Olive tree in pot and tub - special care requirements

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Olive tree - Olea europaea

With its rustic-gnarled shape and evergreen crown, the olive tree celebrates Mediterranean serenity on the balcony and terrace. Since the magical ornamental and fruit tree of the Mediterranean does not belong to the natural flora of Central European regions, it is mainly cultivated in pots and tubs. Here it is important to take into account his special demands on care. This green guide guides you practice-oriented through the art-compliant care program. From the ideal location and the balanced water and nutrient balance to the pruning and successful wintering, all aspects are examined in detail.

Excursus in biology simplifies the care

Before you immerse yourself in the proper care program for an olive tree, we recommend that you familiarize yourself with his biology. The easier it is for you to cultivate in the pot and tub by hand.
The evergreen olive tree is native to the entire Mediterranean, where it has been grown for many thousands of years as a crop. In its habitats, the typical Mediterranean climate prevails with annual average temperatures of 20 degrees Celsius. Its distribution areas are characterized by drought, because the annual precipitation commute by 500 mm. In comparison, the average annual temperature in Germany is about 10 degrees Celsius with a precipitation of 800 mm to 1,000 mm. Characteristic of the olive is that summer heat of 40 degrees Celsius has no negative effects, while temperatures around the freezing point affect the tree significantly.
Under the influence of the Mediterranean climate, the olive tree has developed the following growth behavior:
  • A dense crown of evergreen, below silvery hairy leaves
  • End- and lateral flower spikes with a length of 2 to 4 cm
  • Cream-white to yellowish flowers, mostly hermaphrodite, rarely unisexual
  • Flowering time between mid / end of April to mid / end of June
  • Single-seed drupes in autumn
  • Up to 7 m deep, branched root system
At a young age, the olive tree has a smooth, greenish-gray bark. With age, the distinctive, knotty-chapped stem develops, which can take on bizarre forms. The Real Olive tree has adapted so well during its long evolution that it can reach a very old age in its homeland. One of the oldest specimens is in Crete and is prized for more than 4,000 years.

Location in summer

For a year-round cultivation in living rooms or heated conservatories, the olive tree is not suitable. The wood develops its optimum in an open-air location to enjoy the unfiltered sunshine and fresh air. If meteorologists predict that nocturnal temperatures will drop below -10 degrees Celsius in the spring, your exotic wood will occupy a location with the following conditions:
  • Full sunshine with at least 4 to 6 hours of sunshine
  • Gladly in front of the south wall of the house or on the south balcony
  • Ideally protected from wind and rain

Olive tree - Olea europaea

Wet cold weather in the spring can damage your olive even when temperatures are only around freezing. In this case, please wait until dry spring weather prevails. On the other hand, it is no cause for concern when the summer comes with temperatures of 35 degrees and higher and the heat accumulates at lunchtime.
Tip: Before an olive tree takes its full sun, it should acclimatize for 8 to 10 days in the partially shaded place. Immediately exposed to direct sunlight, the evergreen leaves suffer a sunburn. The resulting light brown spots spoil the pretty foliage throughout the summer.


In the pot, an olive tree naturally can not develop the expansive and deep root system. Therefore, the quality of the substrate is of particular importance. In addition to the supply of nutrients, water and oxygen, the perfect soil provides the roots with reliable stability without compaction. These claims do not nearly meet conventional potting soil. Special substrates for olives from the specialist trade have the right composition, but at a rather high cost to book. Alternatively, mix the plant soil itself, which consists of these components:
  • Well-matured garden compost
  • Alternatively bark humus from the store
  • Clay soil or natural clay
  • Coconut or wood fibers
  • Garden, algae or dolomitic lime
  • Expanded clay, lava granules, sand or fine-grained grit
You will not look for the ultimate recipe for the perfect mixing ratio. There are numerous recommendations among olive growers, from which you will develop your personal recipe over the years.Acceptable acceptance is a mix of 35 percent clay and compost, 20 percent wood or coconut fibers and 10 percent active lime and quartz sand.
This composition signals an unusual for Mediterranean plants chalk tolerance. In fact, a pH between 7 and 8 is one of the key criteria for the vital growth of your Olea europaea. Unfortunately, it is a common misconception to equate olive and lemon trees in this regard. Therefore, do not reach for citrus soil when buying, as it is designed for a pH between 5.5 and 6.5, which is not good for your olive tree.

to water

Olive tree - Olea europaea

The special requirements for care in the pot are expressed in the fact that the water supply differs significantly from planted olive trees. In full-sun, warm location, the moisture in the substrate evaporates quickly. While in the bed, the natural rainfall is usually sufficient and the up to 7 m deep root system possibly provides over the groundwater for compensation, an olive in the bucket relies on regular watering. How to do it right:
  • The aim is a humid potting soil with intermediate drying phase
  • Pour with penetrated substrate surface penetrating
  • Allow water to run out of the can nozzle until the soil on the bottom of the pot is moist
Do not re-water the olive tree until the finger test points to a dried-up soil to 1 to 2 cm deep. This procedure ensures that no waterlogging can occur, which is life-threatening for any olive tree. Please use normal tap water, but not directly from the faucet when it is still freezing cold.
Tip: With a moisture meter you hold a valuable tool in your hands to water your olive tree as needed. If the measuring rod is inserted into the substrate, a scale undoubtedly indicates whether the root ball is dry, semi-dry or wet.


