Pruning Avocado Trees

In their natural habitat, avocado trees grow just fine without pruning. In a pot or a garden, however, they can quickly become out of control. You will want to do two types of pruning on your avocado plant: light pruning and heavy pruning.

Light Pruning

Light pruning is gentle shaping to help make the tree grow bushier or to control its shape. It can be done at almost any time of year.  Avocados tend naturally to grow tall, then to bush out into a more rounded shape as they age. If you are growing a decorative avocado plant in a pot, you might want to pinch out the top rosette of leaves about every six inches of growth. This will have the effect of causing it to put out more side branches and to have a fuller shape.

Light pruning for trees grown out-of-doors can include removal of dead branches, trimming the tree back from other plant life, and encouraging auxiliary twigs that will help the tree to grow denser rather than taller.

Heavy Pruning

Heavy pruning, as the term implies, involves cutting greater portions from the tree. It might include topping it to keep it from over-growing other trees or to keep it out of power lines, or to help deter portions of it from falling on a building. It should only be done in early spring or late fall, when the tree will naturally go dormant for a time. This gives the cut a chance to heal a little before the sap rises in the mid to late spring.

Gardeners would do well to keep in mind that although you can control upward growth with trimming, removing large limbs will encourage upward growth in these trees.

Trimming to Obtain Cuttings

Light pruning can be done in conjunction with obtaining cuttings for planting or grafting. Trimmed cuttings can be dipped in rooting solution and planted in a potting mix. This allows the starting of a new tree, which will be a clone of the original. This is quite useful if you want to preserve a particular strain of avocado.


Spring is the best time to graft avocado shoots. Grafting helps speed production of fruit because the desired limb is added to established root stock. It is even possible to graft more than one type of cutting on a single root stock. By combining the graft process with trimming, you can avoid excessive cutting on your avocado trees.

Hardiness and Types of Avocados

Avocados are native to Mexico, and they grow well in the US in zones 9b through 11. This means they thrive in Texas, southern Florida and southern California. There are many different varieties of them. They are sometimes also known as alligator pears or aguacate. They grow all over the world in tropical and subtropical regions and are much prized for their nutritious, creamy green flesh. They are technically a single-seed berry, rather than an actual fruit. But most people with agree that what they really are is delicious.

Good News for Gardeners in Colder Areas

Although the fruit is not as tasty as that taken from trees that grow outdoors, there are dwarf varieties that can produce fruit while being grown in pots. This is probably an undertaking best done by people who have a fairly large greenhouse or orangery. These should not be confused with the ornamentals that are grown from seed as part of a “grow your own house plants” or child’s classroom experiment.

If you choose to try to get your potted avocado to produce fruit, you should emulate the seasons in its natural zones. It needs some cooler weather to encourage it to bloom. You will also want to have at least two trees and house some sort of pollinator. Some greenhouse growers keep an attached on in-house colony of bees for this purpose.

Trimming your Dwarfs

Although naturally smaller than wild-grown avocado trees, dwarf trees that are gown in pots can sometimes benefit from trimming to help maintain their small size. You can use light trimming all year, but should continue to observe the seasons for heavy trimming.

In High Demand

Avocados have been embraced as being a healthful part of several different types of diet, and are therefore highly prized. This makes them profitable for fruit growers in appropriate climates, as well as making a lovely shade tree as well as fruit tree for home yards and gardens.

Regardless of the reason why you are growing an Avocado tree, you can be sure that it is a rewarding sort of plant, indoors or out. It is an attractive houseplant, a beautiful shade tree, and if your avocado trees put on fruit, you can count on a delicious addition to your meals.


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