How To Prune An Avocado Tree

This is a question I’ll get a few times a week – how should I prune my avocado tree? Many people have started an avocado seed and wonder what the best way to care for it is. In the pursuit of knowledge, they’ve doubtless come across Pinterest infographics dictating that you prune your young avocado tree once it gets so tall. The thought of pruning your avocado tree – a plant that you have watched grow from seed – can be quite uncomfortable. So, should you prune your young avocado tree?

Yes. You should prune your young avocado tree.

Why Should You Prune An Avocado Sapling?

The short answer is; because it’s good for it. The slightly longer answer is that when a tree is pruned, and that’s any tree – not just avocados, the tree is essentially sent into ‘emergency mode’. During this ‘emergency mode’, the tree will focus huge amounts of resources into generating new growth. As a consequence, its trunk is able to thicken up, its going to grow more branches (as opposed to one taaaaall trunk with no branches, which is common when you don’t prune), and more leaves.

If you don’t prune your avocado tree, you’ll end up with a tall, flimsy, skinny tree with leaves predominately at the very top. Fewer leaves means less photosynthesis which means less energy to produce new growth. Whereas pruning a young avocado tree will result in thicker growth and more leaves, which in turn will lead to more photosynthesis and more growth.

So, how do you prune an avocado tree?

Nodes On An Avocado Tree

I generally wait until my trees are between 20-30cm tall (8-12 inches). I’ll then find a node around half way down the stem and cut directly above it. Nodes are easy to identify, anywhere a leaf is growing out of, even those tiny ones up the stem, is a node. Nodes contain genetic instructions to grow any tissue on the plant (branch, leaf, root). Cutting just above the node will help ensure that you get a trunk growing out of the node. Once you cut directly above the node, wait. After a few weeks you’ll start seeing new growth again and in no time at all, you’ll have a tree that is thicker and stronger than before.

A couple of other questions I often receive about avocado pruning:

What time of year should I prune?

Best practice is when there is more warm weather to come, spring and summer are the best times to prune an avocado tree. It is possible to prune your tree in autumn and winter, but you likely won’t get new growth until the following spring when the weather warms.

An Avocado Tree After Being Pruned

I haven’t pruned my tree and it’s older now, can I still prune it?

Perhaps you didn’t know about the wonders of pruning, perhaps you did but were too afraid (I won’t blame you!). Yes, you can prune an older tree right back, but you may not go as far down the stem.

Should I prune my avocado tree before or after I plant it?

Perhaps you’re growing your tree using the water and toothpick method and are thinking about planting it. Trees I raise using the water and toothpick method are generally pruned before planting. I’ll wait until my tree get’s to between 20-30cm tall, I’ll prune it about half way down the stem, then I’ll wait for it to get to at least the height it was before. If you have planted your tree or want to plant it first that’s not a problem – but give your tree at least a month before you prune it. The reason why you would wait is to allow the roots to establish themselves. As mentioned earlier in this post, when an avocado tree is pruned it goes into ‘emergency mode’ and will prioritise growth to generate more growth (leaves and branches), if the roots aren’t established, they are at risk of being weakened by pruning too early. Unless you’ve lost root mass during planting, leave the tree for a month before pruning.

Should you prune your young avocado tree? Absolutely – it will enable your tree to grow a thicker trunk, more branches and more leaves. How do you prune an avocado tree? Wait until the tree is between 20-30cm tall, find a node about half way down, and prune just above. Good luck, avocado enthusiasts!

Want to watch some videos on pruning avocado trees?

Avocado Tree Time Lapse – Including Pruning and Regrowth
Pruning 18 Avocado Trees

4 thoughts on “How To Prune An Avocado Tree

  1. Hey Scott,

    Thanks for the advise. I also started on Saturday 19th September with the experiment of the peeled and not peeled seed. Attached some pictures.

    Greetings from Katrien of Belgium

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey Scott,

    Attached you find an Excel sheet with the progress and pictures of my avocado experiment. I hope this will help your experiment.

    Greetings from katrien of Belgium


  3. Hey Scott,

    I tried to fill in the form but I could not include an attachment, so I am sending you my findings in this email.

    Attached a print screen of my flag for the avocado experiment. The peeled avocado had a carrot more quickly, but both had one within 2 months.

    A plant is already emerging in the peeled, but not yet from the unpeeled.

    Many greetings from Belgium. Merry christmas and a happy and healthy 2021


    Op ma 19 okt. 2020 17:19 schreef katrien gernaey :

    > Hey Scott, > > Attached you find an Excel sheet with the progress and pictures of my > avocado experiment. I hope this will help your experiment. > > Greetings from katrien of Belgium > > ———- Forwarded message ——— > Van: Scott Grows an Avocado Tree


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: