Why Olive Tree Leaves Turning Yellow? Reasons | Prevention

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If you have discovered that your olive tree leaves turning yellow or may be losing leaves, you may want to know why.

The common answer is your olive tree leaves turning yellow when the tree is experiencing some kind of major change in nutritional intake. This might mean that the olive tree is underwatered, lacking nutrients, has parasites or it could indicate a need for better feeding techniques.

Mostly if olive tree yellow leaves are firm yellow and fall away from the tree easily, you have underwatered it at some point in the past. But if the leaves on the olive tree display dotted yellowing or mosaic yellowing, or appear yellow or light green with dark green veins, and if the olive leaves are still well attached to the plant, then you probably have another issue.

So let’s look into the most common reasons your olive leaves are turning yellow and what are the preventive actions to take.

Causes for Olive Tree Leaves Turning Yellow

Olive trees are versatile and do well in most climates, but there are lots of things that can give your olive trees problems! Here are the conditions that can turn silver-green olive leaves into sour yellows:

  • Too much or too little water
  • Lack of nutrients
  • Lack of sunlight
  • Pests or parasites
  • Changes in weather
  • Root rot
  • Olive diseases

This table lists the most common causes why your olive tree leaves turning yellow and the most efficient prevention measures:

Olive Leaves Turning YellowPrevention Measures
1. OverwateringRegular watering habits
2. UnderwateringCreate a regular watering schedule
3. Lack of NutrientsCheck soil & feed olive tree accordingly
5. Lack of SunlightPlace in the sunniest location; use artificial lights
5. Seasonal ChangesMonitor overall health of an olive tree; balance temperature
6. New EnvironmentGive time to adopt a new place; feed regularly
7. Peacock Spots & Other PestsSpray with pesticides
Table 1: Most common reasons for olive tree leaves turning yellow

1. Overwatering

The most common reason is related to watering. For instance, if the olive tree is overwatered, the soil is waterlogged and aeration is subsequently deprived. As a result, the olive tree root system will deteriorate or rot and leaves will turn yellow and dry up. Then, eventually will start dropping.

To be more precise, when olive tree is overwatered the olive leaves yellowness will appear in a mosaic pattern, not solid yellow, and the leaves may have unsightly, crunchy brown tips but will not fall off easily.

 If your olive trees grow in pots, make sure there are enough holes for proper water drainage. Rotting can also occur when the roots outgrow the size of their containers. If your tree is getting too big for its pot, give it more room by transferring it to a large pot for olive trees!

What are the olive tree overwatering symptoms and how to prevent it from happening, you can find out in the article here.

olive tree overwatering symptoms
Read on olive tree overwatering symptoms

2. Underwatering

Another watering-related issue is underwatering. When the olive tree is underwatered, especially the potted olive tree, it reduces the number of resources sent to the least-important leaves. Even if you water your olive tree, the tree may recover, but the damage has already been done and its leaves keep changing color and falling off.

Good thing about olive trees, that they react to changes in watering slower than others, it can take several weeks to display signs of a problem.

Sometimes, the olive tree leaves yellowing will show after the tree has received the proper amount of water. This can confuse you because the damage appears when the olive tree seems otherwise healthy. You might think the olive tree is still lacking water and water again, causing overwatering.

Potted Olive Tree Deep Watering Met...
Potted Olive Tree Deep Watering Method

3. Lack of Nutrients

Another reason for olive leaf discoloration is related to the lack of the most important nutrient nitrogen or iron. If olive trees are not getting enough of the good stuff, the deficiencies in nitrogen, iron, zinc, or magnesium will be reflected in the pale olive leaves.

In the case of manganese deficiency, the discoloration will first affect the younger leaves, thereas magnesium deficiency first will show on older leaves.

You can test the soil with a soil meter, then make the necessary adjustments. In some cases, the nutrients are there, but unavailable due to problems with the soil pH. Therefore, it may require a stronger treatment specific to the problem.

For example, olive trees suffering from a nitrogen deficiency have yellow leaves and poor growth. So, nitrogen should be applied around trees regularly. as well, if your tree is low in iron it can cause chlorosis and the iron deficiency symptoms will be reflected on yellowing olive tree leaves.

olive tree leaves lacks nitrogen
Here yellowing olive tree leaves is a sign of nitrogen deficiency. The solution to feeding nitrogen-rich fertilizer

4. Lack of Sunlight

As well, if your olive tree is in the shade or inside and does not have enough sunlight it will not photosynthesize appropriately. Because of it, the tree leaves turn yellow.

