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olive tree not fruiting not producing

Olive Tree Not Fruiting – Why My Olive Tree Doesn’t Produce Fruits?

Your olive tree not fruiting and doesn’t produce olives? There may be several reasons why your olive tree is not producing olive fruits such as age of olive tree, lack of sun or insufficient irrigation, lack of nutrients, too acid soil, lack of pollination, pruning, olive cycle and others.

So your task is to identify the cause first. Here in this article, I will suggest a few possible causes for the olive tree not fruiting that may give you sufficient guidance. 

If you don’t think any of the causes that I’ve listed apply to your olive trees, you can see a list of questions at the end of this blog that gives a bigger picture of possible problems and pinpoints what you should consider.

Age of Olive Tree

One possible cause of the non-fruiting could be the age of the olive tree. Many varieties of olive trees do not produce fruit until their third year.

Some other olive tree varieties (including, for example, the Arbequina olive tree) may start producing at a younger age. But the olive fruit that is produced in the early years is often smaller than the olive tree will produce as it matures. And in the early years, the olive fruit can also appear very rough and misshapen.

For instance, I have a Koroneiki cultivar olive tree growing in a large container that took four years after planting to start producing.

Olive Tree CultivarYear to Bear Fruits
KoroneikiCan bear olives in 1st year
ArbequinaCan bear olives in 1st year
Amfissa2-4 years
Leccino1-2 years
Frantoio2-4 years
Table 1: 5 olive cultivars year when they start producing fruits

Lack of Sun or Insufficient Irrigation

Another possible cause of your olive tree non-fruiting could be a lack of sun or insufficient irrigation.

Olive trees perform best when it receives the sun for most of the day. Proper irrigation is also very important since olive trees prefer to be on a dry side comparing with moisture.

An under-watered olive tree will produce few if any olives. But it is also important not to overwater olive tree which can also cause problems.

Ensure your olive trees are not water-stressed during the period of flower induction and fruit development. Since in drought conditions, leaf development is favored at the expense of flower development. Resulting in malfunctioning flowers that do not blossom correctly and prematurely drop without setting fruits.

In this short video we provide some very good guidance on how to water olive trees:

Lack of Nutrients

Lack of soil fertility could also cause problems in producing olives. Olive trees does need to be fertilized especially in fruiting phase.

Nutrients such as nitrogen, calcium and boron are essential for optimal flowering and fruit sets. Feed your olive trees early in spring, avoid fertilizing in winter to avoid encouraging excessive vegetative growth during the dormant season and resulting in poor floral development.

Soil test or leaf analysis taken in spring or mid summer will give a good understanding of the olive tree nutritional status and fertilizer requirements.

Also, check out our article with good information on how and when to fertilize olive trees with guidance on how much fertilizer to use (which depends on the age and size of the trees).

olive tree not fruiting doesnt produce
Olive trees needs lots of sunlight and fertilizing in order to produce healthy large olive fruits

Too Acid Soil

If you have low fertility and very acidic soil, it may lack the nutrient calcium which is a very important nutrient to help olive trees to unlock other essential nutrients and vitamins. These vital elements are locked up in the soil due to the excessive nitrogen you have in such acidic soil.

In that case, you should get a soil amendment or fertilizer to acid soils that assists in increasing soil pH to a sustainable level for your olive trees. Whilst providing useful amounts of macroelements calcium, magnesium, silicon, and phosphorus as well as a range of micronutrients required for olive tree fertility, flowering, and fruiting.

Lack of Pollination

Another possible cause for nonproducing olive trees is a lack of pollination. It can be affected by the bloom time, pollen vitality, and weather conditions during the flowering period.

While many olive varieties are capable of producing olives without bees, wind, or other pollinizers visiting the flowers, a few varieties do require cross-pollination.  

Based on research, if you introduce another compatible olive cultivar for your mono-varietal grove, the olive yield (fruit set) can be improved from 1% up to 4%.

For example, some Leccino and Mission cultivars require cross pollination by another olive tree to produce fruit.

Olive Tree CultivarsPollination
KoroneikiSelf-pollinating
ArbequinaSelf-pollinating
FrantoioSelf-pollinating
LeccinoCross-pollinating
MissionCross-pollinating
ManzanilloCross-pollinating
Table 2: Pollination characteristics of 6 olive tree cultivars

Read more about self-pollinating and cross-pollinating olive trees including olive tree pollination chart:

self & cross pollinating olive trees

Olive Cycle

Finally, some olive trees will produce well only every other year, producing a good number of olives one year and only a few olives (or none at all) the next year.

