Olive Trees in Pots: The Ultimate Guide to Container Gardening

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If you are growing a potted olive tree in your house or backyard, have you ever wanted to learn how to care for olive trees in pots but didn’t know where to begin? Well, here I’ll cover everything from choosing the suitable olive tree variety to planting, care, and harvesting. With this knowledge, you can establish regular care and maintenance of your olive trees in pots.

Overall, it is uncomplicated care for olive trees in pots as long as you do it right! Let’s begin looking at those requirements in more detail.

care for olive trees in pots complete guide

I. Choosing the Right Olive Tree Variety for Containers

Selecting the ideal olive tree variety for your container garden is crucial for success. With numerous options available, how do you pick the perfect one? Consider these essential factors, and check out our top recommendations for container-friendly olive tree varieties.

1. Factors to Consider

When selecting the perfect olive tree variety for container growing, several important factors must be considered. Considering these factors, you can make an informed decision and set yourself up for success in your container gardening journey.

Olive trees in pots surrounded by vibrant, colorful flowers, showcasing an attractive and thriving container garden.
This is a beautiful Koroneiki olive tree perfect for container gardening


Climate plays a significant role in the success of your container-grown olive tree. Some varieties are more tolerant of colder temperatures or extreme heat, while others may not fare as well in such conditions. Be sure to choose a variety well-suited to your area’s climate conditions for optimal growth.

Growth Habit

Consider the growth habit of your desired olive tree variety, as some trees have a more compact, manageable size better suited to container growing. Look for varieties with a slower growth rate and a naturally smaller stature to ensure your tree won’t outgrow its pot too quickly.

Fruit Production

Are you interested in growing your olive tree for ornamental purposes, or do you want to harvest olives and make your own olive oil? The fruit production of different olive tree varieties can vary significantly. Select a variety that aligns with your goals, whether abundant fruit production or simply adding an attractive, low-maintenance tree to your container garden.

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2. Recommended Varieties for Container Growing

Some olive tree varieties are more suitable for container growing due to their compact growth habits, adaptability to various climates, and fruit production. Here are four highly recommended olive tree varieties for container growing, perfect for novice and experienced gardeners.

VarietyOriginSizeClimate ToleranceFruit ProductionDisease-resistant, elegant shape
ArbequinaSpainCompactCold-hardyHighDisease-resistant, elegant shape
KoroneikiGreeceSmallCold-tolerantProlificHigh-quality olives and oil
PicholineFranceMediumCold-tolerantModerateDisease resistant, elegant shape
FrantoioItalyMediumModerate cold toleranceHighExceptional olive oil quality
Table 1. Recommended olive tree varieties for pot or container growing


Arbequina is a popular choice for container growing, as it’s a small, self-pollinating variety with a weeping growth habit. Known for producing small, flavorful olives, this Spanish-origin tree is cold-hardy and adapts well to various climates, and produces an abundance of fruit, perfect for making your olive oil at home.

Arbequina Olive FGT 600x600 253178b4 cbab 4753 b27d 2327485e3a08


Koroneiki, a Greek olive tree variety, is ideal for container growing due to its compact size and prolific fruit production. Renowned for producing high-quality olive oil, Koroneiki trees are a great addition to your garden, offering beauty and utility.

Koroneiki Olive FGT 600x600 8bde6e17 df49 4f1f 9913 362fe8ca071c


Originating from France, the Picholine olive tree is prized for its attractive, slender appearance and delicious green table olives. This variety is perfect for container growing, with a moderate growth rate and high adaptability to various growing conditions.


Frantoio is an Italian olive tree variety known for its high-quality oil production and attractive silvery-green foliage. This self-pollinating tree is perfect for container growing, as it maintains a manageable size while still providing ample fruit for olive oil enthusiasts.

With this knowledge, you can confidently choose the perfect olive tree variety for your container garden. Keep your local climate, desired growth habit, and fruit production in mind to ensure your potted olive tree thrives and rewards you with a delightful harvest.

If you want to know suitable olive varieties growing inside, check out my article on the best olive trees for indoors.

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II. Selecting the Perfect Pot for Your Olive Tree

The perfect pot or container ensures your olive tree remains healthy and grows to its full potential. Let’s discuss the various pot materials and essential factors when selecting the ideal home for your olive tree.

1. Materials

The material of the pot can impact factors such as drainage, temperature regulation, and aesthetics. To help you make the best decision, here’s a rundown of some popular pot materials and their benefits:


Terracotta pots are a classic choice for olive trees. These pots are made from baked clay and have a natural, earthy appearance that complements the Mediterranean vibe of olive trees.

Terracotta is porous, which allows for excellent air circulation and drainage, reducing the risk of root rot. However, these pots can be heavy and may crack in freezing temperatures.


