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Winter care for an olive tree - a novice.

Hi all,

Please bear with me as I am somewhat of a novice to gardening and have only just started getting interested in plants this last couple of years.

I have just bought a 15 year old olive tree standing at approx 7 feet. It’s in a pot and appears to be in very good condition. My problem now is that I am concerned as to how it will cope over the English winter and I’m hoping you can give me some pointers as to how to look after it. I read that an established tree can deal with the cold better than a young tree but I’m unsure if my tree is established or young!

Should I buy some fleece protection for the tree and if so when should I put it on the tree and for how long? Will the tree suffer if the fleece stays on all winter? Also should I wrap the pot in some sort of protection to help with the cold? i.e. bubble wrap or something similar?

One last question. Can I leave the tree in the pot indefinitely providing it’s fed appropriately at the right time?

Any help or advice you can give will be much appreciated. The tree is now my pride and joy and I want to enjoy it for many years.


Paul Norfolk


  • BenCottoBenCotto Posts: 4,275
    I bought my tree from the Olive Grove in Oundle. Here’s what they have to say on the matter

    Speaking to them on the phone, they said the October to May under cover advice was very prudent. Mine is moved to the greeenhouse mid November to mid March. However it sounds like yours has to stay outside all winter. Search on eBay and you can find extra weight fleece bags that you can simply pop over the entire plant. That might be a better option for you. Later I’ll see if I can find a link.
    Rutland, England
  • BenCottoBenCotto Posts: 4,275
    Rutland, England
  • BenCotto said:
    Ben do you leave it on all through winter then? Covering the whole tree?
  • BenCottoBenCotto Posts: 4,275
    I use that fleece to cover a very large agapanthus pot. My olive tree is smaller in a 15” terracotta pot and I can man handle it into the adjacent summerhouse where it lives, frost free, from late November to mid March. 

    Now (erected this September) I have a greenhouse and, having just bought a porter’s trolley being delivered tomorrow, I am confident I will be able to put both the evergreen agapanthus and the olive tree into the greenhouse for the winter. It has a heater in it but will only be used to raise temperatures above freezing.

    Your situation sounds different in that it seems you cannot move your tree into shelter. To protect it I would raise the pot of the ground to ensure it is as free draining as possible. I would then try to protect the trees’ roots by insulating the pot as much as possible. You could wrap it in bubble wrap, or burlap sacking (look on eBay), or polystyrene packing material then throw the fleece over the tree and also over the insulated pot. Secure it from being blown away with some easy to release bungee type cords. On milder, drier days the cover could then come off. As I suggested, I would keep it covered from about now to mid March. One possibility is to put your existing put into a much larger flexi container and put insulation material between the two.

    The downside of this is that a fleece covered pot is no thing of beauty. Is it something that is very visible from the house? If so you might want to cover it only at times of forecast heavy frost and snow and, for the rest of the time, tell it to man up.
    Rutland, England
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Posts: 11,161
    My olive tree has been kept outside for about 5 years. It's in a corner near the front door. When it was young I fleeced it when frost was forecast, now I don't bother unless the weather is very dire. Olives can stand the cold but not the wet so much, so I push the pot right into the corner for the winter, under the eaves. At 15 years old, yours is well established. You can keep it in a pot for a long time. Every year, just scrape off a couple of inches of compost and replenish with new - John Innes No.3 preferably, it's more gutsy than the rest and contains grit which olives prefer. If your pot is in an exposed condition, I would bubblewrap the pot to prevent the roots from freezing and the pot cracking.  Hope this helps. 
    North East Somerset - Clay soil over limestone
  • One last question all. As I had mentioned previously, I am novice still at gardening.
    If I indeed need to fleece it if the weather gets really extremely cold for a number of days (doubtful but you never know) should I fleece just over the pot and trunk of the tree or cover the branches/leaves also? Depending on what you read via internet it's not really clear. I appreciate it depends on the age of the tree and where it is in the world but as mine is approx 15 yo, sitting on my patio up against a fence slightly exposed but not fully to the wind in London what do you think?
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Posts: 11,161
    If you're in London, it should be okay as it's warmer in the city than the country. If you'd feel happier fleecing it, then just fling a large piece over the whole tree and peg it together securely in case it gets windy. It will be okay like that for say up to a week, then take it off in the daytime if it gets milder and fleece at night (if you've the time and inclination. I found the big fleece bags with a drawstring cord more awkward to use and caused damage to the leaves/small branches taking it on and off unless you are very careful. 
    North East Somerset - Clay soil over limestone
  • DebxDebx Posts: 14
    I have an olive tree and it happily lives outside in a  very large pot without any protection. Im in Lancashire. Seems to like where it is.  I do wonder if it will become pot bound eventually but I'll refresh the top layer of compost in spring. 
  • Pete.8Pete.8 Posts: 10,267
    I've had an olive in a big pot for 10-12 years outside.
    It's about 10ft high now.
    I've never fleeced it or given it any other winter protection, it's fine.
    The beast from the east a couple of years ago had no effect either.
    As mentioned above, it's prolonged wet around the roots that's the biggest problem, so use pot stands to keep your pot off the ground so it can drain freely.
    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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