indoor olive tree (baby) dropping leaves

shmooey(7B Seattle)May 25, 2008

I bought a small (maybe 10in tall) olive tree a month ago, and now there is lots of new growth but as the leaves unfurl they dry up and fall off.

It gets at least 4 hours of direct sunlight (through the window) and bright light the rest of the day. The plant is in a little four inch pot with a fast draining soil- i water infrequently (when the soil has thoroughly dried) I have never fertilized it.

Should i possibly be watering more, or could it benefit from a re-pot? I am not sure how much space it needs, or what will make it thrive. I have no outdoor space or ledges so it has to stay inside. Any tips?

Thank you!

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I can't answer your question about repotting w/o seeing the tree, but you can pot-up now without complications. The soil should never be soggy or completely dry, even though Olea prefers it on the dry side. If you set a plant in full sun inside a room, it is usually wise to make sure there is adequate air circulation. Olea can certainly tolerate the light levels, but it may rebel at the lack of air flow which allows the temperature of the leaf surface to climb to very high levels.

The blanket of unstirred air surrounding leaf surfaces is called the boundary layer. It helps insulate the leaf against water loss because it becomes nearly completely saturated with water vapor. The thickness of the boundary layer might only be a few thousandths of an inch, but depends on the degree of air movement, which blows away the boundary layer. Heat generated when photons are absorbed into the plant heats the leaf and this layer of air. If there is no air movement, a thicker, hotter, and more insulative layer results. Wind blows away this heated boundary layer and allows leaf tissues to give up heat to the cooler air, adding to this is the cooling effect of increased transpirational water loss.

Leaf surfaces will often be found to be cooler in full outdoor sun than in front of windows that only allow 70% (or less) light transmission because of the difference in or lack of air flow over leaf surfaces.

How long does the soil stay wet after you water? Are you watering so a fair amount of water exits the drain hole EVERY time you water? Let's get your plant fertilized - you can't expect it to make growth without the building blocks it needs to make its food.


    Bookmark   May 26, 2008 at 8:06AM
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shmooey(7B Seattle)

Thanks for all the information-

Airflow is probably a huge problem actually, with all my plants. I arranged them differently and think they should be doing better now. I also repotted the tree into a 4 or 5in rose type terracotta pot- the taller kind (it was all i had) - with a lightweight well draining soil mixture and a time release fertilizer with micronutriants. In the last few days no new leaves have fallen off. I think i was possibly not watering it enough. I will monitor it closely the next few weeks!

Thanks again

    Bookmark   May 31, 2008 at 12:40AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

I have a small olive, too, which I grow in full sun on an east/south/east facing deck.
This spring, it has put on a ton of new leaves and has dropped some of the older,
uglier, half-yellowed leaves. I have noticed that the new leaves are quite delicate,
and can be knocked off easily by things like cats and rough hands.


    Bookmark   May 31, 2008 at 12:19PM
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shmooey(7B Seattle)

Trying to keep a fan blowing air into this portion of my house but ive noticed more leaves dropping off every day.... Trying to water a bit more frequently, as the soil dries fairly quickly. Stays moist for maybe 3 days? It is still slowly opening up new leaves, and it looks like it should have a lot of new growth on it- but im not sure why it is dropping so many of the older leaves- especially when they aren't yellowing or anything. Really hope i can keep this guy for a long time- its very cute and i want to take good care of it.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2008 at 12:12AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

We need pictures to diagnose!


    Bookmark   June 12, 2008 at 2:09PM
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shmooey(7B Seattle)

okay heres some photos of the little guy, and a picture of the new growth that is happening- and the leaves that are falling off.

Here is a link that might be useful: Olive tree

    Bookmark   June 12, 2008 at 2:39PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Thanks for the pictures, that'll really help!
First of all, it doesn't look too bad. The new growth seems fine.

Is that the location where it sits all day?


    Bookmark   June 12, 2008 at 5:13PM
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shmooey(7B Seattle)

This is not where it sits all day- it is normally on the window next to that one (the one you can sort of see in the background of the picture of the whole plant) along with a bunch of other plants. Because it is with so many others and i only have one fan running in the room, that it is probably getting inadequate airflow. (Also my basil keeps growing a white mouldy film on the side of the pots, once again i think it is from lack of airflow). Trying to find more places to put my plants, but living in an apartment with only so many southern windows and no outdoor space is really challenging!

I think there is more new growth on it than i realized, but the rate of leaves dropping off to new growth happening was troubling to me :P

    Bookmark   June 12, 2008 at 6:53PM
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Hi, I too have a couple of baby olive trees which I have in a plater outdoors. Lots and lots of hot sun but one of them is really struggling. From the base of the trunk (it's only 3/4" wide) it has sort of spidered out to 7 spindly branches but there is no leaf growth for about 10 inches so it looks very weird! Have added some photos at the link below. Am wondering if I was to brutally prune it to the base again, will it grow back? The other one is doing much better and is in the same spot, pot and soil. Different species though I think. Any help and guidance would be much appreciated. I'm pretty black thumbed!

Here is a link that might be useful: Oliver (the sick one) and Olivia (the better one)

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 12:31AM
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