You have watched your olive tree flourish throughout the warmer weather (if the UK weather delivers on its promise of summer that is!) but with the arrival of autumn and winter, you are no doubt concerned as to how your olive tree will survive the colder season.
While an olive tree is an extremely hardy plant if it is subjected to conditions which are particularly harsh it can be left with a number of health problems, leading it to unfortunately die.
Position away from the elements
Native plants are able to withstand the UK climate, but those which are not may struggle to cope with the conditions, and require additional protective measures. While olive trees are able to cope with temperatures that are -10 °C and above, cold, harsh winds can be particularly damaging.
This is one of the reasons that olive trees should be positions in an area which provide suitable wind protection, as freezing temperatures combined with wind can penetrate the bark causing it to split, as well as cause leaf drop and dieback. Ideally, you should position your olive tree in a south or west facing direction, away from northern and easterly winds if possible.
Move potted plants indoors
If you have a potted olive tree, then you have the flexibility to move it indoors to shelter it from the cold weather. However, ensure that when you make the move it is not too drastic for the plant – what this means is that you should not go from a cold temperature to one which is overheated too quickly as this can damage the plant.
It’s also advised that you do not attempt to heat the plant as this can cause it to drop its leaves. Olive trees like to be frost-free, but they still need a cool, dry climate in winter to survive – and especially if you are planning on producing fruit, as they require two months of cold weather to improve flower and fruit production.
Potted olive trees can be left outside until late September, early October, and should then be brought inside until the beginning of May. However, check the weather forecast and assess the impact that it could have on your plants if you don’t move the plant outside or inside on those recommended dates – as you may find that May is too early, and early October too late for example. A cold conservatory, porch which has good natural light or a greenhouse are all suitable to house an olive tree during winter.
Use fleece protection
Wrapping your plant in horticultural fleece from December through to February (or longer if cold weather persists) will shield it from freezing temperatures and winds. As the fleece traps an air layer underneath it, it is kept a degree higher than the outside temperature, keeping your plant warm.
Measure the diameter of your plant to assess which size fleece bag you require, or how much you need from a fleece roll. You should then place this over the top of the olive tree and pull it downwards until it has covered the stem of the plant. You can then secure this with some string at the bottom so that it remains in place.
Avoid frozen root balls
If roots become damaged, they will struggle to recover and cause the olive tree to die as they become unable to take in water and suffer from drought. As such, olive trees which are planted in the ground require well-drained soil to avoid them from becoming waterlogged, especially in periods where rainy weather occurs.
For plants which are potted, you can add a layer of fleece to the pot exterior to provide additional warmth if you are unable to move it inside.
Prevention is better than cure, as in most cases there is sadly no cure that will remedy your olive tree, therefore keep these tips in mind to ensure that your olive tree can thrive and remains healthy for another year.