5. Seasonal Changes

Finally, the olive trees shed leaves like other plants. So leaves yellowing and drop is most common prior to going into winter slowdown but can occur in small quantities throughout the year. Even so, such type of yellowing and leaf drop should not be alarming – it is a normal part of the olive growth cycle.

olive leaves turning yellow because of natural growth
Random olive tree leaves turning yellow and dropping can be caused by the seasonal changes

6. New Environment

It is very common for newly purchased potted olive trees.

Imagine, your olive tree was growing in ideal conditions in the greenhouse and then moved out into homes and offices that generally have much less light and airflow available. This is cause for yellowing and dropping olive leaves.

Once olive tree regains balance and adapts in its new environment, the leaves stop changing color and it stop shredding leaves.

7. Peacock Spots & Other Pests

Olive tree leaves turning yellow with black spots or also known as peacock spots. It’s a prevalent condition for olive trees, especially during the growing season. It’s a lesion that is caused by fungus. The problem is, these spots can be spread because of the bad weather or other insects.

Any pest or parasite infestation is one of the toughest issues to deal with as an olive tree grower. Besides sucking the nutrients from the leaves, the little critters can wreak havoc and give your olive tree diseases.

Sap-sucking insects such as aphids, whiteflies, scale, mealybugs, spider mites can cause damage to leaves that develop yellow spots and eventually spread an infestation if not cured. How to control pests and get rid of them, read more on our article about problems with olive trees.

olive tree leaves turning yellow if not well fed or overwatered
Olive tree leaves may turn yellow if underfed or overwatered or because of seasonal changes

How to Prevent Olive Tree Leaves Turning Yellow?

After you identify the reasons why your olive tree leaves turning yellow (with spots), then you can easily protect it from happening again and regularly care for the olive tree. For this reason, I listed 5 steps for the prevention of olive tree leaves changing color and dropping off.

Feed the Tree Well

The olive tree needs all the nutrients it can get to grow healthy. Like any other plant, if it’s healthy, it will avoid having peacock spots and other diseases. It will not suffer from the leaves turning yellow or brown if it’s well-nourished.

Even if you water it regularly, also try to add some other nutrients to the soil. You can add some liquid feed or add some fish blood and bones to add nutrients to the ground. That will ensure that your olive tree will be healthier and avoid having any issues.

Depending on the size of the plant, mature olive trees need between 0.7 and 1 kg (1.5 and 2 pounds) of nitrogen annually. Thus, apply fertilizer in December to assist fruit development, in spring to fuel new growth and, if necessary, in the summer if the tree is growing poorly.

what is the best fertilizer for olive trees in pots
Read on olive tree fertilizers

Moisten the Soil

Avoid overwatering the olive tree since it can be bad for the plant. However, make sure that the soil is moist. The olive tree likes it when the soil is moist enough, and it can be healthier. It will avoid catching a disease that usually shows from the leaves.

This is best avoided by adjusting irrigation practices or consider mechanically improving aeration to solve the drainage issue. So make sure to have a drainage system because it can flush away the excess water.

As a result, it will prevent the roots from being rotten due to overwatering. Just make sure not to leave the soil dry so that it will not suffer.

Last update on 2022-06-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Prune the Tree

Pruning is another way to keep your olive tree healthy and increase airflow, photosynthesis, and growth. When the new shoots are showing, pinching them will promote growth. It can also make its branches get more sunlight so that it will not have any issues when the fruit begins to sprout.

During the late spring and early summer, make sure that the branches are thinned out. That will help the center of the olive tree to be exposed to more sunlight. It will also help the production of the fruit to be more comfortable for the plant.

prune olive trees in pots
Read on olive tree pruning tips

Expose to the Sunlight

Olive trees are better if exposed to more sunlight. It’s the type of plant that needs a lot of sun exposure to become healthier. That will ensure their growth to be better as well. The more sunshine to the plant, the better it will grow.

The sun can also help the olive tree leaves to stay dry. It will avoid mildew to sit for a long time. That will cause some fungus to stick to the leaves. It will make the leaves turn yellow and develop black spots, which is not suitable for them.

Take Off the Diseased Fruit

When the olive tree produces fruits, make sure to observe them. Sometimes, a couple of fruits may look good, but some may not. If you notice that something is off from the fruit, it’s best to remove it from the tree as soon as possible.

