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Generally, olive tree bonsai is the art of dwarfing a standard olive tree to create a perfect miniature representation of nature in a small container or a pot.
To make olive tree into bonsai is pretty easy once you know generic principles and styling methods. But it takes years of pruning, wiring, repotting, and grafting in order to restrict olive tree growth. So one of the hardest skills to master in this process is patience. In fact, it helps that the olive tree is slow-growing, has a natural cup shape, tiny leaves, interesting cracked bark, and twisted trunks. Moreover, the wood of an olive tree is also very soft and pliable making it easy to form into a bonsai.
The final result is a work of art valued for its beauty, so if you can’t wait to try to create one yourself, follow my guide and watch great videos below on how to make an olive tree into a bonsai.
1. Olive Tree Selection
First of all, select a young, healthy, preferable bushy olive tree to create a bonsai. What makes the bonsai tree different from any ordinary trees, that it has a nice strong trunk.
So you should pick an olive tree with a nicely grown trunk which is the key element when making a bonsai. You can even get a pre-made bonsai olive tree – this is the easiest way to get started shaping your bonsai.
As well, inspect the tree for any visible signs of damage or pest infestation. I recommend selecting one that already has interesting twists and a unique growing pattern that will allow you to work with the natural development of the tree.
Which Olive Tree Variety is Best for Bonsai?
As for the olive tree variety, the best option is Olea europaea variety sylvestris, as well known as “wild” olive of the Mediterranean. This variety is characterized by a smaller tree bearing noticeably smaller olive fruits.
Olea europaea sylvestris is the perfect choice for cultivating and shaping a wild bonsai olive tree. The tiny leaves, short internodes, and rough bark will make it a showy specimen plant that will live for generations.
2. Get Shallow Container
The olive bonsai tree will need a suitable container to grow in. The perfect choice for a bonsai olive tree is a ceramic or porcelain container, though usually, it is more expensive. Note that original and special bonsai containers are handmade and unique, which leads to a very high cost sometimes reaching thousands of dollars price.
I do not recommend selecting a clay pot for bonsai as this type of pot material will wick moisture away faster from the tree roots. But a plastic container that is as wide as one-half of the tree’s height and as deep as the diameter of the tree is a good option.
Moreover, a small, shallow container that will keep the roots restricted yet provide enough soil to nourish the olive bonsai tree is ideal. Make sure the container has a sufficient drainage hole in the bottom.
To summarise the bonsai container topic there is no hard and fast rule for it. You can grow your bonsai in any pot you like as long as you understand what impact pot material will have on the soil conditions. Then you can adjust the olive tree care and maintenance. For example, plastic pots keep better moist; there as clay pots evaporate water quickly.
3. Planting Medium
Once you have chosen a container, it’s time to create a perfect growing medium by mixing equal parts of commercial potting soil, fine sand, and peat compost. This well-draining soil mixture will closely resemble the soil as if an olive tree would be in a natural environment. As well, you can use bonsai soil but it is unnecessary.
Bear in mind, you may need only a tiny bit of planting medium since normally you transplanting your tree from a big pot into a much smaller shallow bonsai-like container. So in theory, you could use the same soil. But this potting mix may be good to refresh the soil and to close the open holes after repotting. Unless you change the potting soil into bonsai soil, then you need a small bag of it.
4. Heavy Pruning
In the pruning process, you should sense or learn how to find the front and height of the potential olive tree bonsai. A trunk to a height ratio is the first and the most important step to figuring out as to get the right proportions for making a bonsai olive tree. Well, the fundamental Japanese rule is that the Bonsai height should be about six times the size of the trunk. So all we need to apply it.
Continue by finding branches you want to keep and shape your olive tree. That’s usually the lowest and the most powerful dominant branch at the bottom of the tree. Don’t be afraid of drastic cuts! It’s a task you cant avoid in bonsai making process.
Next, you can pluck some leaves to make some room and prepare for wiring. And take off some branches using a concave cutter. Branch selection is very important, you should prune the smallest ones to simplify the overall effect of the tree and give the tree more shape.
