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Top Problems Growing Avocado and How to Fix It

Growing an avocado plant can be very rewarding – for those with the patience of caring for them for months during the period of germination. It is a challenge to maintain the right conditions to support the plant. Just as with all other plants, Avocado plants are susceptible to many problems. 

When growing an avocado plant, the most common problems are from nutrition imbalance and environmental factors such as the temperature or the amount of sunlight. Avocado plants are also affected by infectious diseases and pests. Luckily, there are ways to prevent those problems. 

The biggest challenge that you will need to face is to sustain the growth of the avocado plant. It is important to know how to maintain a healthy tree until it reaches maturity and the best way to do that is by understanding the types of problems that could occur. In this article, we’ll delve into the types of problems to look out for when growing your avocado.

Avocado Leaves Curling

Avocado leaves can curl for a couple of different reasons. The two most common causes are from overwatering or leafrollers. Below we will go into more detail about how these two factors affect the avocado leaves. 

Over Watering

There is a delicate balance between overwatering and underwatering an avocado plant. The key is to keep the area moist. Experts suggest limiting the amount of water in the first year of growth before the roots completely take hold. Once the roots do begin to take hold, you will want to water them a bit more. 

This is where it gets a bit tricky. When you begin to water the avocado trees more, you do not want to overwater. This will result in the plant’s leaves curling. If the leaves are curling, the roots are likely being damaged, and there will be future problems with the plant taking water effectively. 

Make sure to hold off on watering until the surface of the soil is dry. This is essential in keeping your plant happy and healthy. If you want, you can mist the leaves of the plant to keep them moist. If you continue to have problems with the leaves curling, we suggest re-potting the plant in fresh soil so it can create space around the roots to dry. It shouldn’t take long for it to return to normal. 

Caterpillar (Leafroller)

Often, our biggest problems come from the least expected. In this case, that would be the leafroller. Leafroller is a small caterpillar that creates their nests inside leaves. They roll themselves into the leaves, just as their name suggests, and then the nests are tied with silk. 

The insects typically feed on the avocado leaves, which results in damaged tissue as well. Luckily, most damage caused by the leafrollers is minor. However, if there is an infestation of leafrollers and nests in the avocado plant, this will lead to a larger defoliation problem.

A few leafrollers are easy to control. You can simply pick them off and place them in soapy water. The damaged leaves that remain can be cut off. If there are larger numbers of the leafrollers, your next best option is to utilize chemicals to rid them from the plant. As long as you continue to monitor your plant for these insects, there should not be any future problems with them. 

Avocado Leaves Turning Purple

Phosphorus Deficiency

If you notice your plant’s leaves are becoming purple, the problem is most likely related to a phosphorus deficiency. This is often more common in younger plants because they create and expend the most energy. Phosphorus is essential for creating the energy they need. 

To help your plant become a healthy green again, you’ll want to provide better soil for the crop. Avocado plant roots require certain conditions to obtain the nutrients they need. Some fertilizers are available with phosphorus nutrients. You will want to look for keywords such as phosphorus, bone, or greensand. 

Elevated Anthocyanin

Another reason for creating the effect of your plant turning purple is elevated anthocyanin levels. Anthocyanins are pigments that give off a purple-red hue. This will only be found in specific avocados, such as ‘Hass.’ The pigment will often build if the plant is under a lot of stress or there was a change in the normal functioning. Other factors could include low temperatures, infectious disease, or drought. 

Avocado Leaves Turning Yellow


If you live in an area with intensely hot summers, then the avocado plant might not be your best option. Temperatures rising above 100°F (37.78°C) can cause damage to healthy, green avocado leaves. However, the scalding temperatures aren’t the only problem you’ll have to worry about. If the sun is also too hot, it will cause the leaves to bleach and become sunburned. This will result in those yellow leaves. 

Keep in mind that your plant will need adequate access to indirect light throughout the day. This is to help your plant build a strong, intricate root system for further growth. It all depends on the stage of growth. The sunlight is also crucial for producing enough food to sustain themselves. Just don’t oversaturate them in heat and sunlight. The fix could be as simple as picking the right location. 


