How to Prune Avocado Trees: A Comprehensive Gardening Guide

As a nature enthusiast, you probably know an average outdoor avocado tree can grow 40 to 80 feet (12-24 m.), a giant tree that can create fantastic scenery. On the other hand, there are smaller versions that you can keep inside the house and amp up your interior as you please. Eighter way, pruning and trimming these handsome trees can enhance their growth, product, and beauty.

Avocado fruit hanging off of an avocado tree

Image Source: iStock(dimarik)

How to Prune Avocado Trees: A Comprehensive Gardening Guide

A good way to prune avocado trees might be of concern if you already have a lovely tree in your yard and enjoy its gorgeous look. 
As a nature enthusiast, you probably know an average outdoor avocado tree can grow 40 to 80 feet (12-24 meters), a giant tree that can create fantastic scenery. On the other hand, there are smaller versions that you can keep inside the house and amp up your interior as you please. Either way, pruning and trimming these handsome trees can enhance their growth, product, and beauty. 

Why Do You Need to Prune Avocado Trees?

Avocados are very easy to handle, and you can even have a full-grown-up tree if you plant the seeds. Once your tree starts to grow higher, the way to do pruning depends on whether you want the tree as manageable as an indoor plant or an extensive one towering in your garden. 
Remember, like most fruit trees; avocado needs lots of foliage to produce a lot of fruits; hence, extensive and heavy pruning doesn't apply to them. And if you try to keep one as a miniature plant inside your house, you shouldn't expect the tree to fruit anymore.
It is not like avocado tree pruning is entirely out of the question. So, to provide enough sun exposure, easy access, get rid of dead branches, stimulate new growth, and the right balance, you can go ahead with some light pruning. If you want a healthy tree thriving and bearing lots of fruits for years to come, take care of your precious tree and proceed with minimal pruning as instructed later.

What Pruning Tools Do You Need for Avocado Trees?

Avocado tree needs simple pruning, and you can easily handle the process with hand pruners and loppers. Here are some essential tips for what tools to use, how to cater to branches and how to take care of your pruning tools:

Use Loppers and Pruners

First, to cut branches less than 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter, you need hand pruners. These are small and perfect tools for removing thin branches in the tree’s canopy to make it less bushy and let the sunshine gets through. There is a type of specially made hand pruners for avocado trimming in the market that has rounded tips to avoid damaging the fruit while cutting.
As for branches thicker than 1 inch (2.5 cm), you can use loppers, a capable device for cutting down bigger branches that may be attached to the main trunk.
Always ensure your loppers are sharp enough, considering these tools have a crucial rule in your pruning process, and they can get doll very quickly. Sharpen your devices; so that you can have clean cuts in line with the natural contour of the trunk. Try not to leave any scratches on your tree while pruning.

Keep Your Pruning Tools Clean

Like a surgeon in an operating room, disinfect your tools with spray to protect tree veins from spreading insects or disease. Your Pruning tools can become infested with insects, fungus, and bacteria, and you don't want to spread infection around as you go from one tree to another. Use a spray bottle of disinfectant (diluted bleach or rubbing alcohol) to clean your tools.

Ladder, Gloves, and Gardening Clothes?

To be perfectly safe and comfortable, wear casual clothes and gloves, a sun hat, or a visor, then bring your ladder to access the tree. Some people have put aside comfy clothing for gardening; others purchase working clothes. Either way, a long-sleeved shirt, a pair of old jeans, used sneakers, and a wide-brimmed straw hat for sun protection is what you need. 
Plus, a tall, secure ladder with a firm base is required; if someone holds the ladder for you, it's even better. Especially with newly planted trees, try a ladder for extra stabilization.

How to Prune Avocado Trees 

Depending on the season and weather conditions, avocado tree pruning can either be heavy or preventive. The fact is, professional gardeners only practice heavy pruning for avocado trees during spring or early summer. Because if they deprive the trees of their leaves in cold seasons like fall or winter, temperature drops and frost might harm their exposed trunks. Therefore, major pruning is reserved for warmer seasons like summer or when the tree has just woken up in the first few weeks of spring.
On the other hand, it is perfectly ok to go ahead with some light pruning throughout the year to help the tree get rid of dead wood. Let's have a glance at two ways of catering to your plants and see how to prune avocado trees based on the season:

Heavy Pruning: 

