The silhouette of the olive tree is something we are used to seeing in Mediterranean landscapes. It is a very beautiful plant, but what I like most about olea europaea is the complex symbolism that has been built around this tree and its fruits. Although it has always been considered an outdoor plant, it is possible to grow it successfully in pots. With the help of this small indoor olive tree care guide, your little tree can be with you for decades to come.
Interesting facts about the indoor olive tree
- It represents peace and triumph. The Romans would send an olive branch to offer peace to enemies. In fact, a white dove with an olive branch in its beak is the universal symbol of peace. When people won the Olympic Games, they were offered a crown made of olive branches.
- It is said that having an olive tree or its branches at the front door protects and prevents bad energies from entering.
- They are very long-lived, hardy and renew themselves after difficult seasons, so they are often given as gifts to newlyweds and first-time housewives. There is an olive tree in Jerusalem called Al-Badawi that is about 4,000 years old.
- Planted in the ground they can reach a considerable height, up to 15 metres, but by containing their roots in a pot you can control their size.
- The olive tree can bear fruit in a pot, provided it has the space and ideal conditions to do so.
- The first years are decisive in the life of the olive tree. If they survive this first stage, they will become hardy and almost immortal plants.
How to take care of your potted olive tree
Light and temperature
Olive trees are happy and unfold their full splendour when they are exposed to full sun. They come from warm climates, so they need lots of light and at least 6 hours of sunlight. If you have a south-facing window, a terrace punished by the sun's harsh rays where it scorches everything you put it in, that's the perfect place for your olive tree.
Your little olive tree can withstand frosts as low as -12°C, so if the temperatures in your area drop even lower, you can protect it indoors during that time. Remember: it doesn't matter whether it is indoors or outdoors, the important thing is that it gets plenty of sun if you want it to grow healthy and strong.
We are used to seeing olive trees in dusty places and we know that they resist drought very well because they are warriors, aren't they? This is very true but it only applies to mature, well-formed trees. The little olive tree that you have just adopted in its pretty pot is a young tree, which depends on you to grow healthy and strong, so during its first years it requires frequent but moderate watering.
This means that you will water your olive tree a couple of times a week, but with a moderate amount of water, without waterlogging it. The idea is that it should have humidity but without it accumulating excessively in its roots, which tend to rot or attract the terrible fungi.
The amount and frequency of watering, as always, depends on the ambient temperature, humidity and substrate, so I recommend doing the finger test: insert your finger in the substrate. If the first 3 cm are dry, you should water. If not, wait a couple more days and check. It goes without saying that watering will be more frequent in summer and more spaced out in winter.
Substrate and pots
The Olive tree is a grateful and humble tree, even though it has such a profound significance. Any universal substrate can be used to grow your olive tree. Some people mix it with a little perlite, peat or sand to facilitate drainage and lighten its texture. You can add a little earthworm humus to improve the nutritional density of the substrate and don't forget to put some coarse gravel or pebbles at the bottom of the pot. You can fertilise in spring and summer, preferably with organic fertiliser.
Pruning and Repotting
The ideal is to repot your olive tree every 2 or 3 years, or when you see that the roots want to come out through the drainage holes. It is a slow grower, so it will not need to be transplanted very often. It is much better if you do it in the spring. Change it to a pot with an extra 5 to 10 cm in diameter and height. Remember not to handle the roots too much, to avoid mistreating it.
Pruning a potted olive tree should be done as regularly as its growth cycle requires. It should normally be done between autumn and winter, to stimulate growth as soon as spring begins. Experts recommend that for the first 3 years you maintain the sapling by cutting off the lower shoots, to clear the trunk a little and give it shape. This helps to mark its branching. After this time, it should be pruned, paying attention to the main branches so that it grows with a solid structure. Remove any leaves that are in poor condition, grow in the opposite direction or become entangled with others.
Dedicated to creating an army of cacti, succulents, poodles and cats to help me conquer the world. In the little free time I have left, I play, write and dance.