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The olive tree is a Mediterranean plant that is also known as the "true olive tree". It belongs to the olive tree family. Its botanical name is Olea Europaea. Since the 4th millennium BC it has been a useful plant that needs special care in our latitudes. We explain why and when the olive should be cut and give you useful tips. So you can enjoy your sun-kissed olive tree for a long time.

Why cut?

Why you should prune an olive tree

Since the "Olea Europaea" usually grows very slowly, it is not always necessary to cut it regularly. However, sometimes a cut makes sense. This is the case, for example, when cultivating a bonsai. Another reason for this can be to give the olives a certain shape. The so-called topiary gives the tree the growth form that you like best. A cut is also necessary if there are some parts of the plant on the tree that have dried up and died completely. These would rob the olive of a lot of strength, which it can better use for healthy growth.

  • when growing a bonsai
  • to give the desired shape
  • to dispose of diseased and dead plant parts

If your Mediterranean "Olea Europaea" is infested with small scale insects or fungi, there is a risk of it spreading if the affected parts of the tree are not removed early enough. The healthy areas of the sapling or other plants that are close by could become infected. This can often be prevented with the right cut. Another advantage of cutting is that the growth of the shoots is stimulated and accelerated. After pruning, the tree develops more branches and grows faster overall.

  • fight pests
  • prevent the spread of lice and fungi
  • stimulate the growth of shoots

cutting time

The ideal time for cutting

The olive tree is a Mediterranean plant. In its homeland, the Mediterranean region, it is cut during harvest. In our regions it makes more sense to cut the olive tree in the spring before it buds. Late February or early March is ideal. The sun-kissed tree does not have it easy in winter. Hibernation is a challenge for the Mediterranean plant. A cut before the winter months would cause her stress that you can spare her. Therefore, you should first cut the olive tree before you put it back outside. In this way, it can close its cuts quickly and new leaves are not prevented from sprouting.

  • cut between late February and early March
  • before budding
  • before the olives come out again

On the other hand, you can remove the shoots that have completely dried up, look stunted or even dead all year round. The olives survive the cutting best on a day when the sun is shining. It should be pleasantly warm. However, too much heat is not good for this measure either.


Pruning an olive tree - step by step

For example, sharp rose scissors are suitable for cutting your olives. Like your hands, these should be as germ-free as possible to avoid infections. First you should remove dead and stunted shoots. To find out which parts of the plant have already died, you can do a so-called vitality test. The shoots are vital if the channels behind the bark still look nice and juicy and green. If this is no longer the case, you can safely cut them off.

  • a clean and sharp pair of scissors (e.g. rose scissors)
  • test whether the shoots are still vital
  • remove dead and stunted shoots

Then take on the plant shoots that grow crosswise or inwards. Now you can clear the crown of the tree. To do this, cut out the young shoots from last year. You absolutely have to leave the main shoots, otherwise there is a risk that the roots will begin to rot later. Make sure that the large main shoots are always longer than the side shoots. Prune the olive so that all leaves can get adequate light.

  • Cut off shoots or water shoots that grow crosswise and inwards
  • remove thin shoots to thin the crown
  • leave the main shoots in any case

cutting size

The right measure when cutting

When pruning the olives, it is important not to cut off too much. Less is often more. Olives usually grow very slowly, especially in our climes. It takes a long time for a pruned area to grow back. So be careful not to cut too many of the young shoots - especially not in the wrong places. It takes time for an unwanted and unsightly gap to grow back. Olive trees should therefore not be pruned as intensively as native fruit trees.

Tip: The "Olea Europaea" does not need a new cut every year. If you look at your olive tree and doubt and wonder whether pruning is necessary now, better leave it and wait until next year.

cut sealing

After the cut - treat the wounds

You should seal the cuts made by cutting off the dead branches and water shoots. Otherwise, unwanted pathogens and fungal spores can settle here and penetrate the olive tree. These could cause infection of the tree, which is often difficult to treat. Therefore, treat larger wounds after the cut with a special wound balm for plants.

Without cut

What if an olive tree is not pruned?

Unless the olive tree is infested with pests, you do not necessarily have to prune it. You can also just let it grow naturally. If you let nature take its course, after a while your little tree will look just like its fellow Mediterranean species: rustic and wild. This growth form also has its appeal and exudes an original, Mediterranean charm in your garden. Olives that are not pruned grow more slowly - at their own pace. So if you want your tree to grow faster, you can cut back. However, this only affects the growth of the plant, not the fruit yield.

cutting roots

Is it necessary to prune the roots?

Pruning the roots is only necessary when repotting the olive. One reason for repotting may be that the olive has grown so sprawling that you want to make it smaller or give it a larger pot. Transplanting into another pot is a great way to get rid of roots that have dried up or become diseased. However, be careful when doing this and do not cut back the roots too radically. In particular, the thick main roots must not be damaged, as they supply the important main shoots.

canopy loss

What to do if the olive tree has lost its crown?

You can hardly see it, but your beloved olive tree has lost part of its crown. In this case, cutting back into the healthy wood can help. This measure is a chance to save your olive, but it is by no means a guarantee that it will always work. It can happen that the plant does not recover and then does not sprout again. The better you take care of your olive after pruning, the higher the chances that it will survive.

education cut

If you want to give your olive the desired shape with a so-called training cut, you should plan this very carefully beforehand. Taking multiple photos can also be helpful. You can print these out and look at them to think about a nice shape for your olive. A photo will help you see in which places you need to cut shoots to get the desired result. For example, a goal may be to bring a full-grown crown back into shape. It is often enough to give the tree a nice contour again. Sometimes, however, more complex measures are required.

There are these options:

  • build up the outer crown shape
  • correct the inner structure of the crown
  • arrange the main and side shoots hierarchically
  • remove shoots that are too weak

When pruning for training, it is best if you place the clean, sharp scissors as flat as possible on the branch. In this way, the laterally growing branches can be removed more easily and gently.

Popular shapes for cutting the crown are:

  • round and closed (globe shape, spherical shape)
  • V-shaped (vase shape)

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