Step 1: Thin out the canopy.
  • You could expect lush canopies made of dark-green glossy leaves with avocado trees. They create a shade against lower branches and prevent the bottom from getting enough sunlight. First, you must make little "windows" in the canopy by pruning the higher branches.
  • Make sure not to create a big hole in the middle after all. Too much sunlight is not a very good, and the tree becomes deformed and bare.
  • For excellent sun exposure, you can create a symmetrical conical or pyramidal tree shape.
Step 2: Control the height.
  • Put, each summer, only cut out one major branch starting with the tallest one.
  • Remember to trim back the top slowly with loppers, and don't let younger avocado trees with weak root systems gain a lot of height in the first years.
  • You may need to repeat that process for the next 3-4 years, but after a while, your avocado becomes more substantial and sturdy enough to handle a gigantic structure stress-free.
Step 3: Aim for symmetry.
  • Like a skilled painter, once in a while, stand back and watch your masterpiece from far. Be careful to remove branches from both sides, and always remember the number of extensions you cut. 
  • Creating a symmetrical shape and even making identical cuts on both sides like a mirror is essential.
  • One of the problems with unsymmetrical trees is unbalanced fruit bear which causes the tree to stand uneven, making it more susceptible to strong wind and harsh weather.
Step 4: Trim dead branches at the base.
  • This is a simple enough task. Just use your hand pruners or loppers to get rid of dead branches and twigs above their linkage to the trunk or the branch collar. These unhealthy branches use extra nutrients, attract diseases, and may hinder new growth.
Step 5: Re-shape the sides.
  • A huge tree can create problems like tangling with other trees and blocking the road. Your tree might display too much growth in becoming wider than you can allocate. In that case, continue cutting wild side branches.  
  • Take loppers and first focus on smaller branches from each side.
  • Remember, drastic pruning might negatively affect fruiting for two first years, But it will be more productive after two years and will make up for the shortage.
  • Don't get carried away with heavy pruning because extreme cutting might render the tree fruitless forever.
Step 6: Rejuvenation pruning.
  • Not recommended for beginners, it is one of the most extreme types of pruning. This method is mainly used in orchards. It includes cutting all of the branches back to the main trunk, and professionals take their loppers and remove all branches at the raised ring, or the branch collar, at their base.
  • With rejuvenation pruning, avocado trees require at least three years for regrowth.
  • If the sunlight is too hot, you can put white latex paint diluted with water over the cuts and protect the tree from too much sun exposure.

Preventive Pruning

Occasional light pruning in all seasons minimizes the need for heavy pruning, which is only possible in spring and summer. When you heavily prune avocado trees, you lower the fruit yield, which can be risky. Therefore, frequent light trimming is a much safer treatment:
Step 1: With hand pruners, cut off growing tips in areas that you like to stop the growth.
Step 2: Before spring, you can trim away water shoots at their base. Without these leafy shoots, they can grow vertically in the bark. This way, you can keep your avocado growth lateral and under control.
Step 3:  Unpredicted wind or the weight of fruits can cause fractures. You should remove broken branches at their bases to cater for minor limb breakages. 
Step 4: There is a method called "thinning cuts," which helps you handle fast-growing branches and prune them back to their main subtending branches.

When Should You Prune Avocado Plants?

As we mentioned before, if you decide lightly prune your avocado trees, there is no time limit; in fact, light pruning with delicate touches is the best way to take care of your trees.
But if you wish for more extreme cutting, wait for a warm season to come, so a lack of leaves doesn’t expose your tree to the frosting. 
Experts believe late winter or early spring can ensure faster regrowth, considering it is right before the active period. Thus, to promote overall regrowth, you should prune back branches in the springtime.

What to Avoid When Pruning Avocado Trees?

If you’re determined to prune your avocado tree, make sure to avoid these mistakes:
  • Avoid heavy pruning unless the right season. In cold seasons extreme pruning can expose the tree to harsh weather and frost.
  • Over pruning and extreme cutting might render the tree fruitless forever.
  • Rejuvenation pruning is a risky business, hence not recommended for beginners.
  • Don’t use fertilizer after heavy pruning. It causes the triggered foliage growth to get out of hand.
  • Unsymmetrical pruning can hurt the avocado trees, too, considering it causes unbalanced fruit bear.
  • Don't go trimming dead branches in winter. In cold seasons, the leaves look withered because of frost; hence waiting for spring to cut off dead and wilt branches is a must.

Discover and Shop the Right Plants at "Enter Neverland"

Avocado trees are fabulous tall and bushy trees with glossy leaves that can bear plenty of fruits if you cater to them with proper pruning. To prune avocado trees, choose the right season and avoid over-pruning. 
As you can see, simple yet effective tips can play a huge role in having a great and lively plant. You can visit the "Neverland" blog for more information and valuable resources. Plants bring great joy, so we strive to help you have the best plant-growing experience possible!

FAQs on Pruning Avocado Trees

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