5. Wiring Trunk And Branches
After you’ve finished the pruning process, the next step is to bend the branches and for that, you should use a special bonsai wire or raffia. You start to wire at the bottom to anchor the tree to the soil and then wire the trunk to the top. You wrap the wire around the trunk of the tree. And this is what is going to ensure a solid grip and allow you to bend the tree into shape.
Use thinner wire to anchor the branches, working from the bottom up. As well, wire 2 branches with one bonsai wire or raffia. Then, you can bend and twist your olive tree into a preferable shape and bend the branches to the desired angle.
Avoid using regular wire as it can cut into the bark of the tree and create a wound that will invite pests and/or diseases to attack the tree.
6. Shaping / Styling
In the bonsai-making process, our goal is to try to create a look of an ancient olive tree in nature. Like an olive tree on top of the mountain that has been windswept, beaten up by long years of growth. So by bending the branches with wires helps you to mimic and create the look of the ancient tree.
If you are interested to get more inspiration on bonsai shaping, there are five main styles of bonsai called Chokkan, Kengai, Han-Kengai, Moyogi, and Shakan, along with several secondary styles but there’s no right or wrong bonsai shape to create when pruning the tree. Select a bonsai style that appeals most to you and create a shape that pleases you. The goal is to create an interesting tree shape that remains small enough to live in a container and bring us back to ancient times.
Note the wire stays on the tree for around a year and then you should cut it off before it cuts in. It helps to encourage the olive tree to grow in the desired shape.
Now I welcome you to check out this short but very cool video on how to make olive tree into bonsai (bonus great music tunes :) ).
7. Transplanting into Bonsai Container
Prior to transplanting an olive tree into a bonsai pot, prune its roots to fit a bonsai container. This may seem a bit aggressive than it is, just don’t be afraid to tease roots with a root rack starting at the bottom, knocking soil off the root ball. Spread the roots out, to become flat, but not cut and damaged. Now the olive tree is ready to be repotted.
Place a shallow layer of the growing medium in the bottom of the selected container, then seat the olive tree in the center and finish filling the container with planting medium. By the way, you should use a wire to anchor the tree to the pot if you change the potting mix into bonsai soil which is very granular. It will help your tree to stand until its roots are established in a new shallow container.
In addition, while styling bonsai, you can position your olive tree around the rocks or moss and even place it with other trees to simulate a tiny landscape. Just remember, the olive tree live and face the sun on their own, which can result in different movements than you planned initially.
8. Water Often
Once you finished all these steps above, it is time to water your tree. Saturate the soil until the water is pouring out of the bottom right after planting. This will ensure there are no air pockets in the soil and the tree is thoroughly hydrated. Or dunk the olive tree in a basin of water to remove air bubbles.
If you planted your bonsai olive tree in a shallow small bonsai-like container, water it often, preferable every day. Most importantly, never allow the soil to completely dry out but don’t keep the soil soggy wet either. And don’t fertilize at least 2 months after transplanting, as it can damage not yet established olive tree roots.
However, if you made your regular olive tree into a hybrid bonsai and placed it in a normal spacious pot, you don’t need to water it often as long as roots are kept moist. Because roots are drying extremely fast in shallow bonsai-type containers and keeping it without food, it can harm the bonsai very fast.
9. Let It Rest
Allow the young olive bonsai tree to rest. This period will allow the tree to adjust to its new environment and it won’t be overly stressed. Place the container in a warm location where it will receive most of the daily sunlight.
To summarise this topic, check Jason’s video on how to make olive tree into bonsai professionally where this olive tree was cut back 2-3 years ago.
Things You Need to Make Olive Tree Into Bonsai
These are the things and highly specialized tools every bonsai creator should have in place for better tree wiring, pruning, and styling. For your convenience, I have enclosed links to the most rated products available on Amazon:
Conclusion: Make Olive Tree Into Bonsai
To create a perfect bonsai olive tree require advanced techniques mastered for many years because any error made can cause permanently ruining the shape or even killing a tree that has been growing for decades.
Even though if you are not a bonsai master, you can start with a regular bonsai olive tree in a pot as we described in this article and showed in the video. Just remember, this process needs time and devotion the most.