Pruning an olive tree


Pruning Olive Trees – Learn When And How To Prune Olive Trees

The purpose of trimming olive trees is to open more of the tree up to sunshine. The parts of a tree that are in shade will not produce fruit. When you trim olive trees to allow sun to enter into the center, it improves the fruiting. Read on for information about how to prune olive trees and the best time to prune olive trees.

When to Prune Olive Trees

Don’t start trimming olive trees during their first year or its second year. You shouldn’t touch that pruner to your tree branches until the olive tree is at least four years old. During these early years, you should encourage foliage to form and leave it alone. A tree’s leaves produce its food, so having many leaves when the tree is young provides good energy for growth.

How to Prune Olive Trees

When it is time to shape the tree, remember that it is better to make a few, well-placed cuts than to make many small ones. You should use a lopper and a pruning saw to make these cuts.

Open-center or vase pruning is very common with olive trees. For this type of pruning, you remove the tree’s central branches to allow sunlight to penetrate the tree. Open pruning also increases the surface fruiting area of the tree.

After you have removed central branches and established a sound structure for the tree, all subsequent pruning is for maintenance. At that point, trimming olive trees involves only removing any growth that starts to fill in the center of the tree.

You can also keep down the height of the tree by pruning out the tallest branches. This is often important when you are pruning olive trees in containers. Use thinning cuts, not heading cuts, since the latter will stimulate new tall growth. Thinning cuts involve cutting something out, while heading cuts – also called topping cuts – involve cutting something off. Generally, you’ll want to use thinning cuts in olive tree trimming.

If you have a very tall, very old olive tree, you may have to prune it drastically to make it productive again. Remember that new growth will grow just above where you make the cut, so you’ll have to cut the tree quite severely, making cuts at four or five feet. It is best to space the process over three years. On the other hand, if it is used more as an ornamental, you may wish to leave it tall and beautiful instead.

Best Time to Prune Olive Trees

If you are wondering when to prune olive trees, it is between winter’s end and flowering. You can prune olive trees in spring or in early summer once the tree begins to open its flower buds. Pruning an olive tree while it is in bloom allows you to assess the probable crop before you trim.

Always wait to trim until the rains of winter are done, since pruning opens entry points for water-borne disease to enter the tree. This is of utmost importance if olive knot is a problem in your area. An olive tree is more vulnerable to frost damage once it is trimmed, which is another argument for waiting until spring.

Olive Tree Pruning

Time of Pruning
Intensity and Frequency of Pruning
Training Systems

Following are some basic concepts of pruning olive trees. For more in-depth information, we recommend the books by Riccardo Gucci and Claudio Cantini, by G. Steven Sibbett and Louise Ferguson, and the article and book by Paul Vossen, all listed in our Sources below.

What are the main reasons to prune mature olive trees?In mature trees, pruning is mainly required to renew the fruiting surface of the tree and achieve high yields, maintain vegetative growth of fruiting shoots, maintain the skeleton structure, contain tree size, favor light penetration and air circulation inside the canopy, permit control of pests and diseases, prevent aging of the canopy, and eliminate dead wood. Under certain circumstances, pruning can be required to alleviate the effect of abiotic stress, to re-form the canopy after damage by frosts and pests, to rejuvenate old or abandoned trees, and to adapt an obsolete training system to mechanical harvesting. In modern olive growing, the training system should permit easy movement of machinery in the orchard; little attention needs to be paid to specific tree shapes.

A number of tools can be used to prune olive trees: pruning shears, saws, chain saws, gloves, and goggles. You can buy pruning tools at The Olive Oil Source Wholesale Store.

Pruning shears are used to cut shoots less than 1 inch (25mm) in diameter. Double-bladed shears are more suitable than single-bladed shears for cutting flexible shoots. Professional pruners prefer pruning shears with shock absorbers to reduce fatigue.

The hand saw is the most practical tool to cut shoots and branches up to 3 inches (76mm) in diameter in the internal part of the canopy where the vegetation is dense. Saws can have either rigid or folding blades. The best results are obtained with a rigid blade of at least 15 inches (0.38m) in length, especially for heavy work.

The use of a chain saw can reduce the time and cost of pruning. The chain saw must be light (to avoid fatigue) and robust. For large cuts (either to major branches or to the trunk), the chain saw must have at least 14 inches (0.35m) of free blade to be operated efficiently. Note that using a chain saw is dangerous. This equipment should only be used by pruners in good physical condition, standing on the ground or a stable platform, wearing a helmet, goggles, gloves and heavy-duty clothes for protection. Rest should be frequent and all precautions taken for the worker’s safety.

Pneumatic tools, both shears and saws, can be installed on poles to prune plants up to 138 inches (3.5m) in height without using ladders. A tractor and a compressor are generally required for every two pruning units. Two to four workers for each compressor unit are required for efficient operation of pneumatic tools, in order to justify the initial investment.

All tools should be kept sharp (to make clean cuts without tearing the bark) and clean. Blade sharpening often requires professional skills but many types of shears are sold with replaceable blades. Periodic cleaning of blades to remove wood particles can be done simultaneously with disinfection, using 70% ethanol. If blades are dipped in pesticide or copper solution to prevent spreading of diseases during pruning, they should be carefully rinsed with water and then dried with a cloth to avoid corrosion.

Pruning techniques vary depending on specific cultural conditions and social factors. The type of pruning must be adjusted in relation to plant age, training system, crop load, product use, environmental conditions, soil fertility, and farm structure. Evidently, there is not a single technique that can be recommended for all conditions. The most limiting factor, such as the availability of labor or the cost of pruning, becomes the main criterion for choosing between alternatives.

A few general rules, however, hold true in most conditions. According to Riccardo Gucci and Claudio Cantini, the main ones are:

  • When in doubt, less pruning is better.
  • Not all trees in a grove need to be pruned every year.
  • Pruning should be adjusted to the age of the tree.
  • It is best to proceed from top to bottom.
  • Large cuts should be made before small ones.
  • One main goal should be to correct differences in vigor between branches.
  • Pruning should be rapid and simple.
  • Cost is more important than appearance, except, of course for landscape trees.
  • All cuts that can be delayed until the following year should be.

The Thinning Cut
The thinning cut consists in suppressing the whole shoot, or in reducing the length of the main axis by cutting close to a lateral shoot or branch, which then assumes the terminal role. Thinning cuts reduce the length of the branches and the overall volume of the canopy, and maintain fruit and foliage closer to the center of the plant. Correct thinning requires that the cut be directed to oppose the natural growth habit of the plant by leaving the more erect shoots in plants with pendulous habit and vice-versa.

The Elimination Cut
Entire shoots or branches are removed when fruiting is excessive, when there are too many competing shoots, and when sunlight cannot penetrate the canopy. The elimination cut reduces the competition between shoots without modifying the main axis. The remaining shoots and branches are selected with different orientations to avoid mutual shading and overlapping, and spatially separated along the main axis.

The cuts should be made close to the insertion point of the lateral branch, external to the branch collar and bark ridge. Wound repair may be delayed if the cut is made too close to the main axis or if a long stub is left. The delay in healing makes the exposed tissue a preferential point of entry and diffusion of pests and diseases. Slanting the cuts avoids accumulation of rainwater, which may infiltrate down inside the bark and cause rot.

Pruning should be performed between the end of winter and flowering. Cutting stimulates metabolism and growth, which makes the plant tissue more susceptible to plant injury. In mild climates, with no spring frosts, pruning can be started in winter. Pruning before bud break is risky in cold climates, however, because of the high probability of frost that may damage the remaining tissue and delay wound repair. An advantage of pruning after bud break is that even the inexperienced grower is able to assess the number of flowers and the potential crop removed by pruning, whereas flower buds cannot be distinguished macroscopically from vegetative buds at or before bud break.

Waiting to prune until emergence of inflorescences is feasible in small orchards, but may be difficult to manage in large ones, where a longer period for pruning is necessary. Pruning should not be delayed until after full bloom, since it will remove tissues towards which nutrients and carbon reserves have already been remobilized, resulting in a net loss for the plant. Late pruning does not damage the plant but can reduce seasonal vegetative growth substantially.

Summer pruning is done during the growing season when the plant is actively growing. It is not common in cultivars used for oil and it is usually limited to the elimination of suckers and water sprouts.

The timing of pruning also influences the plant response. Removing shoots at bud break results in much more vigorous growth of the remaining shoots than if the same operation is performed at the beginning of the summer.

Before going into details about the intensity and frequency of pruning, it is useful to note that the current tendency is to prune olive trees as little as possible. Concepts of minimum pruning should be applied in all possible cases to reduce costs substantially and simplify pruning management. These concepts can be summarized as follows:

  • Prune only the trees that need it.
  • Reduce the frequency of pruning.
  • Adopt free-canopy systems.
  • Use irrigation and fertilization to stimulate growth and sustain fruiting.

Note, however, that minimum pruning does not mean neglectful pruning.

The intensity of pruning should be adjusted by taking into account all the factors affecting plant vigor, including age, cultivar, crop load, soil fertility, water availability, and length of growing season. As a general rule, the greater the intensity of cutting, the stronger the vegetative response of the plant will be. Hence, pruning should be more severe on old trees and trees of low vigor than on young plants, or on trees growing in irrigated conditions and in fertile soils.

The intensity of pruning should also take the crop load into consideration. It is especially important because of the alternate bearing habit of the olive tree. In heavy cropping years, the growth of the tree is reduced, so pruning should be limited to the elimination of water sprouts and weak shoots. Alternatively, trees should be pruned more severely after years of low yields.

When trees are not pruned every year, the intensity should be increased.

Under most circumstances, olive trees are pruned each year. Annual pruning is strictly recommended when a rigid frame and a specific shape must be achieved. It is indispensable in table cultivars or when shoot growth is limited by external constraints, such as low soil fertility, long summer drought, short growing season, or old age of plants. In these cases, annual pruning renews the fruiting shoots and stimulates vegetative growth.

Less frequent pruning reduces pruning costs and the need for skilled labor as compared to other types of pruning. In this respect, olive trees for oil production are exceptional in tolerating not being pruned every year without yield losses.

The most critical factor in deciding how frequently to prune olive trees is the rate of the current year’s shoot growth. If active growth is maintained, pruning can be postponed until the following year. Pruning every two years or longer can be more easily implemented in irrigated orchards, in fertile soils, and with trees planted at wide spacing. A biennial frequency can be adopted in the majority of cultural conditions, but intervals longer than three or four years are not always suitable. Otherwise, yields decline markedly, and at the end of the four-year cycle, pruning will have to be drastic, with consequences on the vegetative-reproductive balance of the tree. Cultivars with an upright habit and those sensitive to foliage disease are less suitable for infrequent pruning because the excessively thick canopy and upright growth will make harvesting and pest control more difficult and time consuming.


Following is a description of some common training systems. The question of what is the best training system is often asked but does not have a single answer. The choice really depends on the characteristics and the objectives of the orchard, as well as cost and labor availability.

This is probably the most common training system in many olive-growing areas. The vase has a greater surface-to-volume ratio per tree than systems with a full canopy (e.g. globe, bush). There are several types of vase, including the cone, the inverted cone, the cylinder, a cylinder on top of an inverted cone, or multiple cones. The main characteristics are that there is a single trunk with three to five primary branches. The secondary branches are arranged in a symmetrical, regular way. There is a “window” in the central part of the canopy.

There are several advantages. The light can penetrate the interior of the canopy and is quite evenly distributed. This shape is suitable for different growth habits, for table olives, and for mechanical harvesting if the branches are kept relatively short and a rigid structure is formed. The disadvantages are that skilled labor is required for pruning and that pruning can be time consuming.

