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The most common problem with olive trees in pots is not knowing how to properly water their tree. It is usually assumed that the tree should just be watered every day like most other plants. Unfortunately, it is not true!
So what are the water requirements for olive trees in pots? Well, the regular care and water requirements for olive trees in pots are different depending on soil type, weather conditions, and tree size. When watering potted olive trees we recommend a deep watering method. This method promotes deep root growth which is crucial for a very healthy vibrant olive tree.
As well, for olive tree growers in warm, dry climates, olive tree watering is not something they often need to think about. But in cooler or humid climates, watering can be a tricky thing. Too little water and the olive tree will die. Too much and the olive tree will die.
This leads to a generic question: “How often do I water an olive tree in a pot?”. Reading this article will give you in-depth information on the best practices and learn many tips on water requirements for olive trees in pots so you can enjoy your olive tree for many years to come.
- Regular Watering Habits
- Deep Watering Method
- Impact of Olive Tree Age on Watering
- Specifics for Climates
- Seasonal Variations in Watering
- Pot Size and Type Impact
- Signs of Over-watering and Under-watering
- Soil Types and Their Impact on Watering
- Water Quality
- Grab Essentials for Your Olive Tree
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Conclusion: Water Requirements For Olive Trees in Pots
Regular Watering Habits
Knowing when to water your potted olive tree is key. Watering should be done as soon as the soil dries out or is only slightly damp.
Allow the soil to become dry to the touch between watering. Olive trees will not tolerate soggy soil and thrive in soil that is a little on the dry side. To establish a watering routine check the soil moisture every few days.
How to Know When to Water Olive Tree in a Pot?
There are 2 simple ways to check when to water your potted olive tree:
1. USE YOUR FINGERS
Once per week stick a finger about 1 inch (2.5 cm) below the soil surface to check for moisture. If the fingertip is dry, slowly saturate the soil until water runs out of the bottom drain holes. If you feel moisture during the touch test, do not water the olive tree. Check again in a day or so.
2. USE A MOISTURE METER
If you prefer a more scientific method than doing it yourself using your own senses, then use a moisture meter. I recommend getting this tool since an overwatering issue is the most common problem with olive trees in pots. As well, please find my guidelines on how to use and read a moisture meter for olive trees.
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How Many Times I Should Water Olive Tree in a Pot?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this because your olive tree’s watering schedule isn’t just about the calendar. It depends on various factors: temperature, soil type, and the size of the pot and your potted olive tree.
- Temperature is a significant factor. During hot, dry weather, you may need to water your tree as often as once a week. But when the temperatures drop, your olive tree’s thirst does too, and watering every two to three weeks might be plenty.
- The type of soil you use also plays a part in your watering schedule. Fast-draining soil, such as sandy loam, dries out quicker than heavy, clay-based soils. If you’ve chosen a fast-draining mix (which is excellent for olive trees because it mimics their natural, well-draining Mediterranean habitats), you might find that you need to water a bit more often.
- And let’s not forget about the size of the pot and your potted olive tree. Larger trees and larger pots typically mean more soil, which can retain more water. So a small tree in a small pot may dry out faster and need more frequent watering than a larger tree in a big pot.
|Tree Age||Pot Size (Diameter)||Winter (Dec-Feb)||Spring (Mar-May)||Summer (Jun-Aug)||Autumn (Sep-Nov)|
|Seedling||Less than 10 inches||Once every 10 days||Once a week||Twice a week||Once a week|
|Young tree (1-3 years)||10-20 inches||Once every 2 weeks||Once a week||Twice a week||Once a week|
|Mature tree (3+ years)||Over 20 inches||Once a month||Once every 10 days||Once a week||Once every 10 days|
Note, this schedule assumes a typical Mediterranean climate and well-draining soil.
Always check the moisture of the soil by using a finger test or a moisture meter (you can do it once per week) and decide if your olive tree is thirsty and needs watering. If it’s dry, it’s time to water. If it’s still damp, you can probably wait a bit longer. Remember, olive trees prefer a good soak followed by a dry spell, rather than consistently moist soil.
Continue reading more about each of these factors in the sections below.
How Much I Should Water Potted Olive Tree?
Regardless of container size, tree size or age, if being grown indoors or outdoors, always saturate the growing medium until the water runs freely out of the bottom drainage holes. This method ensures that the water reaches deep into the pot, encouraging those roots to grow strong and reach for every last drop.
