Recently, a few of our avocado trees flowered, but they were having trouble fruiting. We also noticed some of our trees weren’t even flowering at all! As an avocado fanatic, this concerned me. Especially when I heard that sometimes avocado trees can take 10 years or more to fruit! So, before I tried anything, I wanted to make sure I understood exactly why our avocado trees weren’t flowering or fruiting. Here’s what I found.
Avocado trees that don’t flower are usually too young and need to mature longer, typically 2-3 years for grafted trees. On the other hand, avocado trees that don’t fruit could have a lack of pollination, soil drainage, nutrients, warmth, or sunlight. Avocado trees need both Type A and B flowers for good pollination.
So, while avocado trees that don’t flower usually are too young, trees that won’t produce fruit could have a few different things going on. Let’s take a further look into both of these scenarios and see what we can do to get your avocado trees to flower and fruit.
Why Avocado Trees Won’t Flower
Lack of Maturity
Generally, grafted avocado trees begin to flower after 2-3 years, while trees grown from seed can take 7 or more years. Sometimes avocado trees will flower in the first few years, only to shed them. This is normal behavior. When avocado trees won’t flower at all, it’s usually caused by the tree being too young.
Because most of us eat avocados (and plenty of them), we have a lot of seeds on hand. So, it’s no surprise that many avocado trees are grown from seed. While it’s fun to sprout and grow a tree from a fruit you ate at the grocery store, doing so can occasionally have a few drawbacks.
Here are a few of the potential issues of growing avocados from seed:
- Slower maturity
- Could be a hybrid variety
- Might not fruit at all
Grafted avocado trees grow faster than those from seed because they use the same DNA as the parent tree. In a way, they jumpstart the growing process, rather than starting with newer, younger DNA.
If you grew from seed, and you’re not seeing results yet—don’t be discouraged. Many avocado growers have plentiful fruits on their trees that they grew from seed.
However, if it’s been 10 years, and your tree hasn’t flowered at all, it might be time to visit your local nursery and ask for a grafted avocado tree.
Why Avocado Trees Won’t Fruit
On the other hand, if your avocado tree is flowering, but won’t fruit, it’s most likely from a lack of pollination. For the best pollination, grow multiple avocado trees with both A and B types. Other causes of poor fruiting could be a lack of maturity, soil drainage, nutrients, warmth, or sunlight.
Lack of Pollination
Type A and Type B Flowers
There are two types of avocado trees—type A and B. Even though avocado trees are self-pollinating, they do best if they have another avocado tree next to them that’s of a different type. For example, Hass avocados (type A) have a hard time self-pollinating but do well if a Fuerte (type B) is planted near them.
While they are technically self-pollinating, an avocado tree’s male and female flowers open at different times. Because of this, pollinators can’t visit both the male and female flowers at the same time. This makes pollination hard. The end result is the number of flowers that get fertilized is little to none, meaning potentially little to no fruit.
Here are two examples of the timings for male and female flowers on a single avocado tree:
Day 1 AM: female open; PM: closed
Day 2 AM: closed; PM: male open
Day 1 AM: closed; PM: female open
Day 2 AM: male open; PM: closed
The problem with this flower timing is that it limits the self-pollination of avocado trees. It won’t completely negate it, but it will highly reduce the chance it will happen.
So, what can you do about this?
The best thing to do is to plant another type of avocado tree that opens at different times. This means you can stagger the timing and have the male flowers from one tree pollinate the female flowers of another and vice-versa.
So, for the best pollination (and therefore—fruiting), it’s best to have multiple types of avocado trees near each other. This means at least one of each type (one type A and one type B).
Doing so will make it so you can have both male and female flowers open at the same time.
If you’re like me and wondering which avocado trees are which types, don’t worry. Here’s a table I put together to serve as a guide.
|Type A Avocado Trees||Type B Avocado Trees||Both Type Avocado Trees|
|Hass||Fuerte||Wurtz (Little Cado)|
|Stewart||Wilma (Brazos Belle)||–|
So, if you currently have a Hass variety (type A), consider planting a Fuerte (type B). The same goes for if you have a type B tree (get a type A). Plant the second tree near the original (ideally within 50 feet) so pollinators can visit both genders of flowers at the same time, and therefore—fertilize them and provide you with tasty avocados.
If you already have both types of avocado trees, and you’re still getting a problem with fruiting, there’s a chance you might not have enough pollinators. In this case, consider pollinating by hand to help fertilize the flowers. You can gently brush the pollen from one flower to another by using a toothbrush, paintbrush, or cotton swab.
You can also plant pollinator-friendly plants nearby. For a list of these, along with plants that will help manage avocado tree pests and diseases, check out my post 10 companion plants for avocado trees.
If planting another type of avocado tree or increasing the pollination doesn’t help, it’s likely another reason is causing your avocado tree not to fruit. Let’s explore more causes of a lack of fruit below.
Lack of Maturity
Not only could a lack of maturity explain why avocados aren’t flowering, but they could also explain why they’re not fruiting.
It’s normal for avocado trees to flower in their first 2-3 years only to shed them before they fruit. This is due to the trees prioritizing foliage and root growth. Once the majority of the growth is out of the way, and the tree is confident it can survive, it will be more comfortable spending more energy on fruiting.
As mentioned earlier, avocado trees that are grafted grow and mature faster than those grown from seed. Grafted trees typically take about 2-3 years to mature, while trees that are grown from seed can take 10 years or more to fruit. Grafted trees are also generally hardier and provide fruits that are the same as the parent tree, or true to seed.
Also, keep in mind that some avocado trees can fruit biennially, or every other year. So, one year could have little to no fruiting, while the next year could have fruits that are above average in both size and quantity.
