20 Problems with Olive Trees in Pots & Great Solutions

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Olive trees in pots make an excellent space-saving addition to your home, patio, landscape, or entrance of your house.  If you have limited space, you can always choose dwarf olive trees.

However, there might be a few problems with olive trees in pots I would like to speak about today. Olive trees typically are harmed because of improper watering, lack of nutrients, pot-bound issue, environmental stress, and pests or disease. However, the two most common problems are over-watering, poor drainage, lack of nitrogen, and environmental stress – such as a transplant shock or extreme weather. By knowing how to reduce the source of stress and solve these problems, growing olives will become easier and more fun!

Let’s look at the most common problems with olive trees in pots you would like to avoid when taking care for olive trees in pots.

problems with olive tree in pots

1. Over-watering

olive tree overwatered 1
Overwatered olive tree leaves are drooping and gradually falling off

Olive tree watering is probably one of the trickiest things to get right as there are a lot of variables that can affect it. For example, the soil, sun, olive cultivar, and climate all influence how much (or little) you need to water your olive trees. Watering issues can easily stress olive trees and lead to dropping leaves, flowers and olive fruits.

Over-watering is the most common cause of olive tree poor health. Generally, an olive tree hates having wet roots, and the real problem with olive trees in pots is sitting in the wet soil.

By checking the soil way before watering, the risk of over-watering will be greatly reduced.

Symptoms

  • Soil stays moist every day
  • Water stays standing in the dish
  • The bottom of a terra cotta pot looks dark, or green, and is wet to the touch
  • Little bugs like fruit flies drift everywhere – these are fungus gnats and are an indication that your olive tree pot is staying moist too long
  • Olive tree leaves are drooping, but not dry and crisp
  • Olive leaves gradually turn yellow all over and drop
  • Olive tree flowers and fruits drop

Watering Routine

Once re-potted in well-draining soil make sure to water your olive tree every day to establish roots. Afterward, water your olive tree in the pot 1-2 times per week depending on overall environmental conditions. In the winter, you can stretch this once every 2 weeks.

Simple keep the soil moist, but not wet, at all times, even during winter when soil can dry out quickly in the wind if kept outdoors.

Prevention

Do water deeply, but only water again when the olive tree pot is close to dry. You can also use your touch and feel senses – the top inch or two (i.e. 2.5 – 5 cm) of soil transition from dark and moist to the touch to lighter and dry. Then, time to water.

To help take some of the stressful guesswork out of watering olive trees, buy a moisture meter. Insert it fully into the soil. In larger pots, it is helpful to take two to three readings in different spots.

Last update on 2023-02-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

You can leave your tree outside but out of the constant rain. If you live in a rainy area, you should bring the potted tree inside and keep it on the south side of your house in the sunniest place.

For instance, the self-watering pot puts soil inside hollow legs that reach down into the water. As a result, it draws moisture naturally without wicks. Simultaneously it lifts your plant above standing water. As well, it keeps the plant’s delicate root system from being constantly flooded. Basically, such a great invention eliminates common problems associated with olive tree overwatering symptoms and mold and fungus.

Relevant articles

Olive tree overwatering symptoms

How often to water olive trees indoors and how much

How to use a moisture meter for olive trees

problems with olive trees in pots and solutions
Above: Overwatering and underwatering can kill an olive tree. An olive tree loves deep watering with a decent drainage system. As well, fertilizing boosts the trees’ growth.

2. Under-watering

olive tree underwatered 1
Underwatered olive tree leaves turn crispy, branches die

Another problem with olive trees in pots is under-watering issues. The potted olive tree will dry out far more quickly than those growing in the ground and will need regular watering. If tree roots are not kept moist, potted olive trees quickly struggle to survive.

Symptoms

  • Soil pulls away from the sides of the pot
  • When you water the tree, the water sits on top of the soil for a while before draining
  • Water runs quickly through the pot and out
  • Olive tree leaves droop, and turn crisp; branches die
  • Olive tree flowers and fruits drop

Relevant articles

To simplify regular olive tree care for you, we have prepared a complete guide on water requirements for olive trees in pots in order to learn how to avoid overwatering or underwatering issues. 

problems with olive trees in pots infographic
Infographics 1. 6 most common problems with olive trees in pots and solutions

3. Poor Drainage

In general, an olive tree requires outstanding drainage. No doubt, soggy bottoms can kill the olive tree. Even if you have the correct size of pot for your olive tree, you can run into root rot and other problems if there are not enough drainage holes. To avoid it, you need to find an adequate pot with drainage holes where water flows right through the pot and out.

Well-drained soil is also essential. Use an indoor potting mix containing coconut coir which holds and releases water and helps soil easily rewet. Better yet, buy premixed organic potting soil formulated specifically for olive trees with adjusted acidity (= pH 6 – 7).