As your avocado plants start aging, you will begin to notice a change in their leaves. The once healthy, green leaves will begin to turn yellow. The yellowing will start in the veins and process the entire leaf until it reaches all the leaves. This is a naturally occurring phenomenon for their lifecycle. 


An attack from mites is never welcome in the garden. However, it still happens. One of the leading causes of your avocado plants changing color is from pests, such as the avocado mites, which tend to feed along the leaves’ surface. 

The most common way to find if your problem happens to be mites is by looking at the leaves’ bottom. Mites start feeding at the “midrib.” They will then continue to the veins and farther as they continue to cover the entire leaf. The yellow areas will develop on the surface where they have fed. 

You will want to keep in mind that their feeding behavior can mimic the stresses of cold temperatures. Still, it doesn’t hurt to apply insecticide applications on the plants to remove the problematic mites. Some gardeners recommend sulfur oil emulsion sprays to have the best impact. 

Nutrient Deficiency

Finally, when it comes to your avocado plant’s leaves turning yellow, another source could be a nutrient deficiency. Light, yellow areas will start forming at the margins of the leaves. The most common deficiencies in nutrients impacting the yellowing are zinc and iron. Iron deficiency can occur in high pH soils with calcium carbonate. The best way to fix this is by transferring your plant to a new area with better soil or by replacing the soil with an all-purpose type. 

Avocado Leaves Turning Brown

Browning leaves are usually the result of salt build-up in the soil. Excess salt in the soil will dry out the avocado plant, which will then start to destroy cell tissue and the drying of leaves. Using too much fertilizer is a common cause of excess salt build-up.

You will find that the older leaves will begin browning first and then move on towards browning newer leaves. There are ways to prevent or slow the browning of leaves. You can start by watering your avocado plant. Not too much, just enough to help remove the build-up of salt. You can also limit the amount of fertilizer you are using for your plant and watch to see if there are any improvements.  

Avocado Leaves Turning Black

Fungal Disease

The leading cause of blackened leaves is a fungal disease. If your avocado plant has black, damaged leaves, most likely it will harvest a reduced yield of avocados or damage any reproduction. Three common fungal diseases can create blackened leaves: avocado root rot, anthracnose, and algal leaf spot. 

All three fungal diseases start by yellowing the leaves first, and then they blacken. Since most are caused by poor irrigation, the best way to prevent any fungal disease from occurring is by keeping the soil moist but not saturated or overwatered. Water tends to invite these unwanted guests. 

Chloride Salts

Avocado trees are very sensitive to salts, particularly sodium and chloride, compared to other plants. If your plant is exposed to an excessive amount of these salts, it will result in the leaf’s tips looking “burnt.” 

This problem can simply be solved by the amount and type of water you use. Experts suggest that you use filtered water since that will have considerably fewer salts. Other sources suggest that you can sprinkle lime or gypsum on top of the soil and use the same water, which will act as a cleanse for the excess salts. 

Avocado Leaves Burnt

Avocado leaf burn damage is easily recognizable by the dry, scorched damage that is left behind. Often, burnt leaves will fall before they normally do as well. We’ve talked a bit about some of the factors that could be related to this, such as excess salts and sunburn. However, other reasons could be responsible, as well. We will talk about a couple of them below.

Dry Conditions

You might imagine burnt leaves to be solely a factor of sunburn; however, burnt leaves can equally become a problem in the absence of sunshine. Dry conditions can bring harsh winds or heavy frost. Both of which cause a damaging burn to avocado plants. 

Frost will freeze avocado sap and damaged cell tissue. Depending on the amount it gets, there could be either minor or major damage associated. Severe frost will be primarily widespread. To reduce the effects of frost, you can do a few things. 

The location for the avocado plant could be placed where there is likely little frost damage. Or you could use frost covers. Still, you could even find chemicals that would reduce the risk of frost; however, in this case, you will want to be careful because of the avocado sensitivity. 

