Should I prune my avocado tree?

Avocado tree ready for pruning.

Avocado tree ready for pruning.

Yes.  You should.  I have never had a successful tree past 24″ if I didn’t cut back the tree to encourage multiple branches and a thicker stem.  However, I wouldn’t do it now (in the spring, when buds are forming and new growth is happening).  You may be tempted now, but don’t do it.  Put it on your calendar for the late summer or early fall, or whenever you can really see that the growth has slowed.  I pruned this tree in July.  (I tend to see the most growth on my avocado trees from March – June.)  If there is a compelling reason to do it now, such as the plant is dying, or it’s very tall, but very weak and thin, then use your judgement.

Start with a clean, sharp pruner.  I use a Felco Model2.  Not exactly cheap, but it does a great job.  I’ve had mine for 10+ years now, and it’s still going strong.

Getting ready to prune the avocado tree.

Getting ready to prune the avocado tree.

Prune the tree in such a way to leave many leaves, but prune enough above a leaf so that there are budding areas around the stem.

Leave some leaves on the plant, and cut far enough above a leaf stem so you're not too close to the budding areas between the leaf stem and the main stem.

Leave some leaves on the plant, and cut far enough above a leaf stem so you’re not too close to the budding areas between the leaf stem and the main stem.

Post pruning

This is what the tree looked like post-pruning.


New growth, new branches.

In a few weeks, you should see healthy new branches developing!

I really should have put this post out in the late summer, but I just couldn’t wait.  My big guy, Xavier, is in bloom, and I got my mind on my ‘cados and my ‘cados on my mind! (Xavier is not the plant in the pictures above, and as beautiful as his blooms are, I haven’t seen signs of a fruit yet — he is around 5 or so years old, I think.)  Due to a recent move, I got rid of a lot of plants (gave away or composted/otherwise disposed of, depending on the health of the plant, but I just pruned a few feet off Xavier to help him through the move), but Xavier is a true keeper!

Spring 2013 avocado blooms!

Xavier in bloom!

More blooms to come!

More blooms to come!

ALSO SEE:  How to grow an avocado tree from seed and How do you grow a mango tree


38 Responses to Should I prune my avocado tree?

  1. […] of interest: Should I prune my avocado tree?   How do you grow a mango […]

  2. aimzilla says:

    Thank you so much for this! While I still have not successfully grown my own avocado from seed, I have another plant that could really benefit from this advice. Plus, a good reminder to keep my eyes pealed for the perfect already split seed!

  3. Shauntel says:

    I have a question for you! I have an avocado plant that we’ve grown from the seed and it is getting really tall. Do we have to prune it or can we just let it grow? I don’t think we will ever put it outside for fear of it dying in Utah or wherever we move but I do want it to produce avocados. Any suggestions would be great! Also I have it in a long pyramid like pot hoping the pot can help support the branches is that ok or is a smaller pot recommended?

    • Alison Syntk says:

      Hi Shauntel. I think you should prune your tree, as I mentioned in the article. If you don’t, it probably will remain thin with few leaves, due to not too many branches. And, my avocado trees go through a major leaf shedding phase at least once a year, so you want to have a lot of leaves to keep it going through those major shedding parts. But hey, if your tree is really tall and looks healthy and strong, you can try just leaving it alone! I can’t imagine the type of pot that you are talking about – a pot that can support the branches? I am confused. Avocado trees aren’t crazy about being root bound, so I would not recommend a smaller pot. However, if your tree dirt stays wet more than three or four, you might be over watering, or you might have it in too big of a pot. If the dirt dries out in 3 days or less, your pot is probably the right size.

  4. Roberta says:

    Avocado: how old/tall before blooming/fruit?

    • Alison Syntk says:

      Hi Roberta. I didn’t start getting blooms until my avocado tree was about 4 or 5 years old I think, and it was definitely more than six feet tall. I don’t know if height has so much to do with it, though. I think it would be much more dependent upon age.

  5. Cris says:

    Olease can you let me know what manure to use for avocado plants/tree, which is available in indian market.
    Your reply by email much appreciated. Many thanks
    Cris Am from Goa India

  6. says:

    Sir I n my wife bought avacado from d market 8 month back we eat n just throw d seed out in d garden ,I went back to ship n come back after 6mont n I see that there is a plant grown like 3to 4feet tol n it’s very healthy
    I’m from India d place called goa ,n I’m so happy that it was avacado tree I jus want to see when I will get to see avacado in my many years it takers to come avocado on d tree that was my question,I hope u will help me sir or mam I jus shared my thought.

