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The issue: I have a 1.5 year old Avocado tree which has been growing for the worse since the summer.

The medical history: (Lots of pictures ahead)

It started before I did its first pot change. It started looking dried and gloomy (after a quite vigorous and healthy growth from a seed) and since it was getting quite tall, and watering wasn't helping the dryness, I decided to move it to a larger pot, because I assumed it was getting tight in there.

I...wasn't gentle (even though I read that the roots are fragile) - I had suspicion that the previous soil had been infected (small white looking gnats shooting around the dirt when I was watering it) so I did my best to wrangle as much of the soil out of the root ball, as possible, which caused damage.
This is how it looked like right after the transplant (already looking a bit sick):
Right after transplantation

The follow-up result had did not really improve things and the dried looking leaves continued to darken and dry, so I took them off, in hopes to spare the tree from feeding them resources when they were goners:
Cleaned up dying leaves

Still, it did not improve by any noticeable amount, but I could see it was alive so I took it outside, to see if the extra sun and additional water(rain) would help it.

In an unprecedented hot summer however (northern Europe), the leaves got a sunburn, but it still looked more invigorated then when staying inside, so I kept it in the garden for the summer/autumn, and new leaves started to sprout. Currently, with the cold rapidly stepping in, I brought it back in, but first I changed the soil again as the previous one was meant for citrus trees, and I suspected the pH factor was a bit too high for an Avocado (I did my best to be gentle to the roots this time). Worryingly enough, the root ball did not seem as strong and blooming as it was the first time, even though the plant was smaller (which furthers my belief that I may have damaged the root system badly)

Here's how it currently looks. The leaves keep on browning a while after they grow, but they are still sprouting, at least! However, some of them are looking a bit stunted in their growth. The current soil is with pH 6 factor, and is bought off the shelf. The only "garden centre" available near me is Bauhaus and nobody in it knows or can recommend me a soil for an Avocado tree (asked different people, multiple times), so I'm trying to make do with what I find there paired with what I read online.

Full-size view. You can see the newcomers on the stem and some of the older leaves on the crown browning: Side-view

Already stunted new-ones at the top: Sick babies. =/

Sick old leaves: Sick one Sick two

The pot - H:35cm. W:40cm.: The pot

The current soil: The soil bag

The soil was supposed to be one that drains quickly, although I'm not too confident that this is actually the case (how can I check the lower layers?).

Any recommendations to help me save this fella?

  • What am I doing wrong?
  • What should I change?
  • What can I do better?
  • What should I avoid in the future?

It's the first time I grow anything from a seed and as you can see, the tree had to go through a lot because of my inexperience in gardening. Nevertheless it's precious to me and I really want it to become strong and healthy - I'm not really after the fruit itself.

  • How are you providing it with the extra light it will require now that it is indoors? Have you bought a grow light? BTW - Citrus soil, as well as citrus food will work best. You want a well draining soilless potting medium. Citrus is normally very well draining. If you were worried about the PH, you should do a PH test. PH is easy to bring down with some dolomite/limestone. Please stop repotting your poor plant. Every time you repot it you just put undue stress on it. I can't tell you if that is the right soil by the bag. Is that Danish? Whatever it is, I can't read it. – GardenGems Nov 8 at 7:39
  • To check lower layer insert a bamboo skewer/stick in the potting mix. Leave it in for a few hours. Then pull it out, you will be able to tell if there is still lots of water still in the potting mix. Then put it back in and continue to use this technique before you decide to water it in the future. – GardenGems Nov 8 at 7:45
  • @GardenGems Thanks for the advises! In the order that you asked: - I don't have a grow light. I just do my best to keep it in sunny places. - Yes, I've been told I'm stressing the poor thing too much by trying to "fix" it...(I'll leave it be now, promise) - The bamboo suggestion is great, I'll try it out as soon as possible. - Yes, that's danish. I'm not danish myself (and my grasp of the language is so so, thus I asked a friend to translate the text on it): (Top part in yellow) Special soil for seeding Regrow cuttings Sprouting and transplanting High air content. – Derptastic Nov 8 at 9:36
  • @GardenGems (The small print in the bottom): Usage: For seeding in boxes, small greenhouses or pots. For transplanting small plants in larger pots. For sprouting flowers and potatoes. For regrowing cuttings. – Derptastic Nov 8 at 9:37
  • As @Colin Beckingham points out your plant want constant moisture, but not to be wet. That soil being it is designed for seedlings and cuttings will stay moist a long time. So, you will not need to dump a 4 L of water at once. Because it will hold a lot of that water. Try giving it 1-2 L. Always dump out the saucer on the bottom as soon as it is done draining. This is assuming you are watering from above. If you are watering from below let it sit in the tray for 15mins, then check your bamboo stick to see if it has enough. Try watering from below, if you have not already – GardenGems Nov 9 at 20:06
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I think the way to look at avocado pear is as a soft tropical small tree. It comes from Southern Mexico where it enjoys warm temperatures and moderate to high humidity. Consequently it produces well in other locations such as Florida or the Bahamas and can even be cultivated in drier landscapes such as California but the water management is critical in these desert places. Unlike a pothos or a Ficus the leaves are not thick water storage organs - when the top starts to dry out the roots must deliver or there is trouble.

Where humidity varies a lot it is hard for Persea to keep the foliage and root in balance. One such situation is movement between indoor heated dry air and outside warm and more humid conditions. In front of that radiator in your picture it would get all the heat it needs and more but would probably be very dry unless you have special humidification arrangements.

The potting soil can probably contain enough moisture for the plant, particularly considering the size of the pot. However if the plant continues to favour the basal growth over the top canopy then might be well to cut off the top just above a healthy green side shoot and use the top leaves for avocado tea. Then let it readjust to the new drier air, keeping the root ball moist but not wet.

  • You would not be the first one to suggest cutting the top of the tree to encourage side-shoots, but considering its state I'm quite apprehensive about it. – Derptastic Nov 9 at 18:15
  • Keep this sentiment in mind for a couple of years from now when the plant is three times the height and you are wondering how to support it. Avocado can grow especially lanky in low light indoor environments. – Colin Beckingham Nov 9 at 18:29
  • As @Colin Beckingham points out your plant want constant moisture, but not to be wet. That soil being it is designed for seedlings and cuttings will stay moist a long time. So, you will not need to dump a 4 L of water at once. Because it will hold a lot of that water. Try giving it 1-2 L. Always dump out the saucer on the bottom as soon as it is done draining. This is assuming you are watering from above. If you are watering from below let it sit in the tray for 15mins, then check your bamboo stick to see if it has enough. Try watering from below, if you have not already – GardenGems Nov 9 at 20:08
  • @Colin points out it likes humidity. Put a pan or metal tray on the radiator to increase the humidity. He also points out it is from Mexico. The sun is bright in Mexico, not so much in Danmark. Buy a LED Grow Light!!!. They are becoming fairly inexpensive. I would say a 100W. If that is too pricey, go with nothing less than 50W. It needs to be full spectrum white or yellow light. Avoid any coloured lights. The newest research shows all spectrum, which appear white to you are the best for health plant growth. – GardenGems Nov 9 at 20:15
  • @ColinBeckingham I'm just afraid of completely finishing the plant off, by cutting the top, considering it's unhealthy already. Do you reckon a trim would do it more good than bad? – Derptastic Nov 10 at 13:44

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