Dwarf Olive Trees in Pots: Ultimate Guide

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Owning a dwarf olive tree can make you feel like you’re living in the Mediterranean. As a result of this tree’s small size, it thrives in both outdoor and indoor settings. They are a perfect addition to patios, gardens, and even as an accessory at the front doors. Also, many people like to keep them indoors to make their living room, office, or hallway look nicer.

Dwarf olive trees grow well in pots and containers, and they’re easy-care and low-maintenance trees for people who aren’t experienced gardeners. By knowing a few rules for their care, you will achieve the best results in growing these beautiful small trees.

So if you are ready to get one dwarf olive tree in your backyard garden or home, I’ll share must-know details about how to grow and care for dwarf olive trees. If you follow my advice, you may enjoy your tree for more than 30 years!

dwarf olive trees in pots care

Dwarf Olive Tree Overview

Dwarf Olive TreeSpecification
Tree TypeDwarf Evergreen Tree
FamilyOlea europaea
Maturity Rate2 years grafted, 3 – 7 years grown
MaintenanceLow
Height5 – 7 feet (1.5 – 2 meters)
Growth RateModerate
FlowersSmall, fragrant, creamy flowers
FruitingCan produce fruit in 1st year depending on cultivar
Plant With Mediterranean-like climate plants
Don’t Plant WithCold hardy plants
Soil CompositionSandy, Loamy; Well-draining
Watering NeedsModerate
Sun ExposureFull Sun
ResistanceCold-hardy down to 22°F  (-5.5°C)
USDA Hardiness ZonesZones 8-10 outdoors, Zones 4-7 on the patio/indoors
AttractsBees, Butterflies
PestsAphids, Caterpillars, Mites, Olive Flies
DiseasesSooty Mold, Fungus, Root Rot
Kalamata olive tree in pot
This is a draft Koroneiki olive tree suitable to grow indoors and outdoors

What Are Dwarf Olive Trees?

Dwarf olive trees are simply regular olive trees that are grafted onto smaller tree rootstock in order to get a dwarf shape and appearance. One of the main reasons why they are so popular nowadays is because they can grow in various landscapes and fit in numerous home designs.
There aren’t many differences between regular and dwarf olive trees apart from size. Dwarf olive trees have the same characteristics as regular olive trees. Therefore, they adapt well to many environments and don’t require specific maintenance: extensive pruning or fertilization.

dwarf olive tree outdoors
Above: Dwarf Kalamata olive tree in a pot grows outdoors among other plants and creates a beautiful colorful oasis

How Tall Do Dwarf Olive Trees Grow?

Dwarf olive trees generally grow to be a maximum of 8 to 10 feet (i.e. 2.4 to 3 meters) in height and 4 to 6 feet (i.e. 1.2 to 1.8 meters) in width. Depending on your pruning skills and needs, you can shape your tree to the size you prefer.

Though olive variety can affect dwarf olive tree size. Montra aka Little Ollie typically reaches a height of 6.5 feet (2 meters), though some of them can reach around 10 feet (3 meters). The dwarf Kalamata olive tree (see picture above), if improperly pruned, could reach a height of 14 feet (4.2 meters).
Dwarf olive trees are sometimes pruned to make them bonsai olive trees. They can then be under one foot (30 cm) tall in this manner.

bonsai olive tree 1
The stunning fruiting bonsai olive tree is easily pruned and shaped to maintain its small size

Fruiting or Fruitless

Based on the possibility to bear olive fruits, there are two main types of dwarf olive trees:

  • fruiting
  • fruitless
olive tree fruiting 1
Well-cared fruiting olive trees produce olives every year

Fruiting Dwarf Olive Trees

Some people are asking if dwarf olive trees bear olive fruits. Absolutely! It takes from 2 to 5 years for a young dwarf olive tree to start producing olive fruits depending on the olive variety and it is named the fruiting dwarf olive tree.

Though, the tree needs the right care and growing conditions to grow healthy, reach a flowering growth stage, and bear fruits. For instance, the olive fruit of dwarf olive trees is the same size and quality as a standard-sized grown tree, assuming it receives the same care. There as, dwarf types produce larger size olives for their size compared to standard-sized trees.

Fruitless Dwarf Olive Trees

Dwarf fruitless olive trees are a special variety that blooms in spring, but flowers are sterile. For this reason, only a few if any fruits are produced – very tiny olives may develop from time to time, but you won’t even notice.

If for some reason, you don’t want to plant a dwarf olive tree that bears olive fruits so as not to create a mess on your driveway or deck from fallen olives, then fruitless dwarf olive trees are perfect for you.

Most Popular Dwarf Olive Trees

dwarf olive trees popularity 1
This dwarf olive tree is more than 30 years old, arbequina variety

The most popular dwarf olive trees varieties are the following:

You can find characteristics of each variety in my article ‘best olive trees for indoors‘.