When it comes to harsh, recurring winds, these can cause lots of scarring and damage to your plants. Certain measures will reduce the risk of wind damage, though. Experts suggest measures such as staking your tree, especially if they are younger and still growing. This should help keep your plant standing firmly and limit any root damage as well. 

Another measure could be using a sheltering tool such as a windbreaker. This can be valuable for protecting the avocados from falling off the trees. 

Avocado Leaves Falling Off

You might find a problem with your avocado plant’s leaves turning brown and falling. This can be frustrating to gardeners who just want their plants to be happy and healthy. So, what might cause these problems? 

We have already gone over a few of the factors that are related to this problem. Avocado mites are one source of leaves falling off your plant. If there is an infestation feeding on your leaves, they will die and start falling off. You can certainly use the tips we mentioned before to prevent these nasty pests from getting your crop. 

Another common problem can be frost damage. When the frost is severe enough, it will kill the leaves cells, and they will begin falling off. 

One of the most significant problems as to why your avocado leaves are falling is shock and stress. This can be from a variety of factors; however, the outcome is still the same. The leaves will change color, die, and drop. Avocado plants do not adapt as well to change or stress. This can be prevented by limiting the amount of change placed on the plant, such as not changing its environment. 

Keep in mind that there are also positive reasons as to why avocado plants shed their leaves. In the spring, you will find more of the leaves on your plant falling. This is an entirely natural phenomenon. This is because new leaves will begin to grow and bring you a happy, healthier plant!   

Avocado Leaves Brown Spots

Brown spots are typically due to avocado mites. As mentioned before, when the mites feed on the plant, it will often lead to discoloration. You will find the most evidence on the underside of the leaf, as that is where they usually feed first. The mites are most common in the spring and tend to feed on newer, younger leaves. You can examine your plant weekly from March through October. This is when you want to watch out for them. 

Damage from cold temperatures can be another reason for brown spots. Most spots from cold damage will be found between the veins. Often they don’t cover the entire leaf either, so it will be easier to spot. A pixelated look can characterize these types of spots. 

Avocado Leaves White Spots

White spots on the leaves of an avocado plant can be from pests such as spider mites, thrips, or whiteflies. Or they can result from certain fungal diseases. 

Fungal diseases, such as powdery mildew, are by far the most common problem for white spots on the leaves. Luckily, these diseases are treatable and can be prevented in the future. If you believe the white spots are fungus related rather than from pests, you can take different measures. 

One method worth recommending is spraying neem oil on the leaves. Neem oil is low in toxicity, which is beneficial to the avocado tree as it is a sensitive plant. Further, oil is purely organic, which means it is safe for the environment. 

If the neem oil doesn’t work, another great method to use is apple cider vinegar. You can mix a couple of teaspoons with clean water and spray it on the foliage. This mixture should help kill any traces of the mildew. 

Avocado Leaves Yellow Spots

If you find yellow spots on the avocado plant’s foliage, these spots will likely turn brown soon after. Just as with the other spots, most yellow spots are also caused by pests or fungal disease. It could also simply be the start of the aging process. 

The life cycle of avocado leaves start from red and continue to green, then yellow, until they brown and fall off. It can be difficult to tell if your plant is bronzing or not, but the most helpful advice suggests that the spots will lead to something else. 

Avocado Leaves Drooping

Pests, disease, watering – all of these can be a cause for leaves drooping. Presumably, the avocado leaves drooping is due to the amount of water it needs. They can be being overwatered or underwatered, but overwatering is the most common problem since they don’t need as much water as other plants. Feel around the soil to determine if it is too wet or too dry. 

If the soil feels adequately moist, then the problem could perhaps be due to stress. Environmental factors like the sun or soil can affect how the plant responds. Avocado trees do not respond well to change. 

Final Thoughts

We know it can be challenging to create the right conditions for your avocado tree. However, the information in this article can help. The best care for your plant requires:

  • Substantial amounts of nutrients
  • Control over pests and diseases
  • Picking the right location to limit amounts of stress

With these tips and tricks, your plant will be happy and healthy in no time! 

