Why My Olive Tree is Leggy (and How to Fix It?)

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If your olive tree is leggy that looks like it’s all legs (stems and branches) with stretched-out, spindly growth and sparse leaves it’s often a sign your tree isn’t getting enough light. Mostly this is a case for indoor olive trees, though outdoor olive trees may also become leggy if you don’t prune them yearly.

So let’s find out the reasons why your olive tree has grown very tall, but with few leaves, and how to fix it.

Why My Olive Tree is Leggy?

Lack of Sunlight

If an olive tree has become leggy that has really long stems and branches, with just a few leaves on the top, most probably your tree lacks the sunlight while growing.

leggy olive tree 1
This weak, thin, leggy olive tree is telling you that you’ve put it in a spot where it can’t get enough light

Sunlight is one of the most important conditions for an olive tree to thrive. So if the tree grows in a spot that has a full sun it will be getting all the light it needs and will grow normally.

However, if an olive tree doesn’t get enough sun, it will start hunting for more so it can make enough energy to survive. Reaching in the direction of the available rays, olive branches grow longer and thinner and drop leaves that the olive can’t support with its limited food reserves.

An olive tree assumes that it will find more sunlight by growing straight up because that’s where the sun should be. As a result, the olive tree will grow long stems or branches in an effort to reach the light. Therefore if an olive tree starts bending over, it’s probably because it is trying to grow toward a window.

Pruning is required

Another reason why olive tree become leggy is the need for pruning, in particular those olive trees that grow outdoor and requires yearly pruning.

Each year olive tree begins a new growth cycle. If you don’t trim it back early in spring or after the harvest (at the end of the last growth cycle), your olive tree will carry on where it left off and will grow new leaves on already long branches.

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Is Legginess Bad for My Indoor Olive Tree?

Yes. It’s a sign your olive tree is desperate for sunlight, however, the sunlight is one of the most important conditions to grow olive successfully. So if an olive stays in a spot where the light is too low it will become weak and may eventually die.

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This olive tree is leggy but can be fixed easily by cutting back branches by 1/3 at least and shaping the tree

How Do I Fix Leggy Olive Tree?

Moving to the Sunniest Spot

It’s really easy to stop an olive tree from becoming leggy, or to help it stop creating more leggy growth: first, put the olive somewhere with the right level of sunlight. 

If an olive tree is leggy, move it a little bit closer to a south or southwest window with the most intense sun exposure. Don’t take it right from deep shade to full sun – this will cause shock and olive tree will start shedding leaves – but move it gradually. Keep an eye on your olive condition over several weeks and see if it improves.

Prune Your Leggy Olive Tree

Secondly, after moving a leggy houseplant into more light, you may also want to cut off leggy stems or branches, to encourage new olive branches to sprout and grow in to restore your tree to its former lushness. 

Trim off exceptionally long, lanky olive branches by one-third their length, snipping just above a node (the point where leaves grow from the branch).

After pruning, water your olive tree well and add a balanced fertilizer for olive, following package directions. After four or six weeks in the new sunnier location, your olive tree should start looking healthier and fuller.

Also, read my other articles about olive tree care and maintenance: how to prune olive trees in pots, how often to water olive trees indoors and shaping olive trees.

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By following my advice and placing your olive tree with the right level of sunlight, a leggy and stretched-out olive tree can become lush and full again.

If your home doesn’t have adequate natural light for your potted olive trees, you can supplement with artificial lightning, just choose LED or fluorescent bulbs for the best results. Because standard (incandescent) bulbs don’t provide all the wavelengths of light that olive trees need, causing them to continue stretching to find the light.

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

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

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