How to prune an avocado tree

Avocado trees are wonderful additions to any backyard, producing delicious fruits consistently with little effort. Although they are not difficult trees to grow, avocados do benefit from regular pruning to control their growth and improve fruiting.

Avocados are best pruned soon after harvesting, with the exact time depending on your chosen species and climate. The technique will also differ based on the age and form of the tree, but a general trim each year is best to encourage new and healthy growth and to improve airflow. Remove any branches growing very low, as well as any dead, diseased, or damaged branches. You may also wish to thin the upper canopy and remove any crossing branches.

Fresh avocado picking

Why do avocado trees need pruning?

Growing fruit trees is a long-term investment that requires consistent care and attention. To get the most produce possible out of your trees, one important task that can’t be forgotten is pruning – especially when it comes to avocado trees.

Avocado trees are not small. They are known to grow up to 40 feet tall or more when their growth is not monitored. Pruning helps manage this size, stopping you from having to reach for a ladder every time to need to harvest the fruit.

Avocados are also quite dense, with plenty of branches and lush leaves. This dense growth can become overcrowded, stopping light from reaching the branches lower down. Selective pruning helps improve light penetration and ultimately delivers better-quality fruits.

Your avocado tree likely won’t die without pruning (unless disease is involved), but it will grow much better and produce more fruits when pruned correctly.

Avocado orchard

How to prune avocado trees

There are a number of cuts to be made when pruning, but not all will apply to your specific tree. Consider age, growth, and performance before deciding which of these points is most important for you.

  1. Remove low-lying branches that are close to touching the ground or stopping you from reaching the central trunk, impacting harvesting. Fruits should also be lifted off the ground to prevent rot and pest problems.
  2. Remove any dense areas of leaf growth towards the top of the tree to allow sunlight to reach the branches lower down.
  3. If there are two branches developing very close together, trim one of them back to prevent obstruction and improve airflow.
  4. Remove any shoots appearing lower down on the tree if they are not needed. Keeping the tree clear on the lower half makes harvesting much easier.
  5. Cut off any damaged or underperforming branches. Also, remove any areas with signs of disease to prevent the spread of the problem.

Pruning indoor avocado trees

If you’re growing an avocado tree indoors for its ornamental value, the pruning process is quite similar. But, it’s also important to control height so the tree doesn’t outgrow its pot or your ceiling. Trim back the branches higher up on the tree if you want to limit height and trim the roots back if you don’t want to plant in a larger container.

Young avocado plant

The benefits of pruning avocado trees

Pruning is a tedious task many gardeners prefer to avoid, especially when it comes to large and tough fruit trees. But with so many benefits, it is a task that shouldn’t be missed:

  • Controlling shape: pruning regularly helps keep unruly avocado trees tidy.
  • Controlling height: managing height with pruning makes harvesting fruits much easier.
  • Improves growth: removing damaged parts of the tree improves overall health.
  • Assist in pest and disease control: pruning improves airflow, lowering chances of pest and disease problems.
  • Increases yield: correct early pruning techniques increase the number of fruits on the tree in later years.

How much pruning do avocado trees need?

How much pruning your avocado tree needs will depend on age and growth. With regular pruning in the early years of growth, a small trim is usually enough to keep them tidy. However, if they have become taller than you would like or very unruly, you may need to chop more off the plant.

Avocado trees can handle a heavy prune quite well, as long as the roots are well established and there are no other issues with growth. You’ll notice new growth popping up soon after a trim, hopefully with even stronger branches.

But it’s always better to keep a light hand rather than over-pruning and risking shock. You also don’t want to under-prune as this will make your pruning session the following season much tougher.

Old avocado tree

When is the best time to prune avocado trees?

Avocados should be pruned soon after harvesting. This will differ depending on your chosen avocado variety and the climate in your region. Pruning any new growth before flowering will cut off any potential harvest, so make sure you wait till the end of the season for the best results.

What tools are needed to prune avocado trees?

Regular pruning tools are suitable for avocado trees, especially when cutting back soft new growth. Use large pruning shears or loppers to cut back tougher branches.

Make sure your tools are cleaned and disinfected before you start, especially if they have been used previously on diseased plants. This problem can spread to your avocado tree quickly after pruning, limiting your potential harvest and causing a number of growth issues.

Madison Moulton
Madison Moulton

Madison Moulton is an esteemed gardening writer and editor with a profound affection for plants that took root in her childhood. As a life-long plant enthusiast, Madison’s early captivation with indoor gardening blossomed into a full-fledged profession. Her dedication and expertise in the field have seen her words grace the pages of several national gardening magazines, as well as some of the most popular online platforms.

With bylines in notable gardening publications such as Epic Gardening, Rural Sprout, Homes & Gardens, and All About Gardening, Madison’s voice stands out as a beacon for sustainable and eco-friendly gardening practices. Moreover, her vast experience with tropical plants has not only made her a valuable contributor to our team but has also earned her features in esteemed platforms like Real Homes and Architectural Digest.

While Madison’s extensive writing portfolio speaks volumes about her gardening expertise, her mission remains consistent: to inspire novice and seasoned gardeners alike to approach gardening with both the flora and the earth’s well-being at heart. Outside the digital realm, Madison is hands-on, immersing herself in the rich soils of her home country, South Africa, where she passionately plants and tends to her own garden.

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