Symptoms

  • Constantly moist soil
  • Wet pot bottoms
  • Fungus gnats around
  • Yellow leaves
  • Drooping leaves
  • Leaf drop
  • Flower and fruit drop

Prevention

Always check the bottoms of your pot, and ensure the holes are not obstructed. Use a drill to create more holes as needed for controlling water excess. Fill the bottom of the pot with a layer of gravel, Styrofoam, lava rock, crushed cans, or stones which helps to drain the water faster.

Just do it once prior to potting your tree, and you will have fewer problems with olive trees in pots.

olive tree not fruiting not producing
Read more about why olive trees are not fruiting

4. Nutrient Deficiencies

Olive trees frequently suffer from improper mineral nutrition in the soil. The most common nutritional deficiencies of olive trees are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), magnesium (Mg), and manganese (Mn). Other essential nutrients such as boron (B), calcium (Ca), copper (Cu), and zinc (Zn) are occasionally found to be deficient if they are not present in the fertilizers applied.

Nutrient deficiencies can be caused by insufficient nutrients in the soil, a nutrient imbalance, poor soil aeration, a high soil pH, and excessive planting depth.

Symptoms

  • Yellow veins on the leaves (which can indicate a nitrogen deficiency), edges, or full leaf
  • Poor growth
  • Drooping leaves
  • Falling leaves
  • Flower and fruit drop

Solution

Choose the balanced fertilizer for olive trees and use it at least twice a year during the growing season in spring and for fruit maturing in mid-summer. For the best results, choose a fertilizer with a balanced NPK (10-10-10), but younger olive trees prefer fertilizer with double the nitrogen. This is because younger trees focus their energy on canopy growth, of which the primary nutrient is nitrogen.

Avoid compost and mulches, these are often too heavy and moisture-retaining for olive trees. Use a small amount of any normal store-bought nitrogen-based fertilizer, following the package’s instructions. You fertilize the tree to give back nutrients that have been depleted over time.

As well, you can give new soil while re-potted to basically restore olive tree growth. Give trees in pots a boost, by refreshing the top layer of soil annually in spring. Carefully scrape away about 2.5 cm (1 inch) of soil from the surface and replace it with fresh soil – mix in some controlled-release fertilizer granules.

Related articles

Best fertilizer for olive trees in pots

Organic fertilizers for olive trees in pots

what is the best fertilizer for olive trees in pots
Read more about the best fertilizer for olive trees in pots & their benefit

5. Over-fertilization

Sometimes olive tree growers use fertilizer spikes for potted olive trees. Generally, they can burn the tree’s roots easily.

Symptoms

  • Stunted new growth
  • Burned edges of olive leaves
  • Rotting roots
  • Leaf drop
  • Flower and fruit drop

Solution

Avoid using fertilizer spikes in indoor olive tree pots. On another hand, using organic fertilizer spikes decreases the chances of damaging your plant. If you use synthetic fertilizer, never exceed the recommended dose.

6. Problems with Olive Tree Leaves

In general, olive leaves can tell us about many problems with olive trees in pots.

For instance, you notice that your olive tree leaves turn yellow or brown. If it happens only to a few leaves, I wouldn’t worry about that – it may be a natural seasonal change. However, if you observe them closely and you notice that olive leaves turn yellow with brown blotches moving in from the edges to tips. This may be leaf necrosis – a sign of drought stress – and if no action is taken, the leaves will fall off and the tree could die too. 

olive leaf curling 1
Above: this olive tree leaves are curling due to under-watering issues during hot summer days

Another common problem with olive trees in pots is olive tree dropping leaves. Mainly it happens due to water issues: over-watering or under-watering.

Overwatering

Olive trees love water, however, they hate to be too wet and in constant moisture. Particularly, olive trees in pots since they have limited space in a pot.

So if your olive tree is overwatered, it starts losing leaves. Normally, leaves get yellow and start dropping. Read more in section 1.

Underwatering

Therefore, sometimes olive trees lose their leaves in summer. And the reason is that the tree gets too dry too often. So the olive tree leaves dry out and starts dropping. Read more in section 2.

On a whole, olive tree leaves can tell us so much about tree health and growing conditions. In addition, to signaling drought stress, they can show us if the tree is experiencing nutritional deficiencies, water issues, or even if it is fighting pest and disease problems. So our job as gardeners is to recognize the symptoms and to satisfy olive trees’ needs before it’s too late.

For this reason, I have gathered lots of useful information for olive tree growers and created separate articles depending on olive tree leave issues: 

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7. Pest Management

No matter that olive trees are one of the most pest-resistance trees, there are still sometimes problems with pets of pot-grown olive trees. The most common pests are fruit flies, scale insects, mites, and aphids.

