Why We Cut the Trees Down: Avocado Trees Can Regrow!

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cut avocado branches

Cutting tall avocado trees to stumps

I remember the first time we cut down some of our avocado trees.    We cried.  All of us.  Mom, Dad and the four kids all shed tears.  Those trees had been planted by The Farmer during the 70’s,  we were married in 1982 and the children had been born in the next 7 years.    In 1993 we cut down some trees  so we could begin building our house on the site.    We had outgrown our mobile home, and had planned for years to build a family home.   We finally  cut some trees down and created a homesite.   As much as  we wanted that house, it was hard to see those trees cut down.

tall avocado tree

This tall tree grew back after stumping years ago

The next year we  cut lots more trees, but left  four foot stumps.  Acres of four foot stumps.   This was a completely different situation.  The trees had grown so tall over the years that the only area that would produce a crop was at the very top of the canopy.   We needed very tall ladders to reach the fruit,  and lots of water to maintain the tree.   Farmers all over our area were cutting down acres of trees to save water due to rationing.   The other reason for cutting trees was to let them regrow.  The shorter trees would grow foliage and bloom again,  producing many  more avocados if they were given the proper care.

short young trees and older tall trees

Tall trees behind the short younger trees that were planted 3 years ago

 

avocado stumps painted white

Stumped avocado grove, painted white to protect from sun damage

If you drive through Southern California and look at the hillsides where avocados are grown,  you will see acres of white stumps.  These are the avocados that have been cut down and painted to protect the trees from sun damage.   The stumps take less water while they regrow,  and will produce beautiful avocados again in about 3 years.  Sometimes we graft a different variety to the stump and when it grows back it produces that variety of avocado.  I’ll write more about that at a different time.

stump has grown back

This tree was stumped and grafted to a new variety

We have stumped several times over the years.   Taking acres of avocado trees  out of production for several years is a challenge financially,  but it also helps to save water and is considered a good practice in avocado farming.  Some farmers choose to thin their trees instead,  keeping them shorter but letting them grow rounder.  Some farmers cut their trees,  but leave the branches longer instead of cutting all the way to a four foot stump.

tall avocad branches are cut

These trees regrew once, and are being cut down again to re-grow

This week we are cutting down a block of  very tall trees.    It’s sad to see them fall,  and the sound they make as they break and crash is heartbreaking.   The beautiful shaded walkways under the trees are gone  now, but I can find other places on the ranch to walk where it is still shaded.   We have had visitors who have enjoyed the “magical forest”, as they called it.   Gaby from What’s Gaby Cooking.com and Matt of Mattbites.com were here last year and proposed having a blogger potluck under those trees.   Rachael of La Fuji Mama and I have had fun walking through the avocado forest and taking pictures there.  Now we’ll have more light for our photographs, and so will the avocado trees as they regrow.

sun comes through avocado trees

Sunlight helps the foliage to grow and allows the tree to blossom

Our lives are somewhat like an avocado tree, don’t you think?  We can grow and expand,  reaching for new heights…but every now and then we need to cut back,  take a breather and think about the future.  When we begin to grow again it may be in a different direction or with a change in productivity,  depending on how we are fed and nurtured through the change.

 

tall avocado trees

Tall avocado trees form a canopy and the fruit grows at the top

Even though tall avocado trees and beautiful, and create a magical forest for visitors,  the trees use more water, are more difficult to pick, and are not reaching their full production potential.  They have to reach for the sunlight.

healthy avocado trees

Sunlight reaches shorter trees and fruit is easier to pick

Farmers  bear the cost of cutting down the trees and caring for the regrowth even though they  will have no avocados to sell for several years.  This is just another part of the investment that goes into producing  delicious California avocados from California Avocados Direct.

Other posts about our avocado ranch that you may enjoy:

Picking Out the Best Avocados

Where Do Baby Avocados Come From?