Growing an avocado requires a lot of patience. It can take up to 4-15 years before you see the first fruit. The length of time it takes for the trees to mature and produce fruit has seen this plant being labeled as difficult to grow.

If you are having problems growing avocados, look at the usual culprits, including the amount of sunlight they receive, irrigation, and nutritional imbalance. Avocado trees are troubled by fewer pests, but that doesn’t rule out bug infestations, especially in young plants.

Additional Reading

As the avocado tree grows, you have to be prepared to tend to the plants through different growth stages. It is crucial to know what to look out for to maintain a healthy tree until it reaches maturity. This article thoroughly explores the top problems to watch out for.

Insufficient Sunlight to Produce Food 

The sunlight needs of avocado trees vary depending on the stage of growth. Avocado seedlings have to be germinated indoors before being transplanted outside to a permanent spot. This means that they are exposed to limited light either by being shaded or using reflected light. 

However, they must have adequate access to the indirect light throughout the day in order to develop a robust root system. Never wholly starve the seedlings of light.

It will take between two and six weeks for the pit to sprout. You can choose to let it grow a bit more before transplanting.

Once the roots have been established on the seedling, it is time to transplant it to a pot and place the pot outdoors. The container should be around 20 inches (50 cm) in depth and 10 inches (25 cm) in diameter. Since the pit has sprouted some leaves which can shade it when exposed to direct sunlight, you can allow the pot to sit in the full sun. 

Allow the plant to thrive in the pot until it achieves a sturdy ball of roots. At this point, it is ready to be transplanted to the garden. Select a spot with adequate sun exposure and no competing plants around to curtail the spread of its roots. It is recommended to plant your avocado tree in the garden before summer so that it becomes acclimatized to the new environment before the temperatures increase.

An avocado plant that is deprived of sufficient sunlight is unable to produce enough food to sustain itself.

Nutritional Imbalance

Nutrient deficiency is a leading cause of avocado leaves turning yellow. This is especially common in plants that have an iron deficiency where the leaves turn yellow but retain green veins. Another deficiency that causes yellowing of the leaves is the nitrogen deficit. However, this can be rectified by using a nitrogen fertilizer. 

Phosphorus deficient plants are also quite common. They are characterized by the avocado leaves turning brown. The tree may also experience loss of foliage with the avocado leaves falling off. As the tree continues to lose its leaves, its growth becomes slow since it is not able to make enough food to sustain healthy growth. 

The leaves are useful for photosynthesis, which produces food for the tree. Also, leaves, through stomata, breathe for the plant and facilitate the vital process of transpiration. 

Potassium deficiency also turns the leaves brown and leaves scorched lesions all over the foliage. On the other hand, calcium deficiency manifests in the young avocado leaves curling as the tips become necrotic.

For an avocado plant to have the required nutritional balance, you need to apply sufficient organic compost and fertilizer into the soil before planting. Use a complete fertilizer on the soil, meaning that it contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. 

The ratio of the ingredients is 10-20-10 so that the phosphorus is in higher amounts to provide the plant with enough energy. This nutrient facilitates the healthy growth and maturity of the avocado tree. The PH of the soil growing an avocado tree needs to be between 6 and 6.5 for optimal growth. 

Under or Over Watering the Plant

Watering the avocado plant takes a delicate balance because it needs a lot of moisture but not waterlogged soil. You need to water the trees twice or thrice a week as they begin to grow with adequate dry spells in between. Increase the number of times you water to four as the roots take hold. This may go on for about a year before you begin to limit the watering to once a week. 

After the first year, it is essential to let the soil dry out for a few days before watering the plant. However, keep in mind that mature trees typically need about 20 gallons of water in one watering session. This is enough water to keep the soil moist until the next watering session in two or three days.

Keeping the soil sufficiently saturated with water ensures that there is reduced heat reflection. This means there is no reflection of heat back onto the plant because as much as avocados love heat, too much of it can cause their stomata to close. 

