Pruning olive tree in pot 【How to fix leggy olive tree】


The olive tree, with the scientific name Olea europaea, is a tree famous for having olives as its fruit. Although when we think of an olive tree the first thing we think of is a large tree, the truth is that they can be grown in a pot. But to be able to cultivate them correctly you have to prune them with some care. We will talk about that in this post, we will analyze in depth everything related to pruning olive tree in pot, how and when to do it.


But we will not only talk about pruning, but we will also analyze and see how to solve a leggy olive tree. This is a very common problem in olive trees that are grown indoors. And since it is quite related to pruning, we will also study it in this post.

Pruning olive tree in pot

1. Problems with olive trees in pots


Growing an olive tree in a pot can be a rewarding experience, but it can also present unique challenges. Before getting fully into the main topic of the post (pruning) we will study some of the most common problems that you can encounter when growing an olive tree in a pot:

1.1 Improper pruning

A common mistake when pruning a potted olive tree is not doing it regularly or pruning too much. This can lead to unbalanced growth and difficulties in keeping the tree in a desired shape. The solution is to learn the proper pruning techniques, so I recommend you read this post until the end. 😉

1.2 Inadequate watering

It’s easy to overwater or underwater a potted olive tree. If you water too much, water can collect at the bottom of the pot and cause root rot problems. If you water too little, the leaves will wither and the tree will become weak. The solution is to water the tree regularly, but not too much, and to make sure the water drains properly.

1.3 Inadequate soil

Inadequate soil can lead to a number of problems, including drainage problems, insufficient nutrients, and poor growth. The solution is to use a good quality soil that contains enough organic matter and is well drained.

1.4 Pests and diseases


Potted olive trees can also be affected by pests and diseases, such as the spider mite, the olive fly and the olive tuberculosis disease. The solution is to identify the problem as soon as possible and treat it with the appropriate methods, such as pruning, biological control and chemical treatments.

1.5 Leggy Olive Tree

Another specific problem that can occur with potted olive trees is excessive and unbalanced growth, known as “leggy olive tree”. This problem is caused by excessive growth at the top of the tree, resulting in a thin trunk and weak lower branches. To know how to resolve this point, I also recommend that you stay and read the article.

For more detailed information on potted olive tree problems I recommend reading this article. There you will find the causes and solutions for all problems, which will allow you to grow your olive tree indoors without problems.

2. Best tools for proning potted olive tree


Carrying out a task like pruning is something for which certain tools are needed. If you use the wrong tools you may prune badly, and also break your tools. So that this does not happen, have these tools on hand for the task:

  • Pruning shears: Pruning shears are an indispensable tool for any gardener who wants to prune a potted olive tree. They are used to cut smaller branches and to shape the tree.
  • Anvil Pruners: Anvil Pruners are used to cut larger and tougher branches. They have an anvil-shaped blade that cuts the branch by pressing it against a stationary blade.
  • Pruning Saw: A pruning saw is useful for cutting larger, hard-to-reach branches. In general, you may need this type of tool when your olive tree is already a couple of years old. If you see that it is too big, you may need to bring your olive tree to the ground. 🙁
  • Garden Gloves: These are essential for the safety of any gardener. With them you can protect your hands from the sharp branches and thorns of the tree.
  • Safety glasses: Another safety device is glasses. These will allow you to protect your eyes from any branches that may fly away during pruning.

Before you start pruning your potted olive tree, make sure you have all these tools on hand. Do not forget to wash and disinfect all the tools, especially the cutting blades, so you will avoid possible diseases in your olive tree.

3. Pruning olive tree in pot


We already analyzed the most common problems and what tools are needed. It is time to fully focus on the main theme of this post; We will see why, how and when an olive tree in a pot should be pruned.

3.1 Why to prune

In general, when talking about pruning any type of plant, the first thing the gardener asks is; Is it really necessary to prune this plant? To answer that question, we will see in this section the fundamental reasons why you should prune an olive tree in a pot.

3.1.1 Help shape the olive tree

One of the fundamental reasons why you should prune this plant is to help it develop a good structure.

If you let the olive tree grow without any type of control, it may develop more than one main trunk. In addition, it is likely that it will grow in a disorderly way, far from the symmetry that we seek in this type of plant.

Keep in mind that these plants over the years reach great heights. When you take it out of its pot and bring it to the ground, the plant must already have a well-defined trunk structure and main branches. Otherwise you can have many branches oriented in one direction and few branches in the other directions. This, among other things, will cause an imbalance in weight, and may ultimately cause the plant to fall.

3.1.2 Improves air circulation

Pruning not only helps training, there are also cleaning prunings. In these prunings, diseased, damaged or dead branches that are found in the foliage are cut, eliminating them, we decrease the foliage density, which allows to improve air circulation.

This increase in circulation helps eliminate excess moisture, while allowing better light to enter. Without a doubt, these aspects improve the general state of health of your olive tree.