Ceramic pots come in various colors, shapes, and sizes, making them a versatile choice for your container garden. Like terracotta, ceramic pots provide good drainage but are less porous, meaning they may retain moisture longer.

However, they can be fragile and heavy, so handle them carefully and ensure your space can support their weight.


Plastic pots are lightweight, durable, and budget-friendly, making them a practical choice for container gardening. They come in various designs, mimicking the look of more expensive materials.

They retain moisture well, which can be both a benefit and a drawback. Proper drainage is essential for olive trees, so if you opt for a plastic pot, ensure it has adequate drainage holes. Consider lining the pot with a layer of gravel or pebbles to improve drainage.

Plastic pots may not be as durable or environmentally friendly as other options.


Wooden pots or planter boxes can provide a rustic, natural look for your potted olive tree. They offer good insulation, protecting the roots from temperature fluctuations.

However, wooden pots may eventually rot, especially if not treated or lined with a protective barrier. So choose rot-resistant wood, like cedar or redwood, for longevity.

Consider the advantages and disadvantages of each material, as well as your personal preferences and your tree’s specific needs, when selecting the perfect pot for your olive tree:

MaterialAestheticsWeightPorosityDurabilityAdditional Considerations
TerracottaEarthy, classicHeavyPorousModerateCan crack in freezing temperatures
CeramicWide range of colors, shapes, and stylesHeavyPorousModerate to fragileHandle with care, may break easily
PlasticMimics other materialsLightweightNon-porousDurableBudget-friendly, may need drainage improvements
WoodenNatural, rusticModerateNon-porousModerate to durableChoose rot-resistant wood, may require liner or sealant
Table 2. Pot materials for growing olive trees in pots

In addition, check out my article about large pots for olive trees.

2. Size and Drainage Considerations

Here’s what to keep in mind when making your choice:

Pot size based on tree maturity

Your olive tree’s pot size should correspond to its maturity and anticipated growth. Start with a pot slightly larger than the root ball, allowing room for growth without overwhelming the tree. As your tree matures, please upgrade to a larger pot to accommodate its expanding root system.

  • For young trees or dwarf varieties, a pot 18 – 24 inches (45 – 60 cm) in diameter will suffice.
  • As your tree grows, you’ll need to upgrade to a larger pot, typically 30 – 36 inches (75 – 90 cm) in diameter, to accommodate its expanding root system.
  • A general rule of thumb is to select a pot that is 6-10 inches (15 – 25 cm) larger in diameter than the tree’s root ball.
  • Always a winner if you choose a pot at least 30% larger in diameter than the previous one.

Ensuring your olive tree has enough room to grow will help promote a healthy root structure and overall vitality.

Importance of drainage holes

Proper drainage is crucial for olive trees, as they’re sensitive to over-watering and prone to root rot. When choosing a pot, ensure it has adequate drainage holes at the bottom to allow excess water to escape. You can also place a layer of coarse gravel or broken pottery shards at the bottom of the pot to further improve drainage. This extra step will help prevent waterlogged soil and keep your olive tree happy and healthy.

If your selected pot lacks sufficient drainage, consider drilling additional holes or adding a layer of gravel or pebbles at the bottom to improve aeration and prevent waterlogged soil.

By carefully considering pot size and drainage, you’ll create an optimal environment for your olive tree to thrive. With the right pot in place, you can enjoy the beauty and bounty of your potted olive tree for years to come.

III. Planting Your Olive Tree in a Pot

Now that you’ve chosen the perfect olive tree variety and pot, it’s time to bring them together and create your own Mediterranean oasis. In this section, I’ll guide you through the process of planting your olive tree in a pot, including preparing the ideal soil mixture and taking care of your newly planted olive tree.

1. Soil Mixture

A well-draining soil mix will provide the ideal environment for your tree’s roots to grow and thrive. Here’s what you should know about creating the perfect soil mixture for your potted olive tree:


Olive trees thrive in well-draining, slightly acidic to neutral soil with a pH of 6.0 to 8.0. A high-quality, well-draining soil mix typically combines potting soil, compost, and perlite or pumice. This blend gives the tree essential nutrients while promoting good drainage and aeration.

You can create your own soil mix by combining equal parts of these ingredients or purchase a ready-made mix formulated explicitly for olive trees or Mediterranean plants.

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Proper Drainage

Good drainage is essential for olive trees, as they are sensitive to over-watering and root rot. Adding perlite or pumice to your soil mix will help improve drainage and prevent waterlogged soil.

Additionally, you can place a layer of coarse gravel or broken pottery shards at the bottom of the pot to enhance drainage further. This layer aids drainage and aeration, keeping your tree’s roots healthy and happy.

