Growing Olives in Pots: The Ultimate Guide for Home Gardeners

Are you a fan of freshly harvested olives but don’t have the space for a full-sized tree? Look no further than growing olives in pots! Container gardening for olives is a fantastic solution for those with limited outdoor space or looking to add some greenery to their indoor environment.

But how do you get started, and what do you need to know to ensure a thriving potted olive tree? In this ultimate guide for home gardeners, we’ll cover everything from choosing the right pot and olive tree variety to essential care and maintenance and troubleshooting common issues.

Choosing the Right Pot for Your Olive Tree

When it comes to growing olives in pots, selecting the right container is crucial. Not only does it affect the growth of the tree, but it also impacts the overall appearance of your potted olive tree. Here are some factors to consider when choosing the perfect pot:

Factor Consideration
Size The pot should be large enough to accommodate the size of the olive tree, but not too big that it becomes unstable.
Material Terra cotta, plastic, and ceramic are popular choices, but ensure the pot has good drainage.
Shape Opt for a wide and shallow pot rather than a tall and narrow one to promote the spread of roots.
Location If your potted olive tree will be kept indoors, consider a lighter pot to make it easier to move around.

Remember, choosing the right pot is only the first step in container gardening for olives. Proper care and maintenance are essential for the health and growth of your potted olive tree.

Selecting the Ideal Olive Tree Variety for Pots

Not all olive tree varieties are suitable for container gardening, so it’s important to choose a type that thrives in confined spaces and can adapt to indoor and outdoor conditions. Here are some olive tree varieties that have proven to be successful in pots:

Variety Characteristics
Arbequina Small, slow-growing tree that produces small, flavorful fruit and can adapt to different soil types and climates.
Picholine Medium-sized tree that produces large, round fruit with a mild flavor and requires regular pruning and fertilization.
Manzanilla Large, fast-growing tree that yields medium-sized, juicy fruit with a slightly bitter taste and prefers well-draining soil and full sun exposure.

These varieties can be found at local nurseries or online stores that specialize in container gardening. It’s important to choose a healthy and vigorous tree, preferably one that is at least two years old and has a well-developed root system.

Planting and Transplanting Olive Trees in Pots

Once you’ve chosen the right pot and olive tree variety, it’s time to start planting. Here are some tips to help you plant and transplant your olive tree in a container:

Step 1: Preparing the Pot

Pick a pot that is at least twice the size of the root ball of your olive tree. Fill the pot with a well-draining potting mix that is specifically designed for container gardening. Cover the drainage hole with a mesh screen to prevent soil from escaping.

Step 2: Preparing the Olive Tree

Carefully remove the olive tree from its nursery pot. If the roots are tightly packed, gently tease them apart with your fingers. Cut off any damaged or diseased roots with sterile pruners.

Step 3: Planting

Place the olive tree in the center of the pot and fill in the gaps around the root ball with potting mix. Press the soil down firmly around the base of the tree to eliminate air pockets. Water the tree thoroughly.

Step 4: Transplanting

If you need to transplant your olive tree to a larger pot, follow the same steps as above. Keep in mind that you should only transplant your tree when it has outgrown its current pot, typically every two to three years.

When transplanting, gently remove the olive tree from its current container and loosen the root ball. Place the tree in the larger pot and fill in the gaps with potting mix.

Water the tree thoroughly after transplanting and monitor its progress carefully.

Essential Care and Maintenance for Potted Olive Trees

Once you’ve chosen the right pot, planted your olive tree, and watched it grow, it’s time to focus on essential care and maintenance to ensure your tree thrives.


Proper watering is crucial for potted olive trees. They require consistent and moderate watering, with a focus on keeping the soil moist but not waterlogged. During the growing season, water your olive tree when the top inch of soil is dry. During the dormant season, reduce watering, but do not let the soil completely dry out. Remember, overwatering can lead to root rot, while underwatering can cause the leaves to wilt and drop.


