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Wintering olive tree: Follow these important care tips for trees outdoors and in containers!

You’ve watched your olive tree thrive during the warm weather, but with the arrival of fall and winter, you’re no doubt concerned about how your tree will survive the colder season. While an olive tree is an extremely hardy plant, if it is exposed to particularly harsh conditions, it can develop a number of health problems that unfortunately lead to death. Let’s take a look at how to overwinter an olive tree. Depending on whether your trees grow in the ground or in a pot or tub, you will need to proceed differently.

Olive tree overwintering outside

Winterize an olive tree - Follow these important care tips for outdoor and potted trees

It may come as a surprise, but the most fatal thing for olive trees in winter is not the cold, but the humidity. When the cold gradually sets in and the air is dry, trees are hardy to temperatures as low as -8 to -12°C, and have been known to survive temperatures as low as -15 to -18°C. But when moisture and water come into play, all is lost. If you live in a region where it rains a lot in winter, you need to take some measures to protect your olive trees:

The most fatal thing for olive trees in winter is not the cold, but the humidity

  • Use garden soil to create an embankment around the base of your trees to keep water from flowing near their roots. It is important to direct water away from your trees as much as possible during the winter: Nothing is more dangerous to your tree.
  • Stop watering completely after the olive harvest. In the spring, when the frost is over, you can start watering again. This will allow your olive trees to recover from the frost damage.
  • Do not fertilize after the harvest. Do not give nitrogenous fertilizers, especially in the fall.
  • Mulch the base of the tree to protect the roots from freezing. It is okay to use organic plant-based mulch because it will not decompose until spring.

You can overwinter an olive tree in the ground with some measures

  • Wrapping your plant in garden fleece from December to February (or longer if the cold weather persists) will protect it from frost and wind. Because the fleece traps a layer of air underneath, the temperature stays one degree higher than the outside temperature, keeping the plant warm. Measure the diameter of your plant to determine how big of a fleece bag you need, or how much of a fleece roll you need. Place this over the olive tree and pull it down until it covers the trunk of the plant. You can then secure it at the bottom with some twine to keep it in place.

How to care for trees in pots indoors

If you have a potted olive tree, you can move it indoors

If you are wintering an olive tree in a pot, you can put it indoors to protect it from the cold. However, make sure that the move is not too drastic for the plant – that is, do not move too quickly from a cold temperature to an overheated one, as this can damage the plant. Also, don’t try to warm the plant or it may drop its leaves. Olive trees like frost-free conditions, but they still need a cool, dry climate in the winter to survive – especially if you want to grow fruit, as they need two months of cold weather to improve flower and fruit formation.

Take these tips to heart to help you overwinter your olive tree

Potted olive trees can be left outside until late September, early October, and then should be brought indoors by early May. However, check the weather forecast and assess the impact it may have on your plants, as May may be too early and early October too late. A cold conservatory, a porch with good natural light or a greenhouse are suitable for overwintering an olive tree.

  • Water only when the soil is completely dry, and then only in small quantities.
  • It is normal that the tree loses some of its leaves during the dormant season, about 1/3 of the leaves fall off in the winter.
  • However, if you live further north, you should place your trees in a cool and bright place where it never freezes.
  • Place them as close to a window as possible so they can benefit from the warmth of the house.

Protect potted trees outdoors

Potted olive trees can be left outside until the end of September, beginning of October

  • Mulch the base of your olive trees to protect them from the cold.
  • Wrap the pots with a thick cover and prevent rain from getting in. Cover the pots with garden fleece, leaving a buffer all around to prevent leaves from touching the fleece. Again, avoid condensation from touching the plant, as it is a source of moisture.
  • Water as little as possible and only when precipitation does not reach the plant.
  • Olive trees should be located in a place that provides adequate wind protection, as freezing temperatures combined with wind can penetrate the bark and cause cracking, leaf drop and death. Ideally, you should overwinter your olive tree by placing it facing south or west, preferably away from north and east winds.

Overwintering olive tree: avoid frozen root balls.

Olive trees should be placed in a location that provides adequate wind protection

When the roots are damaged, they have difficulty recovering and the olive tree dies because they can no longer absorb water and suffer from drought. Therefore, olive trees planted in the ground need a well-drained soil to avoid waterlogging, especially during rainy periods. For plants that are in pots, you can place a layer of fleece on the outside of the pot to provide extra warmth if you are unable to bring them indoors.

Let's look at how to overwinter an olive tree

Prevention is better than cure, because in most cases, unfortunately, there is no cure that can heal your olive tree. So take these tips to heart so that you can overwinter your olive tree so that it can thrive and stay healthy for another year.