If your tree is mature, and it’s still not bearing fruit after a couple seasons, then there’s a likelihood it’s stressed and conserving energy to ensure its survival. Let’s look at some reasons why this can happen.
One of the most common reasons why avocado trees get stressed is due to overwatering. Trees will often shed their fruit, flowers, and leaves if they’re stressed. This helps them conserve energy for the rest of the tree to increase the chance of survival.
Overwatering an avocado tree is fairly easy to do since they commonly have shallow roots. Because of this, you’d think that avocado trees would also like shallow watering, but actually, the opposite is true.
Avocado trees prefer sandy, well-draining soil with less frequent, but deep waterings.
Simply, avocado trees are native to the tropics, therefore they’ve become accustomed to heavy rains, sandy soil, and warm weather. The problem is, a lot of avocado growers have clay soil, which is notorious for not draining well.
For the best results, first check that your avocado tree’s soil is well-draining. Generally, after watering, the first 2-4 inches of soil should not be wet after 24-48 hours. If it’s still wet, then there’s likely a drainage issue.
If you do have an issue with soil drainage for your avocado tree, there are some ways you can increase it:
- Plant on a hill, mound, or raised bed
- Amend the soil with sand, perlite, or hugelkultur
- (For potted trees) Drill more holes into the pot
- (For potted trees, and as a last resort) Repot the tree
Once the drainage has been addressed, it’s a best practice to deep water your avocado trees. This mimics the heavy rainfall avocado trees are used to.
To deep water, when the first 2-4 inches of soil gets dry, simply provide 4 inches of water. Aim to deep water every 2-4 weeks (this depends on soil drainage, climate, and tree size).
If you find that the soil is drying too fast, it’s likely due to too much drainage, hot days, or strong winds. A good measure to take once the soil is well-draining is to add a 1-2 inch layer of compost and a 1-2 inch layer of mulch on top of the compost. You can use mulches such as leaves, bark, or pine needles.
The compost will amend the soil and help it hold the right amount of moisture, while the mulch will retain water and prevent the sun and wind from evaporating it. This will also protect the beneficial soil life from being dried out and damaged by the sun.
Lastly, make sure to avoid touching them to the tree. It’s best to keep the compost and mulch at least 3 inches away from the trunk.
If you apply compost regularly (every 1-2 months), it should provide enough nutrients to help your avocado tree flower and fruit. However, if you’re more interested in purchasing pre-made fertilizer, keep reading.
Lack of Nutrients
Avocado trees prefer fertilizers with an NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) of 2-1-1. For example, a 6-3-3 NPK would work well. Additionally, avocado trees like a soil pH of 5-7, which is slightly acidic. Without a balanced pH, the tree will have a hard time absorbing nutrients to properly grow and fruit.
Because avocado trees have the same fertilizer requirements as citrus trees, most brands of fertilizer also market their citrus fertilizers for avocado trees (see image below).
If you’d like a good recommendation for fertilizers that work for both avocado and citrus trees, you can check out my recommended fertilizer page. Keep in mind that different fertilizers have different instructions, so refer to them before using them.
Now, let’s address when to use fertilizers for your avocado tree.
If you use synthetic fertilizers, aim to fertilize your avocado trees in the early spring. Doing so will provide the tree with enough nutrients before the growing and fruiting season. On the other hand, if you’re using compost or organic fertilizers, your avocado tree could benefit from feeding every 1-2 months.
I’d suggest avoiding fertilizing from October to February as the tree is more dormant in the colder weather and usually doesn’t need extra nutrients during this time.
Remember that avocado trees prefer a slightly acidic soil pH of 5-7. Clay soil is commonly alkaline, so, if you have clay soil, you may want to monitor your avocado’s soil pH every now and then.
For an easy way to monitor soil pH, consider using a pH meter. If you’re interested, you can see which meter I recommend by visiting my recommended tools page.
Lack of Sunlight and Warmth
Another reason why avocado trees might not fruit is due to a lack of sunlight and warmth. Generally, like most fruiting trees, avocado trees require at least 4-6 hours of sunlight to grow and fruit properly. They also need consistently warm weather, so they do best in USDA hardiness zones 9-11.
Avocado trees prefer at least 4-6 hours of sunlight to have enough energy to flower and fruit properly. Any less than this, and they might not fruit at all. They also like temperatures above 60-85ºF, so they can be difficult to grow in colder regions (typically below zone 9, see image below).
As avocado trees are native to the tropics and subtropics, they don’t need chill hours. In fact, chill hours can even harm the tree.
When avocado trees are exposed to cold weather, they can become stressed and focus their remaining energy on surviving until the weather gets warmer. Unfortunately, this means they can redirect energy away from their fruit, flowers, and leaves, eventually shedding them.
Additionally, pollinators are less active in colder weather, resulting in even less fruit.
However, if you live in a colder region, and would like to grow avocado trees, you’re in luck—there are some cold-hardy varieties:
- Opal (Lila)
- Pryor (Fantastic)
- Mexicola Grande
- Wilma (Brazos Belle)
“I grew one from seed and it took 7 years to fruit, so you may have to wait another couple of years to get some. Once I did they were really great tasting and it fruited every year. Just be patient a little longer.”Avocado Grower
As you can see from the comment above (and many others online), avocado trees can take several years to start producing fruit. This is especially true if you grew your tree from seed. Sometimes they even fruit every other year.
Because of this, consider waiting another season to see if your avocado tree becomes more mature and bears stronger flowers and fruits. There’s a chance the tree’s foliage and roots will become more established, better supporting its fruiting efforts.
For our trees, we’re making efforts to improve their drainage, watering, and adding sufficient compost every 1-2 months. Hopefully, in time, the trees will begin to hold onto more of their flowers and get more bountiful fruit sets!