Looking for a way to stand out from all the other indoor jungles? If you've got the space (and a few other essential conditions), then maybe it's time to throw an olive into the mix. We're going full mediterranean this week so throw on your boat shoes and white linen shorts - let's talk Olives.
Touted as the ‘next big thing’ in indoor plants way back in 2021, Olive Trees (Olea europaea) are kind of still waiting to really take off. Which isn’t to say some of you trend-setters haven’t already realized just how much of a statement these plants can make, as you sit there smugly staring at that beautiful olive you’ve got sitting in the sun room.
For the rest of us - we still have time to get on board the Olive train.
But before you jump in the car and head down to your favorite nursery, it might be wise to read on. Because these plants are not for everyone - or more specifically - every home. While the Olive does have a few demanding attributes, one positive is its tolerance for dry air.
These trees can get large outdoors, but inside a pot in our homes most won’t get past 1.8 - 2m tall. A statement tree still, but a manageable one.
Photo by Norbert Velescu
Olive Tree (Indoor) Plant Care Guide
FULL. SUN. PEOPLE. This is an absolute must. If you’re going to try grow these plants indoors then make sure you can provide it with a space that has plenty (and I’m talking 6-8hrs a day). Ideally, you should be able to rotate your plant (a quarter rotation is perfect) once a week just to keep the foliage full and prevent the plant from leaning too much to one side as it chases the sun.
And if you don’t have the sun, but are deadset on an olive, then think about a grow light. Olives respond well to grow light, especially if they can be placed above the plant.
Olives, being mediterranean trees, prefer sandy, fast draining potting mixes. Cacti or Succulentmixes are great. But if youreally want to set this new plant up, then a mix of Cacti/Succulent potting media with a regular indoor mix at a ratio of 3:1 is perfect.
Olives don’t like wet feet, so making sure the potting media is nice and free draining is important. Also, think about potting into a terracotta pot. It'll help ensure the potting mix doesn't stay overly moist and aid in avoiding root rot.
The above being said, Olive Trees getthirsty.Over Spring, Summerand Autumn, Olives trees put out a lot of growth. You’ll need to make sure you maintain a regular watering routine to ensure optimal plant health. When watering, evenly distribute the water around the entire root ball and continue watering until water comes out of the drainage hole - that way you know you’ve given it a thorough drink!
Only water again when the top 3-5cm of the potting mix is bone dry, and over winter cut back the watering even further…unless you’re using a grow light and the light levels haven’t changed.
Fertilise regularly while the plant is actively growing. Anything with a potassium (K) ratio of 10 or more is good for a fruiting tree. Fortnightly fertilising is perfect, and over winter an organic slow release fertiliser is recommended. Keep in mind, a potted Olive tree will need acomplete fertiliser, with the big three (NPK) as well as additional trace elements. If you’re unsure, all of our fertilisers are complete feeds (saves you having to do any extra googling!)
Unlike the rest of the plants you probably have in your home, these guys like it dry. Think hot summer days on the Italian coastline. I’m not asking you to crank the heating up 24/7, but it does mean the Olive tree will be fine in most rooms of the house as long as there is enough light.
Average Room humidity will be fine.
Olive Tree Pests and Diseases
These plants will let you know if you haven't got the conditions right. I’m talking leaf drop, mealy bug, scale…if you’re going to take the plunge and bring this bad boy inside then make sure you’ve read the above and gotten things just right. But if things do turn south, we got you: Read On.
Scale: This is the big one, they are a problem both inside and out. Best way to deal with them is the same way you would an infestation on any of your indoor plants. Spray and wipe. Get some neem oil out and spray the foliage, then use a soft cloth or a cotton bud to wipe off the scale. You may need to repeat this on a weekly basis until the problem has been dealt with (NB: we arenot saying our neem is a pesticide. It is not a registered pesticide with the APVMA. But it is full of beneficial proteins so if you’re going to spray the foliage, you might as well spoil it!)
Mealy Bug: Small white fluffy insects that will pop up on the foliage and and in the cracks and crevices of your tree. Treat in the same way you would scale, although these guys aremuch easier to remove (and spot!)
Root Rot: Watch out for this, as Olives don’t require the same moisture levels as some of the more common houseplants. Always keep an eye on the potting media and use a moisture meter (or finger!) to check the potting mix is dry before watering. If your leaves start turning yellow, and the growth slows, then it would be a good idea to pull out your plant and check the root system. Soft, dark brown roots are a giveaway and should be pruned out asap before it spreads to the rest of the plant.
Curled leaves with brown edges: Maybe a littletoo much sun. Reduce the suntime slightly.
No flowers (or fruit)? Just keep in mind it can take years for an Olive to produce its first fruit. So be patient, and enjoy the other parts of the Olive that make it so damn beautiful - that silvery green foliage and mottled white/grey bark.