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How to Prune Avocado Trees in California

Avocado trees are evergreen trees that can grow to be 40 to 80 feet tall. Light pruning can be done throughout the year, but major pruning should be done in the January through April in California. California avocados require pruning only to shape the tree and remove dead wood. Many California growers prune avocado trees to reduce the height and make harvesting easier. Opening up the tree by removing interior branches allows more light into the tree and increases fruit production on lower branches. Extensive pruning may be required after frost damage, but wait until the spring when the damage can be completely assessed.

Regular Pruning of California Avocado Trees

Remove the tallest branch in the late winter or early spring of each year to control the height of the tree. Continue removing the tallest branch each winter until the tree is maintained at a manageable height.

Paint branches exposed to sunlight with diluted white latex paint. The white paint reflects the sunlight and prevents the freshly exposed branches from sunburning.

Trim the outside of the tree to shape it and open it to sunlight. Be careful not to trim away too much of the outside of the tree, avocados bear fruit on the end of outside twigs. Removing these twigs removes next year's fruit.

Pruning Frost-Damaged Avocado Trees

Assess the frost damage when new growth appears and determine whether pruning is needed. Wait until spring to prune after a severe frost. Pruning is not needed if only leaves and small twigs are damaged.

Prune away dead wood, cutting into living wood above vigorous sprouts.

Remove severely damaged top and crown branches back to the uppermost live sprout. If the tree has been killed back to the rootstock, remove the tree and plant another.

Types Of Trees You Can Prune

While pruning times change depending on the type of tree, a few general guidelines persist for all. Branches rubbing other branches or growing inward should also be removed. Always make your cuts approximately 1/2 inch above a bud or lateral branch, or to the branch collar. Cutting too closely or too far from a lateral bud or branch, or the branch collar, can result in stubs or disease. Pruning at this time of year protects newly cut branches from winter damage; you can also clearly see the shape of the tree and the branches because the leaves haven't formed. When pruning deciduous trees, thin out the crown if necessary by removing interior branches. This will allow sunlight and air circulation throughout the crown and also stimulate new growth. The vase-shape system allows for a large tree with an open center and works well for Asian pears, almonds and some plums. When the fruit tree is young, cut it back to a short stick, approximately 30 inches tall. Prune almost all other conifers -- pine is an exception -- while dormant in late winter or late summer.

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