We’ve had avocado trees for several years, and while they’ve fruited well, there were times when the leaves drooped. After a quick Google search, I saw this was a fairly frequent event with avocado trees (both indoor and outdoor). So, I did some more research to find out more. Here’s what I found will help avocado trees with droopy leaves.
The main reason why avocado trees get drooping leaves is due to under-watering, but over-watering can also cause it. First, check the soil’s moisture by pushing a finger 2-4 inches into the soil. If it’s dry, water it and consider using mulch. If it’s sopping wet, hold off on watering and let it dry slightly.
So, while under-watering is the main cause of drooping and wilting leaves on avocado trees, what can be done to fix this, and how can we check for the other potential causes? Let’s take a closer look.
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If your avocado leaves are drooping or wilting, and the soil is pretty much bone dry, then under-watering is most likely the cause.
Luckily, this fix is fairly easy. Simply increase the amount you water and make sure the soil gets properly soaked throughout. To be safe, I’d suggest observing the drainage of the soil after watering it and making sure it doesn’t stay wet for more than 24-48 hours. If so, then you’ll likely need to adjust the soil and increase the drainage.
If the soil was in fact dry, adding 1-2 inches of both compost and mulch will greatly increase the water retention of the soil, so you can water it less often. This is because the compost improves the richness of the soil (and providing nutrients), while the mulch significantly reduces evaporation.
Simply add the compost and mulch on top of the soil, keeping it at least 3 inches away from the tree’s trunk to prevent mold. Some good mulches for avocado trees are leaves, bark, straw, and pine needles.
A moisture meter can also prove useful to see if the soil is too dry. This is especially helpful for deeper pots so you don’t have to dig into the soil to tell how wet it is.
As mentioned, the biggest reason that avocado trees get drooping leaves is due to over-watering. The bad news is it’s easy to overwater avocado trees. The good news is you can quickly fix it.
When an avocado tree is overwatered, the roots don’t have the aeration they need, and root rot (a type of fungus) begins to develop. Avocado trees prefer loose, loamy soil with a pH of 5-7. If the soil isn’t loose, then it’s likely not draining well and the plant is getting overwatered.
Adding too many soil amendments such as peat moss or coffee grounds can cause issues with drainage, and therefore—overwatering.
So, over-watering doesn’t just happen from watering too much, but also from the pot or soil not having enough drainage. Because of this, it’s best to check the drainage first, before changing its watering schedule and amount.
How To Check if the Tree Is Overwatered
- First, try smelling the soil. It should smell clean and earthy. If it smells swampy, root rot has likely started.
- Using a finger, check the first 2-4 inches of soil for wetness (you can also use a moisture meter)
- (For potted trees) Push a finger into one of the drainage holes on the bottom and see if it’s sopping wet
How To Fix Overwatered Avocado Trees
If you’ve tried the above, and believe your avocado tree has in fact been over-watered, there are some ways you can fix it:
- Try waiting 1-2 weeks for the soil to dry out (skip this step if you know the pot has poor drainage)
- If the soil is still holding water, check to see if the soil is collapsed or flat
- If so, the tree will need to be repotted
- If the soil has dried out successfully, water once every 1-2 weeks
Once the soil has been dried out, and the roots can breathe again, lower the frequency you water to once every 1-2 weeks. Since this can vary depending on several factors such as soil type, drainage, and climate, it’s best to use a finger to test the soil every now and then.
If you don’t want to get your hands dirty, then consider getting a moisture meter. They’re fairly inexpensive and can also check the pH and light levels. If you’d like to see which moisture meter I recommend, you can check out my recommended tools page.
If you’ve recently planted or repotted your avocado tree, and its leaves are drooping, it’s most likely suffering from transplant shock.
Don’t worry, this is a normal event when transplanting and the tree simply needs some time and care to recover (just be careful not to overwater during this time).
Transplant shock occurs when a plant is stressed because it was removed from its normal environment. The roots take time to get reacquainted with the new soil, which can take a lot of energy from the plant. Once a new root system is established, the tree should make a recovery.
Moving or transplanting avocado trees usually is done in one of three scenarios:
- Transferring a sapling from a cup to a pot
- Repotting the tree to a bigger pot
- Moving mature, planted avocado trees
Transplant shock is difficult to avoid, but if you can find ways to make any of the three above scenarios go smoother for avocado trees, they can have little to no transplant shock, and their growth won’t be affected.
