avocado pinch

epiprenJanuary 16, 2009

Hi. I'm growing an avocado from a seed. I pinched the top off when it reached about 10 inches, but instead of getting more bushy, after a few weeks, a new top started growing.

What do I do now? Pinch it again? I can post pics if it helps. Thanks.

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Hi Epi..Wow, that's odd.
When you pinched the top, was the cut slit through completely?
Where is the second top growing from? The side of the first trunk?
Could it possibly need more time for stems to grow? Perhaps you should wait to see if other stems pop out, if they don't, then recut.
Cutting twice shouldn't hurt..the only difference is the main trunk won't be the height you chose. In other words, if you wanted a 10" trunk before it branched out. it'll be a tad shorter. Not a big difference.
Yes, please post pics..Toni

    Bookmark   January 16, 2009 at 11:44PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

I've never grown one, but I don't believe they branch (this is why I don't grow them). They just grow straight up w/ leaves only at the top, don't ask me why, but they do that.

I recently heard this discussed at my Indoor Gardening Society, where they did say they don't branch, just continue staight up w/that one stem (am guessing yours grew the 2nd stem just off the side of where you'd cut it).

    Bookmark   January 17, 2009 at 12:08AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

If you cut a tree off at the height you wanted it to be, it would be an ugly sight indeed. If you pruned it at about 2/3 - 3/4 of the height, it gives a little additional room for the tree to form a graceful crown. Imagine either a flat-top tree or a gracefully domed tree .... which do you prefer?

Hi, PG. Avocados must branch, else we'd have no avocado trees. ;o)

If the leaves were growing in tight whorls or clusters (hibiscus comes to mind as a comparison), and you only pinched the very end, you may not have removed the apical meristem (this often happens when working with scheffs, too), only a number of tightly bunched leaf stems. Try cutting a little below where the new stem is emerging. This will insure that the meristematic region, which is where branch extension originates, is removed and force back-budding along the stem/trunk.


    Bookmark   January 17, 2009 at 12:38PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Avocados branch for sure, and they back-bud fairly well, too, although I really don't care for their form. My sister pruned one of her avos last spring and it grew three new "leaders," with multiple leaflets/branchlets on each of those.

For a tight, compact avocado, pinching/pruning is a necessity.


    Bookmark   January 17, 2009 at 1:30PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Oops - I should have proofread. When I said "... and you only pinched the very end, you may not have removed the apical meristem." it sounded like I had some kind of special knowledge about what you actually did. I forgot to put an 'if' in there: "... and if you only pinched the very end, you may not have removed the apical meristem."



    Bookmark   January 17, 2009 at 1:55PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Sorry folks, not meaning to share wrong info., apologies to all.

(As we like to joke in my neck of the woods, 'I sit corrected'.)

Yeah Al, on reflection, I DO see your point -- hum ...

    Bookmark   January 17, 2009 at 5:06PM
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The red line indicates where it was pinched. Is this too high up, Tapla? It simply started re-growing from that point after a few weeks without any growth of the leaves further down.
Is there any harm in cutting it again? Maybe 2/3 of the way up would be enough?

Also, when should I transfer this into a pot with dirt? Thanks.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2009 at 7:32PM
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Hi Epripen
I had about 13 avocado plants growing last year, all in various stages. I ended up by tossing them all, cause the leaves get black around the edges and dry. No matter what I did, this invariably happened to me.

Some I cut back, some I didn't, some I covered the pit with soil, some I kept the top of the pit exposed....just to see how they would fare.

The ones I cut back all grew a new leader, tall with some leaves at the top. So it ended up being a twice as tall stick with leaves at the top. Even when I cut them at varying lengths, this happened.

My best luck was planting 4 pits in one pot. This created bushiness.

I had a huge pit in an avocado recently and just had to plant it. It has 3 stems growing out of the one pit, so I'm looking forward to growing them again.

I'd be putting your pit in soil, by the way. It works equally well, having the pit exposed or covered with soil.
They take a lot of water, as evidenced by the limp little plant to the left, in the pic.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2009 at 10:14PM
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Hi ...I have tried many times to grow one of these and I never get it to do anything but rot...is there a trick to getting theses to grow??? how long did it take to start growing??? I have read and seen pics, they don't seem to branch out..just straight up...

    Bookmark   January 17, 2009 at 10:26PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

E - you've definitely removed the apical meristem, but I'll make a couple of observations. (It REALLY would be helpful if you added your state and USDA zone to your user info - a large nearby city would be nice, too.)

Avacado is strongly apically dominant. This means that the plant directs most of it's energy to the top of the tree and branch extension there. Most of the remaining energy is directed to the branch tips on the lower parts of the tree, and is also used in branch extension. The rest of the energy is used for odd jobs - replacing leaves, keeping the plant's systems orderly, growing new branches when the tip of a branch has been damaged/removed .....