The globe is a system with a single trunk and a full canopy. The main difference with the vase is that the center of the canopy is occupied by either secondary branches or by the terminal part of the main axis. This shape is widely used in areas where plants grow vigorously and sunlight is high. The high-density foliage protects the bark for direct sun light. This shape is suitable for mechanical harvesting by trunk shakers and for different growth habits. The foliage can become excessively dense if pruning is neglected, however, and skilled labor is required for pruning.

The vasebush is a vase without a proper trunk, and with primary branches originating from the soil line or inserted on a short trunk. The secondary branches are arranged similarly to the vase configuration. The main advantage of this training system is that the trees are kept shorter than if trained into the vase or globe configuration, so that most operations can be done without a ladder. There is generally an early onset of production. This shape is appropriate for different growth habits. It is easily formed from suckers after cutting the plant at ground level. It is inadequate, however, for mechanical harvesting so must be reserved for hand picking or hand operated equipment. It is an excellent system for table olives.

Central Leader
The central leader, also called monocone or monocone vase, consists of a single trunk, free of any lateral shoot up to 1.0-1.2m (39 to 47″) in height. Primary branches are numerous and arranged in elicoidal fashion along the central axis for maximum occupation of space and minimum overlapping. The primary branches are of decreasing length from the base to the top of the tree. The resulting shape is conical. It is suitable for mechanical harvesting by trunk shakers and for table olives. The visual appearance of the orchard is homogenous. The pruning costs are high, however, and pruning requires skilled labor. These trees tend to get high. There is no advantage in the onset of production, the yield, or the quality of the oil. This shape is not suitable for pendulous cultivars.

Single Trunk Free Canopy
Free canopy systems include all those requiring little or no pruning. Single trunk free canopy systems combine the features of a single trunk with the low cost of and flexibility in pruning. It is similar to the globe but primary branches are not necessarily regularly distributed along the main axis and minimum pruning concepts are applied to the whole canopy. The lateral branches are selected among those growing naturally on the main axis. The pruning costs are low. This shape is suitable for mechanical harvesting and for different growth habit. The appearance of the trees is not very homogenous in the orchard and experience is required to determine the intensity and frequency of pruning.

The bush is a free canopy system obtained with minimum pruning from the time it is planted. The canopy is allowed to grow as free as possible so that the final shape resembles that of naturally growing plants. The trunk is short or absent with lateral scaffolds that make it unsuitable for harvesting by shakers. Hardly any pruning is required during training, and only minimum pruning is done on mature trees. No skilled labor is required. The production onset is generally early and this shape is suitable for different growth habits. It is also easily converted to the vasebush or free vase form. The orchard appearance is not homogenous.

Riccardo Gucci, Claudio Cantini: Pruning and Training Systems for Modern Olive Growing.

G. Steven Sibbett and Louise Ferguson: Olive Production Manual, University of California.

Paul M. Vossen: Organic Olive Production Manual, University of California.

Paul M. Vossen: Ten Basics of When and How to Prune Fruit Trees

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The olive is an evergreen plant that can grow as a shrub, hedge, or tree. Olive trees can grow as tall as 30 feet. Olives bear small pitted fruits that can be cured for table consumption or pressed for oil. Some olives are grown for ornamental use, often as shrubs or hedges–the olive’s narrow gray-green leaves offset the dark green of most gardens and the olive’s branching is noted for its billowing form.

Olive trees grown for their fruit are best trained and pruned to a manageable height–from 12 to 15 feet tall–the shorter stature will allow for an easier harvest.

Pruning Olive Trees

Olive trees fruit along one-year-old wood usually at the periphery of the tree canopy. Prune each year to encourage wood that will fruit. Thin out broken, diseased, and unproductive wood. Head back drooping wood and prune out water sprouts. Olives are best trained on trunks 3 to 4 feet tall with 3 to 4 scaffold or main lateral branches trained or pruned to different direction beginning at about 4 feet from the ground. (Multi-trunked olives are often used ornamentally but can be kept to a manageable height for harvesting. Don’t allow multi-trunked trees to grow too dense in the center.)

Train and prune olives to an open center allowing sunlight to reach deep into the crown of the tree. Remove basal sprouts; pull them away don’t cut them to make sure they do not regrow. Rub off buds near the ground level that may become suckers. Olives that go unpruned will become densely twigged and crowded.

When to Prune an Olive Tree

Prune olive trees in early spring before buds and flowers set. Olive trees can be thinned at any time of the year without damaging the tree. However, if you prune in late spring or summer after flowering, the harvest is likely to be decreased. You can prune in winter if the weather is frost-free and dry. Prune in dry weather to allow cuts to heal before frost or rain. Regularly pruned olives will require less pruning and thinning than trees that have been neglected. In regions with severe droughts, pruning in summer will reduce the number of leaves competing for water and may enhance the harvest.

Thinning Olives

Olives fruit from the leaf axial along one-year-old wood or stems, not at the end of stems. Three to four fruits per foot are sufficient for a good crop. Thin away extra fruit to increase the size and oil content of the fruit on the tree. Thinning will also hasten the harvest and allow for a good harvest the next year. Olives are best thinned in late spring or early summer several weeks after the initial fruit set. Hand thinning is the most effective way to thin.

Training New Olive Trees

Train new trees to have a clear trunk 3 to 4 feet tall. Prune away side branches below where you want the main scaffold to branch; the main scaffold should begin at 4 to 5 feet from the ground. Select 3 or 4 well-spaced laterals or branches to form the main scaffold. Train these young branches in the desired direction away from each other.

When to begin training a new tree. There are two schools of thought on this. Some begin training new trees immediately, selecting a leader to become a trunk and then encouraging select laterals to form a scaffold. Others allow olive trees to grow for 3 or 4 years almost as a shrub before beginning to prune and train. This strategy allows the tree to gain strength and even begin to bear fruit before the main trunk and scaffold branches are selected.

Renovating Mature Olive Trees

An overgrown and unattended olive should be pruned to regain the tree’s form and open its crown to sunlight. Prune to establish a clear trunk 3 to 4 feet tall. Prune out broken, dead, diseased, and unproductive wood first. Prune to establish a crown with 3 to 5 main branches. Once the main scaffold is established, thin out new shoots to open the tree to sunlight and continue to prune away suckers and water sprouts on a yearly schedule. An olive tree will recover from heavy pruning. Pruning will stimulate and encourage the growth of new fruiting wood.

Also of interest:

How to Plant, Grow, Prune, and Harvest Olives

Olive Growing

Olives: Kitchen Basics

4) Pick a good pot for your Olive Tree

When growing Olive Trees in containers, terracotta or wood is a preferable choice as these are more ‘breathable’ and will help with drainage and insulation. A good quality plastic pot however, has the benefit of being more lightweight and less prone to breakage. As with most pot grown plants, olive trees do not like frozen roots. It’s a good idea to insulate the inside of the pot with bubble insulation before you plant. Raising the pot on ‘feet’ will also ensure water can freely drain away.

5) Change your pot

When growing-on a young olive tree it is a good idea to transfer it to a slightly larger pot each spring as it grows to refresh the compost. Ultimately there is really no limit to the size of container you use other than the ability to move it if needed. Planted containers can be very heavy so take care to prevent injuring yourself when moving them. Use of a pot-mover can be a great help with this and there are some very good ones available now.

6) Be careful in Winter

While Olive Trees are very hardy (and almost indestructible) Olive Trees need to be ready for life in the British climate. Planting in spring will give your olive tree plenty of time to establish before next winter but it may be a good idea to bring the tree inside during prolonged cold spells. An unheated greenhouse or light porch is ideal! Just remember to re-acclimatise the plant to outdoor conditions again in spring. Alternatively, if left outside, we recommend that additional bubble insulation be wrapped around the pot and breathable fleece can be used to protect the canopy. However, Olive Trees should still cope well in the cold.

7) Keep the soil moist

Although drought tolerant, the restriction of roots growing in a pot means olive trees must be watered regularly and the compost should not be allowed to dry out. A fortnightly feed with liquid seaweed extract will help keep your olive tree healthy along with an annual springtime top-dressing with a slow release fertiliser. Keep the compost surface weed-free to cut out competition for water and nutrients.

Problems with Olive Trees in Pots & Solutions: Everything You Want to Know

Olive trees in pots make an excellent space-saving addition to your home, patio, landscape or entrance of your house. However, there might be few problems with olive trees in pots I would like to speak about today. By knowing how to solve these problems, the growth of your trees will become easier and more fun! Let’s look at the key problems with olive trees in pots you would like to avoid when gardening.

Choose Pot Size for Your Olive Tree Carefully

The first major problem with olive trees in pots has to do with the pot size: it is harmful to the expanding root system if the pot is too small. An olive tree will quickly grow roots that hit the sides of the container and turn. Within no time the pot is full of circling roots, and the olive tree becomes “pot-bound.”

When the pot is too small for your olive tree, the solution is re-potting described below.

Tips on How to Choose the Right Pot for Your Olive Tree

  • It should suit the style of your home, garden, patio, and landscape
  • Large enough to house the root ball of your olive tree
  • Ensure that the pot has a sufficient amount of drainage holes
  • Do not put a small olive tree in a very large container; instead, size up the pot in stages
  • If you need extra stability to prevent olive trees blowing down in windy weather, choose heavy frost-proof Terracotta pots with drain holes. However, the sponginess of these pots means the compost dries out quickly and the weight makes them difficult to move around
  • Clay pots are heavy and keep the tree stable in windy conditions, especially with larger trees
  • Lighter-weight plastic garden pot is a good choice if your olive tree is small and up to couple years old and they are good at retaining moisture
  • Metal, wood, and stone pots are also available

Re-Pot Your Olive Tree Each Several Years

Several years after planting olive trees in pots, the trees circling roots will begin to strangle the trunk, ultimately causing the death of the olive tree. As to avoid it, the olive trees need repotting every three to five years.

One of the symptoms of a too crowded pot includes leaves that turn yellow and drop off. Or if you notice roots escaping from the drainage holes, re-pot the tree instantly.

How to Re-pot an Olive Tree?

  1. Choose a pot that is about 25 percent larger than the current pot with drainage holes
  2. Replace the old potting soil with a new one. Be sure to use a potting mix and not ground soil. Ground soil will not drain well in the container and could possibly have insects inside it. Any commercial, well-draining potting soil will be fine for an olive tree.
  3. If the olive tree is a pot-bound when you change pots, perform root pruning by using a box cutter or other sharp instrument to score along the sides of the root ball and remove the mass of roots. This will stimulate new root growth and keep the plant healthier.
  4. Trim off broken or damaged roots and cut through roots that circle around the inner side of the pot
  5. Look for rotting roots, which will be soft and brown, and trim them off
  6. If you don’t want your tree to grow any larger, you can pot it back into the same pot
  7. Trim 5 to 7 cm (2 to 3 inches) off of about a one-fourth of the roots
  8. A layer of gravel, Styrofoam, lava rock, crushed cans (or anything loose) should fill the bottom of the pot to facilitate draining
  9. Set the tree in the pot so that the soil line on the trunk is about 1 inch below the lip of the pot
  10. Water when the pot is half full of soil to allow settling, and then fill the pot with soil to the soil line and water again
  11. The last but not least point, to re-pot a large olive tree is a job for two or more people, so don’t try it on your own.

Remember re-potting an olive tree once per few years not only boosts the tree growth but as well restore the nutrition of the potting soil.

Don’t Make This Mistake when Re-potting Your Olive Tree

The most common problem when the olive tree is re-potted involves the depth of the trunk and root system in the pot. Too often the olive trees are planted a little bit too deep in the pot, causing root defects. When planted olive tree into the pot, make sure to set the tree in the pot so that the soil line on the root ball is about 5 cm (2 inches) depth.