For example, while sprouting avocado seeds in water is a popular practice, it’s actually not the best method. In the video below, TheKiwiGrower tests the two main ways to grow avocado from seed (soil vs water) and determines which one works best.
Spoiler: it turns out that planting the seed in the soil grows slower at first, but soon speeds past the growth of the seeds grown in water. This is because the water-grown seeds needed to be transplanted, while the soil-grown seeds don’t. The process of transplanting stunts the water-grown seed’s growth a bit.
So, even though transplant shock might not be completely avoidable for your avocado tree, there are some things you can do to make the process smoother for it.
Here are general steps to transplant an avocado tree with minimal stress and damage:
- Lightly remove some of the topsoil without damaging the shallow roots
- Grab the base of the trunk or stem and wiggle it to test how loose it is
- If it’s not loose, try removing more topsoil if you can
- If it’s loose, you can begin to move and pull the tree out of the soil lightly
- If you hear roots detaching or snapping, stop and try to loosen more of the soil around the roots
- With some luck, you’ll have pulled up the entire rootball and taproot
- If you’re repotting it, place several inches of soil in a new pot that’s at least twice the size of the rootball
- Check to see that the top of the rootball is sitting about 1 inch below the top of the pot or ground
- Once properly placed, lightly add soil in the remaining space, covering the root ball to the top of the pot or ground
- Water generously and add more soil if needed
With the above 10 steps, transplanting should be easier on the avocado tree. While transplant shock isn’t always avoidable, these are some of the ways you can lessen the impact and reduce the chance of droopy and wilting leaves.
For smaller avocado trees and saplings, you may find you don’t need to be as cautious due to their shallow roots. For these plants, I like to dig my hand underneath the entire rootball if I can and lift the plant out of the soil.
Generally, try your best not to damage the root ball or taproot of the tree. This is one of the key factors in a successful transplant. Damaged roots (and especially—the taproot) can cause the tree to be stunted and not access deeper water as effectively in times of drought.
Another way an avocado tree can become stunted and have drooping leaves is if its roots become root-bound from being in a pot that’s too small.
If you’re interested in companion plants that can be planted alongside (and even under) avocado trees, check out my post 10 companion plants for avocado trees.
Its Pot Is Too Small
Like transplant shock, if the avocado tree becomes root-bound, its growth will be affected and can potentially have droopy leaves. Avocado trees have a deep root system, so proper pot size is fairly important.
As a simple rule, the pot should be at least twice the size of the rootball. From there, the avocado tree should be repotted into a larger pot every 2-3 years.
Because of their deep roots, it’s usually best to plant the avocado trees in the ground if you have an outdoor garden. However, if you have a patio or apartment garden, then try to keep it in as large of a pot as possible.
Avocado trees will quickly grow into larger pot sizes, so it’s not a problem to put a small avocado sapling into a bigger pot. In fact, this will reduce the number of times you’ll need to transplant it, which could make for a less-stressed and healthier plant.
A good sign that your avocado tree needs to be repotted is if its roots start coming out of the drainage holes from the bottom of the pot.
If you find that the current pot is in fact too small for your avocado tree, consider transplanting it. Feel free to follow the transplanting steps that I included in the above section.
Lack of Sunlight
Lastly, while it’s not as common as the other causes on this list, a lack of sunlight can cause avocado tree leaves to begin to droop.
Like most fruiting trees, avocados need full sun. The best direction to position avocados is with southern sun exposure. This will allow the most daylight to reach the plant. However, since many trees are grown indoors, this can be difficult to accomplish.
Additionally, a lack of sunlight can lead to issues with pollination and fruit yields.
When growing an avocado tree indoors, a best practice is to place it near a sunny window. If you don’t have a location with a good amount of sunlight, consider getting a full-spectrum grow light.
If your avocado tree is getting droopy leaves, try checking the above reasons and see if you can identify the cause. While overwatering is the most common reason, I wouldn’t rule out the others immediately.
While droopy leaves on your avocado tree can be scary (after all, these trees take FOREVER to grow), know that with a little care, the tree should bounce back. It’s also normal for the tree to shed the leaves that have drooped (including any brown leaves), so don’t be worry if you see this happen. If all goes well, the tree will grow new leaves with no problems!
If your tree is also getting yellow leaves, you might find my recent post on how to fix yellow leaves on avocado trees helpful.