Normally, an indoor olive tree needs water at least 20% of the volume of the pot each time.
|Olive Tree Pot Size||How much water does it need (in Litre / Gallon)?|
|1 Litre / 0.26 Gallon||200 ml (glass of water) / 0.05 gal|
|5 Litres / 1.3 Gallons||1 L / 0.26 gal|
|10 Litres / 2.6 Gallons||2 L / 0.5 gal|
|25 Litres / 6.6 Gallons||5 L / 1.3 gal|
However, there’s a bit of flexibility here. If your home is particularly dry, or if it’s the height of summer and your tree is getting plenty of sun, you might need to up the water a bit. Similarly, in cooler, darker months, your tree might need a bit less.
The key takeaway here is to pay attention to your tree. Each one is a bit different, and they’ll usually let you know what they need. If the leaves start to look a bit limp or dull, it might be time for a bit more water. If the soil looks waterlogged or the leaves are turning yellow, it might be time to let it dry out a bit more.
The Golden Rule of Watering
Always remember the golden rule: It’s better to be underwater than overwater. Olive trees are adapted to survive periods of drought, but they’re not as forgiving when it comes to waterlogged soil. Overwatering can lead to root rot and other diseases, which can be disastrous for your tree.
Deep Watering Method
A deep watering method is the best practice while watering olive trees in pots or containers. By applying this method, give your tree a large amount of water, all the same time, and let your potted olive tree drink very thoroughly. The deep watering method promotes deep root growth which is crucial for a very healthy vibrant olive tree.
The soil in a pot needs to be thoroughly saturated with water until it is running out of the bottom drainage holes. This will eliminate any air pockets in the growing medium and ensure all tree roots have been hydrated. If the tree is not watered deeply, it will not have enough water for the week and begin drying out.
Therefore, makes sure that the drainage for the pot is excellent. If the drainage is poor, the olive tree will get too much water. Don’t forget to throw the excess water away and never let the pot sit in a pool of water.
As with most plants, olive trees will absorb water better and more efficiently if watered in the cool of the morning or evening rather than in the middle of the day.
Impact of Olive Tree Age on Watering
Seedlings and Young Trees
In the early stages, olive tree seedlings are all about growth. To support this rapid development, they need more frequent watering than mature trees. However, be careful not to drown them. The best approach is to keep the top layer of soil moist, but not waterlogged. Typically, watering once every 2 to 3 days works well, but always check the soil moisture first. If the top inch feels dry, it’s time to water.
At this stage, the root system of the olive tree is still developing and not deeply rooted, so regular watering helps establish a strong root system. Remember, the root system’s strength significantly affects the tree’s resilience in its mature years.
As your olive tree matures and grows stronger, its watering needs will decrease. Mature olive trees are amazingly hardy and drought-resistant, thanks to their Mediterranean heritage. As a result, they prefer their soil to dry out completely between waterings.
For a mature potted olive tree, watering thoroughly once every 1 to 2 weeks usually works well, but this will depend on the season and climate. In hotter, dryer periods, your tree may need more frequent watering. During colder months or periods of less sunlight, the water demand decreases.
Remember, mature olive trees are masters of water management. They’ll usually tell you when they’re thirsty with signs like wilting or yellowing leaves.
Specifics for Climates
Arid climates are characterized by low rainfall and high evaporation rates, which can leave your olive tree a bit parched. As you’d expect, olive trees in these climates need more frequent watering to compensate for the rapid loss of moisture from the soil. But don’t be too quick with the watering can! Olive trees are native to the Mediterranean region and are well adapted to dry conditions. They might need watering once or twice a week during the hot summer months, but always check the soil’s moisture levels first to avoid overwatering.
If you’re in a humid climate, your olive tree has hit the hydration jackpot. The high moisture levels in the air can help keep the soil from drying out too quickly. As a result, your tree will likely need less frequent watering—perhaps once a week or less, depending on the season. However, beware of overwatering! Olive trees don’t like “wet feet,” and too much water can lead to root rot and other diseases.
Cooler climates can be a bit of a wildcard when it comes to watering. Generally, your tree will need less water, as cooler temperatures slow evaporation. During the coldest months, you might only need to water once every few weeks or even less frequently. But remember: it’s not just about temperature. If your cool climate is also wet, be cautious not to overwater. Conversely, if it’s a dry, cold climate, your tree might need a bit more water to counteract the dry air.