Learn more about suitable soil for olive trees from my article on the best soil for potted olive trees and how to prepare soil when planting olive trees.

2. Planting Process

As an experienced olive tree grower, I’m excited to share the best practices for planting your olive tree in a pot. Following these steps will create a strong foundation for your tree to grow and flourish. Let’s dive into the planting process:

Positioning the Tree

First, gently remove your olive tree from its nursery container, taking care not to damage the roots. Place the tree in the center of your prepared pot, ensuring the root ball sits slightly above the soil line. This positioning will help ensure proper drainage and prevent root rot.

Filling the Pot with Soil

Next, carefully fill the pot with your well-draining soil mixture, tamping it down lightly around the root ball to remove any air pockets. Be sure to leave about an inch of space at the top of the pot for watering. Gently firm the soil around the tree, avoiding excessive pressure that may compact the soil and hinder root growth.

Watering and Initial Care

Once your olive tree is planted, water it thoroughly, allowing it to drain from the bottom of the pot. This initial deep watering helps settle the soil and ensures the roots are well-hydrated.

For the first few weeks, pay close attention to your tree’s moisture needs, watering as needed to maintain consistent moisture in the soil without over-watering. You may also consider initially placing the pot in a partially shaded area to help your tree acclimate to its new environment before moving it to a sunnier location.

Also, you can check out my article on how to plant olive trees in pots.

Remember, proper planting and initial care are vital for establishing a strong foundation for your tree’s long-term health and growth. Enjoy the journey, and watch as your olive tree thrives in its new container home!

IV. Ongoing Care for Potted Olive Trees

First of all, please look into a table outlining key care tasks for potted olive trees throughout the year with the guidance down below:

JanuaryPruningPrune to maintain shape and remove dead or damaged branches.
FebruaryPest controlCheck for pests and apply treatments as needed.
MarchFertilizingApply slow-release fertilizer at the beginning of the growing season.
AprilWatering & Pest controlIncrease watering frequency as temperatures rise; continue pest control.
MayWateringMonitor soil moisture and adjust watering as needed.
June Fertilizing & Pest controlMaintain a consistent watering schedule during the hot summer months.
JulyWateringApply a second round of slow-release fertilizer; continue pest control.
AugustWatering & Pest controlApply the final round of slow-release fertilizer for the season.
SeptemberFertilizingMaintain a consistent watering schedule during hot summer months.
OctoberWateringReduce watering frequency as temperatures cool.
NovemberPruning & Pest controlPerform light pruning to prepare for winter; continue pest control.
DecemberInspect for frost damage & Pest controlInspect the tree for frost damage after winter; continue pest control as necessary.
Table 3. Monthly tasks for potted olive trees.

Please note that this is a general guide and specific care tasks may vary depending on your location, climate, and the specific needs of your potted olive tree.

1. Water Potted Olive Trees Regularly

Olive trees in pots need to be watered regularly. The soil must have enough moisture and prevent waterlogged conditions to keep the roots healthy and vigorous tree. Like olive trees growing in the ground, they also need the same soil moisture levels to stay in shape.

water olive trees in pots regularly
Water olive trees regularly in pots when thoroughly dried; do not overwater or underwater.


Water your potted olive tree when the top 1-2 inches (2.5 – 5 cm) of soil feels dry to the touch. This frequency can vary depending on the season and weather conditions.

During hot summer months, you may need to water every few days, while in cooler months, watering every couple of weeks may suffice. Remember that olive trees are drought-tolerant, so it’s better to err on the side of slightly under-watering rather than over-watering.

SeasonWatering FrequencyWeather ConditionsAdditional Tips
Spring1-2 times per week (depending on weather)Mild temperatures, variable rainfallAdjust the frequency based on rainfall and temperature; water more frequently in warmer weeks.
Summer2-3 times per week (depending on weather)Hot and dry, with possible occasional rainfallWater more frequently during hot and dry spells; monitor soil moisture closely
Fall1-2 times per week (depending on weather)Cooler temperatures, increased rainfallReduce watering frequency; ensure tree receives adequate light and humidity.
Winter (indoors)Every 2-3 weeks (depending on indoor conditions)Stable indoor temperatures, low humidityReduce watering frequency; ensure the tree receives adequate light and humidity.
Winter (outdoors)As needed, depending on climate and tree protectionCold temperatures, possible freezing conditionsProtect the tree from freezing temperatures; water only when the soil is dry and not frozen
Table 3. Watering frequency for potted olive trees throughout the year.

Note these recommendations can vary depending on your specific climate, tree variety, and pot size. Always monitor the soil moisture and adjust your watering practices as needed to maintain optimal conditions for your olive tree.


