***Added new sections and updated on December 2020***
An olive tree grows best in well-draining and fertilized soil in a sunny location. However, growing your olive tree in an appropriate spot doesn’t guarantee vital growth and a healthy plant. And sometimes your olive tree starts to die. Nevertheless, you can revive the olive tree by establishing a regular care schedule and performing routine maintenance.
As well, you need to figure out what is causing your olive tree’s inactivity by a process of elimination. For this reason, I would like to share a complete guide to find the right solutions on how to revive olive tree and bring it back to life.
1. Observe if Olive Tree is Actually Dead First
Just because olive tree leaves start falling off or dried out, doesn’t mean that your olive tree in a pot or container is beyond saving. First, check the trunk and roots carefully for signs of life and new growth.
Your olive tree roots should be pliable and firm, and the trunk should be greenish on the inside if you are going to give it a try and hope of reviving your potted olive tree.
Unfortunately, it is too late if the trunk and roots are mushy and brittle. That means your olive tree is dead and can’t be saved.
2. Trim Back the Dead or Diseased Branches
It’s crucial to get rid of the dead or diseased branches or any other parts of the olive tree so that the tree can use all its energy for the bits that still have a life to them.
Start by removing dead leaves first, then trim back dead or diseased branches. One third at a time, until you see signs of green – signs of life. New branches can grow from the trimmed ones.
For successful trimming, use sanitized bypass pruners for small branches, lopping shears for branches up to 2.5 cm (1 1/2 inches) in diameter, and a fine-tooth hand saw for larger tree branches.
Importantly, sanitize your pruning shears by plunging them in a mixture of 1 part bleach and 9 parts water. Leave them in the mixture for 5 minutes. Afterward, once shears have been rinsed, they’re ready to use.
Prune Diseased Branches, Water Sprouts and Suckers Yearly
Ideally, you should prune the olive tree yearly in the early spring to remove diseased branches, water sprouts, suckers, and crisscrossed branches.
To clarify the pruning process in detail, I put together 7 steps guidelines on how to prune olive trees in pots to improve the growth of trees and boost olive fruit yield.
3. Leave Chunk of Trunk Intact
While trimming dead or diseased branches and parts of your olive tree, you noticed its trunk is completely dead but the roots are still alive, don’t prune the dead trunk all the way down to the roots. Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) of the trunk intact above the soil.
When you manage to revive your olive tree, the new growth will sprout from the trunk.
4. Diagnose the Problem that Kills Your Olive Tree
Your olive tree may suffer from multiple reasons which causing it to die, so your biggest task is to find what are the problems with olive trees in pots.
Always consider all the possibilities: the amount of water you have given, plant food, pests, and diseases, whether the olive tree has been getting enough sunlight or maybe it was affected by the first winter frost.
So let’s continue to review the most common reasons and solutions on how to revive olive tree and bring back to life!
5. Check Soil Moisture Prior Watering
First of all, try to develop a regular watering schedule. And check the moisture of the soil before watering your olive tree. The most important is to keep the soil moist but not saturated.
For instance, moisture retention varies by soil type. When considering soil requirements, the most important parameter is olive trees can typically nurture in a variety of soil types, but they don’t tolerate saturated soil. Olive trees love well-draining soil, therefore find out more on what is the best soil for potted olive trees.
So check the soil with a moisture meter daily to define how often to water the olive tree. Then, after repetitive checking set up a decent watering schedule. Check out our complete guide on how to use and read a moisture meter for olive trees.
6. Do Not Over-water or Under-water Olive Tree
Indeed, olive tree watering should be infrequent, but deep. However, more frequent watering may be necessary during dry weather if you moved an olive tree indoors into the hottest and driest room of your house.
So how to check the necessity of water in case you don’t have a moisture meter with you? The easiest way is to stick your fingers down into soil and check if it is fully dried out. Of course, it is not giving you measurements at a root level, but still it a great way to do the first check.
If you grow your olive tree in-ground, dig around the trunk of your olive tree with a small shovel to determine whether the tree is getting sufficient water. If the soil is dry 15 cm (=6 inches) down, the tree needs water.