As well you can run into problems if the pot is too large for the current olive tree size. When soil present is abundant and not enough roots to take up the water, it can retain moisture for too long and cause root rots that can ultimately kill the plant.

Protect Your Olive Trees in Pots from Cold & Freezing Weather

Olive trees in pots suffer serious damage at temperatures below 25 degrees F (-4 °C). In exposed gardens, olive trees in pots will need protecting during winter as the roots growing near the edges are vulnerable to freezing temperatures.

What is the Best Way to Protect Your Olive Tree in Pot from Freezing Weather?

  • When freezing weather threatens, provide two layers of protection by covering the tree with a blanket and then a sheet of plastic or a bubble wrap. Remove the covering the following day.
  • For protection from prolonged periods of freezing weather, you may start thinking about bringing your olive trees in pots inside. Moving a large potted olive tree is a job for 2 people at least – don’t try to do it alone because you may injure your muscles if you are not careful. If you moving a tree alone, attach wheels to the bottom of the pot or use a hand-truck to transfer the tree.
  • Prior to bringing any trees indoors, consider their health. Be sure to check your olive tree for any pest. If your olive tree does have pests, we recommend treating it two weeks prior to moving it indoors. Once the pests are under control, you can prep your plants for going inside.
  • Before moving your olive trees in pots indoors, be certain you have the right location for them. They will thrive best if placed near a southern-facing window with bright sunlight coming inside. Use a spray bottle and mist the leaves daily in order to provide more humidity for your olive trees, especially when you have the heat running and your home feels dry. If there is not enough moisture in the area, the foliage on your trees will become dry, crispy, and may even turn brown. Water thoroughly when the soil doesn’t feel moist to the touch.

Olive Tree in Pot Pest Management

No matter that the olive trees are one of the most pest-resistance trees, there are still sometimes problems with pets of pot-grown olive trees. The most common pests are fruit flies and scale insects. Let’s go through some practical tips on how to get rid of unwelcome “guests”.

  • If the potted olive tree is indoors, move it outdoors to expose the pests to their natural enemies.
  • Handpick scale insects to control light infestations
  • Olive tree treatment with insecticidal soap is often effective and kills these insects. Spray the undersides of the leaves of scale with a ready-to-use commercial insecticidal soap or lemony soapy water. Repeat weekly, if necessary. Also, you can use a Savon de Marseille spray made for plants.
  • If soap spray doesn’t resolve the pest problem, try light agricultural (horticultural) oil. Carefully read instructions and make sure you spray the entire tree, including the undersides of the leaves. Wear long sleeves, long pants, and gloves when spraying horticultural oil to prevent skin irritation.

Common Problem with Olive Trees in Pots is Watering Issue

Another problem with olive trees in pots is watering issues because the tree will dry out far more quickly than those growing in the ground and will need regular watering. If tree roots are not kept moist, potted olive trees quickly struggle to survive.

The real problem with olive trees in pots is sitting in the wet soil. You can leave your tree outside but out of the constant rain. If you live in a rainy area, you should bring the potted tree inside and keep it on the south side of your house in the sunniest place.

How often to water Olive Trees in Pots?

Once re-potted in a well-draining soil make sure to water your olive tree every day to establish roots. Afterward, water your olive tree in the pot 1-2 times per week. In the winter, you can stretch this once every 2 weeks.

Simple keep the soil moist, but not wet, at all times, even during winter when soil can dry out quickly in the wind if kept outdoors.

Drainage is Essential

Even if you have the correct size of the pot for your olive tree, you can run into root rot and other problems if there are not enough drainage holes. Always check the bottoms of your pot, ensure the holes are not obstructed. Use a drill to create more holes as needed for controlling water excess. Fill the bottom of the pot with a layer of gravel, Styrofoam, lava rock, crushed cans or stones which helps to drain the water faster.

Regular Fertilization for Your Olive Tree

Select carefully your fertilizer for olive trees twice a year during the growing season in spring and for fruit maturing in mid-summer. Avoid compost and mulches, these are often too heavy and moisture-retaining for olive trees. Use a small amount of any normal store-bought nitrogen-based fertilizer, following the package’s instructions. Of course, you can also buy fertilizer especially for olive trees but it isn’t necessary.

You fertilize the tree to give back nutrients that have been depleted over time. However, you can give a new soil while re-potted to basically restore olive tree growth. Give trees in pots a boost, by refreshing the top layer of soil annually in spring. Carefully scrape away about 2.5 cm (1 inch) of soil from the surface and replace it with fresh soil – mix in some controlled-release fertilizer granules.


And there you have it – your place caring for these ancient plants. Olive trees in pots are becoming so popular home accessories, guaranteed to make a statement and bring a touch of the Mediterranean to your lovely home or garden. But with growing olive trees in pots here comes the problems. However, knowing the symptoms of the tree “illness” and knowing how to treat them, you can anticipate any problems may arise while enjoying the olive trees in pots in your surroundings.

I genuinely hope this post was helpful to you to learn the problems with olive trees in pots. Thus our solutions will help you to grow successfully your first olive tree in your garden, home or patio!

In addition, you can adopt our Oliviada Olive Tree in Greece and enjoy our Greek family produces high-quality Kalamata olive oil. We have a few Olive Tree Adoption packages to suggest to you. Find out more:

  • Rated 5.00 out of 5

    Kalamata Olive Oil Gift Set from Greece


  • Rated 5.00 out of 5

    Annual Greek Olive Tree Adoption as a Gift


  • Rated 5.00 out of 5

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Check out the other section of my blog for more info about Olive trees and Greek Olive Oil!

Greek Olive Tree Symbolism

How do Olives Grow? Planting, Re-potting, Pruning, Care and more

Useful Guide for Buying an Olive Tree

The Best Olive Oil Worldwide 2019

Greek Olive Oil Nutrition Facts and Calories

How to make olive oil at home helpful illustrated guide

Is Olive Oil and Vegetable Oil (Canola Oil) the same thing?

