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Avocado Tree with Yellowing Leaves

5 years ago

I recently planted a couple Mexican variety Avocado... a Joey and a Mexicola. I planted them both about 3 weeks ago and both seemed to be doing OK until the last couple days. Previously the Joey was putting on new growth but the Mexicola seems pretty inactive.

Now, the Joey's leaves seem to be turning yellow and dropping some leaves. I've attached some pictures. Since they're new trees, I've been hand watering ever 3 days or so. The soild seems slightly damp about 2-3 inches down, but not soggy.

I live in the Gulf coast region and have heavy clay soil, so I'm concerned that I'm running into a drainage problem. Its also starting to heat up. I've whitewashed the trunks to prevent burn.

Any ideas as to what might be going on?

Comments (24)

  • ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

    did you transplant them .. leafed out ... and put the pots in full sun???

    if so.. transplant shock ...

    does it happen to be the oldest.. lowest leaves ... perhaps the plant is sacrificing such for the buds .. hard to tell on your pic ...

    always look to the growth points to determine current status ...

    IMHO .. nothing else happens in 3 weeks ... it probably all happened a day or two after transplant ... just took this long to show ...


  • valis101

    New growth started when they were still in the 3 gallon containers. The new growth seems to look pretty healthy. Its the older lower leaves that look to be turning yellow and dropping.

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  • brandon7 TN_zone

    You could always try to install a little shading (shadecloth, burlap, etc) over them to reduce sun exposure.

    Keep checking soil moisture. Allow the top of the soil to start drying in between watering. Check moisture around AND inside of the rootball (if you left the rootball intact when planting). As you describe, the soil at a few inches down should be moist but not wet. Hopefully, you didn't amend the soil. Amendments can cause drainage problems, especially in clay soil (which is opposite to what some people would guess).

  • brandon7 TN_zone

    BTW, this link may be helpful for planting instruction info:
    Planting a Tree or Shrub

  • valis101

    Hi, thanks for the responses.

    I did not amend the soil. I dug out a "bowl" and planted the tree an inch or so above ground level. Back filled it with the dug out soil (clay) and then mulched it with some high quality native mulch.

    I actually just ordered some shadecloth and will probably set up some kind of sun shelter for them.

    Here's a zoomed out picture of the Joey. It seems to be the older leaves as the new growth seems to look OK.


  • Janica

    My Joey avocado is doing the exact same thing! I'm sure that it is not due to getting too much sun as I have it protected. I have thought that it could be a drainage problem, but I'm not sure. It has also had some small, fly-like insects on it at times that have eaten some of the leaves. I am in the Gulf Coast region as well, but I put my tree is in a very large pot with potting soil. I planted it about 2 months ago. If you figure out what the problem is, please let me know. I lost my last avocado tree to an unexpected freeze and I don't want to lose this one.

  • valis101

    Update on my Joey Avocado...

    All the yellow leaves eventually dropped off, but the new growth on the branches still seems pretty healthy and are not yellowing. The trunk and lower parts of the branches closest to the trunk are without leaves at the moment. I've put up a shade cloth to give it some protection from the sun during the most intense times of the day.

    The Mexicola is looking very pathetic. No signs of new growth just kind of "droopy" looking.

  • Janica

    I still lean towards thinking that my Joey was staying too wet, partly due to drainage and partly due to the unusually cool nights we have had in the last few months. I'm used to it being very hot and everything drying out very quickly. (I'm south of Houston).

    I added some more drainage holes to the pot and removed some of the mulch. The yellowing of the leaves seems to have slowed down considerably, and it has healthy, new growth up top. The bugs that were eating it seem to be gone. I'm hoping this fixes the problem.

  • valis101

    I thought I'd post an update since it's been exactly a year since I posted the first picture. The joey avocado survived the year and put on a lot of excellent growth and made it through the winter just fine. Interestingly, almost 2 weeks ago, its started dropping leaves again. Yellowing and then dropping. It also seems to be very flaccid, so much so that I've had to stake it.

    We've had a record year for rain thus far here in Houston. I believe this has been the wettest March on record. Hoping it bounces back like it did last year. Fingers crossed!

  • ctoverton

    Hi Valis,
    How did the Mexicola survive it all? Did it pop out of the rut it was in? I just planted one that is behaving exactly like your Joey. Older and lower leaves yellowing but the fist full at first. Now one a day is becoming yellow, radiating from the veins and getting brown splotchy leaf margins. By that stage they pull easily off the stem at the slightest pressure. New growth appeared at the stem tips around the time all this started but leaves are still small (1" or so). I too have heavy clay soil. I add a half dose of organic slow release fertilizer and amended the soil around with a very sandy topsoil from the garden shop. It needs water about every other day (soil moist but not moist enough to stay clumped together). I'm at the edge of where Mexicola's survive but this time of year should be fine for it, nights are upper 40s days around 70.

