Prune Olive Trees in Pots Correctly (7 Easy Steps)

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Regular pruning is a necessary part of caring for olive trees in pots. By correctly pruning olive trees in pots, you control their height and functionality and encourage vigorous growth for better olive fruit production.

So how to prune olive trees in pots correctly? You should know some basic olive trees in pots pruning requirements so as not to damage their natural growth process. First, you must remove cracked, diseased, or dead branches. Then, clip off root suckers or water shoots. After this, you can start shaping your potted olive trees by eliminating crossing branches and controlling new growths. It is fine to cut off 1/3 branches, but the most important is to know when to stop. Cause over-pruning olive trees in pots may overstimulate the tree and cause stress.

The seven pruning steps and five trimming principles do a fantastic job and help to boost your olive tree growth significantly. Well, you must prune regularly by following this guide step by step to achieve the best results.

I. Reasons for Pruning Your Olive Tree

Pruning is the best preventive measure for olive tree care: a crown of solid structure is formed, the branches are located at the required density, so all parts of the tree would receive enough sunlight, and there is air movement in the crown resulting in less chance of disease spread. 

1. Keep Olive Tree Healthy

By forming a crown of strong structure and locating branches at the required density, you can ensure that all parts of the tree receive enough sunlight and there is air movement in the crown, reducing the risk of disease spread.

  • Remove dried or dying branches damaged mechanically or by diseases, pests, animals, or storms.
  • Remove branches or parts of branches that touch each other to let sunlight and wind breeze inside, reducing the risk of disease.
  • Avoid removing most of the branches of the tree at once, as large wounds may remain, and the natural shape of the crown may be lost.

2. Improving Olive Tree’s Appearance

The appearance of the olive tree is especially important in the landscape, and a natural tree crown is often the best. 

Pruning helps to control the size of olive trees in pots. Olive trees are slow-growing but can still get quite large, so if you’re growing them in a pot, pruning helps to prevent them from outgrowing their container. Therefore, by pruning your olive trees regularly, you can keep them at a manageable size, making them easier to care for and maintain.

Avoid forming olive trees in a strict geometrical shape, adversely affecting flowering and fruiting. Only change the plant’s natural shape if you have a specific landscape design goal. If the trees are pruned properly, it is hard to notice that they were pruned!

  • Control olive tree size.
  • Form olive tree.
  • Keep evergreen plants in proportion.
  • Remove unwanted branches, watershoots, seedlings, and fruit branches that degrade the appearance of the olive tree.

3. Plant Care and Landscape Architecture Needs

When it comes to plant care and landscape architecture needs, pruning can also help:

  • Promote the development of flowers and fruits, and receive a higher yield of high-quality olives.
  • Preserve a dense hedge for outdoor olive trees.
  • Maintain the desired shape of the tree.

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II. Best Time to Prune Potted Olive Trees

As an expert olive tree grower, I can confirm that the dormant period is the best time to prune olive trees in pots. To be more precise, the best time is late winter after olive fruit harvest but before new growth begins. However, the regular maintenance and care of an olive tree should be done on a regular basis:

  • Young olive trees can be pruned very lightly as often as needed to form a shape except in winter
  • Pruning mature olive trees is best after every harvest, early spring
  • Bonsai olive tree pruning is done in spring, ideally early March. Leaves pinching can be done from April to October
  • Pruning neglected olive trees must be done immediately all year round except winter as to avoid the frost damage for cut branches
  • Thus, the root suckers and water shoots should be removed anytime during the growing season
  • Furthermore, deadwood and diseased or damaged branches should be cut on a spot

Overall, pruning begins in the tree nursery, however if the olive tree seedling is not formed during the planting time, only dead, damaged or sick branches are initially removed. Other pruning work is carried out during the nearest dormant period. 

pruning olive trees in pots
A light prune is recommended each year rather than a heavy pruning every few years.

III. Tools You May Need to Prune Potted Olive Tree

Having the right tools and equipment helps to prune your olive tree effectively and safely. Here I picked the great items you may need for pruning your potted tree:

Pruning Shears

The Fiskars Pruning Shears are high-quality tools with smart technologies and ergonomic features for maximum power and precision. The all-steel blade stays sharp, has a rust-resistant coating, and a non-slip grip handle for easy control. Ideal for various tasks, including trimming olive tree branches, and cutting stems, these pruning shears are built to last and come with a lifetime warranty.

