was 10 ft away. Nothing would grow in that part of the garden because the tree took all the nutrients. The mango had to be cut down, it was too close to the house.
https://www.fruitscapesllc.com/AVOCADOTREES.html
https://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/F_N-1.pdf
https://www.extento.hawaii.edu/kbase/cro ... avocad.htm
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Bohowland
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Re: Need Tips on Pruning Avocado Tree

Thank you for the tips. I will try making the cuts this weekend and steak the side branches down. I can also take a better picture of the tree tomorrow to post on here. That current picture I took is from standing inside my house through the window, so it's not a real great picture.

Also I have the smaller hass avocado I planted a little less than year ago in a pot next to it. It's about 3 feet tall now. I'll snap a picture of that one too, because I am not sure if I should pinch the tops off again or wait a few more weeks/months. It was growing straight up, so I pinched the top tip off about 2 months ago and it split in to 2 vertical branches that are also now growing straight upward. I've heard your supposed to pinch the tips off every few months to get it to grow more branches so it's not just a tall vertical tree with one leader.

Also I am curious if I am using the correct fertilizer. It is vigoro brand "Citrus & Avocado Plant Food" I got from Home Depot. At one point the tree had some strange spots so I sprayed it with a copper fungicide that seemed to clear up the spots. That was after I lost a bunch of leafs.

One other thing I am curious about is if the tree is getting sunburned. I noticed after the leafs fell that the bottom base part of the tree is brown (sort of flaky) unlike the rest of the tree branches that are green.

Again I really appreciate all the helpful replies. They are great.
I have a bunch of plum & peach trees I started from seeds that are now pretty large. One is about 5 ft and the other range from 3-4 ft. That's a whole nother discussion though. I'll try to snap some good pics of those trees too because I've noticed some strange things happening them as well as my avocado.

Bohowland
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Re: Need Tips on Pruning Avocado Tree

P.S. The shared links are great. Very helpful. It really helps when I can see a picture or video of other people's avocado trees. If anyone has pictures they can post it would be much appreciated. Thanks again.

Bohowland
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Re: Need Tips on Pruning Avocado Tree

Here are few more better photos of my Avocado tree, along with a photo of the new hass one I started a few months ago. That's the one I am thinking of topping again. Thought these might help with any additional suggestions anyone might have. Thanks again for all the responses!!
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Bohowland
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Re: Need Tips on Pruning Avocado Tree

I trimmed the tree and streaked down the branches this past weekend. Here is a picture. Not sure if I did it correctly. I ended up cutting the tallest leader back a little bit more after I took this picture. It is still the tallest point, but is cut back a little above the first branch.
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