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Updated: Feb 21, 2020

lea europaea

An evergreen tree it grows to 10 meters tall, has creamy-white to yellow flowers followed by its stony fruits the olives, that can dry maroon or black. Native to Mediterranean Europe, Africa and Western Asia, there are 6 naturally occurring variants, of which, the cultivated variety, subsp. europa has probably been in cultivation for over 7000 years. Today there are hundreds of cultivars of olives each with its very only individual traits that regions dearly cherish.

Olive, Olea europaea, Bonsai
Olive, Olea europaea, Bonsai

Styles: For bonsai, the Wild Olive, Oleaster, is preferred as it has compact branching, smaller leaves and also smaller fruits, all considered favourable traits for bonsai. Often, collected from the wild, they can be found in just about every style type and shape.

Position: The Olive love a full sun position and does the best in a hot, dryish local. It is not considered frost hardy so is best protected over winter. It requires copious amounts of lights so when grown indoors its light should be supplemented with a grow lamp. The Olive has been known to successfully grown indoors but only with additional light and in a suitable warm condition.

Watering: Though drought tolerant, this species does love a lot of water especially when it is flowering and fruiting. It does not like being waterlogged. Water thoroughly early in the morning to ensure that the bonsai has the water when it needs it and is not sitting in water overnight.

Feeding: Feed with an organic fertiliser. If using a liquid nutrient feed every two weeks, if using a pelletised version feed every two months. It is tolerant of most Ph level, conditions, lime can be used to balance out any excessive acidity of the organic feed. Feed profusely during the flowering and fruiting periods.

Repotting: Repotting every year helps keep your clumps in control. Best repot in autumn after flowering and fruiting. Use a free-draining soil, of loam, sharp sand and well-mulched bark in equal parts. Alternatively, you can use Akadama and pumice in a ratio of 2:1 by volume.

Pruning: Olives flowers and fruit on previous years growth, best to prune after flowering and fruiting. Heavy pruning will affect current years fruiting. Prune back current year’s growth to leave 3 lateral shoots or three active nodes. Structural pruning and pruning of thick branches should only be undertaken in late winter or early spring. Stem pruning and pinching encourage smaller leaves and shorter internodes. With older trees pinch apical bud when the branch is still green.

Wiring: The Olive is best styled with the ‘clip and grow’ method. However, if wiring is required on some heavier branches then wire in autumn, and remove the wire before bud break in spring. Leaving wire on longer may result in scaring off the branches.

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