how to revive olive tree

13 Great Solutions on How to Revive Olive Tree & Bring Back to Life

***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. 

revive olive tree by identifying a problem
The first step in reviving an olive tree is to identify the problem and fix it unless the tree roots no longer have a sign of life

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.

Watch our video on how to prune olive trees in pots: 

Pruning Olive Trees in Pots - 5 Principles

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.

pruning water sprouts of olive tree
Pruning water sprouts and suckers help core branches of olive trees become thicker and stronger

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!

problems with olive trees in pots infographic
These are the most common problems with olive trees in pots related to watering, feeding, pests, and growing conditions

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.

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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. 

touch the soil of olive tree before watering
Touch the soil with your fingers to see if it is wet – otherwise use a moisture meter that is more precise in checking moisture at the root level

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.

Underwatering Signs

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!

Overwatering Sings

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 how to water it, please watch our video about deep watering techniques and check 5 tips on watering requirements for olive trees in pots.

Watch our video on how to water olive trees in pots by using the deep watering method (see it attached). 

Potted Olive Tree Deep Watering Method

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. 

how to grow olive tree indoors
Find out 20 facts about how to grow olive tree indoors

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 (otherwise, it just a guess what nutrients or minerals your olive tree lacks and requires for the best growth results).

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Of course, it may be tempting to give your dying olive tree a nutrition boost with any fertilizer but better to choose the fast effect balanced 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 to your tree. Definitely, it will vary, and the amount of fertilizer applied will depend on the ingredient concentration and the age of your tree.

For the long effect on soil and the olive tree itself, we recommend using organic fertilizer for olive trees regularly – they have a slow-release effect but very beneficial for overall soil texture and long term positive impact on olive trees and other plants.

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.

scale insects are most common problems for olive trees
This is a scale insect – the most common pests on olive trees. Don’t worry, they are not harmful as long as you apply the treatment

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 or neem oil 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.

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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.

For instance, some serious diseases or fungal infections are difficult to identify without proper knowledge or tests, so it is recommended to consult with a local arborist – a specialist who is very well aware of the local soil structure and most common diseases in your area, has the know-how and will apply a special treatment required to you tree. 

Another important thing to note: you should isolate the infected olive tree from your other plants as not to spread the disease. 

olive tree leaves curling
If the situation with your olive tree is not controllable and you have checked all the steps above, it is highly recommended to find a local expert or arborist – they will apply a proper treatment!

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 2021-10-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Last update on 2021-10-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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 that can help you to find the reason and treatment:

olive tree leaves
Dropping olive leaves are the most common problem when you bring the tree indoors for winter – it is caused by the stress of transition and reduction of light

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!

olive trees not growing or producing new leaves
Read more about why olive trees not growing or producing leaves

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.

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20 thoughts on “13 Great Solutions on How to Revive Olive Tree & Bring Back to Life”

  1. I have read recently of a Horticulturist account of grafting a 3 year old dead branch being grafted back into a Live Olive Tree and lived IS THIS POSSIBLE ?

  2. Hi John, everything is possible :) we do not practice a grafting technique in olive tree farming, but I believe it is possible.

  3. I live in the foothills and a recent snow wind event split the smaller half of a 20 year old olive tree at the base if the trunk. We severed the split portion which had a good root still in tact and replanted it. Now it is beginning to droop and the leaves are turning brownish yellow. Should i proon off all the branches to help give the root strength, or is it a gonner? The limbs are still pliable.
    Thanks for your very informative article, but it didn’t cover this issue.

  4. Hi Beth, sorry to hear about the split of your olive tree. Your tree will recover as long it has healthy and not damaged roots. Just give a time. If limbs are still responsive, keep them and monitor it regularly. Olive trees are hardy trees more than we think – normally they recover if roots haven’t been affected. Wish your tree a speed recovery! as well you can join our Facebook group where people share their experiences with olive trees!

  5. John,
    I live in Austin Texas and have 11 Olive trees planted outdoors. The recent Freeze has caused leaves to brown and they are now slowly falling off. Base of tree looks good, I did a scratch test and it is white with just a slight bit of green which was not encouraging. Assume new growth would be my first sign of life? Any sense on how long that could take. When will I know. Any direction on action plan would be appreciated.

  6. Hi Ralph, sorry to hear about your tree. Knowing that olive trees are hardy trees, your tree should eventually recover. Put it in the sunniest place, fertilizer, and give time to come back to life. It may take from a couple of months up to a year. Wish your tree a speed recovery!

