How To Prune An Avocado

flowers and fruits coming on new avocado wood ediblebackyard n

If there is one thing I’ve learnt over the years teaching pruning, it’s that when I start to talk about old wood, new wood, two year old wood – your mind squeezes shut with fear.

So before we begin here today lets relax a little. Just hang with me here while I talk about new wood and how it influences how you prune your Avocado. 

Avocados Fruit On New Wood

Avocados fruit on their new wood. The new wood is soft and bright and is at the ends of the branches. It’s the wood that the flowers and fruits are hanging from.

Once this wood has flowered and fruited, it’ll never fruit again.

It will however carry on growing. The branch you see before you will stretch out a bit further every year. And the fruit will come on those new bits. It doesn’t take long for them to get annoyingly out of reach or annoyingly in the way!

Renewal Pruning

Avocado before prune

The solution to those far away Avocado’s is simple. Each season remove one or two branches at their point of origin. Be bold! Choose the tallest one or the one that’s cluttering up the middle and cut it right out. Dont leave a nasty stub or part branch – go right back to the trunk.

Your tree will react to this by shooting out fresh new growths where you cut. The next lot of fruits are now reachable! Huzza!

This is renewal pruning. Off with the old, to grow the new. Oh to be a tree.

Apart from reach-ability, compact Avocados are way easier to foliar spray (how they love seaweed!), and much easier to protect from wind (which they hate).

Heres an excerpt from my pruning book “Pruning Fruit Trees: A Beginners Guide

Avocado

Avocados can produce alot of fruit on a small tree. Happiness = feet on the ground for all orchard tasks! Avocado trees are super easy to prune. Their wood is soft and there is very little science to muddle your way through.

An annual prune makes for a quick, easy job. Leave the prunings as mulch around the bottom of the tree.

Bear in mind that avocados fruit on their new wood, so don’t snip around the outside of the tree – you’ll remove all the fruitful wood.

Timing

Prune your avocado as soon after harvest as possible.

Height And Width

Use thinning cuts to reduce the height and width to your chosen limits. Within your comfortable reach is a good guide – leave the ladders to the roofers! In a two for one deal those thinning cuts also open the tree for light and airflow. Focus on removing the dominant, vertical shoots. Avocados respond with a strong regrowth , so don’t be shy!

Fresh new shoots low down on the tree make for easy times ahead – fruitful wood, within our grasp.

Remove really low branches to keep the fruits up out of the grass.

Avocado before prune
Before Pruning
what to prune off the avocado
after the prune
After pruning. The branches that are too high, too low and too wide have been thinned out.

Comments

  1. John Wilkinson says

    Hi Kath,
    Looks like the “high” one is still there ?

    • Sharp eyes John! If you look really closely you’ll see that it looks thinner up there – there was two branches. One pruned off from the tree in front, one remains from the tree behind.

      • John Wilkinson says

        That is very hard too see. Might show up better with more sky above it ? So the tree behind was next for downsizing ?

  2. Margaret Silverwood says

    Hi Kath,
    Do you have any advice about how to reduce the height of a really large avocado tree? It’s up to about 20 metres tall now, and I’d love to be able to take it down to a manageable size.

    • Holy moly Margaret! Yip you are going to need to bring it to its knees alright to get that fruit. Avocados are amazing at getting a big haircut and carrying along – you wont kill it ok. My style with pruning is to chip away over a few years when bringing a big tree back to ground – although equally I’ve seen big trees felled back to size in one go. My way would be to choose one or two of those big long limbs and remove them back to the trunk (thin them out). Do this over the next few years and steadily bring her down to ground. Then keep her there πŸ™‚ Hope this helps

      • Margaret Silverwood says

        Thanks Kath, that sounds like the kinder way for the tree and me both πŸ™‚

      • Jude Addenbrooke says

        Hi Kath, I have a similar older, very tall avocado. But its one single tall trunk, that doesn’t branch until high up. All the fruit are well out of reach but I do get windfalls. My question is, can I pollard the tree at a metre or two from ground level and expect shoots, or will that kill it? What’s the best time of year to do it (fruit December/January).

        • First up Jude I wonder why is your Avocado so tall with no lower branches. I’m guessing its an absence of light. This needs to be remedied first before pruning it back ok.
          You get a good response pruning just before Avos springs into growth again which is late winter/ early spring. Pollarding is pretty dramatic – and I have never done it but Avo’s are great at shooting away so I wouldn’t be surprised if it worked well .Perhaps look about on google to see if there are any experts out there who hae done it. I would rather prune back the tops to stimulate lower shoots first and then cut back to them.
          Be careful pruning back to nothing as Avos are very vulnerable to sun scorch. If you couldn’t prune the top and stagger the reduction and want to have a go at pollarding then I’d create a shade house over the top of it throughout the summer to protect it.
          Love to hear how you get on.

  3. Joy jacobs says

    Kath. I have an avocado tree gone from a stone thrown not the garden it’s about 5/7 years old . Will it fruit it looks healthy enough .

    Joy jacobs

    • Hi Joy There is no way of knowing sorry to say – you’ll know when you see flowers. Can take up to 10 years, but some of those stone grown trees are amazing fruiters. Good idea to keep it pruned though so that when it fruits you can reach them. πŸ™‚

  4. Hi Kath, so when you say prune after fruit….hmmm we have lived 2.5 yrs here and have a spindly tree with no fruit….( did prune in late summer and mulch, and it’s looking better, but would like to reduce height. So anytime of year best?
    And can you tell me which friend I lent my copy of your pruning guide to πŸ˜†?

