Whether you’re planting a single avocado tree or an entire grove, you need to figure out the spacing. How close should you plant your avocado tree to your house or your driveway? How far should the tree be from another fruit tree or a retaining wall? Can you plant an avocado tree in a lawn? How close can you plant two or three avocado trees together?
I’m going to show photos of some of the planting decisions that I and others have made with avocado trees in various settings — noting reasons for and consequences of each. Hopefully, this will aid you in your planting decisions.
How close to a fence
This is a Reed avocado tree that is seven years old and was planted about 11 feet from the fence. I can still easily walk between the fence and the tree, and I have yet to need to prune that side of the tree.
But Reed is not the most spreading of avocado varieties. Hass spreads more. Below is a Hass that is also seven years old but planted about 19 feet from the fence covered in grapes on the left.
This Hass has also not been pruned on the side facing the fence, and there is still ample space to walk through. Someday, however, I’m sure that both of these trees will need to be lightly pruned on the fence sides in order to maintain the paths.
How close to a wall, road, or sidewalk
If you don’t need to walk between a fence or wall and your avocado tree, then you can plant much, much closer — especially if you’re willing to let the tree grow up and over the fence or wall.
This is a large, old Fuerte near San Diego’s Balboa Park that was planted only about three feet from a stone wall with an iron fence atop.
The Fuerte from the side. And below, a look down at the trunk.
This tree was also planted just a few feet from a wall, but only around ten years ago. Neither this tree nor the large Fuerte above has damaged the nearby walls. Avocado tree roots don’t tend to do such damage, in my observations.
Here is an old Bacon avocado tree whose trunk is sandwiched between a paved street and a sidewalk, yet no buckling has occurred, unlike the certain buckling that would have occurred with some other tree species, such as live oak or sweet gum.
How close to a lawn
It is often said that you shouldn’t plant an avocado tree in the middle of a lawn. While I wouldn’t plant an avocado in a lawn if I had other sites available, it is possible to grow an excellent avocado tree within a lawn. Examples abound. Below is a fine specimen in Point Loma.
How close to a house
This avocado tree is in nearby Ocean Beach. It was planted about 15 feet from the houses on either side and provides wonderful shade for the patio beneath. Some trimming of branches is necessary toward the top, as you can see that they meet the roof of the second story.
I’ve seen avocado trees planted closer to houses. In fact, I’ve planted avocado trees closer to my own house. That usually requires more pruning in the long run, depending on the variety planted. But I’ve never seen such avocado trees causing damage to the houses’ foundations. If irrigation water isn’t applied close to the house, it’s unlikely that many roots will grow there. Roots grow where the soil is moist.
How close to other trees
Below is a Hass tree in my yard that is around 17 feet tall and wide, and to the right of it is a Valencia orange tree that is around 25 feet tall. The distance from the trunk of the avocado to the trunk of the orange is 26 feet.
With minimal pruning to the avocado going forward, there will continue to be ample space to walk between the trees as well as enough sunlight in that path such that foliage and fruit will be produced all the way down to the ground.
Below is a Gwen avocado tree that I planted just east of a large live oak. In retrospect, I wish I had planted this Gwen elsewhere. Two problems have been encountered.
One, the afternoon shade from the oak is more than ideal. I’m convinced that the avocado would have grown faster and been more fruitful in a more sunny location. Two, the oak has grown many roots into the area where I give the avocado its water so I have to apply more water to compensate for the oak’s “theft.”
Something similar is going on in the photo below, where you’ll notice that the avocado trees on the left are smaller than those on the right, which are farther from the large oaks and pines.
If you must plant near a large tree (and sometimes our yards offer no other choice, right?), just keep in mind that the large tree is likely to have these influences on your young avocado. Prune limbs from the large tree, apply extra water to the avocado, and prune the roots of the large tree out of the avocado’s zone using a shovel, as necessary or practical.
Here is a row of Hass avocado trees each planted 15 feet from one another on the campus of Cal Poly Pomona.