What is the Mediterranean Diet Menu?

Healthy Mediterranean Style Side Dishes

• Climate Olive trees are native to the Mediterranean, so they thrive in a climate where the summer is long, hot and dry and the winter is cool (they’re quite frost tolerant). Not suited to the tropics, they will grow well in temperate climates and even along coastal areas.


• Aspect Plant in full sun where the tree will receive at least six hours of direct sunlight. Preferably give it a position out of strong winds or stake well.

• Soil These trees can survive on poor, low-nutrient soils, providing they are well-drained. However, they will produce better fruit if planted in well-drained, fertile soil. If you’re growing in pots, use a top-quality potting mix.

• Fertiliser Feed in early spring and late summer with a well-balanced fertiliser, such as Yates Dynamic Lifter Advanced For Fruit & Citrus or Osmocote Plus Organics Fruit & Citrus, which feeds the plant and enriches the soil, too.


• Watering Water new trees regularly until they’re well established. Mature trees are very drought tolerant but will produce better fruit if watered well.

• Pruning To encourage growth, prune out suckers and low branches during winter, and remove the tips of stems that have grown too long.

• Pests and diseases Keep an eye out for olive lace bugs. These are native Australian critters that suck sap from the underside of the leaves – they can completely defoliate the tree and eventually kill it. If seen, thoroughly spray the underside of the leaves with a product such as Eco-oil or pyrethrum. Peacock spot, a widespread fungal disease, can also affect the leaves and strip the tree of its foliage. It causes sooty blotches to form on the leaves in winter, which develop into greenish-black circular spots. To control the disease, infected trees should be thoroughly sprayed in late autumn with a copper fungicide such as Yates Fungus Fighter Copper Fungicide. If the problem is severe, spray again in early winter.

• Harvesting Once the tree is four or five years old, it will start to bear fruit. Harvesting generally takes place from mid-autumn to early winter. For green olives, pick your fruit when it turns from dark green to light green, or you can wait for them to turn black, but still firm, for black olives. They can be picked by hand or, for the more serious pickers, spread a sheet or tarpaulin on the ground underneath the tree, then shake the tree vigorously to free the fruit.


Top 5 olive trees
Check out these well-known olive cultivars – their fruit can be pickled or pressed into oil.

‘Kalamata’ produces juicy, sweet olives that are harvested once they turn black. Recognisable by their unique torpedo shape, they are ideal for cooking or eating on their own. This variety is self-fertile, but fruiting may improve if cross-pollinated with Frantoio. Height: 8m

‘Picual’ is a medium-sized tree originating from Spain. It bears fruit early in the season that’s best picked when ripe. This variety is self-fertile but may benefit from cross-pollination with Arbequina. Height: 6m

‘Frantoio’ is well-known for it olives, which are used to make fruity, aromatic oil. When pickled, these olives have a pleasant nutty flavour. Frantoio is a self-fertile variety that consistently produces heavy yields. Height: 8m

‘Manzanillo’ is one of Spain’s finest varieties. It’s considered the world’s best dual-purpose cultivar as its olives can be pickled when they’re green or black, and are also used to produce oil that is exported internationally. This variety is self-fertile, but may benefit from cross-pollination with Frantoio and Arbequina. Height: 5m

‘Arbequina’ bears olives that are traditionally used for oil production, but they can also be pickled green or black. This variety is self-fertile and fruits early in the season. Height: 4-5m


Pruning an Olive Tree

Josh Byrne

JOSH BYRNE: If you leave an olive to do its own thing, you’ll end up with a massive tree, which means it takes lots of space and also makes it difficult to pick the fruit, so I’m going to prune this tree to make it easy to manage. That’ll also encourage more fruit and I want to highlight its beautiful natural form.

Timing is important. If you prune hard in late winter or early spring you’ll get a flush of new growth which defeats the purpose of the prune. To avoid this, you can prune after fruiting – hard prune that is – which is at the end of autumn or in early winter. Better still, give it a light prune each year to keep the canopy in check. Now because most olive varieties are bi-annual fruiting, which means they produce a heavy crop every other year, this also helps to even the fruit production out.

The first thing to do is to prune any suckers off from the base. All they do is rob the canopy of water and nutrients. Now I’ve already pruned these ones off when I did the tidy up on my front garden. But, you can see, they’re already coming back.

Next, remove any dead, damaged or crossing branches. Now I’m going to take back these main leaders by about a quarter. At the moment they’re just reaching for the sky. If need be, you can completely remove some branches to allow in more air and light. The aim is to have a nice, even, balanced canopy.

Finally, I’m going to feed the olive with an organic manure and mineral based fertiliser. But before I do that, I’m just scuffing up the mulch around the root zone to make sure the fertiliser has contact with the soil. Now, as you can see, I’ve clearly given this more than just a light annual prune, but that’s because the tree’s been neglected for at least 3 or 4 years, so I’ve brought it back into shape. What’s the result? It’ll grow into a beautiful feature tree for my front yard and give me loads of fruit.

STEPHEN RYAN: We meet lots of old and knowledgeable gardeners on this show with a lifetime of experience to pass on. But in Adelaide, Sophie’s met a younger gardener with wisdom beyond his years.

Pruning Olives

SERIES 28 – Episode 24

Tino demonstrates how to successfully prune an olive tree

Pruning is a major part of growing olives and is the question most olive growers get asked.

The main goal is to open the olive tree up to improve airflow to help control pest and diseases and to allow fruit to ripen on the inside as well as the extents of the tree. This improves the overall yield.

  1. Gather all tools and safety equipment (including safety glasses).
  2. Prune on all sides of the olive tree, so walk around it to assess it before you start.
  3. Work from the base up. Starting at the base of the trunk, remove any suckering growth.
  4. Remove all growth from below the main fork of the olive tree.
  5. Remove any downward-facing branches.
  6. Thin out the remaining parts of the tree, cutting out any branches that are growing through others.
  7. On healthy trees, you won’t need to remove too much growth. If you cut back too hard, the result is the tree will grow more wood. If the tree is young or in poor condition, a hard cut can help bring it back to full vigour.


