Olive - Olea sp.
General Information: The olive has deep green leaves with greyish undersides, and
produces yellowish-white flowers followed by green or black fruit in
late summer or early fall.
The olive is a tough customer - it is tolerant of
wind (both hot and cold), soil condition and elevation (O. europea can
live at altitudes up to 4900 ft.!) and can live 800 to 1000 years.It is
much loved by bonsai enthusiasts as much for its rich historical and
mythical lore as it is for its elegant shiny green leaves and trunk
which takes on an aged, stony appearance when old.
Lighting: Full sun in
summer, less in winter.
can withstand temperatures down to 43F; the roots dislike freezing
temperatures, although survival at temperatures down to 25F has been
reported. The olive can be
successfully grown as an indoor plant, but it is best to keep it
outdoors in the summer, and should be kept below 64F in winter. To
encourage fruiting, the plant should be kept for several weeks with
nightly temperatures of 35F and daily temperatures of 60F.
thoroughly, but keep slightly dry. Reduce watering in winter. The olive
may benefit from daily misting.
Feeding: Every two
weeks from spring to autumn. Do not fertilize for three months after
repotting. Use liquid bonsai fertilizer or half-strength general purpose
plant food. It can benefit from an addition of pulverized organic
fertilizer in mid-spring.
Pruning and wiring:
Suitable for all sizes, and all styles except broom. Creating your own
jin/shari is not a good idea as the bark cracks easily, leaving the tree
exposed to fungal infestation, although in my experience there is some
natural die-back which may be used in the design of the tree. Marco
(Italy) talks extensively about styling the olive:
"Pruning: all bad reputation of olive is why,when
it is trimmed,some portion of tree retracts lymph and to first sprout
there is an untidy and uncontrollable growth;time for forming's
pruning is fall,when there is waning moon mostly if branches have
diameter superior to 3cm(1 inche);if one trims in spring or summer
there is risk of inflation of this zone;in any case eliminate buds in
this part.the second pruning or structure's pruning is accomplished
after spring and fall growth before a new vegetative cycle:eliminate
buds who grow up or down so to have alternate ramification to right
and left of principal branches. pinching is different according buds
colors and age of tree in cycle of growth: new buds usually are green,
violaceous and color wood;for young trees one cuts to first or third
couple of leaves,according direction of buds,when branches from
violaceous became color wood(it will grow only last couple of buds).
With less young and aged trees,you pinch when branche is still green
or is almost violaceous eliminating last couple of leaves,and leaves
and buds who row down.stop pinching if temperaure is down 10C(50F) or
up 40C(104F): you will have smaller leaves and shorter internodes.
Generally almost all leaves who are in green part ramify and less of
half of those placed in violaceous part."
"Wiring: young trees only from 2-3 yr, but warning
from late fall to spring and it is necessary to control each week
branches,olive wood is soft and easily wire cuts it.in aged trees wire
is applied to old branches,but it is good thing to use raffia during
tree dormance. It is best to wire olive branches when just freshly
lignified, as olive wood becomes very rigid when
Propagation by seed has only a 30% success rate. Cuttings are more
successul, and quite large diameter cuttings (up to 2.5 inches) may be
rooted. It is easiest to root cuttings first in a glass of water. The
olive also suckers, and may be propagated by division.
Repotting: Every 2-3
years in spring, as buds sprout. Trim about 1/3 of the root ball, and
remove a proportional number of the old leaves. If more drastic root
pruning is needed, complete defoliation is advised. Repot in
free-draining, slightly calciferous soil.
Pests and diseases: Aphids, ants, black mold, scale
Some species suitable for bonsai:
- Olea 'Cailletier': small black olive.
- Olea europaea: common olive - This Mediterranean
native grows to 25 feet, with leaves of up to three inches.
- Olea europaea 'Montra': 'Little Ollie' olive,
dwarf olive - An excellent choice for miniature bonsai, as the leaves
are much smaller than the species, the 'Little Ollie' is becoming
popular with bonsai enthusiasts.
- Olea europaea oleaster: wild olive - A natural
bonsai subject, it produces less oil than the species, but has smaller
- Olea europea sativa.
- Olea 'Picholine': green olive.
- Olea 'Tanche': black olive
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