Prevention and Treatment

Let’s go through some practical tips on how to get rid of unwelcome “guests”. You can apply this technique to scale, aphids, mites, caterpillars and other insects:

  • If the potted olive tree is indoors, move it outdoors to expose the pests to their natural enemies
  • Handpick insects (if possible) to control light infestations
  • Olive tree treatment with insecticidal soap or neem oil is often effective and kills these insects. Spray both side of the leaves with a ready-to-use Safer brand insecticidal soap or organic neem seed oil available on Amazon. Repeat weekly, if necessary
  • If soap spray doesn’t resolve the pest problem, try light agricultural (horticultural) oil (Amazon link attached). Carefully read the instructions and make sure you spray the entire tree, including the undersides of the leaves. Wear long sleeves, long pants, and gloves when spraying horticultural oil to prevent skin irritation.
  • Also, if you can not get a spray from the shop, then try to use substitutes found at home, for instance: lemony soapy water or cotton soaked in alcohol. Just wash away pests from all parts of the olive tree.

Relevant articles

How to get rid of scale insects

scale insects are most common problems for olive trees
Scale insects are the most common unwelcome “guests” (here is a soft scale image)

8. Pot-bound Olive Trees

Another major problem with olive trees in pots has to do with the pot size: it is harmful to the expanding root system if the pot is too small. An olive tree will quickly grow roots that hit the sides of the container and turn. Within no time the pot is full of circling roots, and the olive tree becomes pot-bound.

When the pot is too small for your olive tree, the solution is re-potting your olive tree into a right size container described below.

Symptoms

  • Olive tree root system filled up the pot
  • Roots get out from drainage holes or the surface
  • Leaves wilting and drooping
  • Stunted new growth
  • Leaf drop
  • Flower and olive fruit drop

Solution

Choose the pot size for your olive tree carefully

And here are several tips on choosing the right pot for your tree:

  • Large enough to house the root ball of your olive tree, at least 25% bigger than the root ball of the tree
  • Pick a much larger pot or container if you prefer to grow suitable and best companion plants for olive trees
  • Do not put a small olive tree in a very large container; instead, size up the pot in stages
  • Ensure that the pot has a sufficient amount of drainage holes
  • A lighter-weight plastic garden pot is a good choice if your olive tree is small and up to a couple of years old and they are good at retaining moisture
problems with olive trees in pots and solutions
Above: Check the olive tree root system at least on a yearly basis and repot if the container or pot is too small.

Re-Pot Your Olive Tree Each Several Years

Several years after planting olive trees in pots, the trees circling roots will begin to strangle the trunk, ultimately causing the death of the olive tree. As to avoid it, the olive trees need repotting at least every three to five years.

One of the symptoms of a too-crowded pot includes leaves that turn yellow and drop off. Or if you notice roots escaping from all drainage holes, re-pot the tree instantly. Otherwise, if only one root has escaped from a drainage hole accidentally, trim off it without the urgent need to repot. 

In terms of olive tree transplanting, we have an in-depth guide on how and when is the best time to re-pot olive trees. After following these repotting steps, you can easily get rid of one of the most common problems with olive trees in pots.

Remember re-potting an olive tree once per several years not only boosts the tree growth but as well restores the nutrition of the potting soil.

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Don’t Make This Mistake When Re-potting Your Olive Tree

The most common problem when the olive tree is re-potted involves the depth of the trunk and root system in the pot. Too often the olive trees are planted a little bit too deep in the pot, causing root defects. When planting an olive tree into the pot, make sure to set the tree in the pot so that the soil line on the root ball is about 5 cm (2 inches) in depth.

As well you can run into some problems if the pot is too large for the current olive tree size. When soil present is abundant and not enough roots to take up the water, it can retain moisture for too long and cause root rots that can ultimately kill the plant.

Relevant articles

For more guidance on how to choose pots based on material type and on reviews, you can find them in our article: large pots for olive trees.

olive tree in a pot
Above: olive tree adores sunlight 8 hours per day and hates freezing temperatures. Temperature below 14°F (-10°C) can be deadly

9. Soil pH

If an olive tree’s soil pH is either too acidic or alkaline, the nutrients will become bound in the soil and inaccessible to the roots of the olive tree. This can lead to a variety of problems and without taking any action it may even kill the tree.

Symptoms

  • Poor vigor
  • Drooping leaves
  • Falling leaves
  • Flower and fruit drop

Solution

Check for soil pH by using pH strips or a pH meter at least once per year. The goal is to keep the olive tree’s soil balanced: olive trees prefer a soil of pH 6 – 7, but it may slightly differ based on the cultivar.

Use alkaline materials like charcoal, biochar, or wood ash, if you test your olive tree’s soil is too acidic. Opposite, use acidic material such as sand, coffee ground, or peat moss if you test your olive tree’s soil is too alkaline.

Relevant articles

Best soil for olive trees in pots

How to prepare soil when planting olive trees

10. Transition Shock

Sometimes, after relocation or re-potting, the olive tree becomes stressed and its leaves start drooping or falling off. This is a negative effect of transplant shock. Olive tree experience stress from moving or having to establish a new root system.

Symptoms

  • Stunted new growth
  • Drooping leaves
  • Leaf drop
  • Flower and fruit drop

Solution

When relocating to a new place, put your olive tree in a partially shaded spot for a few days before moving into full sun or move it outside for a few hours a day until it has adjusted to its new position.

When re-potting, avoid damaging the rootball and plant quickly.

