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olive tree leaves turning brown

Why Olive Tree Leaves Turning Brown? Reasons | Treatment | Prevention

If you are growing olive trees, then you should also be aware of the things that may go wrong with it. That way, you will not be left hanging in case you see them. It takes a lot of effort from planting your cuttings to the pot or ground and watching them grow. You wouldn’t want to end up clueless when something not right happens.

Like for example, olive tree leaves turning brown can surely alarm you. It’s supposed to be green to call it a healthy olive tree. But what causes olive tree leaves turning brown and how can you treat it? The main reasons why olive trees turning brown and falling off are because of overwatering, poor drainage, or overfertilizing. As well, olive leaves changing color into brown if affected by olive peacock spots, verticillium wilt, other pests, and diseases.

This may sound unfamiliar to you, so for this reason, keep reading down below my article where I explained in detail for you to learn more about the causes and ways to cure them.

Why My Olive Tree Leaves Turning Brown & How to Treat it?

Though olive tree leaves problems can differ for indoor potted trees and olive trees exposed in landscapes outdoors, brown tips arise for the same basic reasons: overfertilizing, overwatering, underwatering, or distress. Once your olive leaves tips turn brown, those dead tip cells can’t be revived, but quick corrections can help restore the overall health of your olive tree.

In the worst-case scenario, your tree leaves may be damaged by pests infections or diseases. So here I listed the main reasons that can cause this problem and explained solutions.

Olive Leaves/Tips Turning Brown Reasons Treatment / Prevention
1. Overfertilizing Stop fertilizing; water well to remove buildup salts in the soil; change into slow-release or liquid fertilizer
2. Overwatering or Underwatering Proper watering requirements; quickly restore the overall health of your olive tree health
3. Transplanting Distress Regular care and maintenance in order to restore the overall health of your olive tree health
4. Pests, Insects, Other Diseases  Identify the cause and treat accordingly upon occurrence; ask for professional advice in difficult cases
5. Peacock Spots Spray leaves with fungicide or copper mixture once occurred or once in November and in February for prevention purposes
6. Verticillium Wilt Soil solarization; proper care regularly to prevent

1. Overfertilizing

If your olive tree leaves tips are browning, that can mean your tree has been overfertilized or there is a buildup of fertilizer salts in the soil.

As to cure it, you need to stop fertilizing in the winter months, then use only the amount recommended on the label of whatever product you use.  Preferable to use slow-release or liquid fertilizer. If you have any concerns about which fertilizer is suitable for your olive trees, I have an in-depth guide on this topic here.

2. Overwatering or Underwatering

In addition, very common to see olive tree leaf tips turn brown because of underwatering when lost water can’t be replaced for some reason. Normally, water flows from olive tree roots through stems and water canals until it finally reaches leaf tips last. But if water resources are limited, other parts of a tree get served first. As a result, olive leaves tip cells lose out and die from a kind of drought.

olive leaves turning brown tips
Overall, any blockages that prevent tree roots from absorbing enough water – or reasons that supply water fast enough – can result in unsightly brown olive tree leaves tips. This includes sustaining the olive tree with too much water, too little water, or too much fertilizer.

3. Transplanting Distress

Another reason is root damage or transplanting distress also prevents tree roots from doing their job and feeding all the parts of the olive tree. As a result, the olive leaf tip becomes brown and dies.

4. Pests, Insects Attack

One more reason why your olive tree health is under suspicion if it has unwelcome guests: pests or insects.  Carefully observe the tree, check the foliage and stems for signs of pests such as scale insects. Not sure how scales look like and how to get rid of scale, check out my informative article about scale insects here.

There are many more pests that can harm your olive tree. So the most important first is to identify the pest and treat it accordingly.

olive leaves seasonal change
Random olive tree leaves turn brown and fall off because of seasonal changes, particularly prior to winter slowdown

5. Leaves Affected by Peacock Spots

For example, if an olive tree affected by peacock spots infection, it will have yellow and brown spots on the leaves. That’s an alarming color of olive tree leaves, which means that it needs to be cured as soon as possible. It can cause the leaves to fall, and your tree can no longer photosynthesize. This disease occurs mostly through California’s olive-growing regions.

This video shows you examples of what a peacock spot in olives can look like:

  • How to Treat Peacock Spots?

The good news is, it’s treatable, so no need to worry about it too much. You can treat the olive peacock spots by spraying it with fungicide or copper mixture. To prevent that the peacock spots will not be affecting your olive trees, do this once in November and in February. It will ensure that your plants will stay healthy and produce fresh olive fruits that you can enjoy for a long time.

olive tree leaves peacock spots
Olive tree leaves damaged by peacock spots can look very different

6. Root Damage by Verticillium Wilt

Another cause of olive tree leaves turning brown is it may be suffering from verticillium wilt. It happens if there is no proper drainage system from the soil. It can also occur if the olive trees are overwatered. The roots of the plant will have an oxygen shortage, and it can cause to get infected by the verticillium wilt.

Verticillium wilt is a fungal infection that is present in the soil. It can affect the plants from the roots and travel through the branches as well as the leaves. The flowers and the fruits can also be affected by this fungus. Unfortunately, once the olive tree got involved, it can no longer be cured of this disease.

verticillium wilt on olive trees
Olive leaves turning brown affected by verticillium wilt (image by UC ANR)
  • How to Get Rid of Verticillium Wilt?

Not just because this fungal infection lives in the soil, you cannot do anything about it. You can get rid of the verticillium wilt by soil solarization. Heat the ground to six inches or more with enough heat to kill the fungus. Solarization can help to get rid of that disease that can be transferred to the olive tree.

To do this, you can prepare the soil by digging and wetting it. After that, you can cover it with clear plastic to trap the heat inside. Leave it from three to five weeks so that the sun can heat the soil thoroughly and kill the fungus that can affect the plants negatively. Once ready, you can already replant your olive trees to the pots or ground.

  • How to Protect Your Tree from Verticillium Wilt?

Prevention is the best way to deal with verticillium wilt. However, it’s not as easy as it sounds since this fungal infection lives in the soil itself. The best thing to do is to make your olive tree to be strong enough to avoid getting this disease. It will help to be more resistant to this fungus.

Watering your olive trees regularly and able to recognize overwatering symptoms can help a lot. Make sure that there’s a drainage system to get rid of the excess water. If possible, provide some shade to them during the afternoon. Pruning unhealthy branches can also be a good idea. Use a fertilizer that has low nitrogen and high phosphorus fertilizer.

Still not sure? Then, comment below or 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 Leaves Turning Brown?

If your olive tree has only a few suspicious leaves, then it may be just a natural growth cycle, where the leaves turning brown, die, and falling off. In this case, you don’t need to worry at all.

However, if your olive tree leaves turning brown massively and the tree is neglected, it can end up getting worse and you should call a local gardener for inspection and respective treatment.

Overall, for the best growing results, you should care for your olive tree regularly and check the leaves of the trees whenever you water them. That way, you will know if they are still healthy if there’s something terrible going on. Preventing any issues with the olive tree leaves is the best way to ensure that the plant will thrive and produce more olive fruits for many years to come.

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