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 few problems with olive trees in pots I would like to speak about today. By knowing how to solve these problems, the growth cycle of your trees will become easier and more fun! Let’s look at the key problems with olive trees in pots you would like to avoid when gardening.

1. Choose Pot Size for Your Olive Tree Carefully

The first 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 described below.

Tips on How to Choose the Right Pot for Your Olive Tree

  • It should suit the style of your home, garden, patio, and landscape
  • Large enough to house the root ball of your olive tree
  • Ensure that the pot has a sufficient amount of drainage holes
  • Do not put a small olive tree in a very large container; instead, size up the pot in stages
  • If you need extra stability to prevent olive trees from blowing down in windy weather, choose heavy frost-proof Terracotta pots with drain holes. However, the sponginess of these pots means the compost dries out quickly and the weight makes them difficult to move around
  • Clay pots are heavy and keep the tree stable in windy conditions, especially with larger trees
  • A lighter-weight plastic garden pot is a good choice if your olive tree is small and up to couple years old and they are good at retaining moisture
  • Metal, wood, and stone pots are also available
  • For more guidance on how to choose pots based on material type and reviews, you can find in our large pots for olive trees article. As well, check out when is the best time to re-pot olive trees here. 
problems with olive trees in pots and solutions

Above: Check olive tree root system at least on a yearly basis and repot if the container or pot is too small.

2. 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 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 the drainage holes, re-pot the tree instantly.

For the olive tree transplanting, we have an in-depth guide on how and when 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 few years not only boosts the tree growth but as well restore the nutrition of the potting soil.

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 planted 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) depth.

As well you can run into 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.

olive tree in a pot

Above: olive tree adores sunlight 8 hours per day and hates freezing temperature. An olive tree can die in a temperature below 25 degrees F (-4 °C)

3. Protect Your Olive Trees in Pots from Cold & Freezing Weather

Olive trees in pots suffer serious damage at temperatures below 25 degrees F (-4 °C). In exposed gardens, olive trees in pots will need protection during winter as the roots growing near the edges are vulnerable to freezing temperatures.

What is the Best Way to Protect Your Olive Tree in Pot from Freezing Weather?

  • how to grow olive tree indoors

    Read more on how to grow an olive tree indoors

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

  • For protection from prolonged periods of freezing weather, you may start thinking about bringing your olive trees in pots inside. Moving 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.
  • 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, we recommend treating it two weeks prior to moving it indoors. Once the pests are under control, you can prep your plants for going inside.
  • 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 daily 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.

4. Olive Tree in Pot Pest Management

No matter that the 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 and scale insects. Let’s go through some practical tips on how to get rid of the unwelcome but popular “guests” scales or you can read more detail in our article here.

  • If the potted olive tree is indoors, move it outdoors to expose the pests to their natural enemies.
  • Handpick scale insects to control light infestations
  • Olive tree treatment with insecticidal soap or neem oil is often effective and kills these insects. Spray the undersides of the leaves of scale with a ready-to-use Safer brand insecticidal soap or organic neem seed oil. Repeat weekly, if necessary.
  • If soap spray doesn’t resolve the pest problem, try light agricultural (horticultural) oil. Carefully read 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.

    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 boost the trees’ growth.

5. Common Problems with Olive Trees in Pots is Watering Issue 

Another problem with olive trees in pots is watering issues because the 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.

The real problem with olive trees in pots is sitting in the wet soil. 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 over-watering and mold and fungus.

How often to water Olive Trees in Pots?

Once re-potted in a 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. 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.

Drainage is Essential

Even if you have the correct size of the pot for your olive tree, you can run into root rot and other problems if there are not enough drainage holes.  Always check the bottoms of your pot, 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 potting your tree, and you will have fewer problems with olive trees in pots.

6. Regular Fertilization for Your Olive Tree

Select carefully your fertilizer for olive trees twice a year during the growing season in spring and for fruit maturing in mid-summer. 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. Of course, you can also buy fertilizer especially for olive trees but it isn’t necessary.

what is the best fertilizer for olive trees in pots

Read more about best fertilizer for olive trees in pots

You fertilize the tree to give back nutrients that have been depleted over time. However, you can give a 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.

7. Save Olive Trees Losing Leaves

Another most common problems with olive trees in pots are losing leaves. Mainly it happens due to watering issues:

  • 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.

  • Underwatering

Therefore, sometimes olive trees losing 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.

How to water your olive tree in pots correctly, go back to section 5 above and review our detailed article on how to bring an olive tree back to life.

8. Worries About Moss on Your 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.

Common name Moss
Areas affected Trunks, branches, and stems 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 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.

How to Control Moss on Olive Trees in Pots?

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.

For more tips & tricks, join olive tree growers community I have just created on Facebook for you to ask questions, share experiences and post pictures of your olive trees!

Click here to join Facebook Group


how to revive olive tree

Learn how to revive the olive tree

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.

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!

In addition, you can adopt our Oliviada Olive Tree in Greece and enjoy our Greek family produces high-quality Kalamata olive oil. We have a few Olive Tree Adoption packages to suggest to you. Find out more: