Planting an avocado tree in your garden comes with a lot of benefits!
Trees, in general, add a great aesthetic appeal to your landscape. They help clean the air, too, and improve the environment by providing cool shade during the summer months and attracting beneficial birds and wildlife.
On top of all these perks, avocado trees can provide you with fresh and delicious fruits that you can enjoy as guacamole or avocado toast. Although it might take years before they actually start producing fruits, avocado trees are generally easy to grow and care for. They thrive on what is naturally available in the environment – sunlight, water, and nutrient-rich soil.
However, this does not mean that avocado trees are completely trouble-free! From time to time, for example, you might see the leaves drooping on your avocado tree. Improper watering is the leading cause of plant problems, but other factors such as lack of light, fungal diseases, and poor soil conditions might also play a role. Let us take a closer look below!
Avocado tree leaves drooping – common causes
Drooping leaves is usually a sign of an unhealthy plant, and the reason could be any of the following:
Overwatering is a common mistake, and a lot of gardeners are probably guilty of this practice at some point. If you are growing an avocado tree as a houseplant, you need to be careful about how much water you give it.
As you might already know, water is essential for the survival of all plants. It has a role in several important functions, such as the transport of nutrients from the roots to the leaves, the transpiration process that cools down the leaf surface during hot weather, and supporting the process of photosynthesis.
Hence, adequate watering is crucial to growing a healthy avocado tree. Unfortunately, a lack of knowledge and experience among some growers can lead to improper watering habits.
So, how do you know if your avocado tree is overwatered? Here are some of the tell-tale signs:
- Drooping and wilting leaves
- Production of smaller, paler green leaves
- Root rot
- Younger leaves dropping prematurely
- Tree shoots beginning to die back
Aside from giving it too much water, there are also other possible reasons that your avocado tree may end up standing in overly saturated soil. First, you may have planted it in garden soil that does not drain well. Planting it in a container with no drainage holes will result in the same problem.
Remember that avocados love nutrient-dense, well-draining soil, whether planted in the ground or in pots. Sandy soil is also fine, since it provides enough room for the larger roots to expand.
Underwatering can be as bad as overwatering! As mentioned previously, water plays several vital roles in a plant’s growth cycle. Hence, depriving your avocado tree of water for extended periods will slow its growth and metabolic processes until it can no longer support itself.
Plant tissue is made up of roughly 80 to 90 percent water. This is why an underwatered avocado plant will shrink, wilt, and lose turgidity. The lack of water will also limit its ability to absorb soil nutrients. Over time, its leaves will start turning crispy and brown, particularly on the tips and edges. If you do not act quickly, your plant will eventually die from extreme dehydration.
Now, you might be wondering – how often should you water your avocado tree?
Avocado trees below three years of age should receive a thorough watering twice or three times per week during the normal growing season. While your tree is young, make sure to water it near the trunk to ensure that the roots are completely soaked.
When your tree reaches full maturity, it should receive about two inches of water each week. Watering a fully-established tree once a week is enough in most cases, but this might vary depending on the season and local climate. Keep in mind that mature avocado trees should not be watered near the trunk, as this increases the risk of rot!
To ensure that your avocado’s roots remain moist and happy, make it a habit to check the condition of the soil every few days or so. You can test the top layer of the soil with your finger, or use a soil moisture meter to assess how dry (or wet) the soil is. From there, you should be able to make the right decision as to whether or not your tree needs more hydration.
Another effective method to keep the soil moist is to add mulch, such as bark or wood chips. The mulch should be placed about a foot away from the trunk to avoid fungal growth.
3. Transplant shock
As with all plants, transplanting can be a stressful experience for your avocado tree. Transplant shock is mostly caused by root damage and a lack of acclimatization to the new environment. Other factors, such as a lack of water, sudden temperature changes, pruning after transplanting, and a lack of sunlight could also make matters worse.
Transplant shock is a normal reaction for most plants, and does not mean your plant is dying. If your avocado tree starts to look sad after you have transplanted it, the best thing you can do is to give it the best possible care and enough time to recover.
