How To Properly Care for the Olive Tree

Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 08:16 pm

So that your olive feels really comfortable with you

Silvery green leaves and a gnarled trunk – how beautiful is an olive tree? It doesn’t need as much care as you might think. The quaint trees are easy to care for and with our 5 tips, you’re sure to become an olive tree care professional in no time.

repot your olive tree regularly in good soil

How To Properly Care for the Olive Tree

Young olive trees should be moved to a slightly larger pot immediately after purchase. After that, it is sufficient to repot them about every 2 – 3 years. This range can increase over time, so that older trees eventually only need to be repotted every 5 years or even less frequently.

The pot should grow about 4 inches in diameter each time. This means that there is about 2 cm of space around the root ball in the new pot. This is not much, but perfectly adequate. With larger pots, the olive tree puts all its energy into root growth because it has a nice amount of space in the pot.

Each time you repot the olive, you provide it with fresh, nutrient-rich soil.

 
The perfect olive tree care: Which soil?

In its Mediterranean home, the olive grows on poor, sandy-stony subsoil. Therefore, you can probably already guess what kind of soil the olive tree prefers in this country: a rather nutrient-poor soil with sandy-stony parts.

You can easily mix the right soil for your olive yourself. As a basis you can use good garden soil or a purchased universal soil, which you can also use for other plants. When buying, make sure that it is peat-free. Our Bloomify universal soil is well suited. Since it is already pre-fertilized, you have to adjust the fertilization of the olive tree a bit – more about this under tip 3! Not so well suited is very nutrient-rich compost or vegetable soil.

Mix your soil with sand, fine gravel or clay granules … Here you can get creative. Any material that loosens the soil so that irrigation water can drain easily is suitable. Since olive trees need soil with a slightly alkaline pH value, crushed mussel shells, for example, are also suitable. They contain lime, which raises the pH value – perfect for the olive. Of course, it’s perfectly fine if you just use sand, for example.

You only need about 1 – 2 handfuls of these “rocky” materials for a standard pot.

Somewhat coarser material (expanded clay balls, clay shards, coarse gravel) is suitable to spread as an extra layer at the bottom of the pot. More info on the so-called drainage can also be found in tip 3.

How To Properly Care for the Olive Tree
All potted plants benefit from regular repotting, including lemon trees


The perfect olive tree care: garden, balcony or terrace as a location?

Olive trees need one thing above all: sun! They like it bright and warm. Even blazing summer sun is no problem. Ideal for olives in a tub is a balcony or terrace facing south. Bright locations facing south-west or south-east with a few hours of sun during the day are also suitable.

In very mild regions of Europe, olive trees can also be planted in the garden. However, this only works well if the winters are really mild.

 
Is the olive tree suitable as an indoor plant?

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As pure indoor plants olive trees are not happy in the long run in most cases, unfortunately. They need a lot of light and preferably direct sun. Winter gardens with large windows are still most suitable. It is ideal if draught can be provided, because the olive tree is a self-pollinator. The pollination of the flowers is done by the wind.

In many apartments the light situation is not ideal. Weakened trees shed their leaves and become susceptible to pests.

water and fertilize your olive tree sufficiently

Olive trees are fairly undemanding when it comes to their water and nutrient needs. The danger is rather that you mean it too well and provide your tree with too much water and fertilizer.

It is very important to have a drainage hole and a drainage layer at the bottom of the container. This allows excess water to drain away and prevents waterlogging. This occurs when the soil is permanently moist and damages the roots of the olive tree. Such a layer can be made of coarse gravel or expanded clay balls, for example. You can also cover the drainage hole with a piece of clay to prevent it from becoming clogged. With this, the pot is already perfectly equipped so that your olive can better forgive you excessive watering – or survive heavy rain showers.

If you overdo it with watering and the soil is too moist, the olive tree will show some warning signs. The leaves may turn yellow and fall off. It is also possible that whole branches dry out – despite moist soil. The roots are then simply already so badly damaged that they can no longer absorb water. The only thing that can help is repotting.

The warmer, sunnier and windier it is, the more water evaporates through the leaves of the plant. You will notice that the soil will dry out faster. Water your olive tree whenever the top layer of soil feels dry.

In winter you can reduce watering significantly. The colder the olive tree is overwintered, the less often you have to water it. You should not fertilize it at all during the winter.

The perfect olive tree care: what fertilizer?

The olive tree does not need much fertilizer. Since in this country, in the vast majority of cases, it grows in a container and therefore cannot access nutrients from the garden soil, it must be fertilized regularly.

Organic fertilizers are best. These are good for the environment and there is virtually no risk of overfertilization. Most organic fertilizers have a long-term effect, so that your olive tree is gradually supplied with sufficient nutrients.

Organic fertilizers include all animal and plant materials that decompose in the soil, releasing nutrients that are absorbed by the plants. Compost (soil), for example, contains a lot of nutrients and is well suited to fertilize the olive with it. Also used can be manure (in moderation), sheep wool, horn shavings or plant dips. Home remedies such as coffee grounds (also only in moderation), egg and banana peels are also suitable for fertilizing.

You can also buy organic fertilizers, they come in liquid or solid form. For example, our Bloomify Universal Fertilizer is pellets made from plant materials. However, there are also pellets made from sheep’s wool.

