How to prune avocado trees – top tips for healthy houseplants

 avocado plant in pot
avocado plant in pot

Q: I planted an avocado stone from a store-bought fruit a few months back, and to my delight, it has started to shoot. Will I need to prune it as it grows?

A: Growing avocados from a stone is a fun way to bring a new houseplant into your home. And yes, they benefit from a bit of pruning. It improves their shape, encourages strong growth, and removes any dead leaves. Give it a go and you'll be rewarded with a healthier, better-looking plant – the process is easy.

How to prune an avocado tree to encourage bushy growth

Speaking from experience with my own indoor avocado, these plants can quickly shoot up, leaving a long, bare, spindly stem. You can embrace this, remove the lowest leaves, and grow them as small standards. However, if you want to achieve a well-branched shape, start pruning them early on in their growth, recommends gardening expert John Negus. This will also encourage a thicker trunk to form.

When it is about 6in, pinch out the shoot tip to encourage bushy growth, he says. Make your cut just above a growth node and use a clean and sharp pair of pruners to do so. 'You can remove about one-third of the stem, which may leave it without leaves,' John adds. 'Don’t worry – it will soon start to shoot.'

avocado leaves

As it continues to grow, the Royal Horticultural Society recommends pinching out the shoot tips regularly. You can also try to rejuvenate older, leggier plants by giving them a harder prune.

In terms of timings, it's best to prune these houseplants during their growing season – in spring and summer. This will make it easier for them to recover quickly.

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avocado leaves

How to prune avocados to remove dead leaves

Avocado leaves will naturally shrivel as they age, similarly to peace lilies. Over time, they will fall off by themselves. But, to keep your indoor plant display looking in top condition, you can also remove them with a pair of pruners. Simply cut them back to the main, healthy stem that they've grown from.

Alongside pruning, these are other maintenance tasks that your avocado will be grateful for. These include top-dressing it with fresh compost every spring, says John, and feeding it fortnightly with a liquid fertilizer during the growing season. Like other tropical plants, avocados also need to be somewhere warm (John recommends a minimum temperature of 50°F), that has plenty of light.

Although indoor avocados rarely fruit, looking after them properly is worth the effort – they'll provide a gorgeous pop of greenery to an interior scheme for years.