As I look at the picture, the size of the leaf below the red slash, and the size of the leaf in the other picture look the same. Your tree is pretty quiet and not growing - just because of where it is in its growth cycle, and presumably low light levels (don't know where you're writing from). A winter day in the live of a tree is like a minute to you - things just don't happen at a breakneck pace. ;o)

I would expect that you would see growth in the top of the tree first, after the pruning, because that's how the tree is programmed. It's normal. Give it some time.

If your goal is to get it to branch (ramify) there is no advantage in your cutting the tree back any more. If you keep cultural conditions favorable and the tree lives long enough (a couple of months), it will grow and it WILL branch when it soon begins growing in earnest.

To answer your question about cutting again: NO, it would not harm anything. At this point, the plant is getting its energy from a large store of fats and carbohydrates in the seed, so cutting additional foliage wouldn't hurt. Besides, the surface area of what foliage there is, is so small and juvenile that it is a net user of energy, rather than a producer.

Emerald - I'm not being smart when I offer the vaguery that the trick to growing anything is to learn its cultural preferences and then try your best to provide them. I think a good soil is probably the most important. If you get the light right and figure out a good nutrition program, you're well on the way ..... as long as you get that watering thing under your belt. Watering technique is much more important than the larger % of hobby growers recognize.


    Bookmark   January 18, 2009 at 10:25AM
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I have an eighteen month old avocado that has many small leaves, like the pics above, and many large. I have never pinched this plant, is it too late? It stands about 24" tall.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2009 at 3:14PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

"Pinch" means to remove only the apical meristem or growing tip of the branch or stem. "Pinch hard", or prune, means to remove the apical meristem and an undetermined number of nodes along with the pinch.

You can pinch anytime, as long as the plant is exhibiting even moderate growth, but you should avoid pinching extremely weak plants, or avoid pinching when the operation will remove a significant % of the foliage from an already sparse plant.


    Bookmark   August 23, 2009 at 9:59PM
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My poor little avocado leaves are turning brown :(

I pinched it last year and only this year it started to branch but instead of two branches, I got four!
Should make an interesting tree!

Does anyone know why the leaves are turning brown on the edges? It seems to happen all at once and then it will be fine for a while but then a month later it happens again.

My tree is about a foot high and about one year old.

Here is a link that might be useful: Click here to see my pinched avocado plant

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 12:00AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Based only on the odds, it looks like a case of over-watering and/or a high level of soluble salts in the soil from fertilizer and tap water. The easiest and best way to resolve that issue is to get your plant into a soil that drains freely, and most importantly, allows you to water properly w/o the threat of root rot or root function impairment, the symptoms of which are probably what you're inquiring about now.


    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 9:42AM
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thirdyearbonsai(Zone 4, VT, USA)

Al is absolutely right on all counts for this one...(as usual).

Here are a couple of his point I would like to re-iterate:

1. Avocados require a LOT of light. A bright south-facing window (if you are growing in doors) is ideal.

2. Free-draining soil is a must. I suggest adding perlite liberally to a commercial mix, or using your own gritty mix.

Al have you ever grown an avocado in bonsai soil? I assume it would work well, as my other tropical bonsai love the stuff.

Here's a picture of my avocado a couple years ago, right after the first pinch. Check back and I'll do a follow-up soon with new pictures!

Here is a link that might be useful: My baby avocado tree

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 3:25PM
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I'll check the potting mix next time I do all my other container plants

Here is a link that might be useful: My Plants

    Bookmark   April 29, 2011 at 2:19AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

3 - I've grown so many different trees in the gritty mix, which is what I use for bonsai, that I have no doubt that the avocados would do very well in it. I'm almost sure Josh and a few others are using it with very good results. Plants just respond very well to any open, airy soil.


    Bookmark   April 29, 2011 at 6:47AM
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Hi everyone ,
I am a"newbee" at this . I now live in the Philippines which has the perfect climate for avos. When I read that I could get fruit bearing trees after 3-4 years , I quickly bought some fruit at the local market. I started number1 in water with 4 toothpicks. My wife laughed at me , and no's 2,3&4 started in pots in compost mixed with soil. This was beginning of July. Nr. 1 went into water 3 days ahead of the others ( we had to eat the fruit first ) I was amazed at how quickly it went with Nr. 1. The pit cracked , main root was 1inch long and there was life at the top too. i got worried that the pit would fall into 2 pieces , so I put it into a pot. this was beginning of August.Nr's 2,3&4 , no sign of life. Beginning September , I pinched out the top 2 leaves when it was 6 inches tall.By then nr.2 sprouted with 3 ( yes, 3 stems) and nr.3 with 1 stem . Nr.4 still no life . I promise to send photos for you all to see the progress.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2014 at 12:21AM
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At 6 inches pinch out top 2 leaves to enhance a bushy tree , root growth, and the first branches will be nearer the ground. This is repeated at 12 inches , and 18 inches. Then i will plant out in the garden.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2014 at 3:07AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

I just hacked my avocado down because it's growth had gotten out of control....it was blowing over in the wind. Here's a pic of the tree right before pruning. I, too, prune often. Prune early, prune often....that's what I say.


    Bookmark   September 18, 2014 at 12:55AM
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