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Avocado Bonsai
Diaries of Avocado Bonsai (Persea Americana) 

Avocados are good for container gardening, but not generally a great candidate for bonsai. The reason most people do not select avocado trees for bonsai is because of the leaf size.  

As with many plants, fruit production can be  dependant on tree size more than age. An avocado tree is more likely to fruit if five or six feet in height with a 2" diameter trunk width. 

A taller tree with a wide trunk to meet the avocado fruit requirements works well with an imperial sized bonsai.  At the imperial size, the size of avocado leaves may not be as much of an artistic issue.

To keep the avocado bonsai visual stature low and meet the technical height requirement, avocado trees may benefit from trunk bending. Because avocado trees have soft trunks for several years, it should be fairly easy to do.

Let's Get Growin

SUN: Filtered sun 
WATER: During the winter cool months careful attention to watering is crucial. Avocados do not like cold damp soil and can easily develop root rot, so if we have a normal wet winter you probably do not have to water much during December and January.
SOIL PH: 5.0-7.0
FERTILIZER: Skip fertilizing young and newly planted trees for at least the first year. Once the tree is established use any balanced citrus fertilizer on a yearly basis, just follow the directions on the label.

Persea americana 'VENA'

October 29, 2017: 613 Days To Fresh Fruit

With the basil gone, the tree doesn't seem to be quite so bushy. Vena continues to do really well and we still have about 2 years before we can reasonably expect to see any fruits. 

What else can we do but wait?  And prune...

August 5, 2017:  698 Days To Fresh Fruit
Persea americana 'VENA'

Sulu was gifted to my son, and I traded some plants for a couple of California Avocado seedlings.  I gave one to my son and the one I kept died (there were three in the pot and they had to be split up - which probably did mine in).  Anyway, all we have left is Vina.  Vina is doing great!

The basil and Vina seem to really agree with each other as companion plants.  I'm not sure why, but they are going strong and thriving all together in the one pot.

Vina has recovered from the accidental leaf burns and the basil is topped off (blossoms cut off) every couple of weeks so the bees get some and we can keep the basil lush looking.

Vina is now multi-trunked, I guess with the odd branch having split into a couple of branches.  I haven't checked the trunk, it is smothered in basil.  (It would smell lovely if I did!).

Persea americana 'VENA'

June 10, 2017: 754 Days To Fresh Fruit

Couldn't wait... The cascading branch was looking ragged so Vena got a decent lopping today.  The trunk that was painted white was cut at an angle after the last topside branch.

The images don't look so different from the last image to this week.  The basil has grown quite quickly and the trunk has popped up a bit.  It will be interesting to see how this works out in the long run.

The trunk has become quite thick - it had been pencil thin for quite some time.

Sulu, on the other hand, is still growing straight.
Persea americana 'SULU'
 Looks quite handsome that way.

I've decided I'm too lazy and not particularly happy with the manipulated forms of the avocado trees.  We're going to just keep rolling along with the trees as they are and use the sun and pinching to manage shaping.

We will, of course, eventually have to cut the top lead a few times to force a tree to be smaller in stature.  Not completely impossible, but maybe a bit tedious.  And I may change my mind again and try something else.  It really is the season for growth right now.  All the tropical and mild climate plants are putting on a lot of growth this last month.

Persea americana 'VENA'

June 2, 2017: 762 Days To Fresh Fruit

Summer is really great for the avocados, it seems.  Vena has reacted to the significant weight of the cascaded trunk by sprouting three new trunks.  Partnered with some italian basil, it is hard to tell where the basil ends and the avocado tree begins.

The white trunk is visible from the left center of the planter to the bottom left of the photo.  There is still another 1/3 of the original trunk not visible in the photo - it is hard to get the total view of Vena in a photo.  

Due to this growth response, we'll probably cut the top off after the last major branch on the left of the photo.  This will be satisfactory for a design perspective and will probably relieve some of the growth stress.  We're going to try simple layering of the top and see if we can get a second tree cloned in the process.
Persea americana 'SULU'
Sulu is also doing its best to grow a straight trunk and is doing really well in the 20% shade house.  

After all this time, I thought maybe it would be fun to try and figure out what type of avocado trees we have.  I found an online guide, but it seems to be a bit confusing.  New leaves in spring are red, but in the summer they are green.  Is it guatamalan?  Is it mexican?  I really don't know.  The types of avocados we buy are usually thick and bumpy skinned.

What I really wanted to find out is if we have a type A or type B or both.  I guess I have at least two more years to know for sure.