Also, very common to see small olive trees called ‘Little Ollie’, they are Olea europaea ‘Montra’, dwarf cultivar trees.

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Propagation

Many garden stores sell dwarf olive trees, but it’s rewarding to grow one yourself. You have two alternatives to propagate this tree: growing it from cuttings or seeds.

I advise propagation through cutting, as it increases the chances of olive production and preserves the distinctive olive flavor from the original tree.

Dwarf olive tree propagation is the same as for regular olive trees. So if you are interested in dwarf olive tree propagation, check out my articles:

Olive tree propagation from cuttings

Olive tree propagation from seeds

dwarf olive tree propagation 1
Propagating dwarf olive trees from cuttings is one of the easiest and most used methods of propagation

Dwarf Olive Trees Care

Dwarf olive trees care and maintenance are very similar to regular potted olive tree care. Therefore, here you can read about key elements when growing a small olive tree.

Best Soil

The best soil for dwarf olive trees is one with good drainage. Because olive trees do not tolerate waterlogged soil or constant moisture for too long. Overwatering causes olive tree foliage to drop off. Underwatering can also cause this trouble, but once the leaves start dropping there is no easy reverse back.

Consequently, dwarf olive trees growing in pots or containers flourish best with little effort when they are planted in a lightweight, perlite-containing potting mix that drains well. For the best results, you can get a quality soil mixture created for olive trees only:

Last update on 2024-01-31 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Bear in mind, that organic matter or native soil will compact too quickly, reducing air circulation for roots. And for more information about soil, check out our article about the best soil for olive trees in pots.

best companion plants for olive trees
Find out companion plants for dwarf olive trees

If you want to transplant your potted tree in the garden, the commercial potting mix should be combined with the soil removed from the hole in a ratio of one part mix to one part native soil. Always add a layer of mulch in a pot or container or around the planting area. It helps to drain the water faster and keeps the roots wet but not soggy.

Climate Conditions

olive tree in landscape 1
Dwarft olive trees are amazing plants for your backyard as long as there is warm and full-day sunlight

All varieties of olive trees prefer Mediterranean-like climate conditions. They love hot long summers and mild dry winters. So if you live in the United States, the most similar climate for dwarf olive trees to thrive is 8 – 11 zones.
Although they can withstand drought well, dwarf olive trees struggle in the cold. So, if you grow them outside, remember to bring them inside when the weather becomes colder.
Dwarf olive trees prefer temperatures between 68 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit (20 and 30 degrees Celsius). They can grow at lower temperatures of up to 25 °F (-4 °C). Olive trees can survive even in freezing temperatures, but only for a few days.

Also, dwarf olive trees need warmth and sunshine to produce olive fruits fully. Ideally, your trees should get around 8 hours of sunlight. So put it in the sunniest place in your backyard or transition to the brightest room inside the house.

indoor olive tree care guide
Check out indoor olive tree care in 5 steps!

Watering Routine

olive tree watering routine 1
Set up a watering routine different for summer and winter seasons

If you want your dwarf olive fruit tree to produce large olive fruits, you need to make sure it receives plenty of water. For instance, young dwarf olive trees in pots need extra water to grow, while all olive trees need additional water during periods of hot, dry weather.

Please check the table with dwarf olive tree water needs where age and seasonality are under consideration. The quantity should be adjusted in case of rainfall.

Dwarf Olive Tree AgeSeasonFrequency
Young Dwarf Olive Tree (up to 5 years)Hot Summer2 times per week
Young Dwarf Olive Tree (up to 5 years)WinterBi-weekly
Mature Dwarf Olive Tree (5+ years)Hot SummerWeekly
Mature Dwarf Olive Tree (5+ years)WinterOnce per month
Table 1. Dwarf olive tree water needs (rainfall is excluded)

Always make sure that the potting soil is well-draining and that you are not overwatering your plant. To avoid overwatering, you can read my article about olive tree overwatering signs.

So to be on the safe side, if you don’t trust your guts and you are not sure if your dwarf olive tree is thirsty, you can always measure a soil moisture level with a moisture meter:

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Fertilization

In general, dwarf olive trees do need regular fertilizing, especially if their roots are limited in pots or containers. You can apply a nitrogen-rich fertilizer a few times per year: in spring, during growth in summer, and in autumn before the winter. Fertilizers will supplement the soil with the most important nutrients for an olive tree to thrive. 

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If your tree lacks minerals, you can leaf spray with zinc and manganese in the spring before growth starts. Then, supplement with a spray containing nitrogen. As well, a good fertilizer for your olive tree can solve the iron deficiency problems.


To know exactly what type of minerals your olive tree lacks, you can identify only by testing the soil with a soil test kit. For instance, the Luster Leaf soil testing kit is an innovative and inexpensive soil test kit. Easy to use and provides fast accurate results. If you are interested to get to know what minerals your tree is lacking, it is available on Amazon:

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Interested to learn more about feeding olive trees and main nutrients, make sure you check my article best fertilizer for olive trees.