  • Perfect for clean cuts on stems and light branches up to 5/8″ (1.6 cm) in diameter.

Last update on 2024-04-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


The Fiskars Power-Lever Loppers are designed for efficient pruning with patented technology that multiplies leverage for easy cutting. The all-steel blade stays sharp and has a rust-resistant coating for smooth cutting. The non-slip grip handle and easy-open lock make control and storage easy.

  • Ideal for cutting thick branches, can handle branches up to 1-1/2″ (3.8 cm) in diameter.

Last update on 2024-04-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Pruning Saw

The REXBETI folding pruning saw is designed for pruning olive trees in pots with its 7-inch blade made of high-quality SK-5 steel that can cut branches up to 4 inches in diameter. The folding design and non-slip handle provide easy storage and a comfortable grip. Ideal for outdoor tasks, this saw is a convenient and durable tool for pruning olive trees in pots.

  • Can cut branches up to 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter.

Last update on 2024-04-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Pruning Handtools Kit

This is a fantastic gardener’s pruning hand tools kit! It includes shears/pruning scissors/garden pruners that can satisfy the need for planting, harvesting, floral, indoor and outdoor planting, and greenhouse pruning. They are made of high-quality stainless steel for precision cutting and an ergonomic handle design for maximum cutting comfort and no-slip grip.

Last update on 2024-04-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

IV. Prune Olive Trees in Pots in 7 Easy Steps

Pruning olive trees in pots can seem overwhelming, but it can be easily manageable with the right steps. Let me guide you through the process and make it a pleasant experience for you.

1. Disinfect Your Pruning Tools

Before starting to prune olive trees in pots, you should plan and prepare everything. Collect your pruning tools and gloves.

Diseases can be easily spread from one tree to another through contaminated pruning tools. Bacteria, fungi, and viruses can all be transferred from one plant to another through cuts made by a dirty pruning tool. This is why sanitizing your tools before and after use is a good practice.

For this matter, you can use a solution of 70 % alcohol or 10 percent bleach that contains 1 part bleach and 9 parts water. Simply dip the blades of your pruning tool into the solution and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Then, rinse the blades with water and dry them before using them on another tree.

Mainly, pruning shears are enough to prune olive trees in pots. Tough, if the olive tree is bigger, lopping shears or pruning saw could be beneficial to use.

Last update on 2024-04-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

2. Remove Root Suckers

Before any pruning cuts are made, start with removing any root suckers that grow up from the ground (roots) in order to stop them from using your tree nutrients and water. Removing these shoots helps redirect the tree’s energy into healthy growth and prevents overcrowding of the roots.

It is best to remove root suckers as soon as they appear and before they have a chance to mature and draw too much energy from the tree. These root suckers can be clipped off anytime throughout the growing season. Cut them with pruning shears as far down below soil level as possible.

3. Cut off Deadwood or Diseased Branches

Olive tree branches develop throughout the year, so observe your potted olive tree and remove diseased, cracked, or dead branches.

The purpose of removing dead or diseased wood is to maintain good olive tree hygiene. Also, when a piece of an olive tree is compromised by disease or entirely dead, it creates a gateway for certain pests or pathogens to enter the tree, which can cause severe damage or infect other plants in your house.

In fact, after pruning diseased branches, always disinfect your pruning tools immediately to avoid spreading disease elsewhere.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when pruning out dead or diseased wood:

  • Simply cut back to at least 6 inches (= 15 cm) inside healthy wood.
  • Remove an entirely dead branch to the base of the shrub or trunk of the olive tree.
  • Sometimes it’s a good idea to check halfway down the branch that appears dead to ensure the wood inside isn’t green. If it is, that indicates the branch isn’t fully dead but perhaps has just gone dormant.
  • Importantly, any cuts you make should be at a 45-degree angle to avoid damaging the main stalk.
  • Be careful when cutting back to the trunk of an olive tree so that you don’t scrape or cause injury to the bark with your pruning tools.
  • Do not cover pruning wounds with poultices or stem tars. Allow the cut to heal on its own.
pruning olive tree graphics
Olive tree pruning graphics showing to remove dead and broken branches, water shoots, crossing branches, and suckers

4. Clip off Water Shoots

Water shoots, known as water sprouts, are rapidly growing vegetative shoots that develop on the larger branches or trunk of the olive tree. They often form just below a pruning cut.