Persea americana, 'SULU'

April 2, 2017:  824 Days To Fresh Fruit

Sulu is doing great in the little greenhouse. We initially wired up the trunk and made a curve,which is still there. I'm not sure what to do with the contortions now.

Vena, has got a nice branch started on the hump of the S curve. What
Persea americana 'VENA'
trees will do to have a vertical lead...

Some of the other leaf buds seem to be making leaves and has me thinking of a branching pattern similar to cockatoo head feathers. So... with a non-traditional bonsai type tree we can make a non-traditional bonsai shape with a sort of cascade style bonsai and counter clockwise curved, fanned top branches.  Maybe even curving the one furthest at the back of the tree to the other side. All growing on a flat plane, so the tree would look much like a fan with the branches and the leaves would be a frilly top.  Something to think about...

Persea americana, 'VENA'

March 5, 2017: 852 Days To Fresh Fruit

Vena spent the winter potted up and outdoors on the patio.  She did much better and grew a geat deal.  Vena also was put through some trunk training with purposeful, S curved trunk.

The wire was removed this last weekend as it was biting into the trunk and
Persea americana, 'VENA'
the likelihood that the trunk would straighten out again was pretty small.  New growth has popped up on the skyward parts of the manipulated trunks, which may end up becoming new branches for bonsai contorting.

The growth at the top of the first curve is promising, as new leaves will help shade the tender trunk when the summer sun beats down.  The new growth may also help in making an attractive shape in the long term.

Persea americana, 'SULU'
Sulu was also put out on the patio, but being a young tree it suffered a lot of leaves with brown edges.

Plenty of new growth is visible and some training is slated for Sulu's future as well.

September 24, 2016: 1811 Days To Fresh Fruit
Persea americana, 'SULU'

21 days, and Sulu has grown a really nice sprout. I'm not sure what happened to all the other starter sprouts, or if any of them will grow at all.  I was hoping for a multi-trunk avocado tree, but it doesn't seem to be happening right now...  it could still happen.

Persea americana 'SULU'
Based on all the trials, it seems as though summer is the optimal time to sprout the avocado seeds, and still the best method of sprouting is the SIP.  I've not had much luck otherwise, for the most part.

Sulu is getting great root development, with tons of root buds down the neck of the bottle SIP.

Persea americana, 'SULU'

September 3, 2016:  1825 Days To Fresh Fruit

We have a new member of the avocado clan.  This one will be named Sulu.  This one has also been started from an inverted bottle SIP, which seems to be the best way to get an avocado started.  We have some awesome root development going on. 

Above the soil, all the little stem starts seemed to have withered away in favor of root development, and then a couple of new stems started growing up among the dried husks of the old stems that gave up.  

When we were starting a slew of avocados at the same time Vina
Persea americana, 'SULU'
started, there was a Khan that did something similar, but never recovered.  It never did get planted into a bit of soil, so that probably contributed to the withering away of Khan.

In any case, Sulu will likely be a multiple trunk type of avocado, rather than a single trunk.  That's what I'm hoping, anyway.

August 15, 2016: 1054 Days To Fresh Fruit

Vena is now over 2 years old.  She got a new pot. She was getting a little root bound.  She's also spreading out a little and started getting brown spots on the leaves. Brown spots seemed to be relived when running water through the planter long enough for the water to drain out of the bottom of the planter for a few minutes.  

The reason for flushing the water through is to clear it of dried salts left over from our extremely hard water.  

She has been getting regular doses of fish emulsion from the aquariums when they get cleaned up.  Fish emulsion seems to have had a positive effect on her growth.  She started spreading out not long after the first few waterings with emulsion.  

Pardon the mess - we're in the midst of remodeling the home and everything is everywhere in not so convenient places.

March 15, 2016: 1207 Days To Fresh Fruit
Persea americana, 'VINA' recovered
and branching out.

It has been some time since the last update... 8 months?  Vena has recovered from the sunburn and is finally branching out. 

Vena seems to be reaching for the sunshine on the other side of the window. We have yet to put her outside again after the major scalding last time.

Vena has probably grown to about four feet tall now and still has a weak trunk due to not having any wind resistance for decent growth. I have no idea when we will be able to move Vina outside -sometime after she gets more foliage to protect the tender trunk skin (they never form bark). 

In July, Vena will be two years old and may be ready for planting outdoors. She will still require some sort of shade until the foliage can protect the trunk. When some semblence of girth and strength is achieved, then we can continue the work of bonsai training... however awkward she may look.