3.1.3 Allows for better pest control

As we said in the previous section, there is a pruning that we call cleaning. In this pruning it is important to eliminate any branch that shows any symptoms of disease. In this way we prevent this disease from spreading through the plant.

3.1.4 Increases the production of olives

Although you may grow the olive tree in a pot only for decorative reasons, you surely know that this plant produces olives. By pruning the olive tree correctly, you encourage it to produce more and better fruits.

3.2 When to prune

As with almost any type of plant, there is not just one ideal time to prune the potted olive tree. Depending on various factors such as the type of pruning, the age of the plant, its general condition, etc., the best time to prune it can change.

Let’s see some of the most common situations and when pruning should be carried out in each case:

  • Cleaning pruning in which dead, diseased or damaged branches are cut can be done at any time of the year. Especially when it comes to diseased branches, the faster you do the pruning, the better it will be. You will be more likely to prevent the spread of the disease.
  • Light pruning in young olive trees can be done as many times as you want at any time of the year. There is no risk of damaging the plant.
  • In the case of mature olive trees, in which harder pruning is usually necessary, it is advisable to do it after the harvest.
  • A mature olive tree that has not been pruned for a long time will surely need hard pruning. Try not to do this pruning in seasons with frost, to prevent the new shoots from freezing.

If your olive tree is not part of any of the above cases, for safety, it is better to prune it after harvest (late winter). By pruning it at that time of the year you will never be damaging the plant.

3.3 How to prune

We have already seen why and when, it is time to analyze how to prune your olive tree in a pot. We will see what are the steps you must follow to make pruning easier.

As a general rule, keep in mind that the first three prunings of your olive tree will focus on controlling the sprouts of the plant. We need it to develop a good structure, so all branches that can compete with the main trunk must be removed. Pruning in these three years will do just that, define a main trunk and allow side branches to grow evenly.

During these first years you should also try to perform cleaning pruning, cutting diseased and dead branches. As well as cut all those branches that develop crossed or point to the center or to the crown. On the other hand, as the tree grows, it will be essential that you cut all the sprouts from the bottom, they usually grow very strongly and want to compete with the main trunk.

At approximately 6 years of age, training pruning will be carried out. Here what you will do is define three or four branches so that together with the trunk they serve as the main structure, and from which new ramifications are generated. From here it is the most important, and the strongest you will do over the years.

Once you have the structure of the olive tree well defined, all the following pruning will be to take care of it in this way and define it better. It may be the case that one of the main branches is damaged, if so you must allow the development of a new branch that replaces it.

You should never stop performing cleaning pruning, as we have repeatedly mentioned, it is used to eliminate diseased dead branches or branches that are growing crosswise or in an unwanted direction.

4. My olive tree is leggy


A leggy olive tree is a classic problem that usually appears when you grow these plants indoors. You will see that the plant develops in a stretched way with very thin branches and very sparse foliage. Let’s start by looking at the causes of this problem.

Since you are interested in knowing how to prune a laurel, I have no doubt that it will be useful to know about the pruning of any of these shrubs:

4.1 Causes

The main cause for having a leggy olive tree is the lack of sunlight. Something more than common in plants that are grown indoors. This is because olive trees need a large number of hours of daily sun, and when these hours are very few, they can develop very poorly.

The reason why it is developing in such an elongated way is none other than that the olive tree is desperately looking for sources of sunlight. Surely you will notice that it is growing, directing the development towards the nearest window.

Another reason for this problem with potted olive trees is the lack of pruning. This can happen both in potted olive trees and in olive trees grown outdoors in the ground. Not performing the annual pruning that we are talking about in this post can lead to the development of a leggy olive tree.

4.2 How to fix leggy olive tree

I think the solutions to this potted olive tree problem are pretty obvious. In any case, we will analyze them.

The first thing you should do is take your olive tree to a place with more exposure to sunlight. If you have it at home, put it next to the window that has more hours of sun per day. If you have a balcony, do not hesitate to take it to the balcony, as long as it has many hours of sun a day.

You should not take the olive tree outside and expose it to a large number of hours of sun. Especially if the temperatures are high. Olive trees love the sun, but the change must be gradual. Expose it little by little to more sun, or you risk scorching the tender, unaccustomed foliage.

After increasing sun exposure you will need to do a good pruning. In this task you should have a well-defined main trunk and cut all the branches that have grown too much. What we want with these cuts is to encourage the plant to put out new shoots to increase the density of the foliage.

It wouldn’t be a bad idea to add a little compost and a good amount of watering. This will help to better pass the stress that all these changes, increased sun and pruning can cause.

5. How to prune olive trees in pots video


To finish we have selected an video where you can see how to prune a olive tree in a pot. In it you will be able to see in a much more graphic way some of the concepts that we have analyzed in this extensive article. I hope you find it useful. 😉

Source: channel Vasili’s Garden

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