The photo below shows the same trees from under their canopies. A spacing of 15 feet between Hass trees is manageable with some pruning; you can get a wall of green (privacy screen from the road or neighbors, for example) and one that provides oodles of avocados.
I’ve attempted to do something similar in a couple parts of my yard. Below are a Reed and Lamb planted only 7.5 feet apart back in 2013 (so seven years old in this photo), and then more recently I added the small Hellen avocado tree on the right and a multi-grafted avocado tree on the left. Eventually, they will look similar to the Hass trees at Cal Poly above.
Planting avocado trees only 7.5 feet apart means that you must either let their canopies merge or you will have to prune yearly if not twice yearly in order to keep them growing as independent units.
Here are three avocado trees planted in front of a house in Carpinteria that form a green screen. From left to right: Fuerte, Bacon, Pinkerton.
The trees are planted about 10 feet apart, and the Fuerte and Bacon canopies are touching but you might notice that the Pinkerton on the far right is much shorter than the other two and is not yet touching the Bacon.
It’s possible to plant avocado trees even closer than 10 or 7.5 feet apart and keep them productive and healthy, especially if you’re planting only a pair. Below are two avocado trees that look like a single tree.
But actually, the foliage toward the front left is a Holiday and the foliage to the back and right is a Don Gillogly. Wisely, the Holiday was planted to the southwest of the Don Gillogly, as Holiday is a far less vigorous variety and it would get shaded out by the Gillogly.
Here are the trunks of the trees, only a few feet apart, looking from the opposite direction:
Does the avocado tree below also look like a single?
Surprise, surprise! Look inside and you’ll find two trunks:
Those trees were planted so close together that only a single hole was dug in order to put them in. They were since trained and pruned to become two halves of a unified canopy.
Planting two trees of different varieties in one hole is a great option for a yard with little space or for a person or couple who only need one tree’s worth of avocados. To make this planting style work best, the varieties should be of similar vigor, the varieties should have different harvest seasons, and — of less importance — one could have an A-type flower while the other has a B-type flower (in order to get maximum pollination potential).
Or you could get even more clustered . . .
That is a three-in-one-hole planting. See the trunks below:
Could you even do four in one? Sure, why not.
With these plantings of multiple trees in one hole, the challenge is similar to a tree with a single trunk/rootstock that has multiple varieties grafted onto it, which is in attentive pruning. You have to be sure not to allow a more vigorous variety to overwhelm the others.
Pairs of avocado trees
Here is a video where I show and talk about managing the canopies of avocado trees that are grown in pairs:
How close to other trees in a grove setting
In a grove setting, avocado trees are normally spaced much farther out. Long ago, the standard spacing at planting was 20 feet. Then when the trees got big, every other tree would be removed so there were 40 feet between them. These days, it is more common to plant more closely.
The planting below has trees spaced about 18 feet apart. The plan with these trees is to prune them once they start to become crowded but never to remove any. They will be pruned such that each tree can be accessed on all sides.
The planting below has trees spaced 12 feet apart within the row, but there is 15 feet between rows so that there is an aisle for access.
This planting is in Ventura County, it is seven years old, and there are multiple varieties within: Hass, Carmen, GEM, Reed, Lamb.
Below are trees that were recently topworked. In other words, older trees were cut down to stumps and then a new variety was grafted onto the stumps. In this case, the previous variety had been Hass, and the new variety that you see growing here is GEM.
The reason the above trees were topworked is that the grower found it too difficult to manage the Hass trees at such close spacing. The trees were planted only 10 feet apart down the row. After about 9 years, the trees required such frequent pruning that it was hard to keep up and the trees’ production declined. So 15 years after planting, the grower topworked the trees to the less vigorous variety GEM, which can more easily be grown long term at a 10 by 10 spacing.
Going in the opposite direction, the avocado trees below were also planted at a 10 by 10 spacing, this time with the Reed variety, but the grower felt he could fit more trees in — at least during the early years — so he recently interplanted new avocado trees making the spacing only 5 feet by 5 feet. See the small trees in between the big trees?
Don’t want to waste any expensive real estate, eh? Even farmers have space constraints; it’s not just we home gardeners.
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