End of March: Finding Flower in the Avocado Grove

 

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67 Comments

  1. After stumping, whitewashing stump ends, and clearing undergrowth, what should I do to the avocado tree to promote regrowth?
    Fertilize soil? With what? How and how often?
    Water tree stump? How much and how often?

  2. Hi Mimi, I have a old Reed avocado tree in my backyard in San Francisco. This year, it suffered a major Persea Mite attack and most of its leaves have fallen off and it looks like it will be completely defoliated. I have since treated it with mite cite. Should I cut back/prune the tree? Will the tree revive better if I prune it back, just like how you stump your grove due to lack of water.

    • Hi Elaine,
      I don’t know what to tell you — usually I ask my husband or son these farming questions. How tall is the tree now? You can prune it back for almost any reason you wish — even if it is just taller than you wish it to be. Since the root system is well developed, it should regenerate if it is given the proper care.

      • The tree is about 35 feet tall. I was told by a tree specialist that it might not survive as evergreen trees can’t tolerate total defoliation. But from what I’ve read on your website of how you stump your groves, the tree in fact can regenerate after its been completely defoliated. I am only concerned with the survival of the tree and what actions I can take to help it. Thank you for your very informative website, I could not figure out what variety was my tree until I came to your site.

  3. Awesome post. Sometimes you do have to cut down a tree to its stump to let it grow back bigger and better! We used to do it with fig trees in our yard. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Hi,
    Do you still monitor this site? I have a question about an avocado tree we cut down, and wondered if you are still answering such questions?

    Thanks,

    George

      • Mimi, sorry for the delay. Forgot I posted this. The background: We live in a typical suburban Southern California house with small yard. About a year ago we were forced to have removed the rightmost one of our 2 beautiful and bearing 30+ year old avocado trees (a Hass) because the wind leaned it over too far. We had the stump ground up and also “brutally” trimmed the leftmost tree (a Bacon). A month or two later we planted a new Hass about 2 feet to the right of the old Hass site. Not long after, about 3 sprouts came up just about at the old site. We let them grow. Now, a year later, the sprouts are just as tall as the new Hass (about 8 feet) and even healthier looking. The Bacon tree has filled in very well, and starting to open blossoms. SO ARE THE SPROUTS! Meantime the new Hass is way behind but may blossom also. The question: Do you have any idea which tree the sprouts came from. They grew way too fast and big to be from some random seed, so must be from a large root? The Bacon came back so vigorously, that maybe it also grew sprouts from a root because it was so vigorously trimmed? And the blooms are in sync with the Bacon. Since we removed the stump and major roots of the Hass, I don’t see how it could be the Hass. But it is nearly at the same spot! At the moment, we plan to turn the “volunteer” into an avocado “bush”, keeping it around 6-7 feet tall while letting the new “proper” Hass grow. (Again, they are only about 2 feet apart) Sorry this was so long. Any thoughts? Thanks.

        • Hi George,
          It sure sounds like the old Hass tree still had roots, doesn’t it? On the other hand, if the sprouts are blossoming with the Bacon, it could be just part of the Bacon tree. Guess you’ll need to wait and see if it sets any fruit!

          It is actually preferable to keep avocado trees shorter: 8-12 feet tall, so the fruit production will stay lower. Less water, and easier to pick than growing a 30-50 ft tree and watering all those long trunks!

          It should be fun for you to keep watching, guessing, and hopefully find out from the fruit!

        • Thanks so much for your quick reply. Lately, I am thinking that the Bacon’s roots were disturbed or even cut by our removal of the Hass, and that caused it to sprout some shoots anew. Who knows if the root stock will yield the same fruit as the original grafted tree in either case. When and if we have a resolution (based on yielded fruit) I will try to post the results. It could take another year, though. Meantime, thanks for being a resource for amateur avocado growers everywhere!