Water shoots are forceful young branches that commonly sprout straight up from stronger branches. In order not to suck nutrients and crowd other healthy and productive branches, it’s better to clip water shoots off.

Since water shoots appear during tree growth throughout the year, they can be pruned on the spot at any time. Here are the steps:

  • Identify the water shoots growing from the main trunk or branches of the olive tree.
  • Use a sharp pair of pruning shears to make a clean cut just above the point where the shoot grows from the trunk or branch.
  • Make sure to cut at a slight angle to allow water to run off and prevent water from pooling in the cut area.
water shoots on olive trees pruning
Normally water shoots grow around pruning cuts – ideally, you should remove them

5. Eliminate Crossing or Rubbing Branches

To encourage healthy olive tree growth with sunlight reaching all the branches and avoid wounds from rubbing into each other, it is beneficial to eliminate any crossing or rubbing branches. As well, cutting crossing branches ensures air circulation, which protects from bugs and parasites.

For such olive tree branches, pruning is always good timing in late winter, after the tree has finished the fruiting season, but before the new growing season begins.

Follow the steps below:

  • Identify the crossing or rubbing branches, two branches touching or crossing over each other.
  • Determine which branch is stronger and healthier and which one should be removed.
  • Cut the weaker branch back to a healthy growth point or back to the trunk. Just cut these branches back to 1/4 inch (= 0.6 cm) above the branch collar.

6. Clip Long, Straight Branches

After the first five steps, clip long, straight branches to maintain the desired shape and size of the tree.

Basically, a potted olive tree will produce more olive fruits and have a better shape if it has many average-length branches versus a few long, straight branches.

Clip any long, straight branches 1/4 inch (= 0.6 cm) above an outward-facing bud to encourage branching.

pruning olive tree branches examples
The small branch’s correct cut location is shown in 1 figure (45-degree cut angle). Though 2, 3, 4 figures are incorrect: 2 – cut is too vertical, 3 – cut next to the bud, 4 – cut is too horizontal.

7. Control Overgrowing Branches

In order to shape a potted olive tree, cut back any overgrowing branches to 1/4 inch (= 0.6 cm) above a healthy bud to preserve a uniform shape. Such pruning of olive trees for shape type is done in late winter after olive fruit harvest but before new growth begins.

Remember, don’t over-prune olive trees in pots! Part of the olive tree pruning process is to know when to stop. For instance, it is absolutely ok to prune 1/3 of your tree branches, but don’t cut more because over-pruning can overstimulate your olive tree and cause stress.

prune olive trees in pots example
Above is my little potted olive tree and an example of how to prune new growths to shape and keep a crown head. Red stripes show the cut place

V. Tips for Pruning Olive Trees in Pots

Be more conservative and avoid over-pruning when pruning olive trees in pots. This is because the tree has limited resources and cannot recover as quickly from heavy pruning as it would if it were in the ground.

Also I would like to note that olive tree’s root system is confined to the po and tree has less room to grow and spread out its roots, which affects how it grows and how it should be pruned. If the pot is too small, the roots may become cramped, which can lead to stunted growth and an unhealthy tree. On the other hand, if the pot is too large, the roots may not receive enough nutrients and moisture, leading to poor growth and an unproductive tree.

AspectPruning Olive Trees in PotsPruning Olive Trees in the Ground
Root SystemConfined to the potSpread out in the ground
Growing SpaceLimitedMore spacious
Pruning ApproachCareful pruning to balance the tree’s growth with the limited spacePruning to control the overall size and shape of the tree
Pruning GoalsTo maintain a healthy balance between the tree’s growth and the limited spaceTo control the overall size and shape of the tree, to promote healthy growth and fruit production
Table. Differences between pruning olive trees in pots and pruning olive trees in the ground.

Here are some tips for making clean cuts and avoiding stubs:

  • Make clean cuts: When cutting a branch, make the cut just outside of the branch collar (the swollen area where the branch meets the trunk). This will encourage the tree to heal quickly and help prevent disease from entering the wound.
  • Avoid leaving stubs: Long stubs can be unsightly and slow to heal. If you need to remove a branch, try to cut it as close to the branch collar as possible.
  • Prune at the right angle: When cutting a branch, angle the cut away from the branch collar to help prevent water from collecting in the wound and encourage healing.
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Pruning TechniqueDescriptionWhen to Use
Selective PruningThis technique involves removing specific branches or shoots to improve the overall shape and structure of the tree.Ideal for young trees, or trees that have become overgrown and need to be reshaped.
Rejuvenation PruningThis technique involves removing all or most of the branches and shoots of an old or neglected tree to encourage new growth.Ideal for neglected or mature trees that have become overgrown and unproductive.
Maintenance PruningThis technique involves removing dead, diseased, or crossing branches, and trimming back overgrown shoots to maintain the tree’s shape and encourage healthy growth.Ideal for regularly maintaining the health and appearance of mature trees.
Table . Different types of pruning techniques for olive trees.

Young Olive Tree Pruning Tips

Pruning of newly planted young olive trees should be limited to removing dead or broken branches. All other pruning should be withheld until the second or third year when a potted olive tree has recovered from the stress of transplanting.

However, if young trees are not pruned at all, their further care requires more intervention. It can cause more extensive pruning wounds and difficulty forming strong structures and regular crowns. 

So when pruning young trees, do not remove the dominant central trunk (if the seedling is elongated with few lateral branches, it can be shortened). But it is almost always necessary to remove or shorten competing branches (and keep one dominant trunk).

The intersecting crossing branches pointing to the center (trunk) of the crown are removed. And as the young tree grows, the lower branches are gradually removed (up to a specific, pre-selected height).

Main branches that have grown too densely from the trunk are also removed (the distance between two adjacent main branches should be at least 6 inches (15 cm), preferably 12 in (30 cm)).

Unless you are seeking a bonsai olive tree, you should start shaping and forming the olive tree as early as possible by removing unnecessary branches and stems. Read more about how to make olive tree into bonsai.

Mature Olive Tree Pruning Tips

You can focus on maintanance pruning for older, mature olive trees as it is performed to maintain the overall shape and size of the tree. Mature fruit-bearing olive trees benefit from maintenance pruning to maintain their productivity, while fruitless olive trees can also benefit from maintenance pruning to maintain their aesthetic appearance.

It is recommended practice to prune mature olive trees on a yearly basis after the harvest. The main reasons for pruning are to remove dead branches, to improve form and fruit yield, and to reduce the risk of disease.

As well, mature olive trees may also be pruned to increase light and air penetration to the inside of the tree’s crown. In most cases, mature trees are pruned to improve fruit yield and to take corrective or preventive measures.

Overall, regular pruning enhances the health of the olive tree and improves growth.

Fruitless Olive Tree Trimming Tips

I use a selective pruning technique for fruitless olive trees. This involves removing individual branches or stems that are damaged, crossing, or rubbing against each other. This will maintain the shape of the tree and encourage healthy growth.

Trimming fruitless olive trees is similar to pruning fruit-bearing olive trees described above, except there is no goal to increase bud development or fruit harvest.

You can prune fruitless potted trees any time in the dormant season before the buds begin to grow in early spring to improve overall growth. For trimming fruitless olive trees in pots or containers, you can use the detailed 7 steps pruning procedure outlined above.


Neglected Olive Tree Pruning Tips

Neglected olive trees that haven’t been pruned for several years are densely branched, unproductive, and may contain many dead wood or diseased branches. The olive fruit produced on neglected trees is generally small, poor quality, and lower in nutrients and antioxidants.

Extensive pruning is the first step in renovating neglected olive trees in pots or containers. The primary objectives of pruning are to reduce olive tree height and to thin out undesirable branches for better light penetration. Complete renovation of old neglected olive trees may take 2 or 3 years.

You can focus on rejuvenation pruning for neglected olive trees. This involves removing a significant portion of the tree’s canopy to promote new growth and rejuvenate the tree. This technique is often used when the tree has become overgrown and neglected or has not been correctly pruned in the past.

The following pruning processes can rejuvenate neglected potted olive trees:

  1. Prune out all dead, diseased, and broken olive tree branches. This will help reduce the risk of spreading any diseases or pests to the rest of the tree.
  2. Lower the height of the olive tree by cutting back large, upright-growing branches. If it’s necessary to remove more top growth of the neglected olive tree, then spread out the pruning over 2 or 3 years.
  3. Remove undesirable inside olive branches to increase air circulation and light penetration.
  4. Prune out the weakest of crossing olive branches and closely growing parallel branches. Also, remove branches growing toward the center, strongly growing upright branches, and water sprouts.
  5. If additional thinning is necessary, remove weak skinny growth. In general, the amount of pruning will be defined by the density of olive branches. Prune sufficiently to permit some light to penetrate the center of the olive tree trunk.
  6. Once rejuvenated, only moderate pruning should be required in the following years. Prune olive trees in winter after the harvest or early spring on an annual basis.

Though olive trees may look old, good quality olive fruit can be obtained by proper pruning and timely spraying.

pruning mature olive trees
Here is an old neglected olive tree that was heavily pruned multiple years to increase fruit yield and support new branches growth

VI. How to Shape Your Olive Tree?

For instance, there are many varieties of olive trees; thus, their look and shape depend on how you prune olive trees in pots. You are the artist and the decision-maker on how you want your olive tree to look.

If you’re looking for a more formal, sculpted appearance, like a topiary tree, you’ll need regular pruning to keep the tree in the desired shape. On the other hand, if you want a more natural, wild look, you can allow the tree to grow more freely, with only occasional pruning to remove dead or damaged branches.

Topiary Tree Look

If you want your olive trees to look like topiary trees (a similar example in the image above), focus on creating a clear central leader, which is the main stem that runs up the center of the tree, and removing any side shoots that are competing for the same space. You’ll also want to keep the branches trimmed and balanced, so that the tree has a neat, compact appearance.

Regularly clip your olive trees around through the leaves and shape the tree head as you want. Don’t be fussy about how you prune it, and don’t worry too much. Just nip new growths and send all the growth energy inwards to create a dense crown head. Cuts should be made at a slight angle, just above a bud or side shoot, so that new growth can emerge.

Follow mandatory steps 1-4, then use your creativity and imagination and shape the head of your potted olive tree as you want.

Wild Tree Look

If you want to keep your olive tree looking wild and open crown head, prune very little, and leave the branches to grow freely. You can be more relaxed with your pruning, only removing dead or damaged branches and any shoots crossing or rubbing against each other.

Follow all 7 pruning steps and keep a shrub-like look.

For more information on how to shape your olive trees and make them look bushier, fuller or wider, check out my recent article: 

shaping olive trees formative pruning bushier olive trees
How to shape olive trees – formative pruning

VII. Growth Habits of Olive Trees in Pots

In this section, I can help you to understand how olive trees grow to make informed pruning decisions and provide your trees with proper care and conditions.

Potted olive trees are naturally small and slow-growing, making them well-suited for container growing. However, they still need plenty of room for their roots to spread and grow. For this reason, choose a container that is large enough to accommodate their growth and provide good drainage. I always recommend choosing a container at least twice the size of the tree’s root ball.

Also note olive trees grow slowly, so be patient and give them time to mature. Regular pruning can help to encourage new growth and maintain the tree’s shape; however, avoid over-pruning, which can stunt the tree’s growth and reduce its fruit production.

Olive tree branches grow in a pattern specific to the species, with new growth appearing at the tips of the branches. This growth then hardens and becomes woody over time, creating a dense canopy. For this reason, prune olive trees in a way that promotes healthy new growth and maintains the tree’s natural shape.

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VIII. Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time to prune olive trees in pots?

The best time to prune olive trees in pots is during the dormant season, usually from late winter to early spring. This allows you to see the tree’s structure and make any necessary cuts without interfering with the tree’s growth or fruiting.

How often should I prune my olive tree in a pot?

The frequency of pruning your olive tree in a pot will depend on the age and size of the tree, as well as the growth habit. Young olive trees should be pruned lightly as many times as needed to shape them, while mature olive trees need regular pruning annually.

What tools do I need to prune an olive tree in a pot?

For basic pruning, you will need a good pair of pruning shears, loppers, and a saw. For taller trees, a pole pruner may also be useful. Choose high-quality tools that are well-maintained and sharp to make clean cuts and avoid damaging the tree.

Can I over-prune my olive tree in a pot?

Can I over-prune my olive tree in a pot? A: Yes, it is possible to over-prune your olive tree in a pot. Over-pruning can weaken the tree, reduce its ability to produce fruit, and make it more susceptible to disease and pests. It’s beneficial to prune your olive tree to encourage healthy growth and follow proper techniques to avoid damaging the tree.

How do I shape my olive tree in a pot to create a topiary tree look?

To create a topiary tree look, you will need to regularly prune and train the branches of your olive tree into a desired shape. This may involve clipping, training, and tying branches to maintain a specific form. Use a pruning style appropriate for the type and size of your olive tree and to avoid over-pruning or damaging the tree.

How do I care for my olive tree after pruning?

After pruning, properly care for your olive tree to help it recover and promote healthy growth. This may involve watering, fertilizing, and protecting trees from pests and disease. Also, regularly monitor the tree for any signs of stress or disease, and to address any issues promptly to maintain the health of your olive tree

IX. Final Thoughts

Once you’ve followed all the steps, the potted olive tree has just the right amount of leaves and branches. Therefore, each branch has enough room to get thicker and the olive fruits can reach their full potential.

If you grow companion plants under an olive tree, you should take care of them as well, for example, cut off annual plants before the winter.

In addition, don’t forget to take these olive tree care after pruning steps:

  • Watering: Olive trees need consistent and regular watering, especially in hot, dry weather. Ensure to water the tree thoroughly and allow the soil to dry out slightly before watering again.
  • Fertilizing: Choose a fertilizer rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to promote healthy growth and fruit production.
  • Protecting from pests and diseases: Regular monitoring and treatment can help prevent infestations and keep your tree healthy.

Without a doubt, regular care and pruning are key for vigor olive trees in pots. You will see great results from your hard work, and your olive tree will live happily and decorate your home environment. Then after the successful olive fruit harvest, you can make your homemade olive oil and serve it proudly at a dining table.

In addition, if you are enjoying a growing olive tree at home but do not expect a fruitful year, you can always purchase our Oliviada premium quality Kalamata olive oil and enrich the taste and nutrition of your daily meal:

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24 thoughts on “Prune Olive Trees in Pots Correctly (7 Easy Steps)”

  1. Tomorrow I am having my neglected Olive tree pruned. I live in Townsville and the tree is planted in my front garden in an elevated garden bed. It is getting so big with a lot of dead, woody looking twigs underneath the canopy and it is beginning to affecte surrounding garden and lawn growth.
    Tomorrow, the tree loppers are planning to prune it back to its trunk and leaving no foliage. Is this correct way to deal with pruning it ? I’m worried it will shock the tree and it will die. Many thanks, Lucy.

  2. Hi Lucy, definitely your tree needs some pruning work done and all dead, damaged branches should be trimmed immediately. A good tactic in pruning olive trees is to leave the open center to let the sun and breeze in. If the branches are healthy you should not cut all of them back, at least leave 3 – 4 the most strong side branches which will create a nice canopy eventually. I am not aware of your tree’s overall health, but if it is needed to be pruned back, then don’t worry about it, the olive trees have a tendency to revive just need lots of time!

  3. Kevin Ferguson

    I’ve an 8-10yr kalamata tree growing in a 5-7gal container. It is ~24″ h x 30″w and multi stemmed with long drooping branches, the result of the main trunk dying back due to some sub-20 degree weather.
    I’d like more vertical growth. Should I prune it to try to force one of the branches to be dominant? Or can it grow and produce as multi stem, and gain vertical height?

  4. Hi Kevin, normally the olive tree is pruned to force one of the branches to be dominant and gain all the growing energy. Otherwise, the multi-stem model would divide growth energy to each branch and would slow down the growth rate.

  5. Hi I have a young olive tree which has a large amount of budding olives …should I prune off the olive buds to allow the tree to grow as you do with citrus ?

  6. Hi Karen, no, don’t prune off the olive buds, unless you dont want your olive tree to bear fruits and enjoy your own tree harvest. Olive buds are the part of olive tree cycle which turn into delicious olives in the fall.

  7. I was gifted a small potted olive tree.
    It developed scale. So last week I sat in the yard with my need oil, gloves and rag and wiped down every single leaf and stick. I know I now need to fertilize, but my question is about pruning. I have not pruned since I received it in July. It is tall and lanky looking to me and I am uncertain of how to prune. We are in SW Missouri and I have it in a frost free pot outdoors. Not sure if it would be better to bring it in or keep it outside where it can get optimal sunshine and fresh air since we also currently live in a 5th wheel.
    Any advice and encouragement are welcome as I am new to growing olive trees.

  8. Hi Lesley, you can prune your olive tree lightly in spring, don’t do it in winter in order not to expose pruned areas to the cold. In terms of overwintering, you should bring the potted olive tree inside during freezing temperatures, otherwise, it’s good to grow outside. We also have another article “olive tree in pots winter care” where you will find 8 tips on how to protect an olive tree over winter.

  9. Hi there,
    I have had an olive tree for about 2.5y. I think it was 1 or 2 years old when I got it.
    Most of the banches only leaves in the half end of the branches. Also, the tree looks much fuller on one side of the other.
    I have never pruned it, because I’m concerned that if I prune all the leaves off a brunch it might die? These branches that have leaves only in the end half also have a curve. They start parallel or fingers up, but then they dip before going up again.
    I would love some guidance, please!

  10. Hi Gabriella, your olive tree’s one side is more exposed to the sun than another that’s why it looks fuller. Try to turn the tree in order to give the sun to another half. Also, try to prune the tree early in spring in order to shape the tree, promote growth, and make it look more healthy. Your tree branches look weak, curved and thin since you never pruned it and all the energy goes into the length rather than thickness and strength of the branch. Don’t forget to fertilize it to improve its growth.

  11. Hello,

    Similar to the last comment my Olive tree ….
    “Most of the banches only leaves in the half end of the branches. These branches that have leaves only have in the end half also have a curve. They start parallel or fingers up, but then they dip before going up again.”

    Can I now prune that new growth, even if it means I am cutting off the only leaves on that branch?


  12. Hi Kiri, yes you can prune it off and shape your olive tree as you prefer – there is no harm in pruning weak branches in order to focus and strengthen the main branches. I guess you haven’t been pruning your olive tree for multiple years and the branches became very thin with curves. When you prune these branches, you should leave at least a few buds to be able to grow new leaves. However please bear in mind that you may see new growth only next growth cycle of the olive tree (next year) as it takes a while for the olive tree to recover.

  13. Hello – We have a potted Olive tree at my job – It is approx 5 yrs old – I live in Sourthern NC – The plant lives outside – It does need prunning and possibly repotting – This spring I noticed a mealy bug infestation – The owner srayed it with sevin – I suggested neem – but – It was dropping yellow curled leaves – I noticed possibly webs (mites?) in the curls – She has asked me to help and I am going to repot, spray with astong hose of water and prune – should I prune befor ar after repooting – Seems like a lot of stress for the plant – Thank YOU!

  14. Hi Jill, repot the olive tree now, treat any infestations, and feed it to stimulate growth. It’s unnecessary to prune it now, better to do it after harvest or early in the spring prior to a new growth begins. You are doing a great job – your olive tree will recover soon!

  15. Hello,
    I live in Texas and are temps have been over 100. I have had my tree in a pot for about 3 years. I have just been reading your information on pruning which I haven’t done yet. My concern is the lower leaves on the taller branches are turning yellow and dropping. I try to give it water every night because it is in a clay pot and I think it may be drying out. But maybe I am overwatering it? How much water does it need and when. I do bring it inside during the winter and water it less then. Is that still ok? On a good note, the branches were covered with flowers and I actually have 15 olives on it right now. Thank you!

  16. Hi Nina, it’s worth pruning an olive tree on yearly basis – it helps the tree to thrive! You can prune it lightly after the harvest or wait until the early spring and prune it properly. In terms of yellowing leaves and watering potted olive trees, check out my extensive articles on why olive leaves turning yellow and tips on watering olive trees in pots and how much water indoors olive tree needs. Here you will find loads of valuable info of olive tree care and maintanance.

  17. Hi, I received two olive trees as gifts. I live in southern Oregon and was afraid to plant outside due to cold temps in winter. I planted them in pots but the trees just about reach the ceiling already, so how can I keep their height below the ceiling? Do I prune the tops? I do not know the age of trees, I would also like the trees fuller. Thank you with any help you can give me!

  18. Hello,

    I received a potted olive tree about 2 months ago and have had significant leaf drop since then, especially near the top. The bottom of my tree near the base has had a lot of new growth with branches and leaves, but the top is very bare, with lots of bare branches and crisping leaves. Also, the main “trunk” of the tree is super thin and weak up top and has a hard time staying upright. How do you recommend I take care of this with pruning?