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11. Lack of Sunlight

Just like other Mediterranean trees, olive trees grown in pots indoors need at least eight hours of sunlight each day. Unfortunately, a dark northern winter window is insufficient. But if you have a sunny spot, your olive tree may thrive without any supplemental light.

Symptoms

Poor growth

Green leaves drop

Flower and fruit drop

Solution

Place your olive tree in the sunniest spot or boost the tree growth with artificial grow lights.

In cases where a tree receives not enough natural sunlight, a simple T-5 fluorescent grow light system can provide enough supplemental light. For instance, the T5 system delivers performance, flexibility, and high-lumen output in any growing environment. In addition, these systems allow you to choose multiple hanging configurations to meet your home design.

Relevant articles

Direct sunlight for olive trees indoors

problems with olive trees in pots
Move your potted olive tree outdoors gradually in order not to experience a transition shock

12. Sunburn

When you do move your potted olive trees outside do be aware that a sudden change in light levels can cause ‘sunburn’. Because too dramatic a change in light levels can lead to blanching of the olive leaves and some leaf loss but over time your olive tree will recover and put on new growth.

Also, olive seedlings and olive trees that have been indoors for a longer period of time (including those from garden centers!) must slowly get used to the sun. In other words, the number of hours of direct sunshine must be gradually increased. The places (leaves or branches) that have already been burned do not recover.

Exposing the olive tree to too much light can interfere with its normal production cycle and limit its ability to produce fruit.

Symptoms

  • Brown stains on leaves
  • Brown leaves
  • Leaf drop
  • Flower and fruit drop

Solution

Check the location of your olive tree and move it if necessary. Gradually increasing the number of hours of direct sun with 8 hours of light for your olive tree indoors is more than sufficient. The point is to imitate the natural season as much as possible because the olive trees have specific seasons of flowering and fruiting.

13. Freezing Weather

While an olive tree planted in the ground can take extreme frost and cold for some time, an olive tree in a pot or in a container cannot. Olive trees in pots can suffer serious damage at temperatures below 14 degrees F (-10 °C).

In exposed gardens, olive trees in pots winter care are necessary in order to protect roots growing near the edges which are vulnerable to freezing temperatures.

Symptoms

  • Yellowing leaf veins of the olive tree indicate that temperatures are too cold to absorb nutrients
  • Leaf drop
  • Flower and fruit drop

Protection

Wrap it overnight

When freezing weather threatens, provide two layers of protection by covering the tree with a blanket and then a sheet of plastic or bubble wrap. Remove the covering the following day after the freezing weather has gone.

Move Your Tree Inside

For protection from prolonged periods of freezing weather, you may start thinking about moving olive trees indoors for winter. Bringing a large potted olive tree is a job for 2 people at least – don’t try to do it alone because you may injure your muscles if you are not careful.

If you moving a tree alone, attach wheels to the bottom of the pot or use a hand truck to transfer the tree.

Check Overall Health

Prior to bringing any trees indoors, consider their health. Be sure to check your olive tree for any pest. If your olive tree does have pests, I recommend treating it two weeks prior to moving it indoors. Once the pests are under control, you can prep your plants for going inside.

Sunniest Location

Before moving your olive trees in pots indoors, be certain you have the right location for them. They will thrive best if placed near a southern-facing window with bright sunlight coming inside.

Use a spray bottle and mist the leaves each couple of days in order to provide more humidity for your olive trees, especially when you have the heat running and your home feels dry. If there is not enough moisture in the area, the foliage on your trees will become dry, crispy, and may even turn brown. Water thoroughly when the soil doesn’t feel moist to the touch.

how to grow olive tree indoors
Read more on how to grow an olive tree indoors

14. Abrupt Temperature Shifts

Olive trees dislike abrupt temperature shifts, so be sure to protect them from chilly drafts and blazing heaters. Opening the nearby door or window for them on a cold day stresses olive trees (and other plants). Stressed olive trees are susceptible to diseases and pests.

Symptoms

  • Browning leaf tips
  • Leaf drop
  • Flower and fruit drop

Solution

Always, it’s best to keep your tree away from spots near exterior doors, radiators, fireplaces, and ovens where temperature fluctuations can happen.

15. Low Humidity

The biggest problem with low humidity is in the winter with the heat on. Low humidity indoors saps moisture from the olive leaves causing the tips to dry out and turn brown, with a dying appearance.

Symptoms

  • Brittle leaf edges
  • Leaf drop
clean olive tree leaves with spray bottle mist
Above: You should mist your potted olive trees if there is low humidity at home

Solution

You can mist your olive tree indoors daily with a spray bottle. on another hand, if you want to cut down on the time spent misting, invest in a humidifier.

16. Lack of Pruning

Olive trees indoors generally don’t require a lot of pruning, but you need to occasionally cut away some branches. Pruning away weak, broken, or damaged branches help your olive tree stay healthy. You may also want to prune to shape your olive tree and control its size.

