Potted olive tree: care and how to prune it

The olive tree, with the scientific name Olea europaea , is a constant element in the landscapes of much of the Mediterranean area. However, when you think of an olive tree, it is common to think of large trees of great antiquity, especially in the fields of agriculture and ornamental gardening.

But this is not the only option: olive trees can be grown without any problem in pots and much smaller spaces. In fact, there are those who cultivate them with the bonsai technique. If you want to learn how to care for a potted olive tree and how to prune it , join us in this Green Ecology article where you will see a practical guide.

Potted olive tree: care – basic guide

These are the main cares for a potted olive tree :

  • Light: it must be put in a place with full sun, as the olive tree needs a large amount of light.
  • Climate: warm, especially in the early years.
  • Location: variable (exterior / interior) according to climate.
  • Substrate: very undemanding. All you need is good drainage.
  • Fertilizer: an annual contribution of organic fertilizer is sufficient.
  • Irrigation: scarce, but more frequent in young olive trees.

Climate and location for the potted olive tree

Olive trees are plants made in hot climates and with lots of sun , and this is a characteristic that they maintain both when planted in pots and in the ground. Choose a sunny area in your garden or indoors , next to a window or balcony where it receives a good number of hours of direct sunlight per day.

Regarding the pot, the ideal is to use a clay pot of considerable size . Clay is heavy, but the material allows adequate breathability, helping the substrate not to accumulate too much moisture. If you live in a cold climate, you could choose a pot with wheels, since it is likely that in winter you will have to store your olive tree indoors: this tree does not withstand frost well .

Thus, having the olive tree in a pot indoors or outdoors will basically depend on the local climate, being able to resort to one or another location, or even a combination of both depending on the season.

Potted olive tree: care and how to prune it - Climate and location for the potted olive tree

Substrate for the potted olive tree

These trees are not demanding in terms of the composition of the soil or its nutrients, since they are used to relatively arid areas. When preparing the substrate for the olive tree , it will be enough to use peat mixed with gravel or sand to make it lighter and improve its drainage, which is the only really important point in this regard.

Using coconut fiber will also help to give the substrate a light and drier texture, and a small contribution of worm humus is not mandatory, but it will contribute to creating a richer mixture and with beneficial microorganisms that will not be too much. 

Also, keep in mind that a bed of coarse gravel or pebbles at the base of the pot will help keep soil from leaking out of the drainage holes, as well as keep moisture further away from the roots.

How to water the potted olive tree

The olive tree does not need hardly any watering in its adult phase. In fact, it is common for adult olive trees outdoors to not be watered at all in climates where there is occasional rain. However, in its early years the olive tree will need frequent but moderate watering . It is about giving the young tree some moisture with which it can gain strength, but always without flooding it. Exceeding this point can rot its roots or cause fungus to attack the tree.

To get an idea of how often a potted olive tree is watered , wait until the first 3 centimeters of the substrate surface have dried.

Potted olive tree: care and how to prune it - How to water the potted olive tree

Potted olive tree fertilizer

As it is not a demanding plant in terms of nutrients, it does not need periodic fertilizations, especially if it is an ornamental and non-productive olive tree. One fertilizer per year will be enough, which can be done simply by adding organic organic compost to the soil at the beginning of spring . 

How to prune the potted olive tree – step by step

The pruning of ornamental olive trees is very simple, since we do not have to worry about the fruit production of the tree.

  1. During the first 3 seasons, it will be enough to keep the tree’s shoots at a height of between 80 centimeters and 1 meter, which is the most common to mark the ramification of the olive tree.
  2. Afterwards, up to 6 years of age, training prunings are applied to the tree, although they are not as important as in farm olive trees. Here it is only a matter of leaving about three main branches well marked, so that it grows with a good structure.
  3. From then on, it will only be necessary to practice maintenance pruning each year , in which to eliminate branches and leaves in poor condition, as well as those that grow inwards or hinder others. We can also prune the branches that do not bear fruit, if what we want is to give some more.

Finally, it must always be borne in mind that the pruning of the olive tree is between autumn and winter , when the fruiting has finished. 

Potted olive tree: care and how to prune it - How to prune the potted olive tree - step by step

Pests and diseases of the potted olive tree

To finish this guide on the care of the potted olive tree and how to prune it , we mention the most common diseases and pests in olive trees, both in pot and soil:

  • Olive fly
  • Olive wood scale
  • Olive leaf
  • Soapy olive or anthractosis
  • Olive verticillosis
  • Olive tree tuberculosis

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