Use a deep watering method when watering your olive tree (see enclosed video). This encourages the roots to grow deep and robust, promoting overall tree health.

Use a watering can or hose to saturate the soil gently, taking care not to splash water onto the tree’s foliage, as this can encourage the growth of mold and mildew.

To help maintain consistent moisture levels, consider adding a layer of mulch around the base of the tree, being careful not to let it touch the trunk directly.

Using a Moisture Meter

Consider using a moisture meter to take the guesswork out of watering your potted olive tree. This handy tool measures the moisture level in the soil, ensuring you water only when necessary.

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Simply insert the moisture meter probe into the soil near the root zone, and check the reading. Aim for a moisture level consistently in the middle of the scale, avoiding overly wet or dry conditions. Regularly monitoring the soil moisture with a meter helps maintain optimal watering conditions for your olive tree.

Read more about how to measure soil’s moisture in my guide: moisture meter for olive trees.


Signs that your olive tree may be receiving too much water include yellowing leaves, especially on the lower branches, wilting even when the soil is wet, mold or fungus on the soil surface, and a foul smell coming from the root zone. Over-watering can lead to root rot, a severe condition that can kill your tree.

If you suspect over-watering, allow the soil to dry out before watering again, and consider repotting the tree in fresh, well-draining soil if necessary.


Signs of under-watering include dry, brittle leaves, leaf drops, and a general lack of growth. In extreme cases, the tree may exhibit signs of stress, such as wrinkled bark and twig dieback.

If you suspect under-watering, gradually increase the frequency and amount of water you provide, ensuring you reach the root zone with each watering session. Monitor the tree closely to see how it responds to the adjusted watering schedule.

Over-Watering– Yellowing leaves, especially on lower branches
– Wilting even when soil is wet
– Mold or fungus on the soil surface
– Foul smell coming from the root zone
– Allow soil to dry out before watering again
– Repot tree in fresh, well-draining soil if necessary
Under-Watering– Dry, brittle leaves
– Leaf drop
– Lack of growth
– Wrinkled bark and twig dieback
– Gradually increase watering frequency and amount
– Ensure water reaches the root zone with each watering session
– Monitor tree’s response to adjust watering schedule
Table 4. Over-watering and under-watering signs and recommendations

To learn more on how to water potted olive trees correctly, check out our complete guide and tips on water requirements for olive trees.

2. Expose to a Sunlight

Olive trees are native to the Mediterranean region, where they bask in warm, sunny climates. Make sure to expose the olive trees to enough sunlight. They like bathing under the sun to keep them happy.

Even if your olive trees are restricted in pots or containers, they can survive longer. The olive trees will be fine in their pots if they have enough water and sunlight.

olive trees in containers care
Olive trees need sunlight, regular watering, and tree food to encourage growth and fruiting.

Ideal Sunlight Conditions

Olive trees thrive in full sun, requiring at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily. Place your potted olive tree in a sunny spot, such as a south-facing patio, balcony, or near a window with plenty of natural light. Make sure the tree is not obstructed by buildings, fences, or other objects that might block sunlight.

Rotating the Tree

To ensure even growth, rotating your potted olive tree every few weeks is a good idea. This practice helps prevent the tree from developing a lopsided appearance due to uneven light exposure. Gently turn the pot a quarter turn each time, allowing all sides of the tree to receive equal amounts of sunlight.

Seasonal Adjustments

During winter, if you live in a region with less sunlight or colder temperatures, consider moving your potted olive tree indoors to a bright, sunny location. A south-facing window is ideal, providing the most natural light during shorter winter days. Consider using grow lights to supplement the tree’s light exposure if natural light is insufficient.

3. Use Balanced Olive Tree Fertilizer

The balanced olive tree fertilizer has micronutrients of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N-P-K). Look for a granular or slow-release fertilizer with an N-P-K ratio of 10-10-10. It’s an important way to keep the olive tree healthy and thriving, especially during the olive growth cycle. Ensure not to fertilize too often if the olive tree is under two years old.

Alternatively, you can choose a fertilizer specially formulated for olive trees to provide the ideal balance of nutrients for optimal growth and fruit production. These formulations offer essential nutrients for healthy root development, foliage growth, and fruit production. Using a fertilizer tailored to the needs of olive trees, you can ensure that your potted olive tree receives the proper nourishment it requires to thrive.

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In addition, you can review my helpful article about the best fertilizer for olive trees.

Fertilizing Schedule

For the best results, fertilize your potted olive tree during the growing season, typically from spring to early fall. Begin fertilizing in early spring, just before new growth starts, and continue every 4-6 weeks until early fall.