  7. Hey Vangels, outstanding post, I bought a tree last year and due to inexperience, I may have underwatered it, many (almost all) leaves fried and fell off. I cut off the dead branches, and now the tree revived, however one question caused me of researching now is that the leaves are only growing regionally, some at the tip of the new branch. Is there anything I can do to stimulate growth across the whole plants? Should I just cut of the whole branch that is growing only on the tip? Thank you in advance!

  8. Hi Jon, you can try to fertilize your tree, keep it in the sunniest place and monitor if any new growths, new twigs, buds are showing up. Patience is key in the tree recovery process. Otherwise, you can cut back the branch to stimulate new growth.

  9. I have an olive tree that my mother grew from an olive sprig. It has grown quite big and was doing well – growing in a planter indoor. This winter, there was black scab infestation, that I tried to treat with neem oil. I also tried to clean all the infestation and the it seems clean. However, the plant lost all the leaves – they basically dried up and fell. Even the small shoot with some leaves that started couple of weeks ago is gone now. It seems my plant is dying – what can I do to revive it? Is it possible to save it at all?

  10. Hi Agnes, sorry to hear about your tree. Ensure you keep it in full sunlight, fertilize it and water it when the soil is dried out. If your tree is rootbound, repot it. It takes lots of patience to recover a tree, however with a care and regular maintenance eventually it will recover!

  11. Clytie Fisher

    I have a ten year old Olive in a pot which I think the frost may have got to this year.The leaves have nearly all fallen off.I have protected as in previous years…I was thinking of planting it straight in the garden.What do you think.
    Or cut it back and replant in a larger pot?
    Kind regards

  12. Hi Clytie, first observe your olive tree and trim the dead branches if any. Leave it in full sun and water once per week or biweekly. Give time to recover. If it is pot-bound, it needs repotting or transplanting in the ground in well-draining soil.

  13. Hello, we had to transplant our olive tree due to building works, it was healthy when it was moved and about 2m tall. It was moved in October 2019 and still has sunlight all day. It has shed all it’s leaves and still has not grown any back but the main trunk is still alive. I cut the dead branches back in April but still no sign of life, should I cut the trunk down further?
    I am desperate to revive this tree so any advice you can give is gratefully received!

  14. Hi Kat, must be a shock because of transplanting. Don’t cut the trunk down as of yet, let the tree grow on its own and recover slowly (be aware it takes months or even year for an olive tree to recover and grow new buds eventually). Im not sure where you are located, just ensure your tree is irrigated, has good drainage, and full sun to grow. Wish your tree a speed recovery!

  15. Hi, we are in the UK and we have two olive trees (about 2m tall, 150mm diameter trunks) in large pots (about 1m diameter). The trees have lived fine in these pots for the last 7-8 years. This summer, both trees are in the process of losing all their leaves with no obvious signs of leaf re-generation. Our watering has been the same as previous years. There are no signs of pests or disease, just leaves on the ground. The leaves are green when they come off and are not dry or brittle. Do you have any ideas or suggestions as we do not want to lose these lovely trees ?
    Many thanks

  16. Hi Francine, try to observe your olive tree roots, are your trees pot bound? To keep potted olive trees healthy and thriving, it is good to repot (refresh the soil & nutrients, trim the roots) once in several years. Also, consider fertilizing your olive trees in case of a lack of nutrients. You can test the soil prior the feeding olive trees. Otherwise, if no change in the olive tree growing environment and maintenance, feed your olive tree and give a time to recover. Hope your olive trees will thrive again soon!

  17. Hi,
    I cut back my dried olive tree in pot to stamp. Now there are many new small branches. When and how should I shape them to get only one trunk?

  18. Hi Laila, good to hear your olive tree has new small branches. Let it grow for a year and then start shaping the tee structure you want. You can read more about it in one of my recent articles: “Shaping Olive Trees” (you can find it by typing an article name in the search box).

  19. Lillian Nichols

    My 0live trees one tall and spindly at the bottom there is no new growth only the top
    I think it’s because l have never pruned them
    They are about 10 years 0ld maybe more

  20. Hi Lillian Nichols, indeed you should prune your olive tree once per year and get rid of weak branches and focus the energy on 3 – 4 core branches. I have extensive articles about how to prune olive trees and shape olive trees – you can find them by searching on my website.

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