Symptoms

  • Broken or damaged olive branches
  • Leggy olive tree
  • Random branches
  • Lack of shape
leggy olive tree 1
If your tree is thin, weak with few leaves, read more about why olive tree is leggy and how to fix it

Solution

It’s best to prune olive trees after you’ve harvested your fruit for the year or early in the spring before spring growth. In addition, intense sunlight can cause sunscald or bark rot on cut areas if you prune the tree in summer.

Relevant articles

Pruning olive trees correctly

Why olive tree is leggy and how to fix it

17. Sucker Branches

Regardless of how well you take care of your potted olive tree, growing in a container or pot will be more stressful on the plant itself. You will need to keep an eye out for unique problems that potted olive trees can have.

For example, olive trees growing in pots or containers are more susceptible to sucker branches. These are branches that grow from the scion or rootstock of the tree and consume your tree’s nutrition. As a result, weakens the olive tree. 

Many times, in order to grow a hardier olive tree, nurseries will grow the desired tree on a hardy root. However, under stress, the rootstock will try to take over the olive tree. If you see a sucker branch grow from the bottom of the olive tree, prune it immediately and your olive tree will regain its position.

18. Bark Split or Holes in Trunk

Olive tree bark split is very common for olive trees, the older olive tree gets the more twisted and split trunk is. Also, deep holes may appear on a trunk.

If you see them, don’t worry, it doesn’t affect olive tree longevity. It is caused by changes in growth conditions, e.g. dry weather followed by wet weather conditions, sunscald, age, and other reasons.

shaping open-centered olive trees
Bark split or twisted trunk is a sign of longevity and doesn’t require any treatment

19. Moss on Olive Tree

Moss is often growing on the stems, branches, and trunks of olive trees and is often a worry to gardeners. Indeed, it indicates a lack of vigor in the affected olive tree. However, moss on olive trees is harmful and is not considered one of the “deadly” problems with olive trees in pots.

KEY FACTS  
Common name Moss
Areas affected Trunks and branches of olive trees
Main causes Humidity, damp, no air circulation, still conditions and poor olive tree vigor
Appearance Form large green or yellowish-green tufts, densely matted tufts, or compacted green cushions
Timing Moss appears year-round, but are more noticeable in winter
moss on olive tree

Moss Growth on Olive Tree Reasons

Basically, moss is found in damp humid places, because it needs moisture for growth but as well for reproduction. These are the reasons and conditions preferable for moss to grow on branches and twigs of olive tress:

  • Your olive tree has been neglected. For instance, if the branches of your olive tree have become overcrowded and not os much sunlight reaches it.
  • Humidity issue. Moss can also appear on a vigorous new olive tree in humid areas.
  • Bad conditions. The side of olive tree trunks facing the prevailing wind and rain may be colonized by moisture-loving mosses.
  • Poor vigor. Olive trees in pots that are lacking in vigor, especially those which are already beginning to die.

Prevention and Control

Even so, we have just learned that moss is not causing “deadly” harm to your tree, it still shows the tree is lacking vigor and needs some attention. For this reason, I have put together the solutions that help to control moss on your olive trees in pots and outside:

  • Improve air circulation. it will help to avoid dump and humidity.
  • Prune out overcrowded branches. In this case, you let the sunlight get into the trunk of the tree and reduce moisture. As well, cut back overhanging vegetation.
  • Remove moss. Simply remove moss from trunk and branches as stop its reproduction.
  • Stimulate new growth. Fertilize , water, and mulch your olive tree correctly.

20. Fungus or Fungal Disease

Tree fungus is a common problem on olive trees. Not all fungus growing on your olive tree is harmful; some do not affect your olive tree at all, while others can be even beneficial.  However, in most cases being infected with a tree fungus will result in loss of vigor and discoloration or wilting of leaves.

KEY FACTS  
Common name Tree Fungus or Fungal Disease
Areas affected Trunks and branches of olive trees
Main causes Humidity, damp soil, overwatering, no air circulation, still conditions, too many fallen leaves
Appearance Mushroom, shelf or jelly fungus; other shapes, colors, and texture fungus growing around your olive tree; sometimes cant be seen above the ground
Timing Moss appears year-round, but are more noticeable in winter

If your potted olive tree has a fungal disease, you mays see mushroom fungus, shelf fungus, or other shapes, colors, and textures of fungus growing on your olive tree. Unfortunately, sometimes the tree fungus may not appear above the ground or may have a different appearance than you expect. 

Symptoms

  • Loss of vigor
  • Discoloration
  • Wilting of leaves
  • Leaf drop
  • Flower and fruit drop
Olive tree leaves yellow with black spot example2 1
Above: this olive tree suffers from common peacock spot or olive leaf spot disease (read more here)

Treatment

You can treat fungus on olive trees successfully if you start the regime early. First of all, prune off the most infected parts of the tree. Then, apply a copper fungicide to get rid of fungal disease on olive trees.

For the best advice, is better to speak with the arborist and he/she will be able to identify if the fungus is harmful and what treatment is required.

