A bonsai tree is a dwarf stunted tree that is shaped and pruned to have the aesthetic characteristics of a large tree. Avocado plants have big leaves, grow fast, and have roots that are sensitive to disturbance and trimming. Consequently, they are a poor choice for a Bonsai tree – but you can try and create a dwarf avocado tree – this may in some ways appear a bit like a bonsai but it is in fact quite different. In this article, we will show you how to create a dwarf, stunted avocado – the closes you will get to an avocado bonsai.
What is a Bonsai Tree?
Bonsai trees are a Japanese horticultural artform where trees are deliberately stunted, pruned, and grown in containers to make them look aesthetically like larger trees. This is an ancient art form.
What is an Avocado Bonsai Tree?
Before we look into how to bonsai an avocado tree, let’s look into what avocado trees are in the first place.
Avocados are easy to grow from seed, and the plants have large beautiful green leaves. They can be grown in any sunny area. In colder climates, they will need to be kept indoors in a heated environment as they do not tolerate freezing conditions. There are many varieties of avocado on the market – be warned however that a “dwarf” variety will still produce a giant plant – just not as giant as a non-dwarf variety.
You can grow an avocado tree from the pit found in the avocado fruit to make an avocado bonsai tree. This is as I say, a relatively difficult plant to make a real bonsai with – because it grows fast, has big leaves, and does not enjoy having its roots fiddled with. You can however play around and have some fun.
How To Bonsai an Avocado Tree
The first thing you need to do when learning how to bonsai an avocado tree finds the best avocado bonsai tree for your climate. If you live in an area where people have avocados growing, collecting seeds from an existing tree will work (and you get to eat the fruit). These will be locally adapted. The seed will produce a plant that is however not even vaguely similar to the parents. Avocados are very diverse plants.
Prepare a bonsai pot.
Fill the pot with nutrient-poor, well-drained bonsai soil.
I suggest just growing an avo from seed – you can germinate it in the soil. Remove the outer layer from the seed and it will germinate.
When the tree has grown to about 6 inches tall, start pruning the branches. Prune back all but two or three leaves from each branch.
The next step in bonsai training your avocado tree is to “frame” its branches for horizontal growth (or any other direction you want) by wrapping copper or aluminum wire around them. Just don’t wrap the wire too tightly as you don’t want to hurt the branches – just guide them.
And this pretty much is how to bonsai an avocado tree! You will not be able to use the more advanced bonsai techniques, such as root pruning. The reason for this is that, in my experience, avocado roots are very sensitive and any disturbance seems to result in the plant not doing well or actually dying.
My observation is you will probably find you will get a year or two of life from these bonsais. If you get into bonsai as a result of this you can move to easier, more aesthetically appropriate tree types.
The best conditions are:
You will be growing it in a pot, so as long as it is in a warm area that does not get exposed to temperatures below about 55°F it will be happy. Avocados do not enjoy too much direct sunlight, especially on their green stems. You can avoid the stems getting sunburnt by wrapping them with aluminum foil. I have found this has helped me increase the survival of my avocados a lot in the past.
Avocadoes are quite sensitive to overwatering, which causes fungal problems and death. My general advice would be to water the plant and allow the soil to get dry and water again. If you keep the soil too moist, you will encounter problems.
Prune your tree to achieve the shape you wish. Do not over prune – it is quite easy to kill an avo if you prune it too much when it is young. Let it branch a few times and prune as you see fit from this point. I would suggest setting up five or six plants and you will learn through a process of trial and error what kills your plants.
In Conclusion – How To Bonsai an Avocado Tree?
Figuring out how to bonsai an avocado tree will become easy with a bit of practice.
The important thing here is that this is really about the fun. Chances are your tree will die. But you will get a year or two of pretty growth out of it before you manage to kill it. I know a few friends who have avocado bonsais that they have managed to keep alive for ten or more years.
However, do not believe the internet images of these trees which are covered in fruit. If you grow a 6″ avo tree in a pot, you can get fruit. But you will not get fruit from a one or two-foot high plant. It probably will not even flower and if it does, the biology of avocado flowers is such that the chances of you getting fruit on an avo bonsai are about the same as winning the lottery.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you turn any tree into a bonsai?
No, not any tree. Bonsai trees are very specific and require a great deal of care. A bonsai is the result of years of study and practice. The first step is to learn what a bonsai tree is and how it grows. There are many resources available which describe these things. The next step is to choose a tree. In order to be a good bonsai, the tree must be chosen carefully.
How many types of bonsai trees are there?
There are many different types of trees suitable for bonsai. A good example if the Japanese Shimpaku (juniper) tree. These can take on very aesthetically pleasing forms if pruned and shaped carefully.
How do you shape an avocado tree?
For a "bonsai" avocado, you would use wire forms to shape the branches and a bit of pruning. I think you will struggle to keep the tree to small, but you can have some fun. I tried this a few times and gave up.
How long does an avocado tree take to grow?
If you grow an avocado from seed it can take 10, 15 or more years for the tree to being fruiting. If you grow a grafted tree if will take 3-4 years or maybe less. This is due to the nature of grafting.