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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71 Comments

  1. Hi Mimi,

    I have an avocado tree that was given to me & I planted it. Somewhere along the line the tree sprouted another TRUNK off of the main trunk. THIS one is like 10 feet tall & I have it supported, however, I’ve been wondering if I can just cut this “rogue” trunk off.

    Will the balance of the tree survive? That part is only like 3-4 feet tall.

    Thank you so much

  2. hi Mimi, thank you so much for your post, we have a big Avocado tree at our place, last Monday when I got home I found the tree been cut down, I was pulling my hair cause I didn’t think that tree will re-grow, my mom hired someone to cut it down completely like your first picture, I am just worried as here in South Africa we will have winter soon, what can we do to protect it from this coming winter and do you think it will re-grow * still in tears*

    thank you again for this post, it is giving me hope that I maybe see leaves again.

    • I’m so sorry about your tree. It will need a little water. Since the leaves and branches are no longer there, the roots can use less water than before. If you are able to water the tree regularly, it will regrow. The amount of water that the tree needs is related to the amount of growth above the ground. We cut our trees as a way to deal with drought. If we must, we cut entire blocks of trees and hope that by the time they begin to regrow we will have more water available. Sadly, many farmers have already cut back on water and now they are cutting our water even more. Farmers are forced to stump their trees. If you are able to care for your tree, it should re-grow because the root system is mature. Do you have a photo of your tree to share?

      • I do have a picture, but I cant attach it here, thank you for your response.

        you can send me your email, maybe I can send you a picture.

        thank you again.

  3. Hi Mimi, this post gives me some hope. I grew an avocado tree from a grocery pit and it’s been with us indoor over 10 years. Recently the tree is not doing well. I took some pictures and posted them here with some background information. http://www.houzz.com/activities/user/74avocados could you please take a look and tell me what you think?

    You seem so experienced with avocado tree and I really would like to hear your opinions.

    I’ve been with the tree over ten years and I’m pretty attached to me. Shame on me for letting the tree go this sick. I am hoping I can still save the tree.

    • Where are you located? Are you watering the tree? If you live in So California the water could be higher in salts than you know. Or perhaps you need to leach the salts from the soil that have built up over time by giving it a heavy watering and letting the water drain. Avocados need good drainage. Do you ever fertilize?

      • Hi Mimi, I’m so glad that you responded. I live in upstate NY.

        I suspected root rot, so a few weeks ago, I dug up the root, removed all the dead roots (dead it was – the whole pot used to be full of roots but now it has only half). Let it air dry for a couple of days, and then repotted it in a new pot with new potting soil. The pot has holes on the bottom so I think it has good drainage. I also put pebbles on the bottom of the pot so that roots won’t be sitting in water, if that ever happens (it won’t – the pot is lifted with rocks also from the bottom). I wish I had given heavy watering you suggested before I repotted. I didn’t know. But I think I can still do it, in the pot. Since repotting, I have been very conservative about the amount of water I give. I only sprinkle a little when the top soil started to dry.

  4. Hi Mimi,

    Your excellent article is so close to what I’m looking for! I’m very grateful but not sure if you can help?

    I have a very tall Macadamia tree in my side garden. It’s about 30 foot tall. The bottom branches start at about 10 foot and I can’t possibly reach the nuts and the pests get at them before I can at the height of the tree.

    I know your post is about Avacado but I wonder if there’s a similarity? I want to bring it right back to a stump and then train it back to a wider tree with less height. Are you aware of Macadamias and “stumping” them?

    Thanks so much for your time.

    Rob

    • Rob, I’m so sorry I know absolutely nothing about macadamia nut trees! I suggest you call your local nursery. Not all trees will grow back when cut down like avocados can.

  5. OK . . . “I” finally got fed up with my tree. It had been given to me by the landscaper servicing the duplex where I live. His staff had totally obliterated MINE that I had babied from a SEED.

    Well this tree decided to branch OFF & I had to prop it up to keep it from totally breaking & splitting the main trunk.

    About 2 weeks ago I got fed up with the way it looked & completely sawed off everything, except for about 3-4 feet of the MAIN trunk. BAM . . . DONE !