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Conclusion

And there you have it – your place caring for these ancient plants. Olive trees in pots are becoming so popular home accessories, guaranteed to make a statement and bring a touch of the Mediterranean to your lovely home or garden.

But with growing olive trees in pots here comes the problems. However, knowing the symptoms of the tree “illness” and knowing how to treat them, you can anticipate any problems that may arise while enjoying the olive trees in pots in your surroundings.

how to revive olive tree
Learn tips and solutions on how to revive olive trees in pots!

If you’re are thinking of buying an olive tree for the first time I have a helpful guide that will make buying an olive tree easier. And once you have purchased the olive tree I have some helpful guides to grow your olive tree successfully. Below are a few of my popular articles.

I genuinely hope this post was helpful to you to learn the problems with olive trees in pots. Thus our solutions will help you to grow successfully your first olive tree in your garden, home, or patio!

Read Next

HOW TO REVIVE OLIVE TREE & BRING IT BACK TO LIFE

Learn More

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Are You Looking to Buy an Olive Tree? 

If you are looking to add more potted trees or other plants to your orchard, or if you like to replace a neglected olive tree, the best places to get them are your local nursery or an online nursery.

One of the most reliable and the world's largest online nurseries is Fast Growing Trees. They deliver fast, neat, and healthy plants backed with a 30-day guarantee.

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32 thoughts on “20 Problems with Olive Trees in Pots & Great Solutions”

  1. Thank you so much for the thorough guidelines! I just acquired an Arbequina Olive Tree in a pot for indoor use. Unfortunately, after a week it’s starting to drop leaves every day. Most of them are curled and dry Some a green. The bottom soil is damp but the top portion is dry to slightly damp. I added a 21-6-5 fertilizer when it first arrived. So Im not sure if it has too much Nitrogen. Our living room gets plenty of light but it’s not maximum direct sun light. I’m hoping I can save this tree!

  2. Hi Jenine, so sorry to hear about your new olive tree indoors. I believe the olive tree started to drop leaves due to the relocation stress. When you buy a potted tree and bring it home, it’s leaves start falling within a week or so, and keep falling, mostly it’s because the light has changed dramatically. Imagine, firstly the olive tree was growing in a nice greenhouse, then it went to the store where everything got dark, then it went to your home, where things got darker still comparing greenhouse or outdoor conditions. As a result, the olive tree’s first response is to drop leaves and put out new ones that are better accommodated to the lower light.
    Don’t fertilize anymore as it may be too much stress for a tree in a new home. As well, try to get a moisture meter to learn when the watering is required. (p.s. i added links to other articles which may be helpful for you to investigate the potted olive tree problem)

  3. Julie Sunderland

    Hi Vangelis!

    I have an olive tree in a pot that I grow outdoors in the state of Oregon. Your information was VERY helpful, I’ll look to begin to incorporate what you’ve written. I Googled “olive tree yellow leaves” and your information came up. Thank you so much, I absolutely fell in LOVE with these ancient trees when I was in Israel, and I’m so pleased that I now know what to do to keep it healthy and beautiful! Blessings to both you and Olivada!!?
    Sincerely, Julie Sunderland

  4. Dear Julie Sunderland,
    Thank you for your kind words! I am glad you have join olive tree lovers community and growing your own olive tree in pot :)
    In terms of yellow olive tree leaves it may be caused by over watering. So please try to measure moisture with moisture meters first. As well, i have other 2 great articles on how to revive olive trees and how to grow olive trees in pots indoors. They both have lots of valuable knowledge inside. Check it out and let me know how it goes!

  5. david williams

    I have a olive tree in a container for many years which I have fed from spring , it looks healthy and flowers but does not produce olives after flowering, what can I do.

  6. Hi David! Has your olive tree produced olive fruits earlier years? the truth is some olive trees are flowering but they never produce the fruits because they are fruitless. This type of olive trees are chosen by olive growers if they don’t want a tree to bear fruits, example if the tree grows close to the path and the owner wants to keep the area clean without fallen fruits.

  7. Thank you so much for your advice and guidance and realised what I have done right or wrong. So pleased to have found this page.
    I have two questions about my Olive tree in a pot:
    – the tree has been repotted in a larger pot (probably too large after reading your article). It is spindly, thin long branches. Should I shorthen the branches to make it thicken out?
    – can I plant Mexican fleabane in the pot around the tree? I’ve notice that Olive trees are in bare pots!

    Thank you

  8. Thank you for this! I relocated my outside container plants inside in a bright sunny corner and they are dropping green leaves. But from the comments above, I’m going to credit this to relocation? Otherwise they appear very healthy, with no yellow leaves. I water twice a week, putting them in a place where I can water and allow to drain completely. Am I on the right track?