Persea americana, 'VINA' with sunscald on leaves

July 18, 2015: 1448 Days To Fresh Fruit

Just after giving the warning not to leave the avocado tree out in the sun, I promptly forgot Vina was there and ended up badly burned.  

Having suffered all the damage, the burnt leaves were cut off and Vina looked really odd.  So, to balance out the shape, and force a longer main trunk, one of the main stems were cut off, a third minor sprout was chopped and then the tip was pinched on the main lead.

Yep... may as well...

Persea americana, 'VINA' 
Vina is such a great plant.  The severe burning and pruning didn't seem to bother it.  And the green wood cutting is doing quite nicely as well.  Vina just keeps going.  

Persea americana, 'VINA' stem cutting
The water is changed every morning on the greenwood, and the leaves are developing well, but no signs of rooting yet.  

The cutting reminds reminds me of asparagus right now.

It would be really cool to get two started trees from one avacodo pit.  It is very interesting to try growing an avocado in different ways.

July 2, 2015: 1464 Days To Fresh Fruit

Persea americana, 'VINA' outdoors
Persea americana, 'VINA' outdoors
It has been quite  a while since the Avocado bonsai page was updated.  The only avocado tree we still have is Vina, which started out and keeps going strong.  

Since the end of November, it doesn't seem like Vina has grown all that much.  We were making regular douses of small watering, which restricted growth and then caused problems with salt build up in the soil.  Vina developed dark spots on several leaves and some 'burning' around the edges of some leaves as well.  
Persea americana, 'VINA', leaves pruned
Persea americana, 'VINA', leaves pruned
Vina is still too tender skinned for full-time outdoors, but a complete water drench and spray down each week has encouraged more vigorous and healthy growth.

Vina has two main branches, and looks to have the leaf sprout for yet another.  The second branch sprout occurred shortly after manipulating the main stem in a curved pattern.  The tree seems to want to grow straight, period.  We may end up using Vina as a general back yard tree instead of a bonsai.  We're still thinking about that.

Persea americana, 'VINA' staked up
Persea americana, 'VINA' staked up

November 30, 2014: 1678 Days To Fresh Fruit

Wow!  Time has gone by so fast!  Vina is doing well!  Khan is gone.  Uhura and Sulu are progressing, ever so slowly.  We added one new pit.  No other survivors.

All of the avocados have slowed down.  I think they grow much slower in the fall and winter, so we can't really expect much of them.  Even though Vina has grown quite a bit, she is destined to be an indoor plant for about 2 years to prevent scorching.

Uhura is doing well.  The one lead kind of dried up and she seemed
Persea americana sprouting 'UHURA' revived
Persea americana sprouting
UHURA' revived
to be going off like the other avocado seeds.  I ended up changing the watering program and decided to change out the water daily, rather than just add water to top off the sprouting vases.  This absolutely turned around their destiny.  I must have accidentally starved them all of much needed oxygen.  No more.  Uhura has actually started multiple growths like Kahn had at one time.  Maybe she should be renamed to Medusa?

Persea americana sprouting 'SULU' revived
Persea americana sprouting 'SULU' revived
Sulu has also been revived from unintended deprivation.  Sulu hasn't reached up to the sun much on the green side, but has made progress on the root side, of some sort.  Lots of dark brown not observed on the summer-grown pits.  I contemplate just planting Uhura and Sulu in soil and see if this helps them at all.  

Persea americana sprouting  'KHAN'
Persea americana sprouting  'KHAN'

August 10, 2014

There haven't been a lot of changes with the avocados.  Khan hasn't appeared to make any progress, and actually looks to have regressed.  Where there were four trunk starts, there are now two and one looks like it's doing a fade. 

We do have two more avocado pits that started
Persea americana sprouting 'UHURA'
Persea americana sprouting 'UHURA'
sprouting.  First up is the elegant Uhura.  Uhura has a couple of root sprouts and some nice green foliage started, which looks better than Khan's already.  The green seems to be wavy for some reason, which I hadn't noticed with other sprouts.

Persea americana sprouting 'SULU'
Persea americana
sprouting 'SULU'
The next one has quite a large root started in comparison to the foliage development.  This one is dubbed Sulu.  This one should start off well grounded.  I think for these pits, I will wait for decent foliage development prior to planting them in soil, unlike Khan and another one that may have been put in the soil too early.

Finally, to round things off for this update, we have Vina.  Vina is doing very
Persea americana, 'VINA'
Persea americana, 'VINA' 
well and has grown quite a bit in the new pot.  The amount of sunshine seems to be quite adequate and moving Vina to the planter has also stopped the brown spotting of the leaf, which is shown on the bottom right.  All other leaves look to be quite well hydrated and good sized.

