Essential Tips for Caring for Olive Trees in Pots

how to care for olive tree in pot

Are you considering adding an Olive Tree to your garden or indoor space? Olive Trees are a fantastic addition, with their lovely silver foliage and historical significance. However, since Olives are not fully hardy in the UK and don’t tolerate temperatures below -10°C (14°F), growing them in pots is the ideal solution. This way, you can easily move them to a sheltered spot or even indoors when needed. In this article, we will share expert tips on how to care for Olive Trees in pots, ensuring they thrive and bring beauty to your space.

Where to Position Your Olive Tree

As Mediterranean plants, Olive Trees thrive in sunny and sheltered spots. When choosing a location in your garden, find the sunniest area with partial shade. Protect the tree from constant north or east winds, and consider placing it beside a sunny wall. This positioning will provide the optimal conditions for your Olive Tree’s growth.

Can Olive Trees Live Indoors?

While Olive Trees are not typically indoor plants, they can adapt to indoor environments with the right care. Natural light and air circulation are crucial for their well-being. Avoid placing your Olive Tree in a corner and instead opt for a location with air movement. If possible, position it near an open window to allow for fresh air. Additionally, periodically take your tree outside for an airing and thoroughly wash it, including the undersides of the leaves, to remove pests.

Best Soil Type for Olive Trees

Olive trees are hardy and can tolerate both acidic and alkaline soils. However, regardless of soil type, proper drainage is essential. To replicate the arid conditions they thrive in, use a loam-based compost, such as John Innes No. 3, with 20% added grit. This will ensure the soil provides adequate drainage and mimics their native environment.

Best Container for an Olive Tree

Terracotta and wooden containers are popular choices for growing Olive Trees in pots due to their breathability and drainage properties. Plastic pots are lighter and easier to move, but they provide less insulation. If using plastic, line the pot with bubble wrap before planting to prevent the roots from freezing. Whichever pot material you choose, make sure to add plenty of crocks at the bottom and raise the pot on pot feet to enhance drainage.

Potting on Olive Trees

When potting on your Olive Tree, gradually transition it to larger pots each time. Avoid putting it directly into the final, massive pot you envision for it. This gradual transition allows the tree to acclimate to its new space over a year and ensures proper growth. It’s also an opportunity to provide fresh compost to nourish the plant. When moving the tree, gently tease the roots free of the soil and spread them slightly to help with establishment.

Caring for Olive Trees

Proper watering is crucial for the health of your Olive Tree, especially in its first year. Water your indoor tree regularly, preferably weekly or whenever the top 5cm (2″) of soil feels dry. For outdoor trees, adjust watering based on rainfall and soil moisture levels. Once the tree is fully established, reduce watering to once a month. However, during these monthly waterings, take the tree outside and give it a thorough drenching to remove built-up salts and chemicals.

In the winter, established trees do not require additional feeding or watering. Young and container-grown trees can be watered less frequently from September to March. Keep the pot weed-free to avoid competition for resources.

Feeding Olive Trees

To promote the health of your Olive Tree, feed it with liquid seaweed extract, fish, blood, or bonemeal from early spring until mid-August. In the first year, feed the tree every two weeks, then switch to monthly feedings in subsequent years. Additionally, apply a slow-release fertilizer two or three times during the growing season to provide long-term nourishment.

Pruning Olive Trees

Occasional pruning is necessary to maintain the shape of your Olive Tree. As they are slow-growing, Olive Trees do not require severe pruning. Remove any dead branches in late spring and thin out dense branches to allow light penetration. To encourage a branching shape, pinch out the tips of young shoots. However, be mindful that fruit is produced at the tips of the previous year’s growth, so avoid excessive pruning if you want to enjoy a bountiful harvest.

Harvesting Olives

Olive trees typically start producing fruit between three to five years of age. Harvesting usually begins in mid-winter, from November onwards. Olives can be harvested while green, but they will turn black and drop off when fully ripe. If you plan to eat the olives, curing is necessary to reduce their bitterness and make them more enjoyable.

Olive Tree Pests & Diseases

Extreme cold weather poses a risk to Olive Trees, especially younger ones. During prolonged cold spells, consider bringing your tree inside, whether in a shed, unheated greenhouse, conservatory, or porch. Wrapping the tree with fleece jackets can also provide protection and can be removed during the day to acclimate the plant as the weather warms. Alternatively, bubble wrap can be used, but it is less breathable and more cumbersome.

Watch out for pests such as scale insects, red spider mites, and spittlebugs, which can damage the tree and inhibit its growth. Regularly inspect your Olive Tree and remove any signs of infestation promptly. Leaf drop, outside of the natural shedding that occurs in spring, may indicate dehydration.

Remember, indoor Olive Trees may not flower due to the need for specific temperature fluctuations and a two-month period below 10°C (50 °F). However, they still serve as stunning decorative plants.

Tips Tree Planting is dedicated to providing expert advice and guidance on all aspects of tree care. For more information on caring for Olive Trees and other valuable tree care tips, visit Tips Tree Planting. Bring the beauty of Olive Trees to your space and enjoy their elegant silver foliage year-round!