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

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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 them?

The main reasons why olive tree leaves turning brown and falling off are because of overwatering, poor drainage, overfertilizing, or distress. 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.

brown olive tree leaves edges
Lack of nutrients is the main cause of olive leaves turning brown in this image (test soil and find out if any of the key nutrients are missing)

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 ReasonsTreatment / Prevention
1. OverfertilizingStop fertilizing; water well to remove buildup salts in the soil; change into slow-release or liquid fertilizer; test the soil
2. OverwateringProper watering requirements; quickly restore the overall health of your olive tree health
3. UnderwateringAdjusting watering; quickly restore the overall health of your olive tree health
4. Environmental Changes: Transplanting Distress, Lack of Light, Inconsistency, Moving, TemperatureRegular care and maintenance in order to restore the overall health of your olive tree health
5. Pests, Insects, Other Diseases Identify the cause and treat accordingly upon occurrence; ask for professional advice in difficult cases
6. Peacock SpotsSpray leaves with fungicide or copper mixture once occurred or once in November and in February for prevention purposes
7. Verticillium WiltSoil solarization; proper care regularly to prevent
Table 1: Reasons why Olive Tree Leaves Turning Brown

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.

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.

2. Overwatering

If not overfertilized, then another simplest explanation is that you have been overwatering your olive tree.

To explain it briefly: the roots wick up the water to the olive tree body. The tree cells fill up, one by one, and attempt to pass the liquid on to the next cell.

Such water flow works wonderfully until the moisture reaches the cells located at the end of the line – in the olive leaves. These cells have no place to pass excessive moisture on to, so they continue to fill until they burst, creating crusty brown tips on the edges of the olive leaves.

In general, chronic overwatering causes olive tree root rot and fungal issues that are perfect for supporting a healthy colony of unpleasant fungus gnats and other parasites. 

Another symptom of overwatering may be appearance of olive leaves turning yellow.

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

4. Environmental Changes

If overfertilization, overwatering, or underwatering has not satisfactorily explained your problem, then there may be another explanation. Many circumstances in an olive tree’s environment can lead to browning leaves.

Transplanting Distress

Root damage while transplanting 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.

Lack of Light

If the olive tree has less light than it requires to thrive, it will slow down all of its functions. The tree will not use water as fast as it would if it were in the proper light conditions, and this will lead to an excess of moisture resulting in changes of olive leaves.


If you have a tendency to neglect your olive tree to the point of wilting and then overcorrect by giving it a huge drink, an olive tree will typically force too much water through its cells, creating a similar overabundance in moisture.


If olive tree has recently been moved from one spot to another, the different elements of the new environment may cause and overabundance of moisture.


Most commonly, cold is a factor in creating a moisture-rich environment for an olive tree, but hot humid settings can be equally damaging.

olive tree branch symbolizes
Olive tree leaves may turn brown due to transplanting distress – don’t worry too much, just give some time for your olive tree to settle down in a new place and provide a regular care

5. 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.

Last update on 2023-02-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

6. 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.

Peacock spot disease occurs mostly through California’s olive-growing regions.

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

7. 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.

Preventing Olive Tree Leaves Turning Brown

In most cases, brown olive tree edges or tips are caused essentially by too much water or too much fertilizer, so the best preventative measure is to properly water your olive tree and fertilize once a couple of months during the olive tree growth cycle.

In addition, you should ensure basic olive tree care requirements:

  • Provide your olive tree direct sunlight at least 4-6 hours per day
  • Water regularly once per week or biweekly
  • Ensure dried out period in between waterings
  • Check if your olive tree has a proper drainage
  • Fertilize regularly each couple of months
  • Test soil once per year in order to apply missing nutrients

Conclusion on Brown Olive Tree Leaves

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.

In short, 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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10 thoughts on “Why Olive Tree Leaves Turning Brown? Reasons | Treatment | Prevention”

  1. Fungicide or copper mixture.
    Where do I get these and how do I apply?
    Thanks for your article. Very helpful.

  2. Hi Francis, thank you for your comment. You can find copper fungicide on Amazon (adding an affiliate link to the most recommended product: Bonide Copper Fungicide ). This liquid Copper Fungicide is a protection for plants and helps control powdery mildew, downy mildew, black spot, peach leaf curl, rust, and many other listed diseases. It is easy to use: mix it with water and apply on a tree by using either a hose-end sprayer or tank sprayer. Carefully read and use, according to label directions.

  3. Hi, thanks so much for your article! I have a young olive tree that has its leaves curling downward and upward. I recently added a fertilizer with a 20-20-20 ratio. Since we are in spring, it has a lot of new growth but a few of the new growth is also curling downward. Should I flush out the fertilizer I used to save it? Or will that make it worse bc then the soil will be wet again. I have a moisture monitor and the reading on the guage is right in the middle. So the soil is not too wet and not too dry. I’ve been monitoring it daily and I don’t see any improvement. I would love any advice as to what I should do. Thank you!

  4. Hi Michelle, it is recommended to feed olive trees in spring. However, if a strong consistency fertilizer was applied and you noticed that your tree didn’t like it, then it is better to water again to remove excess fertilizer. It takes time for any tree to recover if the damage to roots is done. I always suggest applying smaller quantities of fertilizer but more often.

  5. Hi Shah, brown olive tree leaves may mean too much water, too little water or over fertilization. Try to regulate watering routine and water only when olive tree fully dries out. Also, fertilize it only once per couple months exluding winter season.

  6. Hi Marjorie, we would need more information to have a whole picture. Flower buds may turn brown due to too much or too little water, over-fertilization, pests/insects, drastic weather, and other environmental changes.

  7. Thank you for such an informative article. Your analysis helped me to see that the browning of leaves on my two trees are due to over-watering, as we have had a lot of rain this year. Also, our area has clay soils so drainage would be an issue with the rain! Do you have suggestions for improving drainage without disrupting the root system?

  8. Hi Elizabeth, you can check out how to install tile drains. Though it’s often best to involve a landscape professional for this job, cause carefull analysis of a slope, tile depth, and the water outlet is recomended prior to starting.

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