    Well, last nite I happened to glance over at it & noticed GREEN along the top of the stump.

    YA’LL . . . this thing has started growing all sorts of little sprouts around the entire top of that stump.

    NOW . . . I’m rather at a quandary as to what I do now?

    Should I just let it go & then take off the less sturdy little branches?

    Or just let it continue to grow?

  6. We have an avocado tree that is very old. It shed all it’s leaves and grew all
    new ones, but now they are looking limp. it had lots of small fruit last season,
    and there are more small ones now. there are lots of dead branches at the
    top. Should we have a tree person stump this old (1970) tree, to help it
    or would that kill it???

    • You can prune all the dead branches off and leave the ones with fruit. If you can pay for water and fertilizer throughout the coming year, you’ll have avocados to enjoy next year. If the tree is so large that it requires too much water, stump it. When the tree begins to grow small shoots of new growth, water it and wait for 2-3 years. If you take good care of it the tree should come back (but you must invest in the water for sure!). If the tree is diseased it would be better to just take it out and plant a new tree. Hope this helps.

  7. Hi – I am so glad I found this site. I love avocadoes and have grown two from pits as indoor plants (I live in UP Michigan). One branched off double at 3′ and is OK, growing lots of little leaves. The other one is too tall, though I have trimmed it many times; now it is branching off at the top but is still too tall for the window. If I follow your advice and cut it off at 4′, that will be where the leaves now start. I plan on repotting, too, in a larger pot. Can I be so confident that I won’t be killing my tall tree? Or should I saw it down shorter than 4′ being that it is inside? Do you recommend regular fertilizer like what is sold at Wal-mart? I’ve never fertilized. I do have plenty of water (filtered from a jug to get rid of chlorine). Any response will be greatly appreciated. Best regards, Bonnie

    • Avocado trees can be really nice house plants. A friend of mine in Vermont used to have a really tall avocado plant in his antique shop. Of course, they will never have fruit. Use “triple 15” fertilizer (15-15-15), which should be available at Walmart. Home Depot sells it. Sometimes it’s really difficult to kill a tree, even when we cut them down at the ground. As long as the tree has strong roots, plenty of water, and nutrients…and stays disease free, it will grow. Avocado trees need sandy soil with good drainage, which is why they are planted on slopes here in California. Hope this helps!

    • Hi there

      I just wanted to let you know that these little trees seem to be THE hardiest yes I have ever seen.

      Mine actually went so awry, that one day I got fed up & cut it ALL the way down to only about 3′. It was just literally a STICK sticking out of the ground. I was sure it would finally die & I wouldn’t have to deal with it’s awkward growing anymore!

      GIRL . . . That thing just keeps coming back. And now, when a branch grows the wrong way, I just snap it off, & on we go.

      So don’t worry . . . Apparently you CANNOT hurt these trees.

  8. I really like how you compared our lives to an avocado tree. My son has been upset about the idea of getting our trees trimmed. Maybe I’ll have to use this analogy to see if that makes him feel any better after the trimming service comes.

  9. Hello Mimi,

    My girlfriend and I started a Florida avocado from the seed about 2 months ago in a pot inside. It was doing amazing already 2 feet tall and started to branch at the top with some leaves forming. Now the bad news… My girlfriend brought it outside with her to get it some extra sunlight while she worked the garden. She left it for a few minutes to do some laundry and came back to find a squirrel had chewed all the way through the trunk about 1 inch above the seed. Is it possible it will regrow, most of the ones you talk about regrowing are much larger, and this one is so young and vulnerable?

    Thank you for having so much avocado knowledge.

    Jake

    • You can wait and see if it regrows. Must have been a hungry squirrel. Our squirrels are cute but cause lots of erosion with their tunnels.

      • It’s been a very easy winter for them here in Ma, so they think they have the run of the place. Thanks again.

  10. This was a very special post. I think you are right, this is a beautiful metaphor for life. Some days we are reaching for the stars, and other times are seasons where we need to be pruned back so we can grow back stronger than before. Thank you so much for sharing.

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