Do you want to grow an olive tree bonsai? Thankfully, this Mediterranean, evergreen native takes pretty well to the technique, and it’s a great choice for newcomers and experts with a green thumb! It’s a good thing you came here for the proper guidance.
To get great results with an olive bonsai tree, you’ll need to:
- Place it in a bright, sunny spot in your yard. Olive trees need heat and light, so summer is the best season for them.
- You’ll need to bring your tree indoors and place it in a nice, South-facing window for the winter months. If not, you may need to get grow lights.
- Keep your tree well-watered. Never let the soil go dry. The tree needs moisture and hydration.
- You’ll need to replenish the soil’s nutrients with a monthly dose of liquid fertilizer.
- As with any bonsai, you’ll need to maintain a strong trimming game all through the year.
So, are you ready to get going and wow your friends with your new tree? You don’t need to be a bonsai master to grow an olive bonsai tree, but you’ll feel like one when it’s sitting in a prized spot in your garden.
Olive Bonsai Tree Basics
The Olea Europaea is a noble, evergreen tree that usually grows in the Mediterranean region. They can grow to be between 10 to 20 meters tall. If left alone, they tend to grow in a pyramidal pattern. This is your likeliest candidate for an olive tree bonsai.
If you go with a wilder variety, like the Olea europaea sylvestris, they tend to have smaller leaves and stems, making a great choice for bonsai enthusiasts.
Why Should You Choose an Olive Bonsai Tree?
A very simple question to answer: this tree is beautiful, easy to care for, and good for people of all experience levels. It takes following some very simple guidelines to keep it in perfect condition, as you’ll be able to see below.
The Olive Bonsai Tree Care Essentials
It’s All About Placement
This tree hails from the Mediterranean. That’s warm, sunny, generally benign weather, and that means your olive bonsai tree will need plenty of sun and warmth primarily.
During the summer months, this tree needs to be outside. Place it in the warmest, sunniest spot you can find in your garden or yard, and watch it grow.
If the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit at night, then it’s best to bring your tree indoors. Place it on a windowsill, or any table or furniture that faces one.
During the winter months, you’ll have to exercise more care by bringing your tree indoors and putting it near a south-facing window. If that’s not possible, then east or west are the second-best options.
If you place your tree in a north-facing window, you’re going to need grow lights.
Whatever your option, four to six hours of sunlight is the minimum needed exposure for your tree. More is better, of course.
The olive bonsai tree needs plenty of water to thrive.
Apply a generous amount of water to the soil before it dries out. Water should be coming out of the holes at the bottom of the pot. If you see dry soil, then you’re not watering enough.
It doesn’t really matter what type of watering method you’re using; what does matter is that you’re keeping your baby hydrated. Don’t let it go thirsty, or that could stunt growth, or lead it to dry out.
It’s all good during the summer, but when you bring the tree in for the winter, it could suffer due to being indoors. One of the main culprits is the fact that modern heating systems tend to siphon humidity from the environment. You may feel comfy during the winter, but it could also hurt your olive tree bonsai.
To keep your tree well-moisturized, place it in a shallow tray filled with gravel and some water in it. This will evaporate and prevent an excess of moisture loss.
This is another thing that you shouldn’t neglect for a healthy tree. In the case of some plants, it’s optional. When it comes to the olive bonsai tree, it’s a necessity.
Try a general-purpose liquid fertilizer. Organic works best, of course, and you should be able to find one at any garden center or grow shop. Don’t skimp out on quality, because you want to make sure your tree’s getting appropriate nutrition.
Apply your fertilizer monthly. Don’t overdo it, and space out feedings during the winter months. When you add your fertilizer, make sure it’s diluted to half-strength.
If you want, your bonsai tree can be fed via foliar (through the leaves) feeding as well. Try using a spray bottle to apply the fertilizer on the leaves if you want to try this method. This type of fertilizing works best if you do it every other month, along with the regular kind.
Advanced Care Guidelines
We’re talking about a bonsai tree, so trimming is de rigueur. You don’t need to be a certified or trained bonsai trimmer to be great at it, by the way. It just takes patience, dedication, and, most of all, a light touch. Less is more when it comes to trimming, so it’s better to under-trim than over-trim.
The idea is to pinch and trim any new growth. But don’t overdo it. You want to keep new growth down, but not eliminate it completely; cut back until it’s safe, but leave bits of the new outgrowth to maintain optimal tree heath.
If you want to encourage new growth, don’t cut away branches completely.
If you want the tree to develop leaves, manually pinch the first few leaves from each branch.
New shoots and branches are flexible and can be wired at any time. It’s not recommended to wire older branches, as they tend to be brittle. You can use guy-wires if you want to go this way, but remember to take extra care with the more delicate branches!
Use thin bonsai wire to avoid hurting the tree.
All bonsai need to be repotted because of new root growth unless they’re pruned. With the case of the olive tree bonsai, repotting every two to three years will suffice.
You should repot during the beginning of the spring, as that’s when bud swelling starts to come in. Prune about 30% of the new root growth. Use soil that has an alkaline balance, with a pH between 7 and 8.
As with most other trees, the bonsai olive tree can be propagated starting from seedlings, seeds, or cuttings.
Pest Control and Mold
Healthy olive trees tend to be pretty hardy. That robustness comes in handy when it comes to pests and other obnoxious meddlers because they tend to stay away from these trees.
If you manage to keep the tree warm during winter, that maximizes the chances of it being clean. Bugs and pests generally don’t like warm olive trees.
If you encounter pests, the most likely are going to be aphids and mites. Try to use a milder insecticide (the key ingredients are either resmethrin, acephate or triforine) to keep the tree safe, or contact a professional.
Mold may also be a problem during the wetter parts of the winter. Apply a mild fungicide if this problem rears its ugly head.
Can you Bonsai an Olive Tree?
Indeed you can. You can either purchase your olive tree bonsai already trimmed and just maintain it, or you can start from a seed and carefully follow the steps in this guide to get great results.
How do You Shape an Olive Tree?
Full-sized trees have a pyramid shape. The only way to correctly shape an olive tree into a bonsai shape is to gently train the branches through wiring. This should be done with care to avoid scarring the branches. You can get away with treating the new shoots a little more strongly, but older branches are prone to brittleness.