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In November, I bought a 1.80m potted Olive Tree to keep inside my London flat.

Pot diameter 20cm.
Location By to a south-facing floor-to-ceiling window. Occasionally, I move it from the side of the window to its front.
Sunlight On sunny days, the tree takes plenty of sunlight throught the window.
Temperature & Humidity: The indoor temperature oscillates between 18-19 to 22 Celsius, with humidity in the range of 30-45% (lower on colder days and higher on warmer ones). My flat has underfloor heating, however, I rarely turn it on where the plants sit.

Potential mistake or shock During the first couple of weeks of owning the tree, I was told that olive trees need little watering, and unfortunately, I took this advice too seriously. I left for the Christmas holidays, and I thought the tree could resist no watering for 3-4 weeks.
When I came back, the leaves looked dried, brown, and curled; and the thinner branches looked quite dry too. Only the tips of the topmost branches looked greener.

What did I do? I started watering it more regularly, sticking a finger in the ground to feel the moisture level. I bought a fertilizer specifically for olive trees and added it to the pot on January 1st and February 1st (I plan to add it once a month). If I scrape the bark, the tree has a strong green color inside. I have also cut some branches which seemed completely dry.

Improvement It seems that the tips of the topmost branches (which had not curled/dried up) are now showing signs of sprouting.
However, I would like the entire tree to grow more organically in all directions, not only on the top (also because it's already quite tall!)

Please help! I don't want to lose it :-(

  • Some people suggested I pruned it aggressively, and let time do its job. Should I do it? If so, how?

Pictures I attached six pictures: (1) the tree when I bought it; (2) the leaves when I bought it; (3) the tree after Xmas underwatering; (4) the leaves after Xmas underwatering; (5) the tree today (I cut some branches); (6) tips of the topmost branches sprouting today.

Olive Tree when bought in November

Olive Tree when bought in November - Leaves Detail

Olive Tree after Xmas underwatering

Olive Tree after Xmas underwatering - Leaves Detail

Olive Tree today

Olive Tree today - Topmost leaves sprouting

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    A little haircut won't hurt. But fertilizing a desert plant in Winter...no. And the pot is tiny. Feb 4 at 17:11
  • @YosefBaskin Thanks for your comment. What would you advise me to do? Repot (if so, when?) to a larger pot, prune, and do not fertilize until Spring/Summer?
    – aky
    Feb 4 at 18:19
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    Do not disturb an ailing plant, but repot without much untangling in Spring into next size pot with sandy soil. Fertilize dilutedly then. Prune any time, a few inches off the top. Olives are horizontal trees. Feb 4 at 18:37

1 Answer 1

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What is your goal with the olive tree? When cultivated they grow 8 - 15 M tall which is too tall for an indoor plant. You can reduce the size of a plant by at least one third with pruning but even that is too tall. They do make good bonsai subjects and the pot size in the picture is appropriate for a training bonsai pot.

Are you overwintering this plant and then planting outside? If not you will have to provide lots of light from an unobstructed south or west window. Olives have a growing season which is roughly March to September and need more water and more light during that time.

I recommend:

  • waiting until you see what branches are dead
  • then pruning back hard to keep the plant smaller.
  • Water at least weekly
  • put a saucer under the pot to keep your floor nice.
  • fertilize at half strength from April to August every other week

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