Avoid fertilizing during winter, as this can encourage tender new growth susceptible to cold damage.

MonthFertilizer TypeNotes
FebruaryBalanced Slow-Release or Specially Formulated for OlivesApply before the growing season begins; consider a soil test to determine specific nutrient needs
MayThe same as aboveMonitor tree growth and adjust fertilizer application as needed
July – AugustThe same as aboveMonitor tree growth and adjust fertilizer application as needed
September – OctoberThe same as aboveApply before winter; adjust fertilizer application based on tree growth and health.
Table 5. A general fertilization schedule for potted olive trees

Note that this schedule may need to be adjusted based on your tree’s specific needs, growing conditions, and soil test results. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and monitor your tree’s growth and health to determine the most appropriate fertilization practices.

Application Method

Generally, you’ll want to sprinkle the granules evenly around the tree’s base, avoiding contact with the trunk or foliage. After applying the fertilizer, water the tree thoroughly to help dissolve the granules and distribute the nutrients throughout the soil.

When applying fertilizer to your potted olive tree, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the proper amount and application method.

Monitoring Tree Health

Keep an eye on your olive tree’s health and appearance to determine if additional nutrients are needed. Signs of nutrient deficiency include yellowing leaves, stunted growth, and reduced fruit production. If you notice any of these symptoms, consider adjusting your fertilizing schedule or seeking expert advice to address the issue.

For example, if you notice that the olive trees’ old foliage is turning lighter, that means it needs nitrogen. The best solution is to use a balanced olive tree fertilizer so that it will get back to its natural color. The leaves should become bright green to stay healthy once again.

Soil Testing

Soil testing is beneficial for maintaining your potted olive tree’s health. By analyzing the nutrient content and pH level of your tree’s soil, you can make informed decisions about the type and amount of fertilizer.

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Test your potted olive tree’s soil at least once per year, preferably in early spring. Purchase a soil testing kit online or from a local garden center.

Once you have your soil test results, adjust your fertilization routine as needed. If your soil lacks specific nutrients or has an improper pH level, amend it with additional fertilizers or soil amendments like lime or sulfur.

4. Prune Your Olive Tree Yearly

Regular pruning helps your tree maintain a manageable size, especially when grown in a pot or container. There are the primary goals of pruning your potted olive tree:

  • Maintain the size and shape
  • Encourage air circulation
  • Remove dead or damaged wood
  • Promote fruit-bearing wood growth

Pruning Time

To prune your potted olive tree early every spring or after the harvest is a healthy practice. It not only strengthens the core branches and leaves but also helps you shape the olive tree in the way you prefer.

If you’re a beginner gardener, keep in mind not to prune the olive trees in the winter. In particular, you should avoid pruning during frost time. Since pruning causes cuts on the olive tree, it’s harder for the tree to heal during the cold months. Even if you notice any damage on olive tree branches, leave them until the spring arrives and then trim it off.

Overall, pruning at the wrong time can cause more damage to the olive trees in pots than good. However, if you wait for an early spring or prune your tree after harvest, you will improve its growth, and it will flourish much faster with higher fruit yield.

Pruning Techniques

When pruning your olive tree, follow these techniques and tips:

  • Remove dead, damaged, or diseased branches to prevent the spread of infection and to encourage new growth.
  • Thin out overcrowded branches, focusing on branches that cross or rub against each other, to improve air circulation and sunlight penetration.
  • Shorten overly long branches to maintain the tree’s size and shape. Make cuts just above a bud, leaf, or lateral branch, angling the cut away from the bud to prevent water from collecting on the cut surface.
  • Encourage fruit production by pruning back the previous year’s growth by about one-third.

With a bit of practice and attention to detail, pruning becomes an enjoyable and rewarding aspect of caring for your potted olive tree. And don’t forget to read our recommendations on how to prune olive trees in pot techniques.

5. Winter Care

While olive trees are hardy plants, they still require some protection during the colder months, especially when grown in pots. Understanding your tree’s temperature requirements and taking necessary protective measures can help your potted olive tree weather the winter season.

Temperature Requirements

Olive trees can generally tolerate temperatures as low as 20°F (-7°C), but prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures can damage or even kill the tree. Potted olive trees can usually remain outdoors with minimal protection in regions with mild winters. However, in areas with harsher winters, you’ll need to take extra precautions to ensure your tree’s survival.

