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problems with olive tree in pots

11 Problems with Olive Trees in Pots | Great Solutions

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, to grow olives will become easier and more fun! Let’s look at the key problems with olive trees in pots you would like to avoid when taking care for olive trees in pots.

problems with olive trees in pots infographic
This infographic describes the 6 most common problems with olive trees in pots and solutions

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
  • Pick a much larger pot or container if you prefer to grow suitable and best companion plants for olive trees
  • If you need extra stability to prevent olive trees from blowing down in windy weather, choose heavy frost-proof terracotta pots with drainage 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 a couple of years old and they are good at retaining moisture
  • Metal, wood, and stone pots are also suitable, there is no hard rule while choosing a pot
  • 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. As well, check out when is the best time to re-pot olive trees.
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 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 few years not only boosts the tree growth but as well restores 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 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 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 at a temperature below 25 degrees F (-4 °C)

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

While an olive tree planted in the ground can take mild frost and cold, an olive tree in a pot or in a container cannot. Olive trees in pots suffer serious damage at temperatures below 25 degrees F (-4 °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.

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

  • 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 a bubble wrap. Remove the covering the following day.

  • 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.

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.
  • 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, 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.

  • 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 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.

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

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, scale insects, and aphids.

Let’s go through some practical tips on how to get rid of scale insects – the unwelcome but popular “guests”. You can apply this technique to aphids as well.

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

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 olive tree overwatering symptoms and mold and fungus.

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. 

x
Potted Olive Tree Deep Watering Method video

– How often to water Olive Trees in Pots?

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.

– 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 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 tree not fruiting

6. Regular Fertilization for Your Olive Tree

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.

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 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.

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

7. Save Olive Trees Losing Leaves

Another most common problems with olive trees in pots are olive tree dropping leaves. Mainly it happens due to water 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. Read more on olive tree overwatering symptoms.

  • 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 correctly, review our detailed article on water requirements for olive trees in pots

8. Other Problems with Olive 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. 

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 with 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: 

9. Sucker Branches Weaken Your Olive Tree

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 nutritions. 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.

10. 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.

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 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.

11. Detected Fungus on Olive Tree

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. 

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.

Grab Essentials to Treat Problems with Olive Trees in Pots

Here I attached popular products with great customer review available on Amazon:

Last update on 2021-05-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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!

 

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16 thoughts on “11 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! :)

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