How to Take Care of Your Olive Tree in Canada: A Complete Guide

About the Olive Tree

The Olive Tree, botanical name Olea europaea, which means "European olive,” hails from the Mediterranean Basin. Cultivated for its fruit and oil, the olive tree serves as an important agricultural crop not only in the Mediterranean, but also globally.

People have learned to cultivate different varieties of olive trees throughout the years, which gave rise to olive “cultivars,” or cultivated varieties. These cultivars have been selected, maintained, and produced for specific characteristics such as resistance to drought and diseases, size, form, and other desirable characteristics. Olea europaea has hundreds of cultivars. At Promise Supply, we sell the Arbequina - the frost-resistant, pest-hardy Olea europaea cultivar.

Throughout history, this majestic evergreen has been the symbol for peace, friendship, and victory. With its silvery-green, oval-shaped leaves, and long, slender trunk, it’s a stunning addition to any space. Take care of it well, and it might even reward you with some olives.

How to Care for (most) European Olive Trees in Canada

Note: Our guide is tailored to the Arbequina Cultivar.

TL/DR: Put your olive tree in a south-facing window. Don't let the soil dry out too much; although it's acceptable to water it sparingly in the winter. During the summer, place the olive tree outside to give it more sun. During the winter, never bring it outside because it can't handle below-freezing weather. Fertilize it regularly in the spring and summer with a balanced fertilizer to encourage plant growth.


Detailed Care for (most) European Olive Trees in Canada

Light Requirements: Full Sun

An olive tree growing outside in full sun

Olive trees grow well in full, bright and consistent sunlight. Your plant will be happiest in a large, south-facing window.

Choose a spot in your home where it will get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight, ideally more. While south-facing windows are the best, east- or west-facing windows that are completely unobstructed will be adequate. Avoid letting the leaves press up against the glass of a window as this might cause the foliage to burn. 

Pick a spot for your olive tree and keep it there — it will give the plant the best chance to adapt to the lighting conditions. If you have a bright and sunny outdoor space, bring it out for the summer to encourage more growth.

If you want to grow your olive tree indoors, make sure to get a high-quality grow light that can provide it with adequate light to perform photosynthesis. We recommend something like the Soltech Aspect Grow Light.

Water Requirements: Water regularly (every 3-5 Days) in the spring/summer and sparingly (every 7-10 days) in the winter. Do not let dry out completely.

Water your Olive Tree when the top two inches of soil are dry, which could mean every five days in the summer and every ten days in the winter. Watering depends on how much light your plant is getting. So expect more frequent watering if your olive tree is outside in the full sun compared to an olive tree in an east-facing window indoors.

When you have a young olive tree, it may require a bit more frequent watering to help the roots develop. While they are drought tolerant in the wild, drought will also mean leaf drop and other issues that may not make it as aesthetically pleasing. 

Humidity requirements: No humidity requirements; prefers drier climates.

These plants tolerate dry air, so they aren’t too sensitive about being close to a drafty vent.

Soil Requirements: Fast draining sandy mix, native to clay-filled soils. 

Olive Trees do best in fine-textured sandy and clay soil. An excellent way to create this is to mix well-draining soil mix and add small rocks and perlite.

Fertilizing Requirements: Use a balanced fertilizer regularly to encourage fruiting.

Your Olive tree will likely require fertilization to produce fruit. Begin fertilizing early spring and continue fertilizing until mid-fall. Don’t fertilize in winter, as most olives are accustomed to periods of slower growth and dormancy.

Olive trees need a balanced and slow-release fertilizer with equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (also known as N-P-K fertilizers). Look for 4-4-4 or 20-20-20 fertilizer. The number corresponds to the relative amount of nutrients in the fertilizer. Higher numbers mean higher nutrient concentration.

Repotting Suggestions: Olive trees typically need to be repotted once a year.

If you see roots emerging from drainage holes, it’s time to repot.

Springtime is the best time to repot any houseplant. During spring, the plant will have actively growing roots, giving it time to expand and settle into a new pot. 

Steps to repotting an olive: 
  1. Select a pot with drainage - we recommend terracotta
  2. Fill 25% of the pot with a well-draining soil mix. Combining cactus mix with potting mix and adding some perlite and worm castings would be an excellent start. 
  3. Pull your Olive tree out of its old pot by holding the base of the trunk. If necessary, use a spade to separate pot-bound roots from the pot’s edge.
  4. Loosen the soil and rootball and have the soil that was in the original pot fall into the new pot. Combining the original medium with your fresh medium is ideal as it will give the plant a familiar start to its new pot. 
  5. Place the plant in the new pot and fill it in around the top and sides of the rootball. 
  6. Water the plant to make sure that roots are covered once the soil settles.

Managing Pests: Use insecticidal soap on leaves; expect occasional fungus gnats. 

Most plants will, at some point, have some type of pest, especially plants that love to live outside in the summer. 

When you bring your plant back inside, it's best to wipe down around the rootball’s top and sides with insecticidal soap and keep it away from any other houseplants for a few weeks to make sure you aren't bringing pests into your houseplant collection. 

