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Olive tree advice

moz2moz2 Posts: 2

I have a couple of smallish olive trees (approx 6ft tall) in large pots that I've had for several years which although healthy looking are quite tall and spindly with few branches coming off the main trunk.

Is there any way to make them more "bushy" and encourage growth sideways rather than upwards?

TIA :)


  • BorderlineBorderline Posts: 4,699

    moz2, without seeing the shape it's hard to tell, but it certainly sounds like you will need to prune the main branch down. This should create branching from that point of slightly below, and in time, you will have more branches. It's also important to keep triming the branches that form from that point too. If not, they will become long and floppy instead of bushy. The issue is their slow growth. They are not fast growers and when left for long, you may not create your desired shape. 

  • moz2moz2 Posts: 2

    Hi Borderline

    Thanks for the response, I've added a couple of pics to give a better idea of what I mean.

    Is there a specific time of year I should be doing this?


    As you can see they both have a weird shape :)

    Last edited: 14 February 2018 09:54:28

  • I realise that this would seem drastic,but when i bought my Olive it looked similar to yours.A south American guy working in the garden centre,asked me if i wanted it pruned to fit in the car. He cut it into a ball type shape,about  foot from the main trunk.I nearly had kittens!! But he was right!it's a beautiful shape now,and quite bushy,bearing lots of blossom and Olives each year.

    The whole truth is an instrument that can only be played by an expert.
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  • BorderlineBorderline Posts: 4,699

    Thanks for posting the pictures, and as guessed, they have grown and have been left unpruned for a while. Lots of good advice there from others, and the theme is to prune anytime from spring onwards, and they will need re-pruning throughout the growing season to encourage the branches to create more side shoots.

    The type of growth is typical when left alone. It all depends on the type of shape you want to achieve. If you want a shrub where you will see minimal trunk area, then you will need to prune quite far down. At least to where the main branches start splitting. If you just want to have the shape you have now, but with more branches and a bit more dense growth, then shorten many of the lower branches by about half of its current length and then prune off many of the dense branches at the top to create more even growth habit.

    I would recomend you start thinking about re-potting soon and try to keep them in full sun position and preferably against a wall or barrier.

    Last edited: 14 February 2018 16:59:51

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