Overly Cold Temperatures and Extreme Heat

As mentioned above, the stomata in avocado leaves close off when the plant receives too much heat. An avocado tree will continue to thrive in temperatures as high as 75°F (24°C). However, as the temperature escalates to 90°F (32°C), the plant begins to shut down. If you are in a climate that features extreme heat, it is best to set your irrigation schedule to water the plants for at least one continuous hour. 

Shading the younger plants also helps to prevent issues like the avocado leaves getting a bleached look. Shade cloth works very well on younger plants as it lets in just the right amount of heat. Depending on the stage of development of the trees, you can choose anything from 50 to 75/80% shade percentage. If you are very concerned, you should leave the shade cloth on for the entire summer for younger plants.

Cold temperatures can cause delays in flowering in an avocado tree, especially if it is exposed before or during the blooming period. This is because colder temperatures affect the pollination of the avocado plant. Bees and other insect pollinators are less active during the colder temperatures.

When the flowers on the tree open but encounter cold temperatures, they are less receptive to pollen. As a result, they get a poor fruit set.

Some gardeners paint their trees to shade them from excessive heat. They paint the trunk and branches of the plant to prevent sunburn. The paint acts as a sunscreen because the younger plants haven’t formed a canopy to protect them from the harsh sun. Painting the plant is known as whitewashing. 

You can use a mixture of latex paint and water in equal parts or kaolin clay known as surround. Apply to the leaves as well.

Pests That Eat the Foliage and Fruit


This pest is also known as the western Avocado leafroller that occurs mainly in the California avocado groves. It mainly attacks the leaves of the avocado plant, which can result in a dying plant, especially with immature trees. The adult female lays between 150 and 200 eggs in her short life span of two to three weeks. The larvae pupate in three weeks and soon become adults.

Amorbia larvae eat the leaf surface leaving behind a vein skeleton. Adult amorbia consume the entire leaf. The amorbia form a web of leaves rolled together as they eat them, earning their name Western Avocado Leafroller.

Younger avocado plants usually can’t withstand the feeding habits of the amorbia and will soon die if the infestation continues. However, mature, well-established trees can tolerate the loss of foliage. Unfortunately, the caterpillars can also damage the fruit leading to loss of the crop.

The best way to get rid of amorbia is to use natural enemies like birds and lacewings. This means not using insecticide on the plant, which can kill off the natural predators as well. If the insecticide kills off the predators, the numbers of amorbia will escalate.

If you want to use an insecticide, consider the caterpillar pathogen known as Bacillus thuringiensis, which is sold commercially as a selective insecticide.

Avocado Brown Mite

These mites are arthropods that occur sporadically in avocado plants. They are dark brown and oval and produce two generations per month. While they are not tolerant of high temperatures of 90°F (32°C) and up, they can survive in the standard temperature thresholds for the avocado plants. 

Mites can grow exponentially in numbers in a short period and can quickly average 80 to 100 adults per leaf. They feed on the leaves of the plants, and as they colonize the leaves, there is extensive damage left behind. When they are too many, they eat both the top and bottom of the leaf, causing partial defoliation and avocado leaves turning brown.

Interestingly, high and low temperatures can mitigate the numbers of these mites. But since that also affects the overall health of the plant, it is better to introduce predatory insects like spiders into the crop to eat the mites naturally. Also, you can control them by spot treating individual trees using safe horticultural oils. 

Avocado Thrips

You may notice scarring on the immature avocado fruit because of avocado thrips. These pests have little effect on the avocado tree, but if their scars are severe on the fruit can stunt its development. The scars look leathery on the skin of the fruit. Thrip-related scarring on avocados is also known as alligator skin.

Although thrips feed on the avocado leaves as well, this is not damaging to the plant. The scarring may not be evident until the fruits become larger. Thrips attack the fruit when it is between 0.2 and 0.6 inches (5-15 mm) in length. 

