Why is my olive tree losing leaves?

Olive Tree Leaves

One of the biggest indicators of an olive tree’s health is its leaves. If they’re dropping off the tree more than they usually do, something’s up – and it’s important to try and get to the bottom of the issue before your tree is harmed further.

There are a number of potential reasons why leaves fall off olive trees. Below are some of the most common culprits, though it’s worth mentioning that olives do normally drop some leaves from time to time – particularly as the seasons change.

Overwatering or underwatering

Olive trees are able to thrive in dry, hot conditions in the Mediterranean, so it’s perhaps not surprising that excessive amounts of water can jeopardise their growth and overall health. If the soil your tree is planted in doesn’t drain effectively enough, the tree can become waterlogged quite quickly – an olive’s roots are small and shallow. Prolonged overwatering can lead to leaves dropping off and the roots rotting away.

Equally, although olive trees are pretty tough, they can only take drought for so long. Underwatering can result in similar leaf-dropping symptoms.

Environmental factors

If you’ve recently moved your olive tree to a new location, it can take time to adjust. Moving it from a sunny spot into a more shady one can ‘shock’ the tree, leading to a loss of leaves – as can intense temperatures. We’re unlikely to experience enough prolonged high temperatures here in the UK, but continual sub-zero temperatures are a distinct possibility. Combined with high winds, low temperatures can take their toll on an olive tree. Wrapping it in a horticultural fleece should keep it happy enough, though.


Despite your best efforts, bad luck can sometimes strike; olive trees can be affected by fungal infections or the presence of bacteria which, if left untreated for long enough, can result in the tree losing its leaves. If you suspect this to be the case, it may be worth consulting an expert for professional guidance.

For more olive tree care tips and advice, explore our Advice and FAQs page.

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