If the diseased fruit is not taken out, it can affect the entire olive tree. It’s better also to maintain the height of the olive tree. Keep it down by removing its crown so it will not grow too high. It will help the plant to stay healthy so it can survive longer.


Conclusion on Olive Tree Leaves Turning Yellow

Some olive tree leaves turning yellow is normal, especially if you have a new plant acclimating to its new, lower-light environment. If you see few yellow leaves, it does not necessarily mean your tree is dying. It merely means that the olive tree is sending out some signals that something has happened or changed.

Don’t panic and if you attentive, you can easily fix it. It may seem concerning at first, but everything should be fine if you prevent the root cause.

Also, it can be avoided by making sure to always observe the trees if there is something not familiar going on. The lightening of leaves just functions as a warning sign that your olive tree needs a bit of extra support!

Just remember to follow our pro-recommendations and you’ll be back to seeing silver-green in no time!

problems with olive tree in pots
Read on common problems with olive trees in pots

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8 thoughts on “Why Olive Tree Leaves Turning Yellow? Reasons | Prevention”

  1. Rita Juraite

    Hi, I’m growing olive tree in container indoor at winter and outside in summer. In spring here weather sometimes is not nice as well. But now in April I took my tree out. Few days was fine, but this night temperature was only +1 and I noticed in the morning that leaves became not healthy. Some of them. Need I take this tree back inside or can to leave? I’m afraid it’s will not shock for the tree if I take back to home? Can tree in general to die because of that or will survive? He is 7 years old

  2. Hi Rita, its a transition shock for your tree outdoors especially if it is a huge drop in temperatures. Olive trees can withstand 1+ temperatures, but they prefer a warm and full sun climate. It needs lots of patience for olive tree to recover. Take care of your tree regularly and eventually it will recover fully!

  3. Charles Green

    Hi 30 days ago we transplanted a 20+ year old olive tree to our landscape. Attempting to us tensiometers to keep so at correct moisture but not clear on what it should read when needing water and establishing the correct watering routine. Suddenly I have many yellow leaves…dontiu have any suggestions to help me figure out if it is too much too little water? Maybe the the drainage isn’t what I thought it was? I wouldn’t think it could have root rot in 30 days…At least I hope not. Could it be possibly the shock of the root severing and transplant? Desperate.

  4. Hi Charles, I would say to water once or twice per week just transplanted olive tree depending on the soil type. Good drainage is greatly important since olive trees prefer to be dry than moist and humid. Dampness can create problems such as pest infestation, root rot etc. Most probably it is a transplanting shock, it is normal for olive trees to take their time to thrive after relocation. Also, would be good to test soil to learn missing nutrients and fertilize if needed. If your tree is not showing the signs of recovery, it would be great to speak with a local arborist who knows the region specifics. Hope your tree will recover soon!

  5. Hi there, we have a 300 hundred year old olive tree and 2 medium sized Olive trees which we bought about a month ago in perfect condition. We live in a block of flats where the balconies are exposed to the elements. We have noticed that ALL leaves are yellow, dry and crisp but also a lot of them have also fallen off. We are not sure what to do and would really like to save them as they cost us a lot of money and also we love them so much. I think the problem arose because we under watered them then over watered them. Any advice to help us save our Olive trees will be greatly received! Thank you!

  6. Hi Helen, sorry to hear about your olive trees, the most important factor is full sun and good drainage. To minimize watering issues, get a moisture meter which will help to assess when your olive is thirsty. Another thing to check is roots, are they pot bound? if they are, repot into 25% bigger pot, also, refresh the soil. Once the watering issue is solved, I recommend fertilizing to boost growth.

  7. Hello, I have a 80 year old Olive tree in a pot. We have had it about 18 months and have had no problems up until now.
    Her leaves have turned yellow and are dropping. I’m wondering if this is because she needs to be planted in the ground rather than a pot.
    Also what feed would you recommend please?

  8. Hi Lindsey, sorry to hear about your olive tree shedding leaves. Have you replaced into a new location your olive tree recently? Maybe there are any recent changes your olive tree may not like? Check the olive roots, if they are too pot bound – repot it. Also, proper watering and fertilizing can help to recover your tree. Use olive tree balanced fertilizers: USA market – https://amzn.to/3jckNil , for UK market – https://amzn.to/2WIfAYe .

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