Natural predators can feed on the thrips, but typically, they do not sufficiently reduce their numbers. Pruning can mitigate the amount of new growth the tree produces. New, tender foliage hides the thrips and also feeds their larvae. Monitor the young plants and the new growth on mature plants right before the trees start to produce fruit. If you notice thrips on your plants, it is time to use horticultural oil sprays, which are toxic to the pests.

Persea Mites

These pests are prevalent in avocado plants grown in California and are hosted by weeds among the trees. The Persea mite causes the most damage to Gwen and Hass varieties of avocados. They cause the foliage on the trees to fall off as they feed on them. 

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The pests leave dense webbing on the underside of the leaf, which is silvery in color. From afar, the silver sheen is easily thought to mean that the avocado leaves are turning white. This can also be confused with powdery mildew on the tree, which leaves white fuzz on the tree. 

However, the silver webbing by the Persea mites occurs on the bottom of the leaf and not the top like the mildew.

Adequate irrigation usually helps to fix the problem with these mites. A narrow range of petroleum oils will work exceptionally if you notice the mites in the early stages. However, apply selectively because this allows natural enemies to the mites to continue feeding on them without being affected by the chemicals involved. Mites can quickly become resistant to miticides, so make sure that you vary the treatments used.

Diseases That Destroy the Plant

Avocado Black Streak

What may appear as an elongated black discoloration on the bark of an avocado tree could turn out to be the avocado black streak. This is a disease that forms cankers encircling the limbs of the tree from the branches to the trunk. Soon after the cankers appear, they crack and begin to ooze sap. The sap dries and looks like white or brown powder on the tree.

This disease can kill the tree. It is caused by prolonged stressful conditions like insufficient watering or growing in highly saline soil. The trees generally droop, collapse, and die off rapidly or slowly. The good news is that the trees can survive and become productive again if you address the conditions causing the disease.

The solution lies in adhering to healthy irrigation practices and also putting the right fertilizer for the plants. Always use high-quality water when irrigating avocado plants to avoid this disease. In times of drought, you must find a way to maintain an adequate amount of water recommended for your plants.

Armillaria Root Rot

Also known as oak root fungus, this disease afflicts the trunk and root of the avocado tree. The fungus causes these parts of the tree to rot, resulting in the affected trees dying off prematurely. It may take a while to destroy a mature tree because the pathogen has to become well established in the root system to affect the plant adversely. So dig up the soil around your mature avocado trees every so often to air the root crown and prevent the disease.

The classic symptoms of Armillaria root rot are avocado leaves drooping and foliage turning yellow. You will also notice that parts of the plant are entirely dying off, especially the upper limbs.

If you lose some trees to this disease, remove them from the field and burn them. This is because armillaria can live on in the roots and stumps of infected plants. In fact, this stubborn disease can continue to live on the barks of trees that have survived it. Burying the infected plants doesn’t work because if you plant new trees in the same spot years later, they will get infected.

There is no complete treatment for this disease, so you have to manage it by consistently monitoring and removing the infected plants. You also need to remove the trees adjacent to the infected one. This is a crucial step to mitigate the spread of the disease as the soil-borne pathogen can spread to nearby healthy plants. 

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Clean the implements used to clear the infected plants. You should consider planting a completely different crop on the affected piece of land. Ensure that the crops are not susceptible to the armillaria root rot like fig, plum, or pecan trees. 

Prevention is possible by watching the drainage of the soil. Make sure the soil used for your avocado trees has excellent drainage. Waterlogged soils promote root rot and carry the soil-borne pathogens to the plant.

Final Thoughts

The avocado is a powerhouse of mono-saturated oil, vitamins A and B, as well as proteins. However, if your avocado tree does not yield fruit, it can also work as a houseplant. The care is the same whether the tree is an indoor or outdoor plant. It requires:

  • Adequate irrigation
  • Pest and disease control
  • Substantial space for the root system
  • Temperature control

The right conditions are not hard to achieve for a healthy avocado plant. And once you have a healthy tree going, it is possible to harvest from it for decades to come.

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