As long as an olive tree grows, blooms and fructifies, it needs additional nutrients in the tub. Since supplies in the substrate are limited, fertilizer application begins 6 weeks after potting or repotting. Its special care requirements require the use of special preparations for Mediterranean plants, such as Compo Mediterranean Plant Fertilizer, Olive Fertilizer High-Tech Olea from Green24 or Chrystal Fertilizer Mediterranean plants. Conventional solid fertilizers, such as blue-grain or Entec, are not recommended for olives. The ideal nutrient supply is as follows:
  • From March to September fertilize the olive tree
  • Add a liquid olive fertilizer to the irrigation water once a week
  • Alternatively, in March, May and July, press fertilizer sticks into the substrate
  • Optionally, in March and June, administer a long-term fertilizer for Mediterranean plants
From September to February, you stop the supply of nutrients, as an olive tree consumes little energy during this time. To ensure that the nutrient salts contained in the fertilizer do not cause burns to the roots, water with clear water before and after administration.
Tip: In the ecologically well-tended Mediterranean garden, cover the nutrient requirements of your olive tree in the tub with a liquid organic fertilizer. Excellent is the high quality Biobest Organic Earthworm Fertilizer, which you give from March to September every 8 to 10 days in the irrigation water.

Hibernate outdoors

Olive tree - Olea europaea

Creating the framework for an olive tree in the tub so that it survives the delicate winter time is a particular challenge. This is all the more true if outdoor hibernation is an option because the garden is within the Z8 winter hardiness zone, These include, among others, the wine-growing areas, the Lower Rhine and other regions, where the winter's lowest temperature - 10 degrees Celsius. How to overcome the hurdle of hibernating in the pot under the open sky:
  • Put a large wooden box on a plant scooter in front of a house wall or in a wall recess
  • Lay a thick layer of bark mulch on the bottom of the box
  • Place the pot in the middle and stuff with straw all around
  • Cover the substrate with leaves, straw, sawdust or wood wool
  • Alternatively, fill up to the edge of the tub with bark mulch on the substrate
  • The olive crown encase with breathable and translucent fleece
The closer the olive tree is to the bucket on the wall of a house, the more it benefits from the waste heat during the wintertime. Ideally, the winter place is at the same time protected from moisture by a canopy. Where the solution with the wooden box can not be realized, the pot receives a thick winter coat of several layers of fleece or foil.
The care during the hibernation in the garden or on the balcony is limited to moderate watering. Despite the growth calm, the evergreen leaves continue to give off moisture. Therefore, water on frost-free days to avoid ball dryness.

Hibernate behind glass

Where winter is associated with severe frost, hibernation requires quarters behind glass. Of course, this does not mean a well-heated living room, as complete loss of leaves is unavoidable here.Rather, your olive tree wants a bright, frost-free location with temperatures up to 10 degrees Celsius. The bucket is only cleared when the mercury column drops below - 5 degrees Celsius at night. For some time under the influence of winter cold, the flowering induction for the next season starts and thus feeds for a rich olive harvest. How to guide your noble tree through the wintertime:
  • Continue to pour moderately without causing waterlogging
  • Do not fertilize from October to February
  • Ventilate the wintering room every 2 to 3 days, without creating the cold draft
In the short list as winter quarters thus come a non-heated conservatory, a bright garage or a cool, light-flooded staircase. If it is unavoidable that temperatures rise above 10 degrees Celsius, a plant or daylight lamp will compensate for the increased light requirement. However, if you banish your olive in the dark boiler room, this is by far the most problematic option for overwintering. To what extent the resulting sheet shedding will be compensated in the next spring and summer is not predictable even for experts.