Protective Measures

To protect your potted olive tree during winter, follow these steps:

  1. Move the pot: If possible, move your potted olive tree to a sheltered location, such as a patio, porch, or against a wall that radiates heat. This will help protect the tree from harsh winds and temperature fluctuations.
  2. Insulate the pot: Wrap the pot with insulating materials like bubble wrap, burlap, or a specially designed plant pot cover. This will help prevent the soil from freezing and damaging the tree’s roots.
  3. Mulch the soil: Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as straw, leaves, or bark, on the soil surface. This will help insulate the root zone and retain moisture.
  4. Provide a frost cloth or blanket: Drape a frost cloth or blanket over the tree on freezing nights to protect it from frost damage. Remove the covering during the day to allow light and air circulation.

Also, check out my article about protecting your olive trees in winter and steps for moving olive trees indoors for winter for more information.

6. Repot Olive Tree Each Couple of Years

Repotting your olive tree is a necessary part of container gardening, as it ensures the tree has adequate room to grow and prevents it from becoming root-bound. Since pots or containers can limit olive tree roots’ development and restrict growth, you should repot your olive tree every two to three years.

olive trees in pots sunshine 1
Olive Trees in Pots need to be repotted every couple of years to encourage growth and refresh soil nutrition.

However, you should also watch for signs that your tree may need repotting sooner. Observe your tree, and if you notice any roots are going out from drainage holes, slowed growth, or the tree becoming top-heavy and challenging to manage, decide if transplanting is needed this spring.

Of course, if you want your olive tree to grow bigger in your backyard, planting it into the ground is a must when the time is right – in the spring.

Regarding repotting process step by step, read my guide on how to and when is the best time to repot olive trees.

7. Clean Olive Tree Leaves

You should clean potted olive trees’ leaves from time to time, especially if it sits outside in a garden. Keeping the leaves of your potted olive tree clean is an essential aspect of proper care, as it promotes good air circulation, discourages pests, and ensures optimal photosynthesis for a healthy, thriving tree. Follow these simple steps to clean your olive tree leaves and maintain their health.

  1. Inspect the Leaves

Regularly examine your olive tree’s leaves for signs of dust, dirt, or pests such as aphids, scale insects, or spider mites. Detecting any issues early on allows you to address them promptly, preventing further damage to your tree.

  1. Dust the Leaves

Using a soft, dry cloth or a soft-bristle brush, gently dust the leaves to remove any accumulated dirt or dust. Be careful not to damage the leaves during the cleaning process.

  1. Wipe the Leaves

For more thorough cleaning, dampen a soft cloth with lukewarm water and gently wipe the leaves’ surface, removing any stubborn dirt or grime. Avoid harsh chemicals or detergents, as these may damage the leaves. If your potted olive tree is considerably dirty, spray them with a dilute soap to remove dirt.

  1. Preventive Measures

To minimize the need for frequent leaf cleaning, reduce dust and dirt exposure by keeping your potted olive tree away from high-traffic areas, open windows, or construction sites. Additionally, maintain good air circulation around your tree by providing adequate spacing between plants and pruning any overcrowded branches.

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8. Keep an Eye on Pests or Diseases

Unfortunately, sometimes you may encounter problems with olive trees in pots. There may be some pests or diseases that affect your olive tree. It’s best to get rid of these issues as soon as possible before it gets worse and cause lots of damage to your potted olive tree.

Therefore, examine your olive tree’s leaves, branches, and trunk regularly for signs of pests, diseases, or abnormalities. Look for symptoms such as leaf discoloration, wilting, curling, or the presence of insects.

Common pests and their control

Scale, aphids or spider mites are common pests, especially during winter. These pests can cause damage by sucking plant sap, weakening your tree, and making it more susceptible to diseases. You can get rid of scale and other insects by forcefully spraying them with the garden hose. Then, you should use insecticidal soap to wipe off the reminders. To be honest, most insects you can clear out in this way.

For more stubborn infestations, consider using a horticultural oil or insecticidal soap, applied according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Always opt for the least toxic method to protect the environment and beneficial insects.

Diseases: prevention and treatment

The essential step in caring for olive trees is to monitor their overall health, and if you detect something odd, you should identify the root cause. For example, olive trees can be affected by fungal infections such as anthracnose, peacock spot, or verticillium wilt. Signs of fungal diseases include leaf spots, yellowing, or defoliation.

If you suspect a fungal infection, treat the affected areas with a fungicide specifically formulated for olive trees, following the manufacturer’s recommendations.

