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I have an avocado plant that has grown indoors since it was a pit. It grew first in a badly insulated, north-facing, wet and cool house, where it grew splendidly. After i moved to a well insulated house with central heating and lots of light, the avocado began to grown sick.

The symptoms were: drying of leaves from the tip to the stalk with wavy patterns on the edge (the remaining green area, gradually reduced, would thus look like a oak leaf).

I first suspected that the drying of leaves meant i had drown the roots, so i gave it less water. Then i read somewhere the symptoms could be a fungus, the only cure for which would be some bouillie Bordelaise, which i prepared and sprayed on the plant.

The next year the avocado grew new leaves, but by the end of summer, they got brown again. By then i thought the problem may have been the atmosphere at home, too dry perhaps. So i sprayed the avocado several times daily to keep it cool and humid. It didn't help either however.

This year i pruned the tree and it grew new sprouts which dried out in turn. It didn't even get the chance to grow them. The dehydratation this year looks different however, it is not brownish, it is dark green and dry.

I'm really confused, i tried many different things and don't really know what to do now. What has caused this change? I can only think of the climate change, but funnily an avocado is a semi-tropical plant from meso-america, it should love sun and heat right? I really am attached to this tree and would like to do my best to help it grow, if you could help i would really be happy for it. Thanks.

Update: Here is a picture of a smaller plant which has similar symptoms (the larger one has lost all its leaves): Dried avocado leaf There is another picture I found on line too.

Edit July 21st, 2011: I have transplanted the large plant into a new light humus soil. I can't get a clay pot for now, so I used the same plastic pot and made 4 x 5 cm diameter holes at the bottom. Water runs through now. Hopefully that will help.

Avocado in large pot

The following picture's blurry, but the tip of the young leaves are drying and curling at the tip:

fresh young leaves

Update July 30th, 2011: I have not watered the plant a second time since since changing the soil, which is still humid today.

The plant's young leaves are drying out further as you can see from this picture (compare with above)

dried young leaves

There are a number or new sprouts however, but i'm afraid they'll suffer the same fate.

enter image description here

Further help would be appreciated.

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I have an avocado that's getting pretty tall for a window plant, yet it's had this problem with its lower leaves for nearly its whole life, in a couple different residences. I'd really like to know if it is in fact sick or drying out, or if there is anything I can do for it! –  aedia λ Jul 20 '11 at 3:24
    
@Benjamin, what material is the pot made of? What type of soil mixture do you have in the pot? Does the pot have good drainage holes in the bottom? How much water do you give it on average & how often? Do you have access to a moisture gauge? –  Mike Perry Jul 20 '11 at 4:08
    
@Mike: the plant's been in 2 different pots, both made of plastic. The second, smaller plant is in a clay pot, that one's doing better. The big plant that's lost all its leaves is now growing new shoots happily, but the tiny leaves are drying up already. Soil mixture for large plant is now a mixture of what i had in the garden (sandy, in the Netherlands) and random humus soil from the shop. Smaller plant seems to do well (for now) in humus. –  Benjamin Jul 20 '11 at 5:14
    
@Mike: the large pot has drainage holes, but it's hard to tell whether they are efficient, i water once in 2 week, 1l in average. No water comes out, so i guess it's not draining well. I don't have access to a gauge (i'm student and broke :) ) –  Benjamin Jul 20 '11 at 5:16
    
Benjamin, please see my answer below: gardening.stackexchange.com/questions/84/… –  Mike Perry Jul 20 '11 at 14:56
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3 Answers 3

Benjamin, here are my recommendations based on your answers to my questions in the above comments:

  • Get yourself some suitably sized clay pots, they should be big enough so the plants have room to grow in, have good drainage holes in the bottom (remember you can always easily drill your own or add more, if need be) & transfer the plants into them. Pots made of plastic are about the worst materiel used for pots, when taking into account the affect pot materials can have on the overall health of a plant. There are used by growers, nurseries, etc for a number of reasons, the main one being they are so cheap...

  • Generally speaking (unless you are blessed with amazing outdoor soil), using soil directly from the garden isn't suitable for pots, containers, hanging-baskets, etc. It's too "heavy", doesn't contain enough air, etc.

  • Instead get yourself a bag of "high quality" container soil mix, or create your own. Something like this, "A good general purpose container soil mix formula" would be a lot better for your containers (& plants contained within) than your garden soil.

  • Keep in mind, no water coming out the bottom of the pot (via its drainage holes) could also be a sign you're not giving the pot (plant) enough water when you are watering.

  • When watering, add water slowly until it starts coming out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot, then stop. Then wait until the water stops coming out of the drainage holes, when that happens, start again adding water slowly until you once again see water coming out of the drainage holes. The soil is now saturated and you container plant has been watered thoroughly and properly.