Seasonal Variations in Watering
During the winter months, olive trees are in their dormant period. They’re taking a well-deserved break, and their water needs significantly reduce so the roots will not freeze and not encourage the growth cycle. It’s best to allow the soil to dry out completely before giving it a good soak.
In most climates, watering once a month, or even less frequently, is usually sufficient. However, always perform your trusty ‘finger test’ to ensure the soil isn’t still damp before watering.
By the way, straw, peat moss, or other decorative organic mulch can be used on top of the growing medium to help to retain moisture and increase soil warmth for olive trees outdoors.
As spring rolls around and your tree shakes off its winter slumber, its watering needs will increase. This is the growth season for olive trees, so it’s time to support that new growth with more frequent watering. Generally, you’ll want to water your tree once a week, ensuring that the water reaches the deeper layers of the soil. But remember, olive trees still prefer a soak-and-dry cycle over consistently damp soil.
Summer brings the heat, and with it, an increase in your tree’s water demands. In the hot summer months, your tree will likely need watering once or twice a week. However, these needs can vary depending on how hot and dry your climate is. Always check your soil first to prevent overwatering. And if you’re facing a particularly intense heatwave, your tree might appreciate a gentle misting to cool down and prevent leaf scorch.
When autumn comes, your olive tree will start preparing for its winter dormancy, and its watering needs will gradually reduce. You’ll want to transition back to watering your tree every two weeks or so, similar to your spring routine. As the temperature continues to drop, keep a close eye on the soil moisture levels to adjust your watering schedule accordingly.
Pot Size and Type Impact
In this section, I’m going to delve into how pot size and material can affect your watering routine.
Because of their limited soil volume, smaller pots tend to dry out faster. That means your olive tree might need watering more frequently than if it was in a larger pot. But remember, overwatering can lead to root rot. So even in a small pot, make sure the soil dries out completely between waterings.
Conversely, larger pots have more soil, which can retain more moisture and keep your tree hydrated for longer. This means you might not need to water as frequently. However, it’s essential to check the soil before watering. A larger pot can also hold onto excess moisture, leading to waterlogged soil, which your olive tree won’t appreciate.
|Pot Size (US Gallons/Liters)||Pot Diameter (Top) (Inches/Cm)||Pot Diameter (Base) (Inches/Cm)||Pot Height (Inches/Cm)||Average Watering Amount (US Gallons/Liters)|
|0.5 Gal / 2 L||6.5″ / 17.0cm||4.5″ / 12cm||5″ / 13.0cm||0.125 Gal / 0.5 L|
|1.3 Gal / 5 L||9″ / 22.5cm||6.5″ / 16.5cm||7″ / 18.0cm||0.33 Gal / 1.25 L|
|2.6 Gal / 10 L||11″ / 28.0cm||9.5″ / 24.0cm||9″ / 22.5cm||0.65 Gal / 2.5 L|
|4 Gal / 15 L||13″ / 33.0cm||10″ / 25.5cm||12″ / 30.0cm||1 Gal / 4 L|
|5.3 Gal / 20 L||14″ / 35.5cm||11″ / 27.5cm||13″ / 32.5cm||1.3 Gal / 5 L|
|6.6 Gal / 25 L||15″ / 38.5cm||12″ / 30.0cm||14″ / 35.0cm||1.65 Gal / 6.25 L|
|8 Gal / 30 L||16″ / 41.0cm||13″ / 33.0cm||14″ / 36.0cm||2 Gal / 7.5 L|
|10.6 Gal / 40 L||20″ / 50.0cm||14″ / 35.5cm||18″ / 45.0cm||2.65 Gal / 10 L|
These are general guidelines and watering frequency may vary based on the olive tree’s age, health, the season, local climate, and type of soil used. Always observe your olive tree and adjust watering accordingly.
Pot Type: Material Matters
Believe it or not, the pot’s material can also impact your watering schedule. Let’s look at the most common types:
- Clay or terracotta pots are porous, allowing water and air to pass through the walls. This means they’ll dry out more quickly than plastic or glazed ceramic pots, requiring more frequent watering. However, they’re excellent for promoting good drainage and preventing waterlogging.
- Plastic pots, on the other hand, are non-porous and retain water much longer. This can be a double-edged sword: while you won’t need to water as often, the risk of overwatering is greater. Make sure your plastic pots have good drainage holes to prevent water from pooling at the bottom.