As well, your olive tree’s water requirements vary depending upon the size of its canopy and the weather. For example, a tree with a 1.2 m (= 4-foot) canopy requires 15 liters (=4 gallons) of water a day most of the year. But this amount doubles, then almost triples as summer heat arrives.
On the whole, if the olive tree is under-watered, the leaves will turn brown, dry around the edges, and curl up. The soil around the roots would be completely dry too. So if your olive tree is dying because it is thirsty, the solution is clear: water it!
On another hand, if your tree is over-watered, the leaves may yellow or get dry and drop. More about overwatering signs and how to prevent your tree from too much water you can find in our article here.
If you have a potted olive tree and not sure of watering requirements you can find answers here.
7. Amend Soil into Well-draining
If your olive tree is not doing well, here is another mandatory tree reviving test related to soil drainage. Firstly, pour 20 liters (~5 gallons) of water over the root area of your olive tree. Then, watch to see how quickly the water drains into the soil. If the soil remains soggy or mud-covered 25 minutes after watering, you have clay or heavy loam that olive trees do not appreciate.
Consequently, amend the soil around the olive tree by working in a 12.5- 15 cm (i.e. 5 to 6 inch) layer of organic material. Alternatively, transplant the olive tree to a location with well-draining soil. It should be noted, olive trees will not thrive in heavy wet soil.
As well, if your olive oil is dying because of an overwatering issue, replant it in order to change the soil into dried soil and help the tree to revive faster. Check out how to choose the best soil for olive trees which is well draining and fresh.
8. Test Soil Nutrition Prior to Fertilizing
Another recommendation to revive your olive tree is related to soil fertilization. In order to understand which nutrition is missing in the soil, you should test your soil prior to fertilizing especially if it is not springtime.
Of course, it may be tempting to give your dying olive tree a nutrition boost with any fertilizer but better to choose the best fertilizer for olive tree. Without a doubt, when the tree is struggling, any random fertilizer may damage those tender roots irrecoverably.
Otherwise, fertilize an olive tree starting in early spring when new growth sprouts. You can order olive tree fertilizers online or find it at local nurseries or garden centers. Always read the instructions prior to applying fertilizer on your tree. Definitely, it will vary, and the amount of fertilizer applied will depend on the ingredient concentration and the age of your tree.
Another good tip for saving your olive tree is to stop fertilizing in the fall to prevent tender new growth that will be damaged by the winter chill.
9. Move Olive Tree into the Sunniest Location
Olive trees ask for lots of sunlight! They can suck sunlight 8 hours per day in order to thrive and produce many olive fruits.
Opposite, olive trees that haven’t been receiving enough light will have pale leaves, small fruits, and weak trunks. Their growth will be restricted. In this case, the simplest solution is to move your olive tree into the sunniest location in your house and letting the sunlight to sink in.
10. Pests Control
Have you noticed stippled leaves or cotton-like webbing on the leaves of your olive tree? Even more, have you spotted dead patches on leaves or discolored fruit on your beautiful tree? If yes, then, most likely, you are witnessing a pest infestation on your olive tree such as spider mites, scale, aphids etc.
Inspect your olive tree carefully, jotting down anything out of the ordinary that you discover. Check the olive leaves to see if any are yellow and, if so, whether any part of them remains green.
Double-check for evidence of pests such as spider mites, and treat your tree with insecticide as necessary as to revive olive tree. Just follow the instruction written on the insecticide you have and after a couple of treatments, your olive tree will bring back to its full life cycle.
If it doesn’t help, most likely, your tree suffers from the symptoms of the disease. Then, gather samples and evaluate the problem by looking at olive tree problem diagnosis websites or asking for help at the garden store. Always treat your plants appropriately.
11. Treat Olive Tree Diseases Immediately
Sometimes, even very well looked after olive trees are susceptible to a number of diseases, each with its own causes, symptoms, and treatments. If you have checked all the steps above and still suspect that your olive tree has fallen prey to some disease like powdery mildew, root rot, or others, ask a local gardening expert to help you to identify it and learn how to treat it.
Another important thing to note: you should isolate the infected olive tree from your other plants as not to spread the disease.