  • Do not water again until the soil is dry, but not completely dried out. Your indoor conditions are very much going to determine how long this takes to happen. An easy and simple method of checking if it's time to water is (without the use of a moisture gauge):

    • Stick your index finger fully into the soil, when you pull it out, the very tip of that finger should feel slightly moist and have a little bit of soil stuck to it. It that occurs, you do not yet need to water that pot (plant).
    • On the other hand, if that is not the case ie You pull out a dry and clean finger tip, it's time to water, using the method given above.
  • If you decide to go with the above suggestions, before doing so I would take the time to carefully remove all damaged parts from the plant(s). Without seeing some clearer photos of your plant(s) it's a little difficult for me to suggest exactly what you should and shouldn't remove.

Good luck and I hope the above is somewhat helpful to you.

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Thanks for your thorough answer. I will try it out and let you know of the outcome. –  Benjamin Jul 20 '11 at 15:34
    
I edited the question with pictures too. I've transplanted the large plant into a new soil. Same pot though, but I enlarge the holes and water now runs through. –  Benjamin Jul 21 '11 at 10:34
    
@Benjamin, fingers-crossed & good luck :) Now I've seen those new photos, I do have one comment though: Pot depth looks ok! but pot foot print (area) doesn't look ideal to me. When you transplanted, did the roots look healthy? Did they look pot bound? –  Mike Perry Jul 21 '11 at 14:23
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@Benjamin, all of us (should) learn from our mistakes, after all, failing is (normally) one of the best ways to learn & grow :) –  Mike Perry Jul 21 '11 at 20:16
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@Benjamin, thought you might be interested in this, Choosing a Soil Mix for Your Container –  Mike Perry Jul 26 '11 at 23:17
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Given that your avocado was doing well before you moved it into a warm, centrally-heated environment, the problem is likely to be caused by:

  • a constantly dry atmosphere

The best way to give it more humidity, is to stand it on a 'pebble tray' - fill a shallow plastic tray (one which is two or three times as wide as the base of your pot) with pebbles or grit to about 2cms below the rim, and pour water into it so that the water is just below the level of the pebbles; if you then stand your pot on the tray, and keep the tray 'topped up' with water, it will provide your avocado with a constantly humid micro-climate, which is far more effective than spraying and less trouble.

  • an over-high night temperature - avocados are happier in a lower temperature at night. If your room temperature is more or less the same at night as during the day, I would turn down the central heating or move the plant to a cooler room.

Unsuitable soil could also be a factor. Avocados will tolerate most types of soil, but prefer a light/ sandy potting compost (soil mix specially formulated for indoor plants) that is free-draining. Garden soil is definitely unsuitable for indoor plants, as it may not be sufficiently free-draining or balanced in nutrients, and also contains organisms that may thrive indoors and cause disease.

Finally, watering: Thorough watering is critical to the health of your avocado; superficial watering may cause it to surface-root and become stressed, and also fail to wash out the harmful salts that may accumulate in the pot and cause disease (see Mike Perry's advice on thorough watering). Avoid over-watering at all costs; a moisture gauge is not necessary; allow the soil to dry out a sufficiently between waterings, so that it is slightly damp to the touch but not wet

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There could be many reasons. I think that this plant needs a lot of things that you cannot give it inside in the conditions described. You do not say where you live. The thing that this plant needs most to thrive and survive is sufficient light, adequate water and good drainage. The best place to be is outside in a somewhat warm temperature. Inside in a window is not very natural for this plant. The leaves may be burned by sunlight magnified through the window glass. Also it must be in a container that will give plenty of room for root growth. Once it gets pot bound it will not be getting enough water.

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Thanks. I live in the Netherlands. In my former house it used to be on the balcony (with hardly any direct light), from April to September, there rest of the year, it would be inside. The Netherlands is cold and humid, there can be little light. Currently the plant does not go outside, because there is too much sun and wind in the garden. It is indoors remote from the window, but in a large, well lit room. The pot is definitely large enough for the plant, it has been transplanted last year in a 20 L pot while the plant is 1.10 m high or so. –  Benjamin Jun 13 '11 at 10:21
    
As i said, i suspect the conditions in my former house were better for the tree. I just am not sure it is the cause of the problem, nor do i know how to compensate for the new environment. Could the soil play a role in this too? –  Benjamin Jun 13 '11 at 10:23
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Yes I've seen avocados grown from stone in the UK, and they reach a point where they simply don't have space. They want to be trees and not be encumbered by a ceiling, so you end up with a straggly sapling. And then of course it needs light. I tried growing them in Texas. Despite good germination results (better than the various guides predicted) I ended up quickly putting them outside for this reason. We're far too north and they were killed by frost. (the hardiest varieties are a barely economic crop in the southern tip of Texas) –  winwaed Jun 15 '11 at 16:54
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