- Glazed ceramic pots are also non-porous and retain water well, similar to plastic pots. They can be an attractive option that combines the aesthetic appeal of clay pots with the water retention of plastic. Just remember to keep an eye on the soil moisture to avoid overwatering!
Signs of Over-watering and Under-watering
Let’s look at the signs that your olive tree might be over-watered or under-watered and discuss how to correct these issues.
|Leaf texture||Soft and limp||Dry and crispy|
|Leaf drop||Yes, may be accompanied by new growth at the base||Yes, often starting with older leaves|
|Root condition||Brown and mushy, foul smell (root rot)||Dry and brittle|
|Overall plant vigor||Stunted growth||Slow growth|
|Soil condition||Soggy, waterlogged||Dry, crumbly|
Signs of Over-Watering
Like many plants, olive trees don’t like soggy feet! Over-watering can lead to waterlogged soil and root rot, which can seriously harm your tree. Here are some telltale signs that your olive tree might be getting too much water:
- Yellowing leaves: If the leaves are turning yellow but feel soft and limp, that’s often a sign of too much water.
- Root rot: This can be harder to spot, but if the tree becomes loose in the soil or you notice a musty smell, it might be time to check the roots. If they’re brown and mushy instead of white and firm, root rot is likely.
Signs of Under-Watering
On the other hand, olive trees can withstand drought, but they still need regular watering to thrive, especially in pots. Watch out for these signs of under-watering:
- Wilting: If your olive tree’s leaves are wilting and feel dry to the touch, it’s probably thirsty.
- Brown, crispy leaves: If under-watering continues, the leaves might turn brown and crispy.
Correcting Over-Watering and Under-Watering
Caught the problem in time? Great! Here’s how to correct it:
|Over-Watering||1. Reduce watering: Wait until the top inch of soil is dry before watering again. |
2. Improve soil drainage: Check if the soil drains properly. If not, you may need to mix in some sand or perlite to improve drainage.
3. Check for root rot: If present, you may need to repot the tree in fresh, well-draining soil.
|Under-Watering||1. Increase watering: Give the tree a thorough watering as soon as possible. |
2. Adjust watering schedule: Make sure to water the tree regularly, so that the top inch of soil never becomes completely dry.
3. Add mulch: Mulch can help the soil retain moisture, preventing it from drying out too quickly.
Soil Types and Their Impact on Watering
Soil isn’t just dirt – it’s a complex blend of minerals, organic matter, water, and air. Different types of soil have different water retention and drainage properties:
- Sandy Soil: Known for its large, coarse particles, sandy soil drains quickly and doesn’t hold onto water for long. This means your olive tree will need more frequent watering. However, the quick drainage can be beneficial for olive trees, which don’t like to be waterlogged.
- Clay Soil: The opposite of sandy soil, clay has tiny, compact particles that retain water well. This could reduce your watering frequency but beware – clay soil can easily become compacted and waterlogged, which isn’t ideal for olive trees.
- Loamy Soil: The goldilocks of soils, loamy soil is a balanced mix of sand, silt, and clay. It retains moisture but also drains well, making it an excellent choice for olive trees.
|Soil Type||Water Retention||Drainage||Ideal for Olive Trees?|
|Sandy||Low||High||No, dries out too quickly|
|Clay||High||Low||No, retains too much water and drains slowly|
|Loamy||Medium||Medium||Yes, ideal balance of retention and drainage|
|Silt||Medium-High||Medium-Low||Not ideal, tends to compact and drain slowly|
|Perlite-Soil Mix||Medium||High||Yes, good drainage and air circulation for roots|
Choosing the Best Soil for Potted Olive Trees
When it comes to potted olive trees, the best soil is well-draining soil to prevent waterlogging, but can also hold onto enough moisture to keep the tree hydrated between waterings. A well-draining loamy soil or even a cactus or succulent mix, which are designed for good drainage, can work well.
You can create a growing medium that is an even mixture of potting soil, peat compost, and fine sand. This mixture will create a fertile growing medium that allows water to drain through quickly while retaining enough moisture to keep the tree hydrated.
Consider adding a bit of organic matter, like compost or well-rotted manure, to provide nutrients and improve the soil’s water-holding capacity. Additionally, a handful of small pebbles or perlite can help enhance drainage.
More in-depth about the best soil for olive trees you can find in our article here.
Potted olive trees prefer their water just right—not too acidic, not too alkaline. The ideal pH for olive trees is between 6.5 and 8, which is slightly acidic to slightly alkaline. Too far in either direction can lock up nutrients in the soil, making it harder for your tree to take them up.
In addition to pH, the mineral content of your water can also affect your olive tree’s health. Minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium are beneficial in moderation, but too much can build up in the soil and harm your tree. Some signs of mineral buildup include yellowing leaves and stunted growth.
|Water Quality Type||Effect on Olive Tree Health|
|Hard Water (High mineral content)||Hard water, which is high in minerals such as calcium and magnesium, can lead to mineral buildup in the soil, which can interfere with the olive tree’s ability to absorb water and essential nutrients.|
|Soft Water (Low mineral content)||Soft water is generally better for olive trees, as it won’t lead to mineral buildup. However, if the water is artificially softened, it may contain high levels of sodium, which is harmful to olive trees.|
|Water with High pH (Alkaline)||Olive trees prefer slightly acidic to neutral pH levels. Alkaline water may lead to nutrient deficiencies, especially of iron, causing chlorosis (yellowing leaves).|
|Water with Low pH (Acidic)||Olive trees can generally tolerate mildly acidic water, but very low pH can lead to nutrient toxicity or deficiencies.|
Hard Water vs Soft Water: What’s the Difference?
Hard water has high levels of calcium and magnesium, while soft water has been treated to remove these minerals.
Therefore, olive trees, like many plants, can tolerate hard water, and the calcium and magnesium can even be beneficial. However, if your water is very hard, it can lead to mineral buildup in the soil over time.
On the flip side, soft water can be too low in these beneficial minerals and often contains sodium, which isn’t great for plants. If your home has a water softener, consider using rainwater or distilled water for your olive trees.
Grab Essentials for Your Olive Tree
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Frequently Asked Questions
How often should I water my potted olive tree?
It depends on various factors such as the tree’s age, the pot size, soil type, and local climate. Generally, a deep watering once a week when the top inch of soil is dry should suffice. Mature trees may need watering only once a month or less.
Can I overwater my olive tree?
Yes, olive trees are susceptible to overwatering which can lead to root rot. Always ensure that the pot has good drainage and never let the pot sit in water. Overwatering can lead to yellow leaves and a drooping appearance.
What are the signs of under-watering my olive tree?
An under-watered olive tree may have wilting leaves that look dry and feel brittle to the touch. The leaves may also turn brown and drop from the tree.
Does the size of the pot affect how often I need to water?
Yes, smaller pots will dry out faster and thus require more frequent watering compared to larger pots.
Does the type of soil matter when watering olive trees in pots?
Absolutely. Some soil types, like sandy soil, drain water quickly and may require more frequent watering. On the other hand, clay soils retain water longer and can lead to overwatering.
How do I correct overwatering or underwatering?
If you’ve overwatered, allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again, and consider repotting the tree in fresh, well-draining soil. If underwatered, give your tree a deep watering immediately and then adjust your watering schedule to ensure the soil never becomes completely dry.
Can the quality of water affect my olive tree?
Yes, hard water can lead to mineral buildup in the soil, which can interfere with the tree’s ability to absorb water and nutrients. Conversely, very soft or distilled water might lack essential minerals. Ideally, use rainwater or tap water that hasn’t been through a softening system.
Conclusion: Water Requirements For Olive Trees in Pots
It’s very important to get used to regular watering requirements for olive trees in pots. For instance, if a potted olive tree has been left dry for too long, will start losing its leaves. If your olive tree will get an excessive amount of water, meaning the drainage is poor, the leaves will yellow and begin dropping off.
So if you notice your potted olive tree is losing its leaves due to over or under-watering, don’t stress out. Just resume the right watering requirements for olive trees and keep the tree evenly watered and the leaves will regrow and the tree will recover to its former beauty.
In addition to watering, successful olive tree care in pots involves regular fertilizing with balanced plant food, careful repotting to provide more space as they grow, and thoughtful pruning to maintain a healthy and aesthetic shape. Furthermore, don’t forget to monitor your tree regularly for signs of disease or pest infestation, and take preventative measures or appropriate action when needed.
For more tips on growing potted olive trees indoors, you can find them here.
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Hi, I’m Vangelis Kleftogiannis, the founder of Oliviada and an established olive oil expert from Kalamata, Greece. My expertise isn’t just in producing quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil, but also in the cultivation and care of olive trees themselves. I am deeply committed to sharing my knowledge and know-how, helping others understand the intricacies of olive tree growing and the creation of quality olive oil.
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