To cut

The very slow growth requires a planned cut. To ensure that your olive tree preserves its well-shaped and densely leafed crown, there is no pruning on the care program every year. Therefore, in April and May, you should subject your olive to an in-depth examination to decide on the need for a cut. Only reach for the scissors, if the tree from the inside kahlt, grow long shoots out of the form or it came to frost damages on branches. The best time for a shape and maintenance cut is a covered day just before the new shoot. With this cut, it is possible:
  • In the first step, clear out the crown by removing dead branches
  • Shorten too long branches until just before a bud or a leaf knot
  • First cut the leaders and then shorten their side branches a little more
  • Cut off shoots on the trunk below the crown on Astring
  • Cut back frozen or sick branches to healthy wood

Olive tree - Olea europaea

Repeat a few steps to plan further cuts. The leisurely growth rate will only close holes very slowly. Cut therefore in small stages or let the scissors rest better if in doubt. Please note that leafless branches are not necessarily dead. Before removing a vital shoot, wait until early summer. Only when there are no new leaves, cut off the dead part.


On a lovingly cultivated olive tree crown and root ball grow in proportion to each other. The result is that every 2 to 3 years the pot volume is no longer sufficient, so that the roots and thus the crown develop unhindered. Furthermore, after some time, the substrate is so leached that even regular fertilizer no longer meets the energy needs. If there is a crowded area in the tub, or if the first roots find their way through the opening in the ground, you will be potting your olive between February and May. The new bucket is so big that there is room for two fingers between root ball and pot wall. How to proceed step by step:
  • Using a knife, loosen the edges of the root ball from the edge of the bucket
  • Lay the olive tree on its side, pick it up at the root base and pull it out
  • Shake the root ball vigorously and loosen up with both hands
  • Put a 3-5 cm high drainage on the bottom of the pottery or chippings
  • Lay an air- and water-permeable fleece over it
Now measure how high the bottom substrate layer must be so that later the root disk is about 3 cm below the edge of the pot. Fill in the recommended substrate, place the root ball in the center and fill in the cavities. Interim pressing of the fresh earth prevents gaps from forming, which impede rapid rooting. In the last step you pour in penetrating. For the next 8 days, the potted olive tree dwells in the partially shaded spot to regenerate.


For the propagation of olive trees, we recommend the cutting method. This approach is so practicable and promising that it is also favored in the large olive plantations. At the beginning of the growing season you cut 10 cm long cuttings from annual shoots, provided that the pruning does not already provide the suitable material in the form of clippings. This is how you proceed.
  • Fill a propagating dish with coconut fiber substrate and press on
  • Slice each cut 8 to 10 mm below a sheet at a slight angle
  • Defile half of the cuttings
  • Dip the interface into a rooting powder
  • The offshoots at a distance of 2 to 3 cm to two thirds stuck in the ground
  • Sprinkle cuttings and soil with water
  • Put the bowl in a heated room greenhouse
For a rooting of olive cuttings a combination of high humidity and temperatures around 30 degrees Celsius is important.Ventilate the mini greenhouse daily and sprinkle the offshoots with room-warm water when the substrate has dried. Only when there is a fresh sprout, the cuttings can clear the mini greenhouse, because now normal room temperatures are sufficient for further growth.

Common diseases

An olive tree is susceptible to the ophthalmopathy caused by the fungal pathogen Spilocaea oleagina. Symptoms of infection are dark blotches with a bright halo that spreads over the entire leaf, causing it to die. Permanently remove any diseased leaves and deprive the fungal spores of early infestation of the possibility of further spread. If more than half of the crown is attacked, combat the disease with a copper-based fungicide such as Atempo Mushroom-Free or Cueva Mushroom-Free by Neudorff.

Olive tree - Olea europaea

In the case of olive cancer, you have to deal with a hard-boiled bacterium that penetrates through the smallest wounds in the bark into the interior of the plant. In addition to brown discoloration, cracks on the bark and dark red lesions, this disease manifests itself by cancerous growths. So far no effective control agents are available. Diseased plant parts should be cut out and burned. Preventive measures include a rain-protected location, no overhead irrigation and the meticulous disinfection of cutting tools.


Too warm overwintering weakens your olive tree in the bucket considerably and calls scale insects of all kinds on the plan. Signs of infestation are small bumps on the leaves by Napfschildl├Ąuse or white cotton balls by wool and mealybugs. Since the pests have it out on the plant juice, their activities must be stopped. An effective method of combating the lice is wiping the leaves with an alcohol-soaked soft cloth. Dusting with diatomaceous earth dissolves the shell of scale insects and dries out the insects underneath.
An olive tree in a pot and a bucket fulfills its aura as a Mediterranean symbol of longevity only if the care takes into account its special demands. A sunny, warm summer location and a bright, cool winter spot set the course. A water and nutrient balance appropriate to the season completes the annual care program. At intervals of 2 to 3 years, a form and maintenance cut and the change to a larger pot on the agenda in the spring. With all care measures, the fact that a genuine olive tree differs in its demands from other Mediterranean plants, such as lemons or oranges, in many ways resonates subliminally. If the requirements of this manual are met, diseases and pests will have little chance of infestation.

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