    • Alison Syntk says:

      Congratulations on your tree. I don’t know how many years it takes to get avocados, as mine has never produced any. I do get blooms every year, though! But as an indoor tree, I don’t know if it will EVER produce avocados!

  7. Evelyn says:

    We have an avocado tree that is about 8 feet tall. We have never pruned it. It is just one long stalk with leaves. Can we start pruning it? How far do we cut it back?

    • Alison Syntk says:

      I’m not an expert, so take what I say with a grain of salt, but I have pruned my tree back to half its height when it was more than 8 feet tall. I did this to move it, and it came back stronger. I think if you’re going to do it, you should do it in the winter, when it’s cold. Make nice, clean cuts, with clean pruning shears (the felco ones I use are awesome). It takes a while for the sprouts to come out after a pruning, but they do come. It is scary doing it, though! Every time I prune my tree (which is about 9 feet tall again, so it’s time!), I feel like I will lose it. Good luck!

  8. Evelyn H says:

    We have one that is outside in a pot that was grown from seed. It is about 7-8 feet tall now but is just a single stem as we have never pruned it. How much should we prune it down? We live in Texas.

    • Evelyn H says:

      I just saw your response from earlier. Sorry!! We are cutting about 3 feet off today as the weather is mild. Will let you know how it does.

  9. h says:

    Potting soil/Repotting. I bought one without knowing what it was, it’s about four and a half feet tall in a 5 1/2 inch pot with what seems to be dirt/mud. I have no experience with anything other than small indoor plants and potting soil in 1l bags. Can you give me some info on potting and repotting as well as media to use, or point me in the direction where I can learn about this. The rest of your page was very helpful btw, thanks.

  10. Deez says:

    You need more than one plant to make fruit it has to germinate plant 2 or more along side of the big plant

  11. Sam Harris says:

    I pruned mine when it was around 1 foot. It’s definitely growing new leaves at the top but it never branched out. It’s now around 2.5 feet. Should I prune it and if so, how much should I cut off. Also, we are in the Middle East so it’s hot and sunny, except December to April. Should I plant it outside? Thanks in advance.

  12. Alisa says:


    So, I’ve finally gotten a pit to sprout! I had it in water for aaages and put it in the soil about two weeks ago when it had nice thick roots.
    Now the stem is about 6inches high, with a few leaves all the way at the top. It does look like it has some buds along the stem.
    When should I prune it the first time? I read somewhere else when it is about 12 inches, back to 6… But I’m afraid that will leave me with nothing but a bare stem! And I don’t know if that’s the way to go…?
    It would be awesome if you could help me!


  13. Liz says:

    I pruned about a foot off my avocado pant in Aug. It already has shoots that are about the same height as what I cut off. Would it hurt it to chop off the shoots plus another foot off? The plant is a year old and almost 4 ft tall

  14. rauf seidu says:

    I need the name of plant grow from stem

  15. Lauren says:

    I am thinking of pruning my indoor tree on January 1st. I live in the Pacific Northwest. It has 7 very healthy leaves and visible new growth. About 12 inches tall. Opinion on this timeframe? She has been potted in soil for several weeks now.

    • Alison Syntk says:

      Hi Lauren. Sorry I took so long to get around to this. I think it would be a good idea to prune to thicken up your plant. And, I’ve found that colder-weather pruning works pretty well. Again, I’m no expert!

  16. […] Should I prune my avocado tree? […]

  17. Liz says:

    I am just finding this blog and thanks to all of you for the good information. I got an avocado tree from someone who was moving. Its’ about 3 feet tall, just one tall stem. I didn’t know about pruning so glad I saw all the comments. I will probably do it next week since it’s cold now. Unfortunately, when I got the plant, a lot of the leaves were 1/2 eaten and dried up. We figured out we had some kind of insect eating the leaves, so we got an organic spray and have just applied it for the second time and I think it is working. There is new growth on the top of the plant with new leaves.It also had gnats in the soil.I transplanted it with good soil in a bigger pot. Hoping this all goes well because it looks pretty good and I think it is happy here. I talk to it all the time! I’m going to try to start a new plant as you have suggested.

  18. Cassi says:

    Hi, I noticed you seem to just chop the main stem when pruning and other people prune by pinching off leaves… What’s the difference? Is one way better/safer than the other? I’ve never pruned my avocado plants before so I’m really nervous.. Any advise is very appreciated.. Thanks much, Cassi. 🙂

    • Alison Syntk says:

      Hi Cassi. The most important thing you can do when pruning is to do as little harm as possible. I prune by cutting the whole stem because I am purposefully trying to get rid of height. So far, I have probably cut a cumulative 15 feet or so off Xavier. He’s a huge tree! Honestly, I’m learning as I go along, so I just try things and report on them. I’m no expert. If I were to start all over again, and I didn’t need to reduce height so much, I would just cleanly cut through a very small outer branch and see how that goes. Pinching leaves may be fine, but that’s the sort of thing I’d do with basil, so a tree seems different to me somehow. I need to post a photo of what Xavier looks like today!

