I live in Toronto, and have an avocado plant that I sprouted from a pit ten years ago. It’s about 1.5m tall and very leggy. We have no direct sunlight inside our apartment. This spring I decided to bring it outside on our back porch to give it some extra light, and it sprouted a new branch with a bunch of huge beautiful leaves. Clearly it liked it out there. I’ve brought it inside again now and I am wondering about pruning away some of the long sideways “branch,” (which is actually the leader) with its withered old leaves. I should also note that there’s a second, smaller avocado plant sprouted separately also in the pot.
I’m wondering if it matters what time of year I do this (can I do it now?) and where I should cut it back. I have read that you should prune at the base of a leaf node, however I would love to shorten the long sideways branch. Is it safe to cut it back further than where the leaves are?
Any advice on helping this plant flourish would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners.
Many people enjoy growing avocado plants, Persea americano, from the pit, as I think you may have done. There are a few things you can do to encourage your ten-year-old plant to flourish.
Avocados are native to central Mexico and require heat and sun to grow into fruiting trees. Without sun the tree will become straggly. Generally one would prune the young stem above a node to encourage new growth as well as pinch out the tip for stronger and bushier growth in the summer. As the roots outgrow the pot, repotting in the spring to a pot one size larger with well-draining soil will encourage root growth. The soil should be kept evenly moist, but not soggy which could result in root rot. Fertilize monthly with a balanced fertilizer in spring and summer.
As I mentioned, avocado plants do need full sun. Without that option, you may want to invest in a full spectrum grow lamp or bulb and, of course, continue to place your plant outdoors, preferably in full sun in the summer. The plant should be hardened off first by placing it outside in the shade first for a few hours and then gradually left longer in a brighter location daily for about a week before it remains in full sun. That should encourage stronger growth.
You can remove the sideways “leader” now if you like. If there is a node, cut it to above the node and a new stem will sprout from it.
All the best with your avocado tree.