Olive tree bonsai care

Care Styling Advantages

Olive tree bonsai care

The care of olive tree bonsai is straightforward. Important is a sunny, airy location and a well-drained, structurally stable, calcareous bonsai soil. The water requirement is not high. The olive tree is suitable as a bonsai for beginners.

Olive tree bonsai care in a nutshell:

  • Fertilisation: Olive tree bonsai are fertilized from March to September with organic bonsai fertilizers. Older trees should not be fertilized too nitrogen-rich. A liquid bonsai fertilizer is suitable here.
  • Irrigation: Dry root bales should be avoided as well as waterlogging. Do not over water a olive tree bonsai, especially in winter.
  • Overwintering: It is best to hibernate this bonsai species in a bright, cool winter garden or greenhouse at approx. 0-5°C.
  • Repotting: Repotting is only done every 3-8 years. Due to the long period without repotting, the bonsai substrate must be very structurally stable. Pumice gravel is very suitable.


Fertilize | Watering | Location | Overwintering | Repot | Diseases, Pests | Propagation


Fertilize

Olive trees grow on very poor soils. Nevertheless, when fertilizing an olive tree bonsai, it is important to give a steady supply of nutrients during the growing season. From March to September it is best to fertilize with organic bonsai fertilizers such as Biogold or Hanagokoro. During the rest period (approx. October to March / April) fertilization can be dispensed with.

Liquid bonsai fertilizer added to the irrigation water according to the information on the bottle is ideally suited for ready-made olive tree bonsai.

Watering

Olive trees are tolerant to short dry periods. As a bonsai tree it is still advisable not to let the plant dry too much. Cold water should preferably not be used for watering.

Short-term drying between the individual waterings does not seem to harm the tree. During the resting period, watering must be significantly reduced. If the olive tree bonsai is permanently too dry it can lose leaves. However, it usually shoots out again as soon as the water shortage has been remedied.

It is important: The substrate must be well permeable so that the excess water can run off. If the substrate is too fine, less watering should be done and the tree must be repotted next spring.

Location

During the summer months, the balcony or terrace is a very good location. The olive tree loves and needs a bright, sunny location with lots of air movement. Even the heat in midsummer is well tolerated.

Permanent maintenance of olive trees as an indoor bonsai is not recommended. In winter, a good location for an olive tree bonsai is cool, as airy as possible and not too humid.

Overwintering

An olive bonsai is a mediterranean bonsai. That means it is not completely frost resistant. In winter, an olive tree should have a bright and cool location with temperatures between 0 and +5°C. A cool winter garden, foil tent or greenhouse is very suitable here.

Short-term, light frosts down to -3°C are well tolerated by healthy olives. Olive tree bonsai will probably endure even lower temperatures. However, we recommend not testing the limit.

If the temperature drops further or stays below 0°C for several days, heating is recommend for this cold period. However, you should avoid temperatures well above +10°C, especially if the days in winter are short and there is little sunlight available.

Repot

Olives have relatively weak root growth. That is why olive tree bonsai do not need to be repotted so often. As a young bonsai, repotting every 3-4 years is usually completely sufficient. Older specimens are often only repotted after 5-8 years. A good time to repot is late spring (April). When repotting olive bonsai, a light root cut should be carried out.

The right bonsai substrate is extremely important for the health of a olive bonsai. It is particularly important that this bonsai tree is planted in a structurally stable and, above all, in a very well-drained substrate. The Akadama bonsai soil is only suitable for this to a limited extent. It disintegrates too quickly. Expanded, coarse substrates (e.g. expanded slate) are better.

Pumice gravel is particularly suitable. This substrate is very structurally stable and the pH value of pumice gravel is slightly alkaline due to the lime content. Great for olive trees. A good soil mix for olives is: pumice or expanded slate with 20-30% Akadama (sieve the dust out before usage). Akadama neat can be used to cover the substrate surface.