If you are dealing with fungus gnats indoors, we recommend using sticky strips to catch them. A popular home remedy for fungus gnats is a mix of one part hydrogen peroxide with ten parts water. Make sure to water your plants thoroughly with the mix; spray the leaves with the mix if necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions:

My Olive Tree is Losing Leaves! What should I do?

When you get your olive tree home for the first few weeks, you might notice a lot of leaves falling off. Before you move your new plant around or accidentally overwater or under-water it, let’s take a step back and examine where and why the leaves are falling off. Don’t worry just yet! It’s normal to have leaves fall off as the plant tries to get used to the new environment. Instead, focus on the signs of new growth — small leaves sprouting near the tip of the branches. This area is important since it tells us a lot about the health of the plant.

Keep calm and see what (if anything) is wrong. Here are the steps to avoid treating problems that might not exist:

Step 1: Examine where the leaves are dropping from

Leaves fall off plants all of the time. It’s like how we humans shed skin. Keep in mind every tree you have seen. It’s typical to see some leaves collecting at the base of the plant.

Another reason why leaves fall is that plants will usually lose older leaves to give them more energy to create new growth. When you look at your olive, you may find that some branches are pruned away, and branches further away from the trunk are starting to bud. This is new growth that you should be looking for.

Remember: when you get an olive tree from a garden centre, you are purchasing a plant that has travelled pretty far to get to your home. Small branches can be damaged in that process, and the plant has travelled hundreds of kilometres to get to your home. It’s normal for plants to take time and adjust to the new environment. With the right plant care, your olive tree will be back in shape in no time.

Step 2: Check for any signs of pest

When looking closely at the leaves your plant has dropped, keep on a look out for any of the following red flags:

  • Broken leaves that look like insects have been snaking on them 
  • Powdery white substances on the leaves
  • Tiny black dots on the leaves

    Should you notice any of the above, you likely have a pest issue and can resolve it by wiping the leaves with insecticidal soap.

    Want us to give you feedback on an issue you see? Reach out to us for help @promisesupplyca

    Step 3: Care for your plant consistently and focus on new growth. 

    Humans think in hours; plants live in days and weeks. Think about it, one drink of water for five days and fertilization (food) once every ten days or less means that it will take a few weeks for plants to adjust and start growing in a new environment. 
    Rather than looking at older leaves for signs of problems, maintain a consistent and attentive care program for several weeks and see if you see new growth.

    Do check for discoloured leaves since it can indicate overwatering or underwatering. If your plant isn't developing new leaves, consider using fertilizers, finding a spot in your home with more light, and increasing your watering frequency.

    If you feel like your plant isn't growing, reach out to us for help @promisesupplyca

    Will my Olive Tree produce olives?

    Yes, olive trees can and frequently do produce fruit as houseplants. But, this will take some effort from you.

    First, start fertilizing your plant in early spring and move it outside when temperatures are consistently above 15 degrees. Ideal fertilization would be with a balanced (equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) slow-release fertilizer. Stop fertilizing in mid-August.

    Correct pruning is also helpful when influencing your olive tree to fruit. Prune off struggling branches to provide more energy to the prospering ones. You don’t want your olive tree to have too much foliage, as you need a proper mix of leaf density and sunlight.

    Remember to increase your watering in the summertime. Ensure adequate drainage and never let your olive tree sit in water for more than thirty minutes.

    Should I put my Olive Tree outdoors in the Summer? Should I bring it in at night?

    Once temperatures are consistently above 15 degrees, putting your olive tree outside may be the best thing you can do for it. When olive trees get full sun (this means that the tree is getting more than six hours of sun a day), it may reward you with its fruit.

    Their natural habitat in the Mediterranean is sunny and dry all summer. In the Mediterranean mountains, temperatures can also drop to freezing at night time. 

    The olive tree has evolved to withstand this, so it can handle the temperature drop in the evening and won’t experience severe damage till well below freezing. So, be sure to bring your olive tree in a few weeks before Autumn’s first frost.

    The only risk of bringing your olive tree outdoors is new pests. Check regularly on the underside of the foliage. If you notice pests, you can wipe the plant down with insecticidal soap. 

    Why is my olive tree leaning to the side?

    If your olive tree isn’t perfectly straight, don’t worry! This is not necessarily a negative sign. A lot of olive trees are cultivated through propagation rather than grown from seeds, which means that they may have slightly different shapes than expected. 

    If your plant is growing to one side, you can always encourage it to balance out its growth by rotating it every time you water it. Rotating will ensure that it gets even sun exposure from all sides. 

    Is a leaning Olive Tree a problem?

    If you are growing your olive outside and leaning to the side, this could be a sign that it is not stable enough to withstand the wind conditions outside.

    When a tree is leaning, and you notice that the imbalance is disrupting the roots - it looks like they are pulling out of the pot - it is a good idea to stake your olive and potentially tie the stake to something more sturdy, like a fence post.

    When you are growing your olive inside, make sure your Olive Tree is getting enough light and rotate it every time you water; this helps foliage grow in higher density, which helps with its balance and strength. 

    Second, wiggle the trunk. I know it sounds silly, but this will train your Olive Tree’s trunk to be more substantial. Normally, the wind would be training it in natural conditions. Wiggling the trunk frequently will promote noticeable strength in the tree after a couple of weeks.

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