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Olive Tree Pruning?

Posted by treefishes Seattle - 8 (My Page) on
Tue, Mar 16, 10 at 17:23

Hi - I purchased an arbequina olive tree recently and it's about 3.5 feet tall, but only the thickness of a pencil. It seems as though it can barely hold up its long limbs (slightly smaller than the thickness of a pencil). In fact, two of the limbs appeared to have died right after I brought it home, so I cut those back to about 3" (right before the death). It seems to be doing ok, but it's obviously very spindly still. I want to know if I should prune it to hopefully encourage it to grow a thicker trunk. It has two very long branches left, and about four short ones.

Some other notes: It put on buds soon after I brought it home and many of them have opened now, releasing a bunch of yellow pollen. It has been kept indoors, under a 150 watt metal halide lamp, in a large container (30G?).

Thanks for any help, and feel free to ask me anything about it if it would help come up with a solution.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Olive Tree Pruning?

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Mar 16, 10 at 20:04

There are 2 ways to look at trunk thickness - the actual caliper or thickness of the trunk, or its thickness in relation to the height of the tree. If your tree was only 6" tall, a pencil-thick trunk wouldn't look too unusual.

To grow a trunk that is 'actually' thick, you have to forgo pruning. The more photosynthesizing machinery (foliage) you have in play, the more cells will be laid down in the cambial layer of branches and stems, and the faster the trunk will thicken.

To have a trunk that is proportionately thick, as in relative to the height, you need to be bold enough to chop off most of the trunk at a suitable height at a suitable time.

You can follow a Radermachera (China doll) through 2 trunk chops at the link below. Let me know if you're up for it. ;o)


Here is a link that might be useful: Chop chop

RE: Olive Tree Pruning?

Wow. Well, I don't know if I really want to prune it that much - not that I think it'll hurt it too much, just that I'd like to keep it looking good. I'll think on that pruning drastically thing though...

It DOES look very lanky, being 3.5 feet tall and pencil thick, hardly able to support its own very long branches. There are no branches in the bottom 2 feet either. I think I chose the wrong tree really :P

RE: Olive Tree Pruning?

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Mar 17, 10 at 10:24

You don't say where you live in your user info, so I don't know when it's appropriate to get the tree outdoors, but I strongly suggest you adopt that plan. It will fatten up considerable if exposed to wind (it does make trees fatter/stronger - so does flexing the trunk) and the other elements.

If you get any breaks (small branches) low on the trunk, don't prune them off. Instead, encourage them to grow vertically so you CAN chop the trunk back later if you wish. Also, if you get your tree outdoors and growing well, I'll help you propagate new trees from cuttings - you can then experiment with how they respond to your pruning ministrations.


RE: Olive Tree Pruning?

Thanks!! Your help is really appreciated. I'm in zone 8 in Seattle. My friend bought an olive at the same time, albeit quite a bit shorter and easier to lug around. He's been taking his outdoors everytime it's in the 50's and sunny. Mine is in a really large pot, so I haven't been lugging it in and out yet, but do intend to.

RE: Olive Tree Pruning?

Resurrecting an old thread...

From the reading I've done, it looks like olives tend to back-bud profusely after a hard pruning. What would be the effect of pruning now as opposed to waiting until the spring? I have the plant in a south-west floor-to-ceiling window with an unobstructed view, so it gets a lot of light compared to most house plants.

Some pictures of the plant can be found in the linked thread.


Here is a link that might be useful: recent purchases

RE: Olive Tree Pruning?


Treefish. One thing Olive Trees require is sun..Direct sun, if possible.

I bought my Olive back in 1999. In spring through late autumn it's placed outside. Starting in semi-shade, then working its way up to direct sun.

Olives, 'like many other plants,' slow down growth when temps are extremely hot, but they love the outdoors.

Can you place your tree outside? It's a little late in the year, but olives appreicate cooler temps.

Ironically, my olive puts out more growth from late summer on. Olives form around the same time.

If you continue pruning, your tree will not produce fruit.

Years ago, a former GW member suggested adding alfalfa with other soils.
I found a small bag at a local hardware store. The tree needed repotting, so I added fresh soil and alfalfa.
Don't know if it's coincidence, but my tree is still kicking.
Considering, when it arrived at my house, the tree was packed with Scale. That's another story though.

I fertilize, only during growing season. One month Fish Emulsion, the next month, balanced fertilizer..Ex: 20-20-20.

Is your tree getting natural light and artificial? Toni

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