To prevent diseases, ensure your olive tree receives proper care, including adequate sunlight, water, and nutrition. Prune to maintain good air circulation and promptly remove any infected or dead plant material.

problems with olive tree in pots

Read more about issues and problems with olive trees in pots

SeasonWateringFertilizingPruningPest Control
SpringWater the olive tree thoroughly when the top inch of soil is dry. This might be once a week or every ten days, depending on the local climate and weather.Begin fertilizing in early spring to support new growth. Use a balanced, slow-release fertilizer.This is the best time for major pruning to shape the tree and remove dead or diseased branches.Monitor for pests such as scales and olive fruit flies. Use organic or chemical controls as necessary.
SummerIncrease watering frequency as temperatures rise. Continue watering thoroughly, but always let the top inch of soil dry out between waterings.Continue fertilizing but reduce the quantity if the tree is well-established and healthy.Minor pruning can continue to maintain shape and remove any diseased or damaged wood.Continue monitoring for pests and apply controls as needed.
FallReduce watering frequency as temperatures cool. Continue to let the top inch of soil dry out between waterings.Stop fertilizing to allow the tree to prepare for dormancy.Pruning can continue until late fall to maintain shape and health.Monitor for pests and apply controls as needed.
WinterWater sparingly in winter. The tree will be dormant and will require less water. Only water when the top few inches of soil are dry.No need to fertilize in the winter months.Avoid major pruning during winter to prevent the risk of frost damage.Pest activity is usually low in winter, but continue to monitor.
Table 6. Seasonal olive tree care guide.

V. Harvesting and Enjoying Your Olives

The ultimate reward for your hard work and dedication to your potted olive tree is a bountiful harvest of fresh olives. In this section, I’ll discuss the harvesting timeline, methods, and how to cure and process your olives, so you can savor their delicious flavor and even make your own olive oil.

1. Harvesting Timeline

Olive trees typically bear fruit within 3-5 years of planting. Harvest your olives when they reach the desired ripeness, depending on your preferred taste and use.

Green olives are harvested when firm and have reached their full size, usually from late summer to early fall. For black olives, wait until they turn fully black and are slightly soft to the touch, typically from late fall to early winter.

Picking Method

Hand-picking is the most gentle and effective method for harvesting olives from your potted tree. Gently pluck the olives from the tree, or use small pruning shears to snip them off, being careful not to damage the tree or fruit.

You can also spread a tarp or sheet beneath the tree and gently shake or tap the branches, causing the ripe olives to fall onto the surface below.

harvest potted olive tree
Harvest olive trees when olive fruit is fully ripening and becomes dark purple color or black depending on the olive variety

2. Curing and Processing

Fresh olives are naturally bitter, so they must be cured before consumption. There are several curing methods, including brining, water curing, lye curing, and dry salt curing. Each method imparts a unique flavor and texture, so experiment to find the one that suits your taste buds best.

If you want to learn olives curing methods, check out my article on how to cure Kalamata olives in 3 different ways and apply them to your grown olives.

Also, you can transform your homegrown olives into a golden elixir of homemade olive oil. Press the ripe olives using a home oil press or crush them with a mortar and pestle for a more hands-on approach. Separate the oil from the solids using a cheesecloth, and store the oil in a dark, cool place.

For more information, check out a comprehensive step-by-step guide on how to make olive oil at home.

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VI. Troubleshooting Problems

Growing olive trees in pots can present unique challenges, but with the proper knowledge and care, you can prevent and address many common issues.

1. Identification

Recognizing issues early is key to maintaining your tree’s health. Common problems to look out for include:

  • Pests, such as scale insects, aphids, and spider mites, may cause discolored or damaged leaves and leave behind a sticky residue.
  • Diseases like root rot, leaf spot, and verticillium wilt can manifest as yellowing leaves, wilting, or defoliation.
  • Yellowing leaves may indicate over- or under-watering, nutrient deficiencies, or root damage.
  • Lack of fruit production, possibly due to poor pollination, insufficient sunlight, or improper pruning.

2. Treatment and Prevention

Consider the following steps to address these issues and maintain your olive tree’s health:

  • Combat pests with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Encourage beneficial insects to help control pests naturally.
  • For diseases, ensure proper watering, avoid over-fertilizing, and prune to improve air circulation. Remove any infected plant material and consult an expert for severe cases.
  • Adjust your tree’s watering schedule to resolve yellowing leaves and ensure the soil is well-draining. Test the soil’s pH and nutrient levels, amending with appropriate fertilizer if needed.
  • To improve fruit production, provide adequate sunlight and pollination. Correctly prune your tree, following the tips provided in the pruning section of this article.

VII. Grab Essentials for Your Olive Tree

These are the most valuable products required when growing olive trees in pots:

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VIII. Frequently Asked Questions

Do Olive Trees Grow Well in Pots?

Yes, absolutely. When olive trees grow in pots, their needs are similar to those growing inground. The olive trees need lots of sunlight, consistent and regular watering, and good drainage, so ensure the pot has drainage holes. Fertilizer is also key to growing a healthy olive tree in a pot. Overall, it is not difficult to care for the olive tree in a pot if you establish regular care and maintenance.

How Big Do Olive Trees Grow in Pots?