  • jenell30

    Hi Valis,

    How is Joey? I last week purchased a "Joey" and was in great detail told to keep him on the shaded deck until he "Barks Up" and was told it can take up to 2 years to do so. I have started to have 2 leaves one turned very yellow/brown and the other green/brown i noticed lots of new growth right after the graft part and as of today no more yellowed leaves. The great news right above the graft i see Joey is already starting to "Bark Up". The nursery lady said that he was about 2-yrs old so i guess she was right. So letting him finish barking and will plant outside later this year. I am in zone 9 inland from Rockport, Tx about 50 miles as the crow flies. She also told me the reason is Avocados have to be prepared for the weather and as I will be planting in a large open space have no wind breakers. I am on the Lake and the winds are so strong here. Anyway I hope my "Joey" makes headway.

  • wisconsitom

    Forgive my relative ignorance about tropical plants (hey, I'm working on it!) but do avocados by any chance belong to that group of tropical trees which do have a seasonal leaf drop? Here I'm thinking about such species as Delonix (Royal Poiciana) and right around one thousand more examples....of trees which, although of tropical origin, do have a seasonal effect of often dropping their foliage. Just a thought.

  • valis101

    Joey is still with us has grown quite a bit . The bottom has barked up nicely. I do believe that the leaf drop is a standard yearly event. I am starting to see some yellow up and drop again.

    Avacados here are tough to grow, I've killed about 4 others. For some reason this one has made it and appears to be going strong. I have a hunch that this tree was planted a bit higher than the others and was slightly mounded (I have heavy clay soil)

    As jenell30 commented, I've learned that the best way to increase your odds of success are to keep them potted until they have a bark about 12-18 inches on the trunk. I also think that planting them on a nice high mound would be helpful too.

    I hope the Joey ends up being worth it. I did read from someone else in my area who has actually gotten fruit that the flavor was not very desirable - :( I guess we'll see - here's hoping i get some fruit soon.

  • bengz6westmd

    Hmmmm, avocados.....

  • CA MA

    I planted a Poncho avocado tree last year in southern Houston and the leave just turned yellow this week, so I came online to see what the problem was. The tree now has tiny avocadoes on it so I am excited to see if they grow into an edible fruit or not. Thanks for the information.

  • Wild Haired Mavens

    Im in avocado meca. They lose their leaves a couple times a year. They need their own leaf mulch to be heathy. Here the old leaves just dry out and crumble off. Then in a little while fresh new leaves come.

    Hoping to one day grow the avocado tree of my childhood. Stolen from my sweet neighbors backyard. They grew as big as cantaloupe, pure butter. They aren't destructive to buildings but have surface roots. The ground is always littered with fallen leaves as they take forever to compost here. Probably faster there.

    Seedlings are finicky i bought three to get one. If it lives over a month you got a avocado tree.

    The yellow concerns me, pile fallen avocado leaves around the trunk. They like cool roots, and do better in partial shade like the shadow of taller trees or next to a source of shade while young.

    I just feed mine cottonseed, coffee and fruit rinds. They love being watered by local small critters. Bird poo, rabbit poo, in nature that's how they are fertilized.

    The roof rats dig in the roots of mine and eat some leaves for medicine. They must leave a little fertilizer cause the tree loves any attention from small creatures.

    I can't say how to feed in Texas as i thought your soil had more nutrition than ours but i hope that helps to get bunches of healthy green leaves.

  • wisconsitom

    Although I mostly admonish folks to not fertilize their plants in the ground-most often it is completely unneeded-there are aspects of this situation that remind me of nutrient deficiencies. To wit, the fact that newer foliage is staying green indicates that perhaps nitrogen is in short supply, as the plant is able to shunt that necessary nutrient to where it is most needed-new growth-which deprives the older foliage. And such relationships exist with other nutrients as well-the so-called "mobile" nutrients. Maybe look into that.

  • Wild Haired Mavens

    Wisconsitom Your right that avocado trees don't need fertilizer.

    I just thought that some of the things we all know about avocado trees in California could help like leaving the leaf litter and getting use to the wildlife that keep each other in balance around the tree.

    We are always told not to remove fallen avocado leaves as they need them to be healthy. If he's removing leaves to avoid disease the tree won't get all the nutrition it needs to become a big.

    Also this tree is a wildlife magnet. The leaves remove toxicity from mammals. In turn creatures warm and fertilize. If they trap and remove the tree will be underfed.