  9. Hi Erin, I am glad you found my article helpful :) don’t worry about the larger pot – it is always much better than to repot into a too-small pot. Just monitor the soil moisture and make sure your olive tree is not starving.
    – Definitely, I recommend to prune potted olive tree once per year and cut off thin long branches as to strengthen the core branches. You can find short 7 step guidelines on how to prune olive trees in pots here.
    – As for Mexican fleabane, this plant loves the Medittarean climate the same as an olive tree. So in terms of maintenance and care these 2 plants have similar needs: enough water and lots of sun. And they can live together easily. By the way, since you mentioned you repotted an olive tree into a larger pot, you can plant Mexican fleabane in the edge of the pot. Just regulate the water needs and if one of the plants starts showing “unhappy” signs if any, re-pot them separately. But overall, it should be fine! Happy growing and enjoy these beautiful plants!

  10. Dear Amy, yes, your olive tree may be stressed due to changes in the environment and it needs time to adapt to a new indoor climate. However don’t overwater potted olive tree, twice per week sounds too much! For the better estimate, check the soil moisture and nutrients as per my guidance in the article on how to grow olive trees indoors.
    Overall, olive trees have a tendency to live in various conditions for many years, so it should boost soon in a new place and you can admire a Meditterean spirit in your home :)

  11. I have had my olive plant for two years, it is in a large pot. I put it outside in the summer and in my unheated garage in the winter. My question is when do these plants start to get flowers and then olives? I have a lot of leaves and the branches reach up tp the sky. I am thinking that maybe I need to go to a larger pot.

  12. Hi Tom, you are taking very good care of your olive tree, just make sure the tree gets enough sunlight in the garage. If not enough, get grow lights as substitute. in terms of flowering and bringing fruits, normally olive trees must reach about 3 to 5 years old for first fruiting, but it varies depending on the cultivar. As well, how well do you care of your tree and whether the tree came from seed or cuttings.
    You may find interesting facts in our articles: on how to care for olive trees and steps on moving olive trees indoors for winter.

  13. Wow what a wealth of knowledge! I have had my olive tree for a few years now and have been really pleased with its growth and this year although living in the UK with changeable weather conditions it actually had 4 olives. However, I have noticed that it is looking spindly and on moving the pot slightly seen roots coming from the bottom. I have searching the internet for information on what to do and voila found this! Thank you, I feel more confident in what i have to do now.

  14. Hi Sue, thanks for your nice words – it means a lot to us! Definitely, repot your olive tree since the pot is becoming too small for the rootball of your tree. Check out our guidelines on how to re-pot an olive tree and more valuable information. Happy growing these beautiful trees!

  15. Hi there! Thank you sooo much for the wealth of information you offer on your site!! I’m learning how to raise my three new Arbequina babies!!
    I need some help dealing with an issue that came up. I wish i could send you a couple images… The leaves got covered with this grayish scale, and i don’t know what to do about it. I also found a little round but/mite on them. If you have a chance, please help! ?

  16. Hi Andrea! Thank you for your kind words! I have just created a Facebook group – community for olive tree growers to share pictures and ask questions. Please join it here.
    Indeed, the scale is one of the most common problems with olive trees. It causes leaves to look unhealthy and become stressed.
    The first thing you should do is clean your olive tree. Use a garden hose to rinse the honeydew off the tree. Allow a tree to dry.
    Next, take a cotton ball, soak it with rubbing alcohol, and gently wipe away the scale.
    Last but not least, use an insecticidal soap or neem oil and thoroughly spray the entire olive tree. It is important to spray all parts of the olive tree to suffocate any scale insects and eggs that you may have missed.
    Keep an eye on your olive tree constantly and if needed, repeat the above steps up until you get rid of the scale.
    With a bit of care and love, your trees will come back stronger and healthier! Happy growing! :)

  17. Hi
    Thank you for your articles, they are very helpful. You mentioned favorably self-watering devices. Do they provide adequate moisture level? I am thinking to use a self-watering device in which the water evaporates from a container placed inside the pot and moistens the soil through a perforated lid. It is used together with self-watering soil mix, which has Canadian sphagnum peat moss, peat humus, perlite, limestone and gypsum. Will olive tree grow well in this soil? Thank you!

  18. Hi KG, olive trees in pots require frequent watering and self-watering devices are one of the solutions for people who forget to water their plants when they fully dry out. Even so, if you decide to use a self-watering device you must ensure that soil is not too moist and stay on a dry side since olive roots won’t stand to be constantly humid. The soil mix you referring to sounds like stony, well-draining soil and will do well with a bit of extra care.

  19. Really love your article. I bought a small olive tree and it took off in its container. Again it was small and in NJ, I realize Im not going to get olive oil or probably even olives. Anyway, I kept it on the ground in the garden with other potted plants and a rabbit chewed through the stalk and left the plant about 4 inches tall with 4 healthy leaves. I continue to maintain the plant hoping for a come back but its been a good month since that happened and so far no new growth. My question is, should I expect to get suckers in between the leaves? Or once olive trees are bruised this deep they just dont recover? Anyway, hope that makes sense because Im holding out hope for the little guy.

