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I think my small avocado plant is dying.

I spent 15 days somewhere else for my holiday. Before I left my plant was perfectly healthy and lovely (photo below).

enter image description here

I told my roommate to water it on Dec. 28, at that time he took a photo and it also looked OK. By the way, I normally water it once per week with half a cup of water (the rice cooker cup, not a normal cup).

But now it looks like this (photos below, it's taken in my office, and it's not a heater near the wall), I am very worried.

enter image description here

I want to know what's causing that (disease, lack of water, too cold), and how to save my poor plant.

More details: I kept it near the kitchen window of my apartment ever since it was a seed. Because it can grow this tall, there shouldn't be anything hurting it, right? The only thing I can think of is that it's close to the window, so when it gets very cold outside (location: Cambridge, MA), it can feel the low temperature. Again, I am not sure.

Please help! Thanks.

update Jan. 29, 2020 I am happy to post a new photo of my plant. It has recovered and is now growing well. Actually--I could be wrong--the leaves are so large that I am a bit concerned it will quickly exceed the capacity of the jar. Anyway, so far so good. updated

  • I was searching and reading. Could this be caused by chloride in the tap water? Or cold damage? – user22363 Jan 6 at 2:48
  • Looks like both... tap water contains chlorine and chloramines the later don't evaporate – seedelicious Jan 26 at 20:59
  • probably just not enough water, the plant will probably rebound fine... I have one that looks like this ... leaves stay on forever and look ugly, but I don't think it is in any terminal state. – Grady Player Jan 29 at 20:11
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I'm afraid the choice of a glass jar for a growing pot is not going to help this plant very much. Likely there are no drainage holes in the bottom so there is nowhere for excess water to go. But that said, it sounds like you have not overwatered anyway so you might not have hit that issue.

The glass will help in that you can easily see roots. You should see a main thick brownish tap root curled around the bottom of the jar and possibly a lot of very fine white roots. If there are a lot of roots then the plant possibly has outgrown the soil in which it is living.

As the plant grew, the roots had somewhere to explore for new resources, and while there was soil free of roots there was a buffer to take up excess water and supply this when the plant went dry. With the jar fully occupied there was no buffer and the now much larger leaf area had no water and dried out, leading to the brown patches.

The task now is to remove the plant from the jar without doing too much damage to the roots which must be left as intact as possible. Perhaps the best bet is to break the jar, then put the plant in a larger free draining pot with fresh soil and see if it will take off again.

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  • Cutting the dirt with a knife, and maybe inserting a sheet of paper (to split soil) could also help, having juas a cylinder that can be pushed out, without damaging much the roots, and without breaking the jar – Giacomo Catenazzi Jan 6 at 13:23
  • Thanks much Colin. The jar (actually plastic and I drilled several holes at the bottom) is to be removed once I settle on a new job. I transferred my plant to this jar from an even smaller container (on Dec. 10), at that time I saw the root system is rather small and it has much free space in the jar. Currently, I can't see any root from outside the jar, so resources may not be the top issue. Could there be other causes with similar symptoms? I want to fix them all. – user22363 Jan 6 at 15:06
  • @GiacomoCatenazzi The container is plastic and will be cut open some time. But that's a good idea for a glass jar. – user22363 Jan 6 at 15:09
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I have about 50 avocado seedlings growing at the moment and a lot of them look like this, I usually cut off the leaves and they grow back nice new ones. As for keeping them inside in a small jar, two of my avocado's have been indoors for a long time, one of them I took outside and it died the other got its delicate leaves shredded by a strong wind, I think your avocado is most likely OK, but I don't fancy it's chances when you finally have to move it outside, I moved the delicate one back indoors and it made a full recovery, but it doesn't grow much anymore

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  • Thank you Mike for sharing. The plant has recovered and I've updated the post. Did your plant die from cold? I will keep mine indoors as long as I can. Is there any way to make it grow thicker instead of taller? – user22363 Jan 29 at 19:15
  • Hi, no we are in a climate that is a little warmer than optimum for Avocado, not the other way around. What I have learnt and experienced with avocado's is that seedlings seem to be very different to growing from cuttings, what I do know is you need a lot of drainage all the way down the tap root, when I finally plant my avocado's on my property they will need to be in a huge mound as my soil is heavy clay and covered in shade cloth for a few years as the sun is very bright here in Queensland Australia and they will get burnt, a lot of work for something that will still need a graft to fruit – user27864 Jan 30 at 20:47

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