    Aligater lizards living underneath surface roots aerate and fertilize. I love my alligater lizards. One baby followed me in the house and took me weeks to get him back in the yard. I thought he was a small alligator and embarrassed myself by calling animal control to come get him then telling them to leave Leroy alone once I found out he was safe.

    Leroy found a crack in the wall, went in there and ate every roach in the building to thank me for winter respite. Id catch him sunning in the window as I woke up. Hed go hide as soon as i got up. When i found out they also prey on baby rats Im determined to always have

    Whatever animals you have will discover this tree. No poison works on mammals that eat avocado leaves. Loins, hawks, coyote and dogs keep rodents numbers low. Pigeon eat the unwary lizards.

    One squirrel living in my next door neighbors avocado tree got so use to me that he started bringing his avocado lunch out to a lower branch to dine alfresco as I gathered mine. He would chirp to get my attention then move his little body like he was telling a story.

  • Charles Tompkins

    I have watched the "turning-of-the-leaves" for 6 years now.... Weekend house in Galveston- Last year, my First Avacado tree (planted from a seed) turned 5 years old. It started out with a couple hundred flowers then eventually to dozens of small acacados and finished off with about 5 that I harvested. Small seeds, small fruit, rubber-like. Black/brown out and green in. Worst Guacamole I ever made.

    This year, I trimmed excess branches substantially. Tree was about 4" in diameter, 10' tall and about 10' wide. It has over 100 nice 4x2" avacados. Various Leaves have been turning brown and falling since day-one. Doesn't seem like sun is the issue. Excess water and making room for new growth seems likely. I fertilize more than I should. And I mulch all grass and fallen leaves.

    I'm a bio-chemist so I'm focusing heavily on understanding exactly what makes these trees tick!

  • valis101

    The Joey fruited for the first time last year. Unfortunately, the fruit is a big disappointment so I can't recommend this variety at all. The biggest let down is the taste. It has a rubbery texture and tastes grassy and bitter. To add insult to injury, the fruit is very small and the seed is very large relative to the flesh. I am going to attempt to graft onto this rootstock with a different variety.

  • casey4516

    I thought i'd comment on the avocado issue above. I live in AZ where avocados are dificult to grow. I have a 2 year old potted plant that had the same issues. Ive been researching several websites and reading postings and here's a few suggestions.

    - Water slow and deep and let water almost dry out between waterings. Water needs to drain well or root rot occurs.

    If drainage is good, yellowing could be a depletion of Nitrogen in your soil. Check out fish emulsion 1 x month during growing season and adding citrus fertilizer 3 times a year Feb, May, Sept.

    -Morning sun afternoon shade. (Preferably a non windy location.)

    In less the tree is planted in the intended enviroment nutrients and conditions need adapted to supplement the difference.

    Currently my tree has tons of new leaves and heading towards its third year. AZ heat is hell in the summer at 118' degree weeks. I consider myself lucky its surviving.

    Please research my suggestions before trying. Good Luck.

  • Guy Ellis (AZ 9B)

    From reading all those comments above this seems to be an April thing. I found this thread after noticing my avocado's leaves starting to turn yellow today. Like casey4516 I'm in AZ. I'm trying to resist the urge to fertilize and see if I can get healthy trees by heavy mulching and having the insects and worms provide the nutrition that the trees need.

  • bitab

    Yes avocados trees lose older leaves, they need the leaf mulch to prevent root rot-their own leaves have a chemical that helps them. If you hate the look of a pile of dead leaves you can make a pile and mow over them to crumble smaller. Sometimes the rubbery avocados have not been on the tree long enough. Some varieties need to be on the tree for 12 months.I have two compost bins near one side of the 40 ft tree I have for fertilizing naturally. They have shallow roots so they need water often but not so much that they get root rot. Thats why most growers here in California grow them on hills. Drainage is essential, I killed two of my varieties with too much water. All the leaves droop and there is no saving it, Just watch your leaves for signs of health.

    There is a great blog called the yard posts by Greg Alder I read all the time. I met him at an avocado seminar and tour at Cal poly Pomona.

    If you have clay or non draining soil plant your trees on a mound and add mulch. I believe gypsum helps with drainage . I just spread the pelleted kind around all my trees. I bought my house with two mature fuerte avocado trees and planted 8 more varieties. Some grow more vigorous than others and all have different shapes and growth habits. I do build shade structures with 30% shade cloth in the hottest summer months. I do use a citrus avocado fertilizer once a year but sparingly, mostly to bring back the leaves that burned off in heatwaves.

    Good luck with your trees. Read a lot, they are fickle but soooo worth it.

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