Although olive trees do not require heavy feeding, they do benefit from occasional fertilizer applications during the growing season. Use a balanced fertilizer with a ratio of 10-10-10 or 8-8-8, and apply it once per month. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the application and dosage.


Regular pruning helps your olive tree maintain a healthy shape and encourages robust growth. Prune your olive tree in the late winter or early spring, before new growth emerges. Focus on removing dead, damaged, or diseased branches, as well as any branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other. You can also thin out the branches to improve airflow and light penetration.


When it comes time to harvest your olives, it’s important to do so carefully to avoid damaging the tree or fruit. Wait until the olives are fully ripened, usually in late fall or early winter, before picking them. You can either pick them by hand or use a gentle shaking technique to loosen them from the tree. Be sure to store the olives in a cool, dry place and cure them properly before enjoying them.

With these essential care and maintenance tips, your potted olive tree can continue to thrive and provide you with delicious, homegrown olives for years to come.

Protecting Potted Olive Trees from Pests and Diseases

One of the most important aspects of potted olive tree care is protecting your tree from pests and diseases. With a little effort, you can prevent and treat common issues to keep your tree healthy and thriving.

Common Pests for Potted Olive Trees

The most common pests for potted olive trees are scale insects, mealybugs, and spider mites. These pests can suck sap from the leaves and stems of your tree, causing wilting and yellowing of the leaves. To prevent infestations, regularly inspect your tree for signs of pests and remove any affected leaves or branches.

If you do find pests on your tree, treat it with a gentle insecticide or neem oil spray. These treatments are safe for your tree and will kill most common pests.

Protecting Your Olive Tree from Diseases

Fungal diseases are the most common issues for olive trees, especially those grown in wet and humid environments. Symptoms of fungal diseases include brown spots on the leaves, wilting, and leaf drop. To prevent these diseases, make sure your olive tree has adequate drainage and is not overwatered.

If you do notice signs of fungal disease on your olive tree, remove affected leaves and treat it with a fungicide spray. These sprays are safe for your tree and can prevent further damage.

Additional Tips for Potted Olive Tree Care

One of the best ways to prevent pests and diseases from affecting your potted olive tree is to maintain a consistent care routine. Make sure your tree is watered regularly and receives enough sunlight to thrive. Additionally, avoid overcrowding your tree with other plants in the same pot, as this can lead to disease and pest infestations.

By following these tips and keeping a watchful eye on your potted olive tree, you can ensure a healthy and fruitful harvest for years to come.

Harvesting and Enjoying Homegrown Olives

After all your hard work in growing and caring for your potted olive tree, it’s time to reap the rewards and enjoy some delicious homegrown olives!

The best time to harvest olives is when they have turned a dark purple or black color, which typically occurs in late fall. Be sure to use a clean pair of garden shears or scissors to carefully cut the olives off the branches, being careful not to damage the tree. It can be helpful to spread a tarp or sheet beneath the tree to catch any fallen olives.

Once you have harvested your olives, you can prepare them for eating by soaking them in cold water for several days to remove any bitterness. Afterwards, you can flavor them to your liking by marinating them in a mixture of olive oil, herbs, and spices.

Another option for enjoying your homegrown olives is to preserve them through methods such as brining or fermenting. This can be a fun and rewarding way to create your own unique flavors and enjoy your olives year-round.

Homegrown olives can also make great gifts for friends and family, or be used in cooking to add flavor and nutrition to your meals. So don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun with your homegrown olives!

Troubleshooting Common Issues in Growing Olives in Pots

Despite your best efforts, you may still encounter some challenges when growing olives in pots. Here are some common issues and their solutions:

Dry Soil

If the soil in your pot feels dry to the touch, it may be time to water your olive tree. But be careful not to overwater it, as this can lead to root rot. To prevent this from happening, make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom of your pot, and water your tree only when the top inch of soil is dry.

Yellow Leaves

If the leaves on your olive tree turn yellow, it may be a sign of overwatering. To remedy this, reduce the amount of water you give your tree, and make sure that the soil has proper drainage. If the leaves continue to yellow, it may be a sign of a nutrient deficiency. In this case, you may want to add some fertilizer to the soil or switch to a higher-quality potting mix.

