How to Revive and Bring Your Olive Tree Back to Life

As an olive tree owner it can be disheartening to see your beloved tree start to struggle. Olive trees are hardy and robust, but they still need proper care. If you notice your olive tree declining don’t give up hope! With some thoughtful diagnosis and tender care, you can nurse your olive tree back to health.

In this comprehensive guide, we will walk through the key steps to reviving an ailing olive tree. Follow these tips, and you’ll be rewarded with a flourishing, fruit-bearing tree once again.

Diagnose the Issue

The first step is to figure out why your olive tree is struggling in the first place This will allow you to identify the right solution. Here are some common reasons olive trees fail to thrive

  • Improper watering – Too much or too little water can cause problems Check if the soil is bone dry or sopping wet,

  • Poor drainage – Olive trees need soil that drains well. Check for standing water or overly dense clay soil.

  • Too much sun/heat – Olive trees prefer full sun, but extreme heat can scorch leaves.

  • Frost damage – Hard freezes can damage leaves, stems and trunks.

  • Pests – Insects, fungi and bacteria can attack olive trees. Look for signs like chewed leaves, spots, wilts, etc.

  • Root damage – Construction work, soil compaction, or aggressive weeding can damage shallow olive tree roots.

Carefully inspect your tree from top to bottom, diagnose the likely cause, and then move onto the next steps.

Check Your Soil

One quick test you can do is to check the soil moisture around your tree. Use a trowel to dig down 6-10 inches around the base of the trunk. Pick up a handful of soil and squeeze it.

  • If it forms a tight clump, the soil is too wet.

  • If it crumbles instantly, the soil is too dry.

  • If it holds together but breaks apart easily, the moisture level is just right.

Adjust your watering schedule accordingly. Olive trees prefer consistently moist (but well-drained) soil in the growing season. Err on the side of underwatering rather than overwatering.

Check Your Pot

If you have an olive tree planted in a container, also inspect the pot. Make sure it has sufficient drainage holes in the bottom so excess water can easily escape. Poor drainage leads to root rot and other moisture-related diseases.

Consider repotting the olive tree into a pot with better drainage, and use a fast-draining potting mix rather than dense outdoor soil. Add perlite or pumice to improve drainage even further.

Water Carefully

If you suspect underwatering, begin increasing water slowly. Give the soil a deep, thorough soaking rather than frequent shallow sprinkles. Continue until you see water dripping from the drainage holes below.

Avoid overwatering, as too much moisture suffocates olive tree roots. Only water when the top few inches become dry. Olive trees prefer deep weekly soakings rather than daily light sprinkles.

For potted trees, allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings. Stick your finger into the soil to gauge moisture before adding more.

Use Fertilizer Judiciously

While fertilizer isn’t a cure-all, a weak olive tree can benefit from a gentle feeding with a balanced 10-10-10 or fruit tree fertilizer. But don’t overdo it, as excess fertilizer can burn roots. Always follow label directions.

Sprinkle fertilizer around the base of the tree or mix into the soil, keeping it 6 inches away from the trunk. Water thoroughly after feeding to dissolve nutrients. Fertilize 1-2 times per year in early spring and summer.

Prune Cautiously

If your olive tree has died back or suffered damage, resist the urge to aggressively prune away all affected areas. This can send the tree into shock.

Instead, prune minimally by cutting damaged stems back to healthy wood. Remove dead branches carefully. Wait and see what regenerates before pruning further.

Rule Out Root Damage

If your olive tree declines rapidly without obvious cause, inspect the root system. Gently scrape away soil near the base to get a look at the roots. Signs of damage include crushed, severed, or shriveled roots.

Unfortunately, root damage is difficult to remedy. But avoid further harm by keeping foot traffic, lawn mowers, etc away from the root zone under the tree’s canopy. Water and fertilize to encourage new root growth.

Boost with Foliar Sprays

As a supplement to soil-applied fertilizer, you can also use foliar sprays – liquid fertilizers applied directly to the tree’s leaves. Look for products formulated specifically for olive trees.

Spray the diluted fertilizer onto leaves until it drips off. The leaves will absorb nutrients quickly. Use sparingly according to label directions.

Rule Out Diseases and Pests

Sick olive trees sometimes suffer from infections or infestations. Here are a few common culprits:

  • Verticillium wilt – Fungal disease causing leaves to wilt and die. Dark streaking on inner sapwood.

  • Peacock spot – Fungal leaf spot disease creating circular lesions.

  • Olive knot – Bacterial infection creating wart-like wood galls.

  • Olive fruit fly – Larvae tunnel into and damage fruit. Adults leave “stings” on fruit.

  • Black scale – Sap-sucking black bugs forming colonies on stems and leaves.

Examine your tree closely for any signs of disease or insects. Seek treatment if necessary. For fungal diseases, improve air circulation and remove affected branches. For pests, use horticultural oils or insecticidal soaps.

Call a Professional Arborist

If you still can’t get your olive tree back to full health, don’t hesitate to call a professional arborist, orchardist, or nursery expert. They can assess the situation in-person and suggest advanced treatments if needed. This is especially advisable for very old, valuable trees.

Buy a New Healthy Olive Tree

If your efforts fail and your olive tree ultimately dies, don’t fret. You can start fresh by purchasing a new healthy olive tree online from a reputable nursery. Select a cultivar suitable for your climate.

Plant it in a sunny spot with properly amended soil and follow the care tips above. With some extra TLC, your new olive tree will flourish!

Don’t Give Up!

Reviving a declining olive tree takes patience and persistence. But don’t give up too soon. Even if your tree looks nearly dead, it may surprise you with an amazing comeback. Stay diligent with diagnosis and care, and you may be rewarded with renewed life from root to fruit!

How to bring an olive tree back to life

People often think they have killed their olive tree. Luckily, we know how to bring an olive tree back to life. The good news is, what looks dead is not always dead. So, this blog is about stopping before you dig that ‘dead’ plant out and chuck it away. Many first-time gardeners assume that once the leaves have fallen off, the plant is irretrievably dead. This is often far from the truth – most plants will lose their leaves when stressed about water. There’s not much point having leaves to photosynthesise if you haven’t got any water. So, the first thing is to restore the supply.

Soak freshly planted trees for at least an hour



Can you revive a dying olive tree?

If they are dead, the only thing you can do is to remove the top parts completely, and some of the trunk, down to where the new growth has appeared. You will have an olive bush rather than tree for a while, but over time, provided you keep it well watered, it will eventually be possible to train it as a tree again.

Will leaves grow back on an olive tree?

Many grow at high altitudes where winter nights can be chilly. They also survive rough treatment in terms of harvest and pruning. Although they are evergreen, in cold conditions they may drop some, or even all of their foliage after severe weather; don’t panic, new growth will appear in spring.

Can an olive tree regenerate?

INDESTRUCTIBLE – The root system of the olive tree is so robust that it’s capable of regenerating itself even when the above-ground structure of the tree is destroyed by frost, fire or disease.

How to prune a dying olive tree?

Things You Should Know Cut away smaller branches using double-bladed gardening sheers or a handsaw. For larger branches, use a chainsaw. Trim the branches into a “martini glass” V-shape. Remove weak, dead, and vertically-growing branches, leaving gaps so sunlight reaches the middle of the tree.

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