Do Indoor Olive Trees Need Direct Sunlight? How Much & Why?

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I am an olive tree grower in the sunniest Kalamata, a region of Messinia in Greece, but when I got my first potted Kalamata olive tree as a present to grow inside I was not sure how much indoor olive trees need direct sunlight.

I was wondering if I keep my new olive tree indoors, will it thrive the same as outdoors. So I experimented and did some research myself and here’s what I found.

While indoor olive trees can survive and provide some olive fruit in partial or indirect sunlight, they’re much better suitable for direct sunlight. In general, olive trees require 8 – 12 hours of direct sunlight daily (6 – 8 hours minimum) to produce the highest olive fruit yield. This is because olive trees are originally the Meditteranean species and the best climate to grow is subtropical.

Keep reading to find out if indoor olive trees can grow with indirect sunlight, how much sunlight they need, which olive trees can tolerate shade, and some tips to boost direct sunlight for them.

How Much Sunlight Do Indoor Olive Trees Need?

Ideally, indoor olive trees need 8 – 12 hours of sunlight during the growing and olive fruit-producing season. Though they can easily grow in partial sunlight (4 – 8 hours) during a dormant season in winter.

Indoor olive trees kept in light shade or indirect sunlight may grow and bear fruit, but only if they still have at least 6-8 hours of full daylight.

If you live in a colder climate and your indoor olive tree doesn’t get enough sunlight, your olive tree can stop growing or even start to die. To prevent this, place olive trees in the sunniest location next to the south-facing window at your home and try to use artificial lights to assist olive tree growth.

Also, some varieties of olive trees grow better indoors with partial shade than others, so it’s essential to know the preferences of your specific kind of tree.

how to grow olive tree indoors
I keep my dwarf olive tree in a kitchen facing the southern window, and it grows nicely

For example, dwarf olive trees are among those that do well in partial sunlight. If you don’t have a good spot with full sun exposure to place your olive tree in, consider getting a dwarf olive tree (dwarf Arbequina olive tree is much hardy olive variety with the little amount of sunlight it receives).

5 best olive trees for indoors feature
Read more on the best olive tree varieties for indoors

Why Olive Trees Need Direct Sunlight?

In general, most trees need sunlight to grow, but olive trees need even more to produce large, juicy olives. This is because sunlight is converted into energy for the tree and olive fruit. So the more sunlight, the larger the olive fruit you get.

Olive trees that don’t get full sunlight likely won’t die, but they won’t look healthy, and might not blossom or bear fruit. Also, olive trees that only get partial sunlight in the harvest season will take longer to develop their olive fruits, making their olives take a lot longer to ripen.

If your olive tree isn’t blooming, or if it takes a long time for olives to ripen, you should increase your tree’s sun exposure. You may consider getting some grow lights if you don’t have a sunny window or greenhouse.

Tips to Boost Direct Sunlight for Indoor Olive Trees

If your indoor olive tree isn’t growing, doesn’t blossom, dropping leaves, or yields less olive fruit every year, you may need to increase the amount of sunlight it gets. If you keep your olive tree healthy and warm, it will produce better and grow faster.

Here are some tips that will help you keep your indoor olive tree productive and healthy:

* Southern window. Place your indoor olive trees in an unshaded spot with the southern sun exposure to maximize the amount of sunlight they get. If you don’t have a south-facing window, a window with western exposure is the next best option.

* Play with sunlight and bounce it back. Light surfaces increase the intensity by reflecting light back to the olive tree. So place the olive tree near a light-colored wall, or locate a mirror where it reflects light back to the potted olive tree indoors.

* Open tree canopy for sunlight via pruning. You can prune lightly your olive tree to let sunlight inside the tree.

* Move your potted olive trees outside during the summer season. However, if the outdoor temperature varies greatly comparing indoors, your trees need to be gradually adjusted to it in order not to get a transition shock. Then the temperature gets colder in autumn, follow these steps on moving your olive tree indoors for winter.

If you notice your olive tree doesn’t get plenty of direct sun exposure, consider using an artificial grow light to help their growth. However, use artificial light as a supplement to grow and not as a single source of sunlight. 

Koroneiki olive tree indoors growing and care
Move your olive tree to the sunniest location during summer and keep it at least in partial shade during winter

Generic FAQs

Can Olive Trees Grow in Shade?

Olive trees can grow in partial shade indoors, but it isn’t a great environment for most of them. So if your potted olive tree is not thriving, it definitely needs more sunlight. Try to move them to a place with full, direct sunlight to achieve the best results.

Can Olive Tree Survive Indoors?

Yes, absolutely. With direct sunlight, regular watering, well-drained, and nutritious soil, you can grow successfully olive trees indoors. Even it can survive dark winters with the temporary support of artificial lights. For a longer-term plan, choose a dwarf olive tree that is more adaptive to the indoor environment.

Final Thoughts

While my indoor olive tree can grow in indirect partial sunlight, it prefers direct full-day sunlight. If I will take good care and maintenance, and if my olive tree is self-pollinating, it can produce olive tree flowers and olive fruits. But the quantity of the olives it yields will likely be noticeably more if I keep my potted olive tree in direct sunlight.

So if you don’t have enough direct sun for your potted olive tree indoors, consider trying some of my tips above!

Read Next

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2 thoughts on “Do Indoor Olive Trees Need Direct Sunlight? How Much & Why?”

  1. Hello, I wanted to ask about the light. A week ago I moved my olive tree to a different room, since yesterday I noticed it started to loose leaves quite massively. They are green, don’t look dry. I think the reason may be that the new spot is less sunny. Still, I like it there and I don’t really care for it to bear fruits. My question is: will the tree get used to the new spot? How long can I wait for it to stop shedding leaves? I don’t know how long it usually takes for it to acclimate to new spots, it didnt lose leaves before. Id prefer not to move it if not necessary.

  2. Hi Ktee, you are absolutely right, it may be a transition shock to your tree. So give your olive tree up to a month to adjust to a new spot. Also, check the moisture in the soil regularly since it may need less water compared to the sunnier spot and dont forget to feed your tree once per season. If your olive tree is still unhappy in a less sunny placement, I suggest moving it back – after all, olive trees need lots of sun to thrive.

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