The Q&A Archives: Is it too late to cut back my avocado plant?

Question: Hello,

I have an avocado plant I raised from a seed. It is now 2 feet tall and has never been pruned because I just recently learned that you need to cut them back early on to induce branching of the plant. My plant has only one stem with several large leaves that are beginning to turn brown. I was wondering if I can still get the plant to produce more branches and how much I should cut it back to make it grow better. Also, I was wondering if the brown leaves are caused by the plant not having been pruned or if there could be another problem.
Thanks a lot!

Answer: If you are growing your avocado plant from seed, the usual treatment is to allow it to reach 18-24" in height, then to pinch out the growing tip so the plant will branch out. So, it sounds as though your plant is at just about the right size to encourage branching. With your fingernails, or with a small pair of scissors, snip off the growing tip of the main stem. This will encourage branching at the point where you cut the growing tip out and may also encourage the development of new shoots directly below the leaves you now have on the trunk. Browning leaves are not a result of not pruning but a symptom of some environmental or cultural problem. Overwatering can cause browning leaf tips, as can using water treated with chlorine or fluoride. Try using bottled water if your tap water has these chemicals. Browning leaf tips can also becaused by over-heated air (especially in the wintertime when our furnaces are working overtime). Counteract this by misting your plant or by placing a tray of water near your plant. As the water evaporates it will increase the humidity around the plant. Best wishes with your avocado tree!

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