12. Clean Olive Tree Area from Weeds
Young olive trees are very sensitive to weed race. For this reason, pull weeds growing in the vicinity of your young olive tree. And continue to keep the area beneath the tree’s canopy free of weeds (radius 30 to 60 cm – 1 to 2 feet – around the trunk cleared).
Thus, check for weeds regularly. By doing that, you leave a small ring of the uncovered area around the base of the trunk is important to avoid problems like crown rot. As a result, your olive tree grows healthier.
In case, you grow companion plants next to your olive tree with established roots, you should observe all plants and remove any weeds to stop pulling out the water and minerals from the ground.
13. Protect Olive Tree from Cold and Freeze
In general, if you don’t live in the Mediterranean climate, make sure you protect your olive tree from frost damage on cold nights or move it indoors for winter. Particularly young or dwarf olive trees!
During cold or freeze, try to keep the olive tree well-watered and covered with a blanket (and nicely decorated with Christmas-like lights ;) ). In fact, never prune frost-damaged areas until the following spring. It will only harm the tree more like open wounds.
Items You May Need to Revive Olive Tree
Definitely, you don’t need any fancy gardening tools to have to take care of your olive tree all year round. However, if you have the following customer highly rated tools, available on Amazon, you can be sure your olive tree gets all the maintenance it needs in terms of watering, soil, and pruning.
Last update on 2021-01-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Last update on 2021-01-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Olive Tree Leaves Changing Color & Falling Off?
Question about olive tree leaves problems I receive quite often. There is no strict answer because there might be multiple reasons for that and in order to continue with effective treatment or prevention, you should first identify the cause.
For example, if your olive tree leaves are turning brown and dropping off the branches, most likely, your tree is suffering from overwatering or poor drainage. Accordingly, do not water the olive tree and let it dry. Check with moisture meter on a regular basis to avoid oxygen-deprived roots.
As well, if your olive tree leaves are yellow and shedding, then it might lack nitrogen or sunlight.
For further problematic olive tree analysis, I have specific articles which can help you to find the reason and treatment:
- Olive Tree Leaves Turning Brown
- Olive Tree Leaves Turning Yellow
- Olive Tree Leaves Curling
- Olive Tree Leaves Dropping Off
- White Stuff on Olive Leaves
How to Bring Dead Olive Tree in Pot Back to Life?
Can you bring a dying olive tree back to life? Of course, you can!
First, thoroughly observe the tree and make sure there are no insects or diseases that might have infected your tree. For example, if an olive tree has lost or losing its leaves because of bugs or a fungus, then the best effort is to treat your tree with insecticide as necessary.
Furthermore, kindly follow all the steps as described above (check the soil, the moisture level, pests, etc). If all else fails, then trim the olive tree back to the first set of leaves.
Afterward, repot the olive tree. Unnecessary to use a new pot for the potted trees, but important to pull the tree up and check the root system. Thus, trim off any old, dried, or decayed roots. Then, repot with fresh potting soil and water well. Keep in a fairly shaded spot until you see new growth. Do not fertilize it during this time, because transplanting is already hard on the olive tree. But keep it moist and not wet.
Even so, if still nothing works, you should cut the tree back to almost a stump. Because it may be only one solution to keep the tree alive and bring back to life. As long as there is sap circulating (i.e. tree juice), your olive tree is alive and not dead. Besides, good to know, the olive tree will grow back in no time!
Final Thoughts on How to Revive Olive Tree
To summarise, if you take care of your olive tree regularly and perform routine maintenance, such a tree will nurture and bring you healthy olive fruits on a yearly basis.
However, if it happens that your olive tree starts dying, try to follow all the steps above on how to revive olive tree. Firstly, check the soil, moisture, nutrients, prune it, and so on. Though, if nothing works, cut the tree back to a stump. And, you will be surprised, the olive tree will come back to decorate home surroundings!
Most of the problems that befall olive trees are not life-threatening and you can’t do anything about those that are. Provide your olive tree with the best nurture and follow excellent tree care practices to give it the best chance at a productive life.
- How to Grow Olive Trees Indoors
- Best Soil for Olive Trees
- Best Fertilizer for Olive Trees
- Large Pots for Olive Trees Reviews
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