How to Grow & Prune an Avocado Tree

Avocado Tree
Any homeowners fortunate enough to have avocado trees on their property should understand that pruning is a vital part of maintenance. Pruning avocado trees can give them a balanced look, ensure that the branches get the right nutrients and help create healthier fruit. However, it is important not to just start cutting branches and hoping for the best, because not all trees require pruning every year. Anyone with an avocado tree on their property can benefit from these helpful tips relating to pruning.

Less Pruning Is Best

When it comes to avocado trees, less pruning is better. Unlike many fruit-bearing trees, avocado trees have a natural ability to regulate fruit growth and send nutrients and water to the right location on the tree. Pruning certainly brings with it a number of benefits, but over-pruning can be a problem. When unsure about whether pruning is necessary, property owners should err on the side of caution and avoid it altogether or go lightly. Some of the dangers of over-pruning include stunting, possible frost injuries, total fruit yield and sun damage.

Prune in Spring or Early Summer

Pruning should never be done in the fall or the winter as this could expose newly-cut branches to cold temperatures and frost. If pruning is needed, a gardener should save it for the beginning of spring or the first weeks of summer. Ideally, avocado trees would only be pruned when there is minimal risk of both extreme cold and extreme heat.

The Right Pruning Tools for Avocado Trees

There are two major types of pruning tools that can be used to cut the branches on avocado trees. Hand pruners are smaller, and they are typically sufficient for any branch that is less than 1 inch in diameter. Specialty hand pruners made specifically for avocado trees might have a slightly rounded tip in order to prevent the fruit from being damaged. If larger branches need to be cut, loppers will be the best option. It is vital to clean all pruning tools between each tree. While it might seem unnecessary, using clean tools is the best way to prevent any insects, fungus or bacteria from spreading among avocado trees.

Thin Branches for Sunlight

Avocado trees that grow quickly and have a lot of foliage may have such a thick, lush canopy that branches near the bottom of the tree close to the trunk are not able to get adequate sunlight. In these cases, the best pruning tactic will be to thin out the branches to ensure that sunlight can penetrate through the canopy.

Aim for a Balanced, Symmetrical Tree

Generally, avocado trees can maintain balance and symmetry on their own, even without pruning. However, when individuals start pruning the trees, they should aim to make the same adjustments on both sides. Removing large or small branches from just one side of the tree, for example, might result in fruit growth on one side and an uneven weight balance that makes the tree susceptible to strong winds and rains.

What to Expect after Pruning

When pruning many types of fruit trees, a lot of new fruit will grow immediately afterwards. With avocados trees, the process is slightly different. Leaf growth is simulated with pruning, not fruit growth, so gardeners should be prepared to have fewer mature avocados the year following significant pruning. However, the fruit yield will increase substantially two years out from the pruning process.

Photo courtesy of American Indian Health and Diet Project

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