  20. Hi Tom, sorry to hear about the damage caused to your tree by a rabbit. As long as roots and trunk are healthy, the olive tree will recover – however, be patient – it may take many months until new buds and suckers appear. Try to fertilize to boost growth and water regularly. Even if you cut back the olive tree to the trunk it would recover, just no one knows how soon. it all about the overall olive tree health and environmental conditions: it needs full-day sunlight, nutritious soil, and water regularly. Fingers crossed you will see new growth soon!

  21. This is a very useful site, thank you.
    I don’t think that my olive tree’s problem has been mentioned. A healthy tree, about five years’ old, it is watered and fertilised. A new crop of hundreds of olives appears in early June, lasts two days and then they all wizen on the branches. I would be very grateful to know how to tackle this issue.

  22. Hi Pippa, wrinkled or wizen olives are associated with water stress. This often happens when olive trees suffer weather conditions when persistent drought and high temperatures occur simultaneously. If you had a head wave recently or weather abnormalities, you should water your potted olive tree more often than regularly, especially during the summer heat. Also, observe your olive tree carefully if you see any signs of a fungus disease that affect olive fruits.

  23. Rose williamson

    I have a problem that hasn’t been mentioned. The leaves on one of my small trees has pinpoint size brown spots on it. This started after I brought both of them home. It seems healthy otherwise. I’ve sprayed it several times with an insecticide soap spray. It doesn’t seem to help. This has been going on for almost two years. I noticed a few of the leaves on my other olive tree now has a few leaves with this on them. Is there a solution for this problem?
    Also I would like to make one of the trees into a bonsai, could you tell me the best way to do that?
    I live in NE Georgia
    Thank you for your time and very informative articles.
    Rose.

  24. Hi Rose, hope you are doing well. Brown spots may be caused by fungal infections or bacteria. You should try to apply fungicide instead of insecticide soap. Before buying a fungicide consult at your local garden center, they may give you amazing advice based on their experience and local know-how. However, if it is not spreading on a tree and appearing on new olive leaves, you should not worry at all – probably it was just a one-off problem (related bacteria or fungi) that is gone now and left brown spots as consequence.
    In terms of making olive trees into bonsai, I have another detailed article you can look into (you can search by “make olive tree into bonsai” on my website) and let me know if you have any further questions. Take care and regards, Vangelis

  25. My friends puppy has eaten the foliage off and snapped the tree halfway down . Will it survive and should we prune it further?

  26. Hi Norma, only prune dead or damaged branches. It will survive and eventually will show new branches.

  27. Hi. Love your Olive articles, so much helpful information.
    I’m in UK and last year, September, I
    purchased a mature, 3-5 year old Europen Olive tree in a medium container. The company re-potted it at my home in a sizeable terracotta urn.
    Given this is the UK, I looked after it carefully all winter and wrapped it, and the pot, up well against the frosts. I watered it from time to time.
    I unwrapped it a couple of weeks ago, and the leaves look fine BUT, I’m noticing roots on the surface of the soil ??
    I contacted the seller, who didnt seem concerned and told me to just feed it.
    However from everything I’ve read, roots showing up is a concern.
    I have today given it specialist olive fertilizer and top dressed it, but would live to have your opinion on this issue. Many thanks.

  28. Hi Julia, I am very happy you find my articles helpful! In terms of surface rooting, it may happen due to a lack of oxygen when your tree was wrapped up over winter. There are couple of things you can do about it: you can add topsoil to the exposed root area if have space in the container or you can repot the tree in the same container in spring. I do not advise trying to prune or cut away these roots as it will likely damage the olive tree itself.

  29. Hi,
    Thank you for your thorough and excellent advice. I have two young olive trees in pots outdoors, here in France. One of them is showing signs of a lack of water through winter, and has dropped a lot of yellow leaves. Since I realised it needed water it is beginning to recover and has some new spring growth.

    My bigger problem now is with my other tree, which stayed healthy all winter but which right now is also beginning to lose leaves. It has some spots on the branches whick look like white foam or spittle. I think it must be an insect but I can’t see any. Can you please advise? Thank you.

  30. Hi Katherine, I am glad you find my articles useful! Try to use insecticidal soap or use homemade soapy water in order to wash away white stuff on olive branches. If your olive tree is attached by insects it should work. Repeat each week for a month. If they aren’t insects, it may be fungus where neem oil may help. As for watering issues, once you set up the correct watering routine for your olive tree, it will thrive.

  31. My daughter bought me 3 one gallon olive trees from a big box store garden center. Year two and year three they bore fruit. I transplanted each to 5 gallon on year two. They get great sun and are in good soil. Year two and year three, they bore good fruit, but only on holf of the plant. The tree splits into a Y about 6” from the graft. All three plants do this, all three different types of olives. Any ideas?

  32. Hi Jim, your olive trees are very young, they have just started to bear olives. Normally, olive trees have full production in 7 to 10 years after planting depending on olive cultivar. Then mature olive trees produce full production every second year, so keep growing new shoots and gradually increase olive production. Another thing, olive trees do not bear fruits on the same branches again (for this reason, normally branches that produced fruits are cut off after collecting the harvest). Also, check out my other article about why olive tree not producing.

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