We also recommend following these tips to help reduce the negative effects of transplanting:
- Dig up the tree’s root ball carefully to avoid damaging the roots. Make sure not to leave the roots exposed for too long (either indoors or outdoors), especially to direct sunlight. You should replant your avocado tree on the same day.
- Do not shake the soil from the roots or soak them in the water. This will help retain the beneficial fungi on the roots as you transplant the tree to its new location.
- If the new location gets more light than the plant’s previous spot, you might need to cover it with a shade net temporarily. At this time, avoid exposing it to direct sunlight (if the plant is not used to it). Let your avocado grow under the shade for about one to two months, or until it starts doing well. For potted indoor avocados, make sure to place them near windows facing north to avoid direct sunlight.
- Water your plant once or twice a week to keep the soil from drying out. Increase your watering a little bit during the dry season.
- If you are planting the avocado tree in the ground, it is best to remove any fruits or flowers. The flowering and fruiting stage can demand a lot of nutrients and energy from the tree, and removing them will help it recover faster after the transplant.
- Pruning the leaves and branches can add stress to your newly-transplanted avocado. So, put down your pruning shears and avoid removing anything from the plant – give it enough time to heal.
- Avoid feeding your plant with nitrogen-rich fertilizer. If you must feed it, we suggest using a fertilizer rich in phosphorus to help establish the root system.
4. Lack of sunlight
Avocado trees prefer full to partial sunlight to grow well, and keeping them in areas with low levels of light will limit their growth potential.
Aside from drooping, other signs of a light-deprived avocado tree include yellowing and dropping of the leaves. Additionally, since plants need sufficient sunlight to conduct photosynthesis, the lack of light can weaken your plant and cause nutrient deficiencies.
To revive your avocado tree, simply move it to an area that has access to partial or direct sunlight – preferably about six hours per day. If you decide to grow your avocado indoors, make sure it is placed near a sunny window. Using grow lights for indoor plants can be beneficial, too, especially if you do not have enough natural light inside your home.
5. Oak root fungus
Fungal diseases, particularly the oak root fungus, can cause the leaves on your avocado tree to droop and wilt. Unfortunately, avocado trees with oak root fungus can be very difficult to revive. In most cases, the infected tree will die prematurely from the disease.
Oak root fungus is caused by Armillaria mellea, a soil-borne pathogen that infects not just avocados, but almost any crop or ornamental plant. Early detection of the disease can be a bit challenging, since the symptoms do not appear until the fungus has become well-established in the roots.
Oak root rot can cause your avocado tree to collapse and die. Your best weapon against this fungal disease is to prevent it in the first place. Soil fumigation prior to replanting often works well to eradicate soil-borne pests and pathogens. Also, make sure that the soil is allowed to dry out between waterings to discourage fungal growth.
How to fix drooping avocado tree leaves
Reviving your avocado tree is usually possible if you have caught the issue at an early stage.
Several plant problems have similar symptoms, so it might be challenging to pinpoint the exact cause. Try to review your plant care routine as well – the problem might be due to your watering mistakes. Once you can pinpoint the cause of the issue, then finding the appropriate solution should be easier.
Here are some additional tips to restore the health of your plant quickly:
- If overwatering is the culprit, refrain from watering your plant for about a week. Also make sure that the soil is not too dense or compact, as this can suffocate the roots.
- Avoid underwatering your plant. Younger avocado trees need more frequent watering until their roots are fully established. That said, be careful not to overdo it or you risk root rot!
- Check for fungal infections, especially on the roots. Through early detection, you might still be able to save your avocado tree.
- Give your plant the best possible care after transplanting. That includes adequate water, well-draining soil, and proper lighting. Avoid exposing a newly transplanted avocado to direct sunlight.
- Make sure that your avocado tree receives enough sunlight each day. As mentioned previously, avocado plants thrive in partial to full sunlight.
If your avocado tree’s leaves are drooping, the first thing you need to do is to check your watering habits. Could your avocado tree be over- or underwatered? If not, then it might have to do with transplant shock, lack of sunlight, or worse – root rot.
Unless the problem is a fungal disease, you should be able to correct the issue once you have determined the exact culprit. With a bit of care, your avocado tree should make a full recovery to its healthy state!
Image: istockphoto.com / Hasan Ashari