So, we have four active sprouts that are making some progress so far and hope to have 6 make it through the sprouting/seedling phase to the sapling phase and then we can have our own little miniature avocado grove.

Persea americana, 'VINA' rehomed
Persea americana, 'VINA' rehomed

July 28, 2014 Part II: 1803 Days To Fresh Fruit

The conditions of Vina's roots were concerning as well as a slight smell from the neck of the bottle.  We made a trip to Home Depot, and picked up some nice potting soil (we're out), a few other supplies and I got to work after I got home.  

First thing first, a filter was put at the bottom of the
New home for Vina
New home for Vina
pot over the drainage holes.  This is a clay pot, approximately 12" deep with a tapered shape.  This will enable easy transplanting in the future.  Soil was then added in a pyramid shape, to facilitate the initiation of the root shape.  

Preparing bonsai soil to accommodate root splay
Preparing bonsai soil to
accommodate root splay
The bonsai roots are supposed to be developed into a nice nebari.  "Nebari" is the formation of surface roots that splay around the plant in all directions, as explained in an article at the bonsai4me site.

To help aid Vina's healthful growth, eggshells were added atop the
Bonsai soil with ground eggshells
Bonsai soil with ground eggshells
pyramid of soil.  Eggshells are a great addition to soil for growing plants.  

In addition to the calcium, the eggshells contain about 1% nitrogen, about a half-percent phosphoric acid, and other trace elements that make them a practical fertilizer. Calcium is an essential plant nutrient which plays a fundamental part in cell manufacture and growth. Most roots must have some calcium at the growing tips. Plant growth removes large quantities of calcium from the soil, and calcium must be replenished, so this is an ideal way to recycle your eggshells. ~

Persea americana, 'VINA' with splayed roots for nebari development
Persea americana, 'VINA' with splayed
 roots for nebari development
Vina was set atop the pyramid of soil, dusted with the eggshells.  The roots were splayed out from the trunk.   Soil was shoveled in atop the roots and then drenched with plenty of water.

Once the water settled and drained, the trunk/roots were checked to
Persea americana, 'VINA' transplanted
Persea americana, 'VINA'
see if we needed more soil.  It looks like we had some root peek-through, so more soil was added to cover up the visible root.

Once all was completed, Vina was brought back inside and relocated to a bay window.  It needs to grow up a bit to capture the same amount of sunshine it had before.  With the recent growth, it probably won't be too long before Vina is above the windowsill again.

Persea americana, 'VINA'
Persea americana, 'VINA'

July 28, 2014: 1803 Days To Fresh Fruit.

Our avocado sprout, Vina, has grown quite a bit in the last 13 days.  Not only has Vina just about doubled height, more than doubled the number of leaves, but the roots have traveled down the neck of the converted wine bottle, now directly accessing the water.  This may be the cause of the brown spots of the leaf shown on the top left of the image.

It is probably time to move Vina to a larger
Persea americana, 'VINA' roots
Persea americana, 'VINA' roots
container where it can spread out its roots and not suffer from waterlogging.  Silly trees...  they are too greedy for their own good.  

Persea americana, 'KHAN'
Persea americana, 'KHAN'
On another note, it looks like Khan has been busy making roots, because there is very little going on topside.  Khan was given a few companion seeds, which were lemon thyme, a favorite of ours.  I couldn't see any root activity below the top soil yet.  It can still be happening.  Plus, Khan has several trunks to develop, that seem to have lost their 'softness'.

Persea americana failed pit
Persea americana failed pit 'RED-SHIRT'

July 22, 2014

Well, we have our first red-shirt.  Changing the water daily didn't help much with this one.  The water constantly got some kind of a film on the top. The pit eventually failed to thrive and became moldy.  It seemed like a frail pit to begin with.  A bit on the soft side.

According to a garden forum, starting an avocado pit in water is the worst way to start them and has the highest failure rate.  Fixing the mold problem is possible, and works when the pit is still making progress.  Unfortunately, this solution probably would not have helped this particular pit.

Persea americana sprouting multiple trunks
Persea americana sprouting multiple trunks 'KHAN'

July 18, 2014

The sprouting pit highlighted in the June 29, 2014 entry did not right itself to light.  It ended up behaving strangely and seems to have abandoned the first sprout and started on to three more trunk sprouts pointing skyward and another sprout that is pointing sideways.  The sideways sprout is kind of white, so it could be an errant root.  I think it's time to graduate from Grumpy Monk to a more stately and soil filled container.