After repotting, water well. The excess irrigation water can easily drain through the large pores in the bonsai soil. This prevents waterlogging. This is particularly important in the winter half year. A fine soil is cold and wet in winter. An olive tree doesn't like that.

After repotting, olive trees are placed in a wind sheltered, sunny place.

Diseases, Pests

If olive tree bonsai are properly cared for (sunny location, good air circulation, suitable substrate) there is hardly any pest infestation. Sometimes you can find scale insects or aphids, especially when fertilizing a lot. From time to time small patches of fungi can be seen on older leaves. Both the lice and the fungi can be treated well with the usual agents. Fungus infestation can be very well prevented by an airy location in the sun.

Propagation

New olive tree plants can be grown by tree seeds and cuttings. Air layering off older plants is also possible.

When growing from cuttings, it should be noted that higher temperatures (well above 20°C) are required. The propagation with cuttings takes place in summer and is more difficult than the generative propagation by seeds.

The best time of year for seed propagation is spring. Here, too, higher substrate temperatures are necessary.

Digging out olives (Yamadori bonsai) in the wild is relatively easy. Even after drastic root cuts, they form well new roots and also new shoots. Even from old wood, the olive sprouts out willingly.

The wild forms occurring in the natural distribution area have smaller leaves than the cultivated forms, which makes them more suitable for bonsai design. Olive tree Yamadori bonsai collected in nature should be watered a lot after potting.

Olive tree bonsai styling

Olives looks nice as bonsai both very small and in the "mega" format over 1m. The reason for this lies on the one hand in the small leaves and on the other hand in the often bizarre and powerful trunks of old trees collected fron the nature.

The cracked bark is particularly advantageous for the design of olives as bonsai. Due to their willingness to sprout out (with suitable bonsai care), styling mistakes can be easily compensated for. Olives are well suited for bonsai with lots of dead wood.

Olive tree bonsai styling in a nutshell:

  • Wiring: Be careful when apply the bonsai wire and bending older branches. These break easily.
  • Pruning: Since the olive grows slowly, you should not prune too often. Often one cut is enough at the end of the growing season.

What are the benefits of olive trees for bonsai styling ?

  • Olive trees form strong, gnarled, twisted stems in old age. Such trees can be used to create attractive bonsai trees.
  • Olives have very hard wood. This makes them well suited for a bonsai with large areas of dead wood.
  • After strong pruning of a bonsai the olive tree willingly sprout out of the old wood.
  • Olive trees easily develop new roots in a well-drained bonsai soil. This means that even very old trees can be potted into a bonsai pot after being excavated.
  • The bonsai care of olive trees is not difficult. This makes them a good bonsai for beginners.
  • Olives can only be shaped well by pruning the bonsai. Wiring a bonsai can often be dispensed with.


Wiring | Pruning | Styles | Bonsai pots | Flowers, Fruits | Bark, Roots | Varieties | General


Wiring

Wiring is possible and is carried out in the summer months. However, since the olive sprouts out well, it is often not necessary to apply bonsai wire.

Older shoots are hard and brittle and can break easily. Therefore, after the bonsai has been wired, it must be carefully bent. Young shoots can be shaped much better.

If the danger, that an older branch could break when bending, is too great, pulling down with a thin bonsai wire is a good way to get the branch into the desired shape.

Pruning

Olives trees are easy to prune. They usually sprout out very well, even from old wood.

Since olive tree bonsai grows very slowly you should not prune too often during the growing season. That slows down growth rate every time. It is important that the tree is not weakened. If the shoot is left to stand for a relatively long time (until it is slightly woody) giving the tree the chance to build up reserves. The best way is to shorten the shoots vigorously at the end of the growing season or at the end of winter.

If you want to cut back thicker branches, proceed as follows: Slightly cut back the branches with a sharp bonsai scissors - wait for new shoots - wait until new shoots are strong enough - only then cut further.

If an olive should form a better fine ramnification it is important to cut all new shoots at the same time if possible. All you have to do at minimum is remove the tip. Shoots that are not pruned simply continue to grow and become stronger. In order to achieve a finer branching this is usually not desired. Conversely - if a certain branch should thicken it is left untrimmed. As a result, it gains thickness better.