So, if you’ve observed the olives trees for less than two full years, you may have seen them in their non-productive year.

olive trees indoors improves your mood and well being
Olive tree not fruiting if it lacks sunlight, feeding, and pollinators if it is cross-pollinating olive cultivar

Pruning

If you are beginner in olive tree growing, and if olive fruit yield has been poor in previous season, prune your olive trees only when they are flowering. Dont do it before spring. And only prune the branches that are unproductive so that you leave as many flowering branches as possible.

when to pick olives for oil and brining and how
Check out when to pick olives for oil or brining and how

Generic FAQ on Olive Tree Fruiting

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Checklist on why Olive Tree Not Fruiting

Hopefully with this information above you can determine what causes your olive tree to not producing and correct it. If not, here’s the type of information you should consider on your particular olive trees.

  • Where do you grow your olive trees? Which City or part of the country?
  • What olive tree varieties do you have?
  • When did you plant your olive trees?  What was the size of the olive tree when initially planted?  What is the current size?
  • How many hours of sunlight per day do the olive trees receive in the spring and summer months?
  • How are the olive trees irrigated?  How much water is provided and how often do you water?
  • Are the olives trees planted in the ground or in containers?
  • If the olive trees are in the ground, what type of soil do you have (for example, is it heavy clay or are you one of the lucky souls who have more loamy soil?  If the trees are in pots or containers, what type of soil mixture was used to fill them?
  • Is the area under the canopy of the trees covered with weed (which helps the soil retain moisture)?
  • How have you been fertilizing the olive trees?  (frequency, amount, and type of fertilizer used)
  • Does the foliage on the olive tree look healthy?  Are the leaves silver-green or are they yellowing?
  • Any signs of insect damage on olive leaves, branches, or trunk?  (for example, curly olive leaves, spots or holes in the leaves, sticky substances on the leaves which could be honeydew from insects, ants crawling in the olive tree)
  • Do the olive trees have flowers in the springtime? 
  • If the olive trees have bloomed in past years, have you observed any bees or other pollinizers visiting the blossoms?  Are there many bees or just a few?

I hope this information is helpful in finding a root cause and getting your olive trees in shape to produce.

If not, I encourage you to provide the additional information described above to the Olive Tree Growers and Enthusiasts Group on FACEBOOK including the pictures of your tree and your observation.  In order that group members can focus more precisely on your particular problems and focus more closely on what is causing problems to your olive tree.

olive tree flowers look care
Read more about olive tree flowers look and needs

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8 thoughts on “Olive Tree Not Fruiting – Why My Olive Tree Doesn’t Produce Fruits?”

  1. hello. 5 years ago I had a 30 year old olive tree planted in my garden which is irrigated when there is a dry spell. It has pride of place in the centre of a flower bed. I’ve read all your information etc and can’t imagine if I am doing something wrong but it has never even flowered let alone bear fruit.
    Please could you help ! I am very fond of it and would love to see it happy and fruiting.
    Thank you
    from Gill

  2. Hi Gill, first of all, do you know what variety is your olive tree? there are some varieties (or hybrids) fruitless and they barely fruit and never give fruits.. if there are perfect conditions to grow an olive tree but it never flowered in 5 years, I would assume it is fruitless.

  3. I planted a kalamata tree 6 to 7 years ago in Central Florida. It was a single stick as big as your thumb and 4 foot tall planted. It is now 9 foot tall and about 6 foot wide. Very healthy looking and beautiful. I fertilize it every few months with a 20-10-10 blend. I water when we get no rain for a couple weeks. It is not planted in a damp area. I have not had even a single bloom on this tree. Any advice would be appreciated.

  4. Hi Carl, have you ever pruned your tree? proper pruning helps to source nutrients and energy to produce fruits. Also, would be beneficial to test the soil at least once a year to ensure key nutrients are not missing. If it is not the case, I would suggest having a chat with a local arborist in order to identify the olive tree variety and other factors that may impact flowering.

  5. hi, how can i find out what variety of olive tree i have, i purchased it as a small 18inch high and it is now over 6 foot high with a sturdy trunk and growing in the garden, it gets sun from early morning till around 3pm , it gets lots of flowers come on the tree as of now but the flowers fall soon after, i have seen small clusters of olives form in the past but then never really develop, i water it with tap or rain water if it has been very dry for a few days , which is not often in central uk!
    i would like to find out its type if possible

  6. Hello, I have a 8 years old tree, good looking. It blooms richly, but have a little fruits. I think that watering and fertilizing is OK.
    What is the problem?

  7. Hi Svetlin, if your olive tree blooms a lot, but bears few fruits, it may be an issue with a lack of pollination. Another compatible olive variety would be very helpful for pollination especially if your olive tree is not self-fertile and requires cross-pollination. Also, have you experienced any extreme weather recently? the extreme heat wave may damage olive flowers resulting in low fruit production.

  8. Hi Elaine, there are several hundreds of olive varieties in the world. it is very difficult to identify the olive cultivar based on the physical appearance of olive fruit and leaves. It can be done but the results won’t be 100% sure. The scientific way is to make a DNA analysis and characterise olive variety at a molecular, morphological, and physiological level.

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