First, potted olive trees will not get as large as those grown in the ground. Eventually, olive trees in pots can reach 6 feet (2 meters). However, their height depends on the olive tree variety and your pruning skills. For indoors, it is best to seek out draft olive trees in pots.

How Long Can Olive Trees Survive in Pots?

Olive trees can survive in pots for a long time, often over a decade. With proper care and sun exposure, olive trees can thrive in pots for many years. It can reach over 100 years of lifespan if replanted into the ground.

Can all olive tree varieties be grown in pots?

Not all varieties are suitable for pot cultivation, but many can be grown in containers. Choose a variety known for being well-suited to container growing, such as Arbequina, Picholine, Koroneiki, Frantoio, or Picual.

Can I grow an olive tree indoors?

While olive trees can be grown indoors, they require ample sunlight (at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day) and may not fruit as well as outdoor trees. Indoor trees also need proper humidity and air circulation to stay healthy.

What should I do if my potted olive tree isn’t producing fruit?

Ensure your tree receives adequate sunlight and pollination. If necessary, adjust your watering and fertilization practices, and prune the tree correctly to encourage fruit production. Be patient, as some trees may take a few years to bear fruit.

How long does it take for an olive tree to bear fruit in a pot?

Olive trees typically start bearing fruit within 3-5 years of planting. However, this can vary depending on the variety, care, and environmental conditions.

How often should I water my potted olive tree?

Water your potted olive tree when the soil’s top 1-2 inches (2.5 – 5 cm) feels dry. This may vary from every few days during hot weather to every couple of weeks during cooler months. Avoid over-watering, as this can lead to root rot.

How do I prune my potted olive tree?

Prune your olive tree to maintain its size and shape, remove dead or damaged branches, and encourage air circulation. Remove any suckers or water sprouts from the base of the tree. Aim to create an open, vase-like shape with the main branches.

IX. Conclusion: Care for Olive Trees in Pots

Growing olive trees in pots offer a unique and rewarding gardening experience, allowing you to enjoy their beauty and benefits even in urban settings with limited space. By following the guidelines shared in this article, you can nurture a thriving potted olive tree that will provide fresh olives and enhance your home’s aesthetic appeal.

To achieve success with your potted olive tree, remember these essential tips:

  • Choose an olive tree variety suitable for container growing and your climate.
  • Select the right pot, considering size, material, and drainage.
  • Use a well-draining soil mixture and follow the proper planting process.
  • Provide ongoing care through regular watering, fertilizing, pruning, and winter protection.
  • Harvest, cure and process your olives for enjoyment.
  • Stay vigilant and address common problems as they arise.

Those are the simple but essential steps to care for olive trees in pots. Following them ensures that your olive trees will thrive long and bring your home a Mediterranean-like feeling.

So take on the challenge of growing an olive tree in a pot, and revel in the satisfaction of cultivating a beautiful, productive tree that brings joy and flavor to your life.

For more information on indoor olive tree maintenance, see my article indoor olive tree care in 5 steps! Also, check out these tips:

how to grow olive tree indoors

20 tips on how to grow olive trees in pots indoors!

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If you are looking to add more potted trees or other plants to your orchard, or if you like to replace a neglected olive tree, the best places to get them are your local nursery or an online nursery.

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4 thoughts on “Olive Trees in Pots: The Ultimate Guide to Container Gardening”

  1. What size pot would be ideal for an olive tree which has a trunk of 18 inches ?

  2. Hi Diane, we consider the size of the root ball when choosing the pot. Always safe option is to choose a pot that’s at least twice the width and depth of the root ball. For more information I have an article about large pots for olive trees.

  3. I’ve bought an olive tree in a plastic pot which is 53cm in diameter and 60cm high. I want to leave it in the pot and plant it in the garden I was going to dig a hole in the soil 30cm deep. Is it ok to do so and should I put grit in bottom of the pot for drainage purposes??

  4. Congratulations on your new olive tree! If you plan on leaving the olive tree in its plastic pot, you can still plant it in the ground by digging a hole that’s slightly larger than the pot. The depth of the hole should be about the same as the depth of the pot. Before planting, you may want to consider adding a layer of gravel or small stones at the bottom of the hole to improve drainage. This can help prevent water from accumulating in the bottom of the hole and potentially causing root rot. As for putting grit in the bottom of the pot, you can also add a layer of drainage material such as gravel, pebbles, or broken pottery to the bottom of pots to help excess water drain away. This can help prevent waterlogging and improve overall plant health. Also, the soil in your garden should provide adequate drainage. Just make sure to water the olive tree regularly and monitor the soil moisture level to ensure it’s not getting too wet or too dry. Good luck with your olive tree!

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