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In their Mediterranean homeland, olive trees become true works of art after decades of existence. Silver-green crowns of countless leaves are enthroned on gnarled, bizarrely shaped trunks. They don't have an easy road ahead of them in this country, because our winters are harsh. They grow more modestly and spend part of the year indoors. Challenges keep popping up, such as curled leaves. What are the causes behind this and which measures will help Olea europaea?

Rolled leaves on the olive tree

In mild regions of our country, the olive tree can consistently thrive outdoors in sheltered locations, although it grows more slowly than in its homeland. Unfortunately, this outdoor existence is rarely granted to him here, instead he is cultivated in a bucket. Nothing speaks against it, but it always requires tailor-made care. Especially in the winter quarters, the ratio of light, warmth and moisture is not always optimal. Olea europaea, as this tree is called botanically, shows us the displeasure about discrepancies with leaf problems.


The olive tree often discolors its leaves or drops them, but here we want to specifically look at the cases in which the olive tree leaves curl and possibly later fall off. Two causes are possible:

  • dryness
  • severe spider mite infestation

These two causes are explained in more detail below so that they can be reliably identified. Furthermore, possible measures are explained that promise help for the plagued tree.

Dry ambient air

The problem of drought occurs mostly indoors and mostly in winter. Olive trees can be overwintered outdoors, where it is often humid during the cool season. However, closed rooms are the rule as winter quarters. This can bring the following disadvantages:

  • the air in the room provided is too dry
  • possibly favored by heating
  • Air movements are absent
  • This makes evaporation more difficult

Leaves curl up, dry up and fall off. Once started, it goes so fast that soon the whole tree could be bare. That's why it's important to take immediate countermeasures with a whole bundle of solutions.

Cut off what has dried

Curled and dried leaves will no longer revert back to healthy foliage. Therefore, remove these specimens completely from the tree. Also collect any dried plant parts lying on the potting soil. Take a closer look at the branches, often some of them have dried up as well. Then they have to be cut back.

tip: Lightly scratch the bark of the twigs to see if they are still alive. A green twig is still vital, while twigs that have already died are brown.

Repot in fresh soil

Fresh soil gives the tree new strength to sprout quickly and abundantly. Repotting is also a good opportunity to take a good look at its roots. Drought not only causes curled leaves, it can also kill part of the root system.

  • cut off dead roots
  • use clean and disinfected scissors
  • Dip the root ball in lukewarm water
  • then plant in fresh soil
  • Put in a better location

Dry ambient air is difficult to change, so it is much easier if you find a more suitable location for your olive tree. If the move is completed quickly, the remaining foliage has a good chance of staying intact on the tree.

  • make it lighter and cooler
  • with temperatures from 5 °C to 12 °C
  • an unheated staircase is ideal
  • also garages with windows
  • Spray with water

If the tree cannot find a better location and therefore has to get by with dry air, you can enrich it with moisture from time to time. This will prevent more leaves from curling up.

  • Spray olive tree regularly with water
  • Water should not collect in the leaf axils
  • Shake the tree briefly after spraying

Avoid spraying if the tree is close to a window and gets a lot of sunlight. The leaves may burn or become stained.

Don't forget to water

An olive tree must also be watered in winter so that it does not dry out completely. The cooler his quarters are, the more modest the amount of water should be.

Fertilize in spring

An affected olive tree that has lost a large number of its curled leaves must compensate for this loss as quickly as possible. As soon as the vegetation period starts in spring, you should provide the potting soil with new nutrients.

tip: In a spray bottle, add 1 teaspoon of liquid fertilizer and 1 liter of water. Spray it all over the plant. This should also stimulate new growth. Do not repeat action!

Heavy spider mite infestation

Pests are more common in the winter months, weakening the olive tree and robbing it of its foliage. If the leaves curl, this can not only be due to drought, but also to a very advanced spider mite infestation. In fact, dry air encourages these pests to multiply, leaving them with two causes at once. How to recognize the signs:

  • more and more leaves are curling up
  • they dry up and fall off
  • webs appear on the leaves
  • Pests are tiny and can hardly be seen with the naked eye
  • are hidden on the underside of leaves
  • their coloring may vary
  • have six legs

Spider mites are not to be trifled with. If appropriate control measures are not taken in good time, the Olea europaea will soon be a bare growth. Not only that, without green foliage, she can no longer photosynthesize. Sucked empty, she eventually dies without a chance to recover on her own.

Spider mite infestation

tip: Although typical of false wintering, spider mites can also appear outdoors during the summer. Therefore, pay attention to leaf changes on the olive tree all year round.

isolate tree

If the olive tree is close to other plants, it must be isolated immediately so that the spider mites cannot spread. As a precaution, check all your plants thoroughly so that you can discover any infestation and nip it in the bud.


If you have only discovered the spider mite infestation based on the rolled-up leaves, it will usually be very advanced. The tree now needs urgent help to survive the pest invasion. If you have the opportunity to put your olive tree under the shower, you can wash most of the pests off the plant with the water jet. However, the pest population reduced in this way must also be combated with other measures.

Smother spider mites

Small olive trees can easily be wrapped in clear plastic or placed straight into a plastic bag. This is closed in such a way that air exchange is no longer possible. The tree is left in this covering for several days to allow the spider mites to suffocate underneath. Do not expose the tree to direct sunlight, otherwise it will be "cooked" under the film.

Remove the foil again after a few days. If you still discover stubborn spider mites, you can repeat the measure. Before wrapping, water the tree thoroughly so that a humid climate develops under the foil, which the spider mites do not like.

nettle brew

Spray infested olive trees several times at intervals of a few days with undiluted nettle decoction. You can make the brew yourself within a day. If you cannot find fresh nettle leaves, dried ones from the trade can also be used.

  • Chop 500 grams of fresh nettle leaves
  • alternatively 100 grams of dried leaves
  • soak in 2 liters of water
  • leave for at least 24 hours
  • then filter through a fine sieve

predatory mites

Get animal help in the fight against spider mites. Order predatory mites online, which will be delivered to your home in the shortest possible time. Predatory mites are not dangerous to humans, pets and plants. They only eat spider mites as long as they find any. After that, they die off themselves and dissolve into dust. The best results are achieved with them indoors.

strengthen tree

Spider mites cannot always be avoided. But they have it easy, especially with weakened plants. Therefore strengthen your olive tree by giving it the best possible care and location all year round.

Further measures

The following, previously described solutions for dry air also apply to spider mite infestation:

  • Dry/heavily infected cuttings
  • Tree cooler spots
  • increase humidity by spraying
  • Repot in fresh soil and fertilize if necessary

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