Pruning and Shaping

olive tree require pruning 1
This potted olive tree requires pruning at least 1/3 of the branches’ current length to strengthen its core branches and look fuller

It’s absolutely up to you how you want to shape dwarf olive trees. If your olive tree in a pot is young and it looks a little one-sided, give it a couple of years and it will become a neatly rounded tree.

As well, if you want to keep potted olive trees quite low or add fullness, you can pinch out the tips of the new growth from time to time.

Unless your tree is planted in the ground and it is growing along a fence or garden wall and you want to leave it to look natural, then just leave it to grow freely without too much pruning and shaping.

However, there are some basic requirements for pruning:

  • prune away deadwood
  • cut too close to soil growing branches
  • trim branches that grow along with trunk
  • prune off any branches that cross others and prevent sunlight from reaching the lower branch of your tree

If you are interested in pruning ticks, you can find many tips in my article on pruning olive trees in pots.

dwarf olive tree in container
Above: the dwarf olive tree doesn’t require specific skills for shaping or pruning. However, sunlight and good drainage are the most important things while growing a healthy tree.

Common Pests Problems

Like all trees, a dwarf olive tree may be bothered by common pests such as ants, aphids, thrips, and spider mites.

Get rid of ants and spider mites with non-toxic organic powder diatomaceous earth insect killer. Treat aphids and thrips with a hard, firm spray with the hose, or an insecticidal soap such as this one from Garden Safe available on Amazon.

olive tree scale insects 1
Black scale on an olive tree is a very common and easily treatable pest infestation

Sometimes olive trees get scale insects. If it is a light infestation, you can pick up scale insects with your hand or wash them off with water spray. Another way to fight against these pests is to use a neem oil spray which is one of the most effective and non-harmful treatments for your olive tree.

Try this pure neem oil extract concentrate for safe gardening from Neem Bliss. This pure oil is completely natural, and totally free of chemicals, however, smells awful, but most importantly works like a dream!

Last update on 2024-01-31 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

As well, if you spotted scale insects on your olive tree, don’t forget to check my article on scale insect removal non-toxic methods.

Grab Essentials for Your Olive Tree Care

We have selected highly customers recommended available products on Amazon:

  • Sonkir Soil Moisture Meter 3-in-1
  • Olive Tree Potting Mix
  • TreeHelp Premium Fertilizer for Olive

Last update on 2024-01-31 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Where to Buy Dwarf Olive Trees?

olive tree buying tips 1
Garden centers or respected shops online are your main options to buy dwarf olive trees

If you are seeking to get a dwarf olive tree, a number of varieties are available online. The good thing about ordering online is that only with a few clicks you can get one and it will be delivered directly to your home. If you are interested in the criteria to consider when buying an olive tree you can find our detailed olive buyer’s guide.

Otherwise, I will give you a few ideas on where to start looking for a dwarf olive tree online in no time.

Arbequina Olive
best olive trees for landscaping
Check out 5 best olive trees for landscaping

Final Thoughts

As you noticed, these dwarf olive trees are fairly easy to care for and can serve a number of purposes in the landscape, or be placed in pots or containers for easy overwintering.

Overall dwarf olive trees are a wonderful solution for gardeners who want the convenience and deliciousness of home-picked olive fruit but don’t have space for a large olive tree. When it comes to consuming olives from your tree, you can consider making homemade olive oil by following our guidelines in the article

I hope that now you’re thoroughly informed about dwarf olive trees, how to care for them, and in the end, where to buy high-quality small olive trees. 

Read Next

10 reasons to grow olive tree indoors
Read next 10 reasons to grow olive trees indoors

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Are You Looking to Buy an Olive Tree? 

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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6 thoughts on “Dwarf Olive Trees in Pots: Ultimate Guide”

  1. What size pot should I buy for a dwarf fruitless olive tree to grow to 8 ft?

  2. Hi Helena, the general rule is to choose a pot 25% larger than the root ball of your olive tree. So you should take into account not only the root ball but also the height of the tree. For example, for taller olive trees you need a larger pot to keep a balance in case of wind vs a short tree. Also, each time repoting you should trim roots and get rid of dead, damaged roots. Check out my article on how to repot olive trees and how often.

  3. Hi there I have 2 dwarf olive trees , We noticed peacocks spot so we repotted them and noticed their roots were very compacted we loosened them and planted in a mix of John innes no 3 and sand with drainage stones in the bottom of the pot , Sinc then they have Continued to loose many leaves !! Have u any suggestions to help me many thanks vikki

  4. Hi Vikki, water issues may result in olive trees losing leaves. Try to water frequently once it gets dry. Also, fertilize and it should recover slowly but surely. If you stillnotice peacock spots, it can be treated with fungicide. Hope it helps

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