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olive tree dropping leaves

Why My Olive Tree Dropping Leaves? Reasons | Cures | Prevention

The olive tree is an excellent plant to be around all year round in your landscape or as a decor accessory inside the house. Thus, sometimes there may be some problems with olive leaves, and as a consequence you notice your olive tree dropping leaves. Sadly, even by taking good care of your trees, it’s not always possible to retain their healthy growth and stop our olive tree leaves from changing color or losing leaves altogether. But why does it happens, why is your olive tree dropping leaves?

There are many reasons why olive tree dropping leaves with some being unavoidable, and others down to the level of care that tree growers provide. The most common problems with olive tree leaves are related to watering when the roots of the olive tree are too soaked or too dry. Another reason is seasonality changes where is normal for olive tree to shed some leaves especially prior to winter slowdown. Finally, there are always threat by pests and infections that lead to a massive drop in olive leaves. 

This olive tree dropping leaves issue may occur from time to time and it doesn’t mean you are not taking good care of it, but rather that you may just not fulfilling the requirements for keeping the tree in balance and healthy. For this reason, let’s look into each reason separately and the way how to cure or prevent it.

Olive Tree Dropping Leaves Reasons & Prevention

Olive trees tend naturally to drop some leaves during growth or dormant winter season, but it should not drop the majority of its leaves during that time. Therefore, reduced light, improper watering, cold damage are common environmental conditions that may lead to olive tree dropping leaves massively. If you notice your olive tree shedding leaves more than usual, don’t panic, it can be easily fixed in most cases. 

So let’s start with a table where I listed the main reasons and the tips on prevention mechanism:

Olive Tree Dropping Leaves Reason How to Fix It?
1. Watering Issues Soil is either too dry or too wet – water with care; fix drainage issues
2. Reduced Light Put your olive tree back to the sunniest location
3. Rotten Roots Regular watering and drainage system in place
4. Fungal Infection Proper pruning, watering, and fertilizing
5. Bacteria Infestation User bactericides

1. Watering Issues

When the olive tree leaves fall off all of a sudden, it means that the soil is either too dry or too wet for its comfort. The leaves will turn yellow and fail if there’s too much water. On the other hand, the leaves will dry, become brown, and drop due to a lack of moisture in the soil. It will cause those scenarios to happen when there’s an issue about the frequency and amount of water.

Olive trees are fruit-bearing, and they need to have moisture in the soil to keep them healthy. But it doesn’t mean that the earth has to be wet all the time or it will rot the roots and the tree will die. The best thing to do is to try to ensure that there is a drainage system to prevent the roots from being soaked.

olive tree dropping leaves because of reduced light
This is a standard case when a potted olive tree dropping leaves because of reduced light in the room

2. Reduced Light

If you moved your potted olive tree away from a window into a darker place, then the tree may start dropping leaves drastically because of their response to reduced light. Olive trees react slowly to drastic changes in their environment. So falling olive leaves is a clear indication of your tree getting less than optimal light. To comply with natural olive tree needs, keep it in your sunniest location.

For instance, if you have just purchased your olive tree and it was kelp in a greenhouse full of light, so it is normal that your tree is shedding some old leaves while adapting to your home environment. Don’t worry too much, it will grow new on top very fast.

3. Rotten Roots

Inconsistent and incorrect watering can cause rotten roots following by olive tree losing leaves. It can occur if the soil is too wet and there is no proper drainage for the water to come out. The roots of the olive tree can get soaked in water for extended periods causing it to rot and not feed the plant anymore.

To check if the root is rotting, remove the soil at the top portion. If the roots are already brown or black, that means that it’s already dead. Cut them off.

You can avoid rotten roots by making a drainage system for water to drain once the soil is moisturized and establish good watering habits.

4. Fungal Infection

A more difficult case when an olive tree leaves turning brown and dropping because of a fungal infection. Verticillium wilt is a soil-borne fungus and sometimes it can affect the olive tree. The fungus can be absorbed by the roots and will affect the whole tree. It can make the new growth to wither and the branches to rot.

Unfortunately, this fungal disease is not possible to cure. Once the olive tree gets affected, the tree will die if this disease is not managed. As well, fruiting can also be affected since the tree is no longer fit to bear them. The best way to control it to prolong the life of the tree is proper pruning, watering, and fertilizing.

5. Bacteria Infestation

Another cause of the leaves to drop from the olive tree is a bacterial infection known as the olive knot. Normally it spreads through water and can affect the olive tree fast. It will go through the cuts and wounds of the tree. Once it’s concerned, a thick gall will appear on woody parts of the olive tree including twigs, branches, limbs, trunks, roots and leaves.

The gall can restrict the nourishment of the olive tree. It will no longer absorb water, and the leaves will fall out, making it impossible to photosynthesize. To treat infected olive trees, you should remove easily visible knots from infected parts of the tree and spray with bactericide applications to prevent it from coming back.

bacteria disease olive knot
Olive knot galls bacterial disease on olive tree twigs (image by UC IPM)

Do Olive Trees Lose Leaves in Winter?

No, olive trees are evergreen. But the olive leaves are dropping more often prior winter dormant season but never drops off all of them at once. The heaviest olive leaves fall is in winter during harsh weather and in spring during new growth.

Still have questions? Join our olive tree growers community on Facebook, ask questions, share experiences, and post pictures of your olive trees! Click here to join

Conclusion: Why Olive Tree Dropping Leaves?

When the olive tree dropping leaves looks alarming, better check right away what’s causing it. Some conditions are still treatable, but prevention is always better than cure.

For instance, olive trees need to have plenty of moisture. But avoid overwatering them, or you may have a problem like the unstoppable dropping of leaves. It’s not good for the olive tree to lose so many leaves since it’s essential for photosynthesis. If you can ensure a drainage system before planting them, that will be an excellent idea. It will avoid many plant issues, and your olive tree can survive for a long time.

With good care, the olive tree gets, the more olive fruits for you to enjoy. Take good care of it so you can have more olive fruits to harvest.

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