In contrast, there are also mineral fertilizers. These are artificially produced and are usually administered through the watering water. They can easily be overdosed, which is not good for the olive tree at all. If your olive tree suffers from a nutrient deficiency, a mineral fertilizer (for example, a liquid citrus fertilizer) is still a good idea. It works much faster than an organic fertilizer. On the other hand, the effect is quickly lost and you have to fertilize again.

If you feel like it, you can read more about fertilizing olive trees in our magazine.

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You’ve already done 3 out of 5 tips – you’re well on the way to becoming a real professional in olive tree care.

keep your olive tree healthy and beautiful by pruning it.

Olive trees grow very slowly, so you don’t have to prune them back very often. However, in order to maintain a shapely crown, it is necessary to reach for the scissors from time to time. Besides, it’s not just about the look: a crown that grows too densely hardly lets any light and air into the interior of the foliage. After a rain shower, the tree cannot dry off so well. In the worst case, this leads to the spread of pathogens or pests.

 
The perfect olive tree care: pruning like a pro

Fortunately, pruning the olive tree is quite simple. Among other things, we can distinguish between educational pruning and maintenance pruning. Pruning is best done when your olive tree slowly awakens from its winter dormancy, i.e. in February or March. If your tree winters outside, wait for very frosty temperatures.

By the way, you can combine the pruning of the olive tree with the repotting. Provided with fresh soil, the tree can sprout again full of energy.

 
The maintenance pruning: Keeping the olive tree healthy

We want to

  • keep healthy branches and make sure that they can develop well,
  • remove diseased or dead branches,
  • cut off branches that are too dense,
  • also cut off branches that cross each other,
  • remove bare branches.

Maintenance pruning is an important element of olive tree care. The goal is to maintain a beautiful, airy crown with healthy leaves. A thicket of branches that grow too densely and are old and dead is just the opposite. Bare, withered branches are easy to spot, whereas the “wrong” growing shoots may be harder to spot.

Look closely at your olive tree from all sides. You may see branches crossing each other somewhere. Pick out the one that is growing more awkwardly, for example, inside the crown. Cut it off completely so that the second shoot has more space to develop well. Proceed in the same way if two branches are very close together or even touching each other. Here, one must make room for the other.

Bare branches that only bear leaves at the very front of the tip must unfortunately also give way. Only by radically pruning back these almost leafless branches can you ensure that they will grow again with new leaves.

As a rule, it is better to cut back a little too little than too much. You can remove individual branches all year round – so if in doubt, leave them for now.

Always use sharp, clean pruning tools. For young olive trees, handy models like our Bloomify pruning shears are sufficient. Only with older trees with strong branches, a larger pruning shears or hand saw must be used. If you want to remove a branch completely, cut it as short as possible, i.e. very close to the branch from which it is growing.

 
Pruning: Shaping the olive tree

The main concern with pruning is the appearance of the tree. An olive tree with a beautifully shaped crown simply looks good.

In this respect, pruning also overlaps somewhat with maintenance pruning. This is because it can sometimes be necessary to remove branches that are too dense, that grow into the crown, or that cross each other. Often, however, the branches of the olive become too long and grow irregularly. The tree then looks rather fuzzy and simply needs a haircut. You can’t do too much wrong: When pruning, always take breaks to look at your tree from all sides. It’s better to cut a little less at first and work your way up to an even crown shape step by step.

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You’ll find that it’s even fun to keep your olive in shape with regular pruning. With this you have mastered a big step towards perfect olive tree care.

your olive tree must winter well.

Unfortunately, even the most beautiful summer eventually comes to an end and autumn is just around the corner. The olive tree is very hardy and many varieties can remain outside unprotected into October or November. Our Bloomify Olive is also a robust variety that likes to be left alone as long as possible with precautions for the winter. But at some point, the question will come up for it too: Do you want to overwinter your olive tree outside in the garden, on the patio or balcony? Or would you rather bring it inside?

In our magazine you will find a guide with all the details you need to know about wintering the olive. Here is some of the most important information.

 
The perfect olive tree care: Winter is coming

Olive trees need to take a break from growth during the winter. This winter rest begins when the temperatures drop. Your olive tree should overwinter in a bright place at a maximum of 12 degrees, even better are temperatures between 3 and 10 degrees. Therefore, wintering in a warm apartment is unfortunately not possible.

However, the great thing about most olive tree varieties is that they can tolerate some frost. Therefore, they can also be overwintered outside. This makes olive tree care easier in the winter and has some advantages over wintering indoors. After all, winter quarters that are bright and at the same time cold enough are often not so easy to find indoors. Unheated hallways or stairwells with large windows, bright garages or cellars come into question. Greenhouses or cool winter gardens are also ideal.

If such winter quarters are not available, you will have to overwinter your olive tree outside. Depending on how cold the winter will be, it may need frost protection. Especially the leaves and the roots are sensitive to frost. A wrapping of the crown from an air-permeable garden fleece offers itself and is not expensive. In any case, the pot must be protected from frost, otherwise the soil may freeze. On terraces at ground level, it is best to place it on a base of wood or Styrofoam, which helps against ground frost. A layer of mulch on top of the soil will also keep it warm. You can also insulate the entire tub by wrapping it with jute fabric, for example.

Very important when wintering outside: Protect the olive tree from rain. It is best to place it as close to a house wall as possible and cover the pot with mulch materials and, if necessary, additional rain protection. In a mild winter, constant rain can cause the soil to be permanently wet – the olive cannot tolerate this at all.

Author

  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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