Styles

Olives can be designed in almost all bonsai styles. The free upright shape (Moyogi style) and the broom shape are particularly common. But cascades or semi-cascades are also possible (albeit rarely designed).

Olive tree bonsai are particularly often designed by bonsai friends in the mediterranean area (the natural distribution area of the olive trees). A well-known olive specialist is Angel Mota

Matching bonsai pots

Olive tree bonsai can be potted in both glazed bonsai pots and unglazed bonsai pots. Since neither the foliage color nor the flower or fruit is very noticeable, bonsai pots with a pale glaze (green, olive, gray) or clay colors in darker shades of gray should be preferred.

Since they belong to the mediterranean bonsai (which can be hibernated down to the 0°C limit) a frost-proof, handmade bonsai pot should be chosen. In our experience, the inexpensive bonsai pots (made for indoor bonsai) are also suitable. But mostly these pots are too shiny and not 100% frost-proof.

For large garden bonsai you will find suitable pots under Large bonsai pots.

Both oval bonsai pots and rectangular pots are suitable for olive tree bonsai. Rectangular bonsai pots are more suitable for dramatic designs with a lot of dead wood, oval pots are more suitable for bonsai trees with a rounded crown. Drip trays for bonsai pots are not required because olive bonsai should not be cared for in the apartment.

Plastic bonsai pots are suitable for prebonsai in the cultivation phase. The dark brown color of the pots does not fit very well with the gray trunk of an olive tree bonsai. But these plastic pots are absolutely frost-proof and UV-stable. For 2-3 year old young plants in the cultivation, it is best to use plastic plant pots.

Flowers, Fruits

The terminal and lateral flowers are inconspicuous and form depending on the location from late April to June. The resulting fruits are immature olive green, later black-violet. The flowers play no role in the bonsai design. In contrast an olive tree bonsai with ripe fruit looks very attractive.

Bark, Roots

In older olive trees, the bark of the gnarled, twisted stems is cracked and rough. This goes very well with dead wood designs and well emphasizes the age of an olive tree bonsai.

Varieties

There are hundreds of varieties of the European olive tree. In Spain alone, more than 200 varieties are cultivated. The small-leaved varieties and species (such as the wild olive - Olea sylvestris) are particularly interesting for bonsai styling. The wild olive tree is sometimes offered in the bonsai trade. Mostly, however, the "normal" olive tree used for olive oil production is on offer, which has slightly larger leaves.

General

Olives are very interesting plants for bonsai enthusiasts. They reach a very old age and form impressive trunks both at their natural location and in culture. Olives trees collected in the nature (Yamadori bonsai) recover relatively easy and usually grow again as bonsai after being potted. They don't get too big in nature, about 10-15m.

The olive tree (genus Olea) is evergreen and has a slow and constant growth. Its main distribution area are the countries around the mediterranean ocean. Olive trees can grow very old (many hundreds of years) and then have a very thick trunk. Unfortunately, the growth in thickness is slow so that you have to buy an older bonsai tree. Raising the thickness oneself outside of natural habitat is difficult and very tedious.

About 2 dozen species are known from the genus Olea. Three species of olive trees are important for bonsai design:

  • Olea europaea, the olive tree used in cultivation: The great fruit of this olive tree species is mainly used for the production of olive oil. Compared to the wild form, the growth of the species is somewhat looser, the leaves are slightly larger. This olive tree can often be found in bonsai shops.
  • Olea sylvestris, the wild olive: Significantly smaller fruits and leaves than Olea europaea. For the bonsai design, the wild olive tree is preferable because its growth is much denser and the smaller leaves are more suitable even for very small bonsai.
  • Olea oleaster: Another wild olive tree species. It is often used as a graft base for Olea europaea. It has tiny leaves and is ideal for a bonsai. Unfortunately, Olea oleaster is hardly offered in bonsai shops.