It kind of reminds me of a three-fingered, one-thumb hand getting ready to grab something.  I think this one is going to be Khan.  This one may be difficult to deal with, but there are many attractive multi-trunk bonsai.

Persea americana seedling
Persea americana seedling 'VINA'

July 15, 2014: 1816 Days To Fresh Fruit

We have a total of 7 avocado pits.  There are so many, we decided to name them after some of the ancillary Star Trek characters.  We don't have the line-up yet, but this is the list:
  • Uhura
  • Sulu
  • Khan
  • Vina
  • Chang
  • Q
  • Kor
Persea americana seedling roots
Persea americana seedling roots 'VINA'
As one seems to favor one of these names, it shall be named.  Too bad I can't find something else besides the 'Borg Queen', otherwise our first seedling would have that name.  But, it is here, it is strong, the now-thin trunk is getting a nice deep color and the roots are digging in and the Borg Queen has no name I like.  The leaves are becoming a nice, rich green color and overall it seems to be happy.  So, the plants happiness and ability to thrive during captivity earns the name Vina, after the first Orion Slave girl that appeared during the original Star Trek series, third episode "The Cage".

Persea americana seedling
Persea americana seedling 'VINA'

July 13, 2014: 1818 Days To Fresh Fruit

After pinching the top of the first avocado seedling, it decided to make a couple of sprouts.  One at the crotch of a leaf node and the main stem and another potential leader branch just above the pinched scar made before. 

The sprout at the crotch of the leaf and main stem may cause weakness so we're pinching off that sprout and leaving the new main leading stem. 

We also decided to spray the soil with hydrogen
Persea americana seedling
Persea americana seedling 'VINA'
peroxide to kill off the mold and there hasn't been a trace of mold for about a week.  

From the looks of the photo, we have a couple of buds to pinch off to ensure a structurally sound tree and branch system.

Persea americana seedling
Persea americana seedling 'VINA'

July 6, 2014: 1825 days to fruit.

We changed out the wicking on the avocado seedling.  The dryer lint lost power and we added cotton balls, which perked the seedling right up. The Alyssum companions appear to be doing well in the DIY planter also.  Some mycelium or mold appeared at
Persea americana seedling with mold
Persea americana seedling
 with mold 'VINA'
the top of the soil, which we are watching and hoping doesn't turn into a huge problem.

The white, furry type patches don't appear to be affecting the any of the plants negatively.

We are experimenting with putting the avocado pits in recycled beer bottles to see if the darker glass will help with the root growth.

Persea americana pits for sprouting
Persea americana pits for sprouting

Persea americana sprouting pit
Persea americana sprouting pit

June 29, 2014

We've been buying some nice avocados from Costco lately.  The label on the five pack is Index Fresh Hass avocado.  Because the avocados are more pointed at the stem tip, I'm assuming they are the Hass and not the Lamb Hass distributed by Index Fresh.

The Hass is available year round and can be shipped from California, Chile and Mexico.  Based on timing, these Hass Avocados could be an import from Mexico or California grown.  The California Avocado website has a wealth of information about how avocado trees grow.  The Mexico Avocado website has quite a bit less information.  Based on the looks of the Hass Mexico provides in comparison to the ones we buy, there really is no telling where our avocados came from.

The reason for this research is due to a previous article posted about the possibility of raising avocados from seed with any success.  This little bit of research did not garner any more information, so the probability of successfully growing and harvesting my own creamy Hass avocados from seed is still a mystery.  One that will take probably 10+ years to know.  In the mean time, I can dedicate these seeds to some experimental bonsai treatments.  We currently have about 5 or 6 seeds in some form of germination.

Persea americana sprouting pit
Persea americana sprouting pit 'KHAN'
The seed to the right was suspended upside down to start the growth process, before I knew the pointed end went up.  After learning that, I took pity on the avocado and tried to right it.  The roots adapted to the change much faster than the seedling stem, but it should correct itself soon.  They are very responsive to light.

Persea americana seedling
Persea americana seedling 'VINA'
Our oldest seed has created the seedling.  The top leaves were pinched off just this morning to encourage branching out.

We put it in a converted wine bottle last week to enjoy the benefits of soil and to self regulate water uptake.  We added a sprinkle of Alyssum seeds for moisture retention and as a nitrogen fixer.  Not sure how much that will help over the long run, but it will make for a nice mound of white fluff under the avocado canopy.  The seedling is currently about 5" tall.

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