  5. Hi everyone!
    I need help with an indoor avocado tree grown from a pit.
    I live in Sweden and the tree is 16 years old. It belongs to the lady from whom we rented an apartment. She asked us to water her plants and said they didnt need too much water so i waterd them whenever i could. But along came winter and the leaves where falling and I assumed it was from winter weather since i had no experience with avocado trees ( I didnt even know it was an avocado tree).
    Now she says we haven’t been taking care of her plants and she doubts the tree will survive. The branches are dead but th trunk is still green . I have been watering it more now . Is there hope for the tree ? What should be done to save it ? The guilt is killing me 🙁

    • The tree should come back with some new growth if you water it. If there are dead limbs (really dry and no green at all) you can prune them. As long as the roots are still alive, you should be able to revive the tree. It has been severely stressed, so be patient.

    • I have to tell you, I got so fed up with one of my avocado trees that I cut it down to a nub, hoping I had finally killed it

      I don’t think it’s possible to actually kill an avocado tree

      I do however feel like the limbs that have supposedly died be pruned off . . . continue with the watering and it should come back better than ever

  6. Hi Mimi!
    I’m glad to notice you keep responding to this old post. Thanks for your great advice and inspiration!
    I have a 30 years old avocado tree that grew from seed in my orchard, it’s the only avocado plant in the neighborhood. I don’t know what variety. It has a massive trunk 25 inches tick wich splits in two 10 inches branches at a hight of 8ft. The canopy is about 20 ft tall overall.
    It yelds fuits since 10 years but they are scarce and only the size of of a finger with no pit (cocktail avocados).

    Do you think this is due to the variety or to the lack of the proper type of avocados to act as pollinators in the vicinity?
    Do you think introducing the right type of polinators might allow fruits to grow to their full size? Or do I need to graft another variety?

    • If your tree grew from a seed, it is probably grown from root stock and may not produce good fruit. The best thing to do might be to have it grafted, which means you would “stump” the tree and get a grafter to come. You could then decide which variety you want.

  7. Hello Mimi, I was really bummed out when the high winds blew down my Hass avocado tree about 1 1/2 months ago. It was about a 10 year old tree and about 15 feet tall and now is a stump about 1 foot tall. It was loaded with avocados at the time and I’m really hoping it grows back. Do you know how long it takes for the stump to start sprouting after an event like this? How often should I water it, or should I water it at all?

    • So sorry that the wind ruined your tree! If your stump is only 1 ft tall, you probably lost the bud union. This means that your tree will grow back as the root stock, not as a Hass avocado tree. You might want to consider planting a new tree. You can water the stump, watch it grow, but you might be wasting your water and time if the tree is no longer able to produce Hass avocados. You could try to graft it to Hass again, but it might not take. Best option: new tree.

  8. Thanks for the advice Mimi. I believe I see the graft junction about 4 inches from the ground, so if it sprouts above this junction I guess it means I’ll have Hass avocados again. If not maybe I can have the stump grafted with some Hass bud wood. I’ve tried looking for a grafter before but have no idea where to find one. I’ve tried grafting avocado trees myself before but with no luck at all. If none of this works I guess I can plant a new tree but I’ve waited so many years for this tree to grow and would hate to have to wait out those years again with a new tree.

  9. Hi Mimi, I really hope you can reply to my message. I have about a 30 year old avocado tree that I stumped to 6 feet tall. I did this because it was 25 feet tall and had lots of pests. I stumped it a month ago, but there is no new growth. I’m scared that it’s dead. I’ve only been drenching it with water once a week. Is this enough water? Am I watering it too much? We had a very wet winter here in Monterey, CA. So I thought that watering it once a week would be sufficient. How long will the stump take to sprout? The top of the stump is dry. I thought it would be wet with sap. Is it normal for it to be dry?

    • Sorry it took me so long to reply. Usually avocado tress that are stumped and then given some water will start to grow right away. If your tree has no new grown by now, I would go get a new tree and plant it. The newer trees are grown on better root stock than the older trees.

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