  19. Chas says:

    Hi, my plant seems to have an excess of salt and so the lower leaves have gone dry and brown. I also need to prune it (11inches tall)… But not sure whether to prune AND remove lower leaves? Poor thing might end up looking a little threadbare!

    • Alison Syntk says:

      Hi Chas. Sorry I didn’t respond sooner. The way I deal with an excess of salt is take the tree outside (or over a drain) and just flush it with water and keep running water through and letting it drain thoroughly. Trees don’t like “wet feet,” so you don’t want it to sit in water. My leaves go brown every year, so it’s not necessarily a bad sign (just a little ugly, I think). If you prune, always leave at least a few leaves on the plant (I know I didn’t in my major pruning, but my tree was gigantic, so I figured there was a lot of nutrients in the root stock). It worked, but your mileage may vary. I’m no expert. Just lucky!

  20. felicity says:

    Hi, I’ve been looking around for advice on how to prune my tree – I’m so nervous about it, as it looks so healthy – and found this blog. It’s great, thank you! I live in the UK, and although it’s winter here, I’d recently moved my tree to a sunnier/warmer indoor position and now it’s gone from dormant to growing lots of new leaves. You said not to prune when it’s growing, so should I wait until next winter? I worry that it’s another 8 months away and I don’t want it to grow too tall on it’s single branch. I would prefer a shorter bushy tree, not a tall one! It’s also in quite a big pot, however the roots have grown out the hole at the bottom, and it’s a little unstable (maybe a little top heavy). What advice would you give, if it was yours? Should I prune now before my Spring kicks in so new branches can form over the summer/ should I repot, or leave the roots be?

  21. Felicity Arkel says:

    Hi Alison, great blog 🙂 I had 2 questions. The first, I cut my tree, which was about a foot high, in half about a week ago. How long do you think I will have to wait before finding out whether it will produce branches or not? I’m terrified that I’ve killed it as it’s getting warmer in the UK now, and maybe I should of waited till after Summer. I was also worried that it was getting too tall and that it was a little wobbly under the weight of the leaves.
    Second, I’ve noticed that some of the roots, have come out the bottom of the pot, and blackened. Do you think this will be a problem? The pot itself looks around the same size as the one you have Xavier in!
    Felicity =]

    • Alison Syntk says:

      Hi Felicity. I’m sorry it took me so long to answer this. I don’t blog here very much anymore. Did it branch? I suggest for next time (I realize it’s too late now) to make sure you trim above the leaf line, so there are a few leaves left on the plant after you gut. If the tree was only a foot high to begin with, and you cut it in half, I’m wondering if there were any leaves left. If the roots are black and have come out of the bottom of the pot, I’d trim those off (only on the outside of the pot, and don’t take the plant out of the pot to do it), and make sure you don’t over water. (the soil should dry out in no more than 2 days, but don’t wait so long the leaves wilt too much). I’m no expert in avocado trees, but I’ve just had a lot of luck. I hope this helps.

      • felicity says:

        It branched! It had lots of leaves on it, so many it was falling over. I also up-potted, to help stabilise it – there were so many roots it definitely need a bigger pot. It’s still about a foot and a half tall, but growing sideways and out instead of straight up. Thanks for the advice!

  22. Wallace says:

    I did as most of the Recommendations say and cut 3 inches off of a 3 inch plant. It hurt me because it was Beautiful. It is now sprouting new limbs and getting thicker. It has slowed in hight growth as expected while it strengthens.

  23. Anita says:

    Thank you for your article. I have an avocado
    I started from seed also. He is 2 yrs old and stands 5 ft. I named him Alvin. I was wondering about transplanting him but you mentioned about keeping it in a small pot. Last year I noticed an orange colored fungus growing in his pot. It went away after I put him out side for the summer. Should I worry if the fungus comes back? I brought him in for the winter and when he is inside I notice a large leaf drop. Reading that your plant does the same I guess this is the norm. Do you have any other advice for keeping my plant healthy? Anita

  24. […] initially just took one leaf and the top off, like the book said. But Stuff You Need to Know says “Prune the tree in such a way to leave many leaves, but prune enough above a leaf so […]

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