Pest Infestations

Olives trees can be vulnerable to pests such as aphids, mites, and scale insects. To prevent an infestation, regularly inspect your tree for signs of pests, such as small white or black dots on the leaves. If you do notice an infestation, you may want to try removing the pests manually with a soft brush or spraying the tree with a mixture of water and dish soap.

With these troubleshooting tips in mind, you’ll be better equipped to handle any issues that may arise while growing olives in pots.

Selecting the Ideal Olive Tree Variety for Pots

When it comes to selecting the perfect olive tree variety for your pot, you need to keep a few key factors in mind. Firstly, consider the climate you live in as different varieties require different conditions to thrive.

Some popular olive tree varieties for pots include the Arbequina, Picholine, and Frantoio. The Arbequina is a compact tree that produces small, flavorful fruits, making it ideal for indoor growing or small outdoor spaces. The Picholine is a hardy variety that can tolerate cooler temperatures and produces medium-sized, tangy fruits. The Frantoio is a larger variety that thrives in warm, dry climates and is known for its rich and robust oil.

Another important factor to keep in mind is the pollination requirements of each variety. Some olive trees are self-pollinating, while others require cross-pollination from a different variety. If you are limited to space, it is best to choose self-pollinating varieties like Arbequina and Koroneiki.


Growing olives in pots can be a rewarding experience for home gardeners who don’t have access to a large outdoor space. With the right pot, variety selection, planting and maintenance techniques, you can successfully grow a healthy and productive olive tree in a container.

Remember to give your olive tree the right growing conditions, including ample sunlight, well-draining soil, and appropriate pruning. You can also protect your tree from common pests and diseases by practicing good hygiene and using organic pest control methods.

Indoor Olive Trees

If you’re an urban gardener or space is at a premium, you can also grow olives indoors. By providing your tree with the right amount of sunlight, humidity, and air circulation, you can enjoy fresh olives year-round.

So, whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a beginner, growing olives in pots is a fun and easy way to enjoy fresh, homegrown olives. Happy gardening!


Q: Can olive trees be grown in pots?

A: Yes, olive trees can be grown in pots. They are well-suited for container gardening, allowing home gardeners to cultivate their own olive trees even in small spaces.

Q: What size pot should I choose for my olive tree?

A: When choosing a pot for your olive tree, opt for one that is at least 16-20 inches in diameter and 16-18 inches deep. This size will provide sufficient space for the root system to grow and thrive.

Q: Which olive tree variety is best for pots?

A: There are several olive tree varieties that are well-suited for growing in pots. Some popular choices include Arbequina, Picual, and Koroneiki.

Q: How do I plant an olive tree in a pot?

A: To plant an olive tree in a pot, ensure the pot has drainage holes and fill it with well-draining soil. Place the tree in the center of the pot, making sure the base of the trunk is level with the soil surface. Gently fill the pot with more soil, firming it around the roots.

Q: How often should I water my potted olive tree?

A: Olive trees in pots should be watered deeply, but infrequently. Allow the top inch of soil to dry out between waterings, and then thoroughly soak the soil until water drains out of the bottom of the pot.

Q: How can I protect my potted olive tree from pests and diseases?

A: Regularly inspect your potted olive tree for signs of pests or diseases. You can use organic insecticidal soaps or neem oil to treat common pests, and ensure good air circulation around the tree to prevent diseases.

Q: When is the best time to harvest olives from a potted tree?

A: The best time to harvest olives from a potted tree is when they have turned from green to black. This usually occurs in late autumn or early winter.

Q: What should I do if my potted olive tree is not growing well?

A: If you’re experiencing issues with your potted olive tree, ensure it’s receiving adequate sunlight, water, and nutrients. Consider repotting it into a larger container if the roots are becoming overcrowded.

Q: Can olive trees be grown indoors?

A: Yes, olive trees can be grown indoors. They make beautiful and unique houseplants, adding a touch of the Mediterranean to your indoor space.