  • It’s better to start pruning olive trees when they are young as this will reduce the amount you will need to prune from the tree as it matures.
  • Olives are dual fruiters meaning they will have a year on, year off fruiting, but good light pruning annually will boost yields season after season.

2009 Georgia Gold Medal Winners

Circular 908-2 View PDF picture_as_pdf

Gary L. Wade and Bodie V. Pennisi
Department of Horticulture

  • Summer Annual — Summer Snapdragon (Angelonia angustifolia)
  • Herbaceous Perennial — Arkansas Blue Star (Amsonia hubrectii)
  • Evergreen Vine — Armand Clematis (Clematis armandii)
  • Evergreen Shrub — Fragrant Tea Olive (Osmanthus fragrans)
  • Deciduous Tree — Lavender Twist® Redbud (Cercis canadensis “Covey” P.P. 10328)

Each year, an elite group of Green Industry and academic professionals from throughout Georgia convene to select a slate of outstanding ornamental plants in five categories: annual flower, herbaceous perennial, vine, shrub and tree. Only one plant in each category can earn the Plant Selection Committee’s coveted Gold Medal Award.

The nominees are judged on a strict list of criteria, including pest tolerance, ease of maintenance, survivability, seasonal interest and availability. The list of nominees is long and the selection process is tedious, but in the end, all on the committee agree that the plants chosen are deserving of their Gold Medal designation.

Like previous winners, the 2009 selections represent the best of the best in their respective categories, including a low-maintenance annual flower that provides an explosion of blooms from summer though fall, a herbaceous perennial with a soft foliage texture and outstanding fall color, an evergreen flowering vine with few pest problems, a flowering shrub with outstanding fall fragrance, and a tree that is sure to be the focal point in any landscape.

The following is a brief description of each of the 2009 winners. Look for them in your local garden center or nursery.

And remember:
When You Take Home a Georgia Gold Medal Plant, You Take Home a Winner!

Summer Annual

Summer Snapdragon, Angelonia angustifolia

Summer snapdragon, Angelonia angustifolia
Photo: Bodie PennisiSummer snapdragon, Angelonia angustifolia
Photo: Bodie Pennisi

Full Sun

Summer snapdragon, Angelonia angustifolia, is one of the hottest new summer annuals on the market today. Landscape professionals and horticulturists are raving about its heat and drought tolerance, extended bloom period and performance in the landscape. Better Homes and Gardens magazine listed it as one of the top 20 annuals of 2008.

The flowers of summer snapdragon look a lot like those of its cousin, the winter snapdragon; however, summer snapdragon likes summer heat, not winter cold. Native to Mexico and the West Indies, summer snapdragon over-winters in most of Florida but is best treated as an annual north of the Florida border.

Summer snapdragons are available in a wide range of colors, including white, rose, lilac, violet, blue and many shades in between. Some cultivars have speckled or bicolor flowers. Flowering occurs over an eight- to 10-week period in summer, peaking in June and July. In coastal Georgia, well-established plants have been shown to over-winter.

Plants have a bushy growth habit and reach 18 to 24 inches tall. They are quite vigorous and may flop over in late summer. If this happens, cut them back to stimulate new growth and additional blooms in fall. Flower spikes consist of about a dozen flowers, each approximately 1 inch across. They open in sequence from the bottom of the spike upward. The flowers hold up well in floral arrangements.

Plant summer snapdragon in full sun and well-drained soil. Set plants 12 inches apart. They also can be grown in patio containers and look particularly nice when combined with plants that have gray leaves, like wormwood, silver plectranthus or lamb’s ear.

A slow-release fertilizer, such as Osmocote, incorporated into soil at planting time will ensure uniform growth. Supplement the granular fertilizer with liquid feed, as needed, to keep plants looking their best. Let the plants dry out between waterings but be prepared to provide supplemental irrigation during dry spells.

Summer snapdragon can be grown from seed, summer tip cuttings or division of the root mass.

Herbaceous Perennial

Arkansas Blue Star, Amsonia hubrectii

Arkansas Blue Star, Amsonia hubrectii
Photos: Gary WadeArkansas Blue Star, Amsonia hubrectii

Full Sun to Partial Shade

Hardiness Zones 4 to 10

Although native to the south central United States, Arkansas blue star (Amsonia hubrectii) has not been widely available in the nursery trade until recently. However, once gardeners and landscapers discover the wonderful qualities of this plant, they will wonder how it could have been overlooked for so long.

Arkansas blue star is a clumping herbaceous perennial, reaching 3 feet tall and wide. Numerous upright shoots bearing thread-like leaves emerge from the base and have a delicate, feather-like appearance. In spring, light-blue star-shaped flowers with a yellow center are borne along the upper portions of the stem and persist for three to four weeks. The early flowers are the most visible since the foliage often masks those formed later.

The real show begins in fall when the foliage turns golden yellow and literally glows when the sun strikes it. It’s a show stopper when planted in groups of three or more plants and backed up by taller evergreens, ornamental grasses or plants with burgundy foliage, like pink loropetalum. After the fall display, the foliage turns brown but continues to add interest in the winter landscape.

Cut back Arkansas blue star in early spring to make way for new shoots originating from the base. The plant is moderately slow to get started, but, like fine wine, it improves with age. As parent clumps age, the plant fills out and becomes more attractive as the number of shoots from the base of the plant increases.

Once it is established, Arkansas blue star is drought-tolerant and low-maintenance. It’s also deer tolerant, a feature a growing number of gardeners look for today.

Use Arkansas blue star in rock gardens, perennial borders or meadows. It is propagated from seed, summer stem cuttings or division.