  19. Hi Maddie, one of the reasons may be a lack of moisture in the soil that prevents your olive tree from getting nutrients, and the leaves on the top branches lose moisture first because they are furthest from the tree’s roots. The longer an olive tree goes without water, the more leaves get crispier and drop. To avoid it, water the tree regularly during periods of drought. Another reason, maybe pests or diseases. Observe your olive tree carefully. Now prune the neglected branches and unnecessary branches to strengthen the trunk and build core productive branches.

  20. Hi Vangelis. I have 6 olive trees. Two unknown but said to be koroneiki that seem to be a good few years old. I need to get some nitrogen to them but pruned a few weeks ago.

    I have two young Italian olives that I need to cut some dead branches. They seem to be doing fine for being so young.

    Lastly I have a young koroneiki and Kalamata that I have no idea the age. Both about 1-2 feet tall. I’m in 9b Florida, it’s hot already, seeing 90 degrees. I want them to be less bushy, do you think I would be good to trim a couple small branches, or wait a year for it to establish? I got them December 2022 as bare root trees.

    Thank you!

  21. Hi Alexi, for your older Koroneiki trees, it’s great that you’ve already pruned them. Since you pruned a few weeks ago, it should be an excellent time to apply fertilizer. You can use a fertilizer specifically formulated for olive trees:
    For your young Italian olive trees, removing any dead branches is good for maintaining tree health.
    For your young Koroneiki and Kalamata trees, it’s generally best to wait until they have established themselves before undertaking heavy pruning. Given that you received them as bare root trees recently, it might be wise to wait until the next dormant season (winter) before doing any substantial pruning. In the meantime, you can remove any dead or damaged branches.
    You can focus on training the young trees as they grow to encourage less bushy growth. This involves selecting a central leader (the main vertical stem) and ensuring lateral branches grow at wide angles from the trunk. When you do prune, remove branches growing too close together or competing with the central leader, as well as any suckers that sprout from the tree’s base. Also, check my article about formative pruning.
    Good luck with your olive trees!

  22. Lillian Sowa

    I need your help, please! You seem to be a true expert on olive trees, and I think I may have ruined my beautiful tree’s chance at success… I have ALWAYS wanted an indoor tree, and we got one last year as a wedding gift. It arrived tall already, close to 6 feet. And I didn’t do my research on pruning or anything… And now it is incredibly tall, and completely flopped over, and very very leggy. I was hoping I could send you a picture and I could get your advice, if possible. I would be forever grateful! I believe it hasn’t gotten enough light in our location. It’s right next to a very large southwest facing window, but we probably didn’t open the curtains enough for it. We have fertilized it, probably a total of 4 times. I’m embarrassed to say all of this, because I truly love it and wonder if there is anything I can do.

  23. Hi Lillian, Don’t worry, olive trees are resilient, and with proper care and attention, you can nurse yours back to health. Here’s a friendly guide to help your tree get its groove back:
    – Improve lighting conditions: Olive trees love sunlight, so make sure your tree basks in it for at least 6 hours a day. Open those curtains wide and let the sunshine in! If sunlight is scarce, you can always use a grow light to give your tree the rays it craves.
    – Prune: Give your tree a little haircut to help it grow bushier and stay in shape. Snip away dead or damaged branches and trim leggy ones, but remember, don’t go scissor-happy! Prune no more than one-third of the foliage at a time.
    – Adjust fertilization: Feed your tree with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer designed for container plants. Use TreeHelp premium fertilizer for olive trees.
    – Water wisely: Olive trees like their soil well-drained and not too wet. Ensure the pot has drainage holes and never let your tree’s feet (roots) sit in water. Water it when the top inch of soil feels dry, and give it a good soak until water drains from the bottom. Use moisture meter.
    – Repot if necessary: If your tree seems root-bound or the soil is past its prime, move it to a slightly bigger home with fresh, well-draining potting mix. Be gentle with the roots during this process.
    – Provide support: If your tree is leaning or struggling to stay upright, lend it a helping hand with a stake or cage to keep it steady while it recovers.
    – Monitor: Regularly check your olive tree for uninvited guests (pests) or signs of illness, and treat any issues with the right organic or chemical remedies.
    With a little love and patience, your olive tree will bounce back and flourish in no time! Good luck, and happy tree nurturing! 🌳💚

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