How to reduce tree height without pruning

Is there a way to reduce the tree height of a standard fruit tree (avocado and olive) from 30’ tall to 15’ tall planted in the ground without pruning?

Could you plant the tree in the ground placed in a plastic container with drain holes? Or maybe you could wrap the hole with weed barrier before plant the tree?

Similar question - except add ‘pruning’ back in!
I bought a new pear as insurance against the two ‘bad pears’ that I bought last year. This one is a Moonglow . . . but got it locally - and without any rootstock info. However it does appear to be a standard by the height estimate on the tag.

What is the best way to train it - so that it will stay as manageable as possible? Open center?

And . . . is it ‘safe’ to graft to it this spring, even though I will have recently planted it?
A couple of forum friends sent some very nice scions - and I don’t want to use them all on the Fireblight Twins.


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My suggestion is to do a search for olive and avocado rootstocks. See if dwarfing rootstocks are available for either of these trees. That would reduce the need for pruning. Many fruit trees will require a certain amount of pruning anyway to keep the tree healthy and productive even if on a dwarf rootstock.

To reduce the size of a fruit tree without pruning there are several approaches:

  1. Use a dwarfing rootstock… in most cases the best method if available

  2. Use a natural dwarf cultivar which naturally never grows big

  3. Reduce the amount of water and fertilizer

  4. Crop the tree heavily early in its life which tends to runt the tree out

Methods 3 and 4 are hit miss and generally less effective. This is especially true in climates with good summer rainfall and with trees on good soil.

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A vertical 55 gallon drum with some gravel in the bottom and holes only in the bottom might work although I have never tried it. It might cause too much dwarfing. I have seen used 55 gal drums for $20 and 275 gal for $100. As with any potted plant regular watering would be required.

Pruning (particularly summer pruning) and grafting to dwarfing rootstocks are the primary methods of controlling size. Why are these options being eliminated? Or is this a ‘how many angels can dance on the head of a pin’ type of question?

Any other method you use is going to result in poor health outcomes for the tree. Yes, you can probably use various mechanical methods to constrain the size of the root ball, but these methods are going to result in the same amount of roots in a smaller space, which will eventually strangle the tree.

The one thing I can think of is to use a fertilizer that is low in nitrogen to limit vegetative growth, while still providing the other necessary elements. But I don’t think this would be healthy for the tree long-term.

I don’t believe Manzanilla and Mission olive trees come on root stock? Most Mexican avocados probably don’t come on dwarfing root stock either?

I’m also worried if I continue to prune a standard olive or avocado to 12’ tall it will want to put on new growth instead of fruit.

I wonder if this would work ?

I found this video. I just thought if there was a way to plant the tree a certain way it would be way more easy. If you did plant a olive or avocado in a large container in the ground would it die when the roots bound in the pot? or would you just need to figure out how to put slits in the sides of the container to let some root out?

I don’t grow avocados myself, but I live near commercial avocado growers. Every few years when the trees get too big, they prune them back to stubs. And by stubs, I mean about 4’ tall with not a single green leaf on them. Then they whitewash the bare trunks, and the trees grow back. I assume this works for them because avocados fruit on new wood. That’s not to say that you would need to prune that drastically.

I don’t grow olives either, but from looking at articles on the internet, they apparently fruit on one-year-old wood. So regular pruning should actually make them fruit better.

Someone who actually grows these crops could probably provide you a better answer.


I remember reading something about an old-school method of controlling tree height by repeatedly bending down the leader, so that it ended up looking something like a corkscrew.

OK, I think I found what I was thinking of. It’s called “snaking.” Scroll down to the section on leader management techniques in this page:

I doubt that it would entirely remove the need for pruning, but it seems like it might reduce it. (And maybe look kind of cool?)