Evergreen Vine

Armand Clematis, Clematis armandii

Armand Clematis, Clematis armandii
Photo: Online Plant GuideArmand Clematis, Clematis armandii
Photo: Online Plant Guide

Hardiness Zones 7 to 9

Unlike other clematis that are prized for their flowers, armand clematis (Clematis armandii) would be a great vine even if it didn’t flower. Its glossy, evergreen leaves are attractive year round and provide visual interest to fences, arbors, trellises, walls or pergolas.

Spring flowers are an added bonus of armand clematis. White, fragrant, star-shaped flowers appear in March in Athens, Ga., (earlier in more southern zones) and persist nearly a month. Flowers have a spicy, subtle fragrance that is not overpowering. They are about 2.5 inches across and are borne in panicles from the previous season’s growth.

Armand clematis leaves are about 3 inches long and 1 to 2.5 inches wide. Clusters of three leaves, called leaflets, emerge from a single point along the stem.

Expect armand clematis to grow 20 to 30 feet by the end of two to three growing seasons. It is not nearly as aggressive as wisteria, confederate jasmine or Carolina jessamine, which require regular pruning during the growing season to prevent them from becoming overgrown. It can be kept in bounds with light pruning after flowering and an occasional snip or two during the growing season. Because it flowers on the previous season’s growth, avoid pruning it after mid-July.

Armand clematis can be grown in most areas of Georgia, except the extreme north Georgia mountains where winter temperatures sometimes dip into the single digits. Winter protection is advised when temperatures dip into the low teens.

Plant armand clematis in moist, well-drained soils and full sun to partial shade. It is not particularly drought tolerant, so it will require some moisture during periods of limited rainfall. It can be propagated from summer cuttings or by layering.

Evergreen Shrub

Fragrant Tea Olive, Osmanthus fragrans

Fragrant Tea Olive, Osmanthus fragrans
Photo: Matthew Chappell Fragrant Tea Olive, Osmanthus fragrans
Photos: Gary Wade

Hardiness Zones 7 to 10

For a heavenly scent in the landscape, plant fragrant tea olive (Osmanthus fragrans). Its sweet perfume is a pleasant surprise in September and October, a time when other plants are tapering off in their growth and preparing for their winter rest. One whiff of its intoxicating fragrance and you’ll fall in love with this award-winning plant.

Fragrance is not the only merit that earned fragrant tea olive a Georgia Gold Medal Award. It’s also a tough, low-maintenance plant with few pest problems, and it adapts to a wide range of soils, from coastal sands to Piedmont clays.

Classified as a large shrub, fragrant tea olive reaches 20 to 30 feet tall and wide. It is best used as a background plant in a perennial border, a specimen plant or an evergreen hedge. It is easily trained into a small evergreen tree. It also can be used to soften corners of the home, but its large stature rules out its use at the doorway or under low windows.

Creamy white flowers are often hidden among the foliage and are not usually noticeable until their fragrance infiltrates the landscape. There are several fragrant tea olive cultivars in the trade, such as “apricot gold,” which produces apricot-gold flowers, and “butter yellow,” which produces creamy yellow flowers.

Fragrant tea olive hails from China where it is commonly called cassia flower. There the flowers are harvested for their fragrance, which is extracted and infused in teas, jams, cakes, soups, soaps and perfumes.

Fragrant tea olive is sensitive to cold injury when temperatures dip into the single digits and can be killed at temperatures below zero. In the upper range of hardiness zone 7 and in zone 6 (north Georgia mountains), fortune’s tea olive (Osmanthus x fortunei) may be a better choice. It has a similar growth habit with the same delightful fragrance and better cold hardiness than fragrant tea olive.

Fertilize fragrant tea olive in early spring with a complete fertilizer, such as 16-4-8. Look for a fertilizer containing slow-release nitrogen. Azalea/camellia-type fertilizer can also be used. Prune as necessary during the growing season to shape the plant into the desired growth form.

Deciduous Tree

Lavender Twist® Redbud, Cercis canadensis “Covey” P.P. 10328

Lavender Twist® Redbud, Cercis canadensis
Photo: Lavender Twist® Redbud, Cercis canadensis
Photo: Lavender Twist® Redbud, Cercis canadensis

Hardiness Zones 4 to 9

Landscape architects talk about creating a focal point when designing a landscape — one that draws the eye to a particular spot. This is often done with statuary, a fountain or a gazing ball. A plant can also be used as a focal point, but the plant has to have special features and year-round interest that attracts the attention of visitors every month of the year. One such plant is lavender twist redbud.

In spring, lavender twist redbud begins the show with lavender-pink pea-like blossoms borne along its cascading branches, like sprays from a fountain. Soon after flowering, heart-shaped leaves emerge, and the tree assumes an umbrella-like form in the summer landscape. Finally, when winter arrives and the leaves drop, the tree becomes a living sculpture in the landscape with zig-zag branches, a contorted trunk and persistent pea-like seed pods that hang from its weeping branches. Each tree develops a different and unique growth habit, and no two trees look alike.

Lavender twist redbud is a weeping form of our native redbud, discovered in 1991 in Westfield, NY, in the garden of Connie Covey. At that time, the tree was about 35 years old, 4.5 feet tall and 7 feet wide with a trunk diameter of about 6 inches. One of the unique features of the tree, other than its growth habit, is that it goes dormant early, before the first frost. This early dormancy makes it more winter hardy and able to adapt to areas as far north as Maine and Minnesota.

Lavender twist redbud is a small tree, growing up to 15 feet tall and wide. It prefers moist, well-drained soils and full sun to partial shade. It’s a slow grower, so patience is a virtue with this plant. Blossoms form at an early age, often the first year, and flowering improves with age and size.

Lavender twist redbud also can be planted in clusters of three to five plants for extra accent or in a large container for the patio or poolside. Staking and training are needed if an upright growth habit is desired. Otherwise, the plant will assume a more weeping form. The tree is patented and is grown via grafting onto a rootstock only by licensed growers.

Status and Revision History
Published on Mar 11, 2009
Published with Full Review on Mar 30, 2012
Published with Full Review on Feb 21, 2016

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