    • If its a spindly Avo Claire I’d definately want to create a more stocky robust tree before fruiting – always tricky to describe remotely but remove the tallest branch perhaps and find a way to create balance by heading back overly long branches to match shorter ones… you want it to reshoot lower down. Also address the reason why it is spindly … is it in the shade perhaps and stretching for the light. Until you address the reason for it it’ll just keep being spindly πŸ™‚ And feed it up throughout the coming season hard out. https://www.ediblebackyard.co.nz/avocado-how-to-grow/ Looks like your mate has scored! Happy restoration!

  5. Campbell MacKenzie says

    Hi Kath
    Thanks πŸ™ for your pruning article – I have found it both easy to read, informative and gives me confidence to prune my Hass as I want to keep it compact

    • Tony Winter says

      Hi Kath – The Arvo pruning is great as is your book which I tell everyone about. Our Hass arvo flowered for the first time this last season but no fruit set & I have heard & read that its best to have another variety near which we don’t have as I was told that it was self fruiting. So was it because its was its first year to flower (tree is 2-3 years old) as they take a few years sometimes to fruit?

      • Thanks Tony! Yes for definate get a B type Avo …eg Hashimoto, Bacon or Fuerte to compliment your A type Hass. Pollination will improve no end. We have x1 Hashimoto with 3 Hass – all close together. Hashimoto is ripe before Hass, extending the season, and once we figured out how to tell ripeness we love eating them as much as the Hass. Hope this helps

  6. Hi there Kath,
    I have a lamb Hass which is 3 years old and about 2m tall. It’s a little lopsided and I would like to prune it, but it still has fruit on it (it seems to set fruit very very early – April/May, but the fruit is only starting to take <2weeks to ripen after picking now (Sept)). So it is early Spring and there is heaps of new growth on it – some very vertical – but there is also fruit – what do you think I should do?
    Thanks!

    • The challenge with Avos and Meyer lemons too – you’ll always have fruit at some stage or other on the go. Prune it if it needs it or you are going to have another season of growth on top of the lopsided-ness. This is one of those times to bite the bullet knowing that this time next year you’ll be so pleased you did πŸ™‚

  7. Blanche Tsetong says

    Thankyou so much. I will just do it !

  8. Hi Kath, just wondering about what time of year to prune a tree that hasn’t fruited yet?
    Julie

  9. Hi Kath! Love your book, thanks!! I have two avocado (Hass and Fuerte). They have been growing in huge potato sacks for almost a year due to us moving. They are very vigorous and healthy, approaching 2m. Do you recommend I prune them now, or should I wait until they are in the ground later this spring?

    The Hass is a bit lopsided too, would you recommend trying down a wee shoot to balance the first scaffold (3 well established branches), or notch it to create a new branch? Also, how much of the leader should I keep above the top scaffold branch?

    The Fuerte is taller. It has developed 3 nice branches suitable as a first scaffold, but they are at about eye level! What should I do?

    I am working up the nerve for my first cuts… Thank you very much!

    • Hey Karma
      Dont notch an avocado or any tree that fruits on new seasons wood ok. Yes its fine to prune now – pruning stimulates shoots. Follow the instructions in the post + your own intuition ok and youll be sweet as!

  10. Helen Woodrow says

    Hi Kath, I’m in the UK and I’m growing an avocado tree from seed indoors. It’s about 1.5 m tall right now and has one long straight stem. Do you have any tips to help me keep my avo healthy and maybe even get some fruit!? Thanks : )

  11. John Wilkinson says

    A tall spindly tree is no good. Cut the top off and the trunk will thicken up and branches will sprout out. I have 2 self sown trees in my garden and, at first, did not know what they were. I treated them rather roughly, pruning them back hard but they thrived.
    They are around 9 years old now and have been subject to assault by bark nibbling Kaka’s (a NZ native parrot). They have done some serious damage to the trunk and branches but the trees are surviving being nearly 3M high by 3M across. If I had not pruned them back they would probably be around the 6M mark now, or even more. They are on a slight slope, so drainage is good. I have not fertilised them at all. They are on some pretty rough ground, with a clay base, and I guess are surviving on the compost they grew out of.
    I was inspecting them a few days ago and discovered that flowers were growing on the tips of one of the branches that had suffered badly, with bark removed from right around the branch for a length of around 150-200mm.
    I am thinking that if you want your seed grown tree to flower, inflict some damage to a branch and see what happens.
    These tree got me interested in growing avocados and in January 2019 I planted 2 A type trees and 2 B type trees: Duke, Edranol, Helen & Olivia. Edranol flowered in spring 2020, but they all dropped off, the weather was very wet.
    Last spring Edranol and Olivia flowered. Edranol’s flowers came to nothing, but on Olivia 11 held producing tiny fruit. 10 dropped off with one surviving ,which is about 80mm long now and looking good.

    • Yes indeed, avocados do well with pruning. Interesting idea re the stress – be worth a shot for sure. Insect damage stimulates the bioactives and boosts immunity so it makes sense. Cheers John.

  12. Hi Lath, just bought your pruning book. Thanks so much. Gobbling it up! Have just planted 2 avos in Northland. The graft for one is about 60cm up. Can I mound soil up around the stem a bit or better to just plant to the top of the soil level in the bag? Thanks

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