Pruning Neglected Olive Trees. When & Why? 4 best way

Pruning Neglected Olive Trees: How to Revive Your Overgrown Trees

Are you wondering how to prune neglected olive trees that have become overgrown? If so, you are not alone. Many olive tree growers struggle to maintain their trees’ health and productivity, especially when they have not been properly pruned for some time.

In this article, we will show you step-by-step how to prune your neglected olive trees and bring them back to a healthy state. We will cover the essential tools, timing, and techniques needed for successful olive tree pruning.


Pruning is a crucial task for maintaining the health and productivity of olive trees. It involves removing dead, diseased, or overgrown branches to promote new growth, increase yield, and shape the tree’s structure. Neglecting to prune your olive trees can lead to decreased productivity, disease, and pest problems.

Why Prune Olive Trees?

There are several reasons why olive trees need to be pruned regularly, including:

Encouraging new growth: Pruning stimulates new growth, which is essential for maintaining the tree’s productivity and yield.

Shaping the tree’s structure: Pruning helps create a strong, balanced tree structure that can withstand wind and weather.

Removing diseased or damaged wood: Pruning removes dead, diseased, or damaged branches that can spread disease and reduce productivity.

Increasing light and air circulation: Pruning opens up the tree’s canopy, allowing more light and air to reach the inner branches and fruit.

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When to Prune Olive Trees

The best time to prune olive trees is during their dormant period, which is typically in late winter or early spring. Pruning during this time promotes new growth, and the wounds will heal quickly in the warm weather. Avoid pruning during the summer months, as this can stress the tree and increase the risk of disease.

Pruning TechniqueDescriptionBest Time to Prune
Two-Branches ShapeMost common shape for table olive varieties in Andalusia, Spain. Prune to maintain two primary branches.Early to mid-summer
Candlestick ShapeFound in Tunisia. Prune to maintain one central trunk with upright branches.Early to mid-summer
Double or Triple Trunk ShapeFound in Seville. Prune to maintain two or three main trunks with branches spaced around them.Winter
Multiconical ShapeFound in some regions in Italy. Prune to maintain every branch in the shape of a cone.Summer
Spherical Cup ShapeFound in France, Italy, and Greece. Prune to maintain a round, cup-like shape with evenly spaced branches.Winter or early spring

Tools Needed for Pruning Olive Trees

To prune your olive trees, you will need the following tools:

  • Pruning shears: Used for cutting small branches and twigs.
  • Loppers: Used for cutting larger branches.
  • Hand saw: Used for cutting large branches or trunks.
  • Gloves: To protect your hands from cuts and scratches.
  • Safety glasses: To protect your eyes from debris.

Techniques for Pruning Olive Trees

Before you start pruning your olive trees, it’s essential to understand the basic pruning techniques:

Thinning: Removing entire branches or stems back to the main trunk or branch.

Heading: Cutting back the tips of branches to promote new growth.

Pinching: Removing the tips of young shoots to encourage branching.

To produce many delicious olives, the olive tree (Olea europaea) requires hot summers and mild winters. This evergreen tree, which can measure more than 10 meters in height, must be pruned regularly to guarantee abundant fruit production over several years.

Green or black , olives are eaten all year round, enjoyed as an aperitif for cakes, tajines or salads. To ensure good harvests, it is advisable to prune the olivie at the right time and in the rules of the art. When and how to prune your olive tree to have olives in quantity and keep a fruit tree in good shape?

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When to prune an olive tree?

For a young olive tree, let it develop for a few years and grow to about 2 meters before pruning . For an olive tree already in place, measuring more than 2 meters in height, prune it around March or April, once the last frosts have passed and before flowering begins. 

It is about making him:

  • a training pruning to restore its silhouette by cutting branches that grow inwards or bend under the weight of the abundance of olives . To be done every year;
  • fruiting can be pruned every 2 years to keep only the branches that will produce olives. You should know that olives are formed on the drink of the previous year;
  • maintenance pruning, also called restoration pruning, which will make it possible to prune dry, dead, diseased or unproductive branches. It is done every year.

Pruning Neglected Olive Trees: Step-by-Step Guide

Pruning neglected olive trees can seem like a daunting task, but with the right approach and some patience, it can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience. Neglected olive trees may have become overgrown, misshapen, or even diseased, making it essential to prune them to promote healthy growth and ensure the longevity of the tree. In this step-by-step guide, we’ll take you through the process of pruning neglected olive trees, helping you to restore them to their former glory.

Step 1: Assess the Tree’s Health

Before pruning a neglected olive tree, it’s crucial to assess its overall health. Check for signs of disease or damage, such as cracked branches, fungal growth, or pest infestations. Remove any diseased or damaged wood to prevent further spread of infection.

Step 2: Prune Deadwood

Next, prune any deadwood, which is wood that has died but hasn’t fallen off the tree. Deadwood can cause issues, such as being a potential source of disease or providing a haven for pests. Use a pruning saw or loppers to remove deadwood, cutting at the base of the branch.

Step 3: Remove Suckers and Water Sprouts

Suckers are shoots that grow from the base of the tree, and water sprouts are rapidly growing vertical shoots. These growths can rob the tree of energy and reduce fruit production, so it’s important to remove them. Use pruning shears to cut them off as close to the base as possible.

Step 4: Thin Out Overgrowth

Neglected olive trees may have excessive growth that can cause the tree to become too heavy and unbalanced. Thin out the overgrowth by cutting back branches that cross over each other or grow toward the center of the tree. This helps to promote airflow, which is essential for healthy growth.

Step 5: Shape the Tree

To give the tree a more balanced and aesthetically pleasing appearance, shape it by removing branches that stick out in odd directions or disrupt the overall form of the tree. Start at the bottom of the tree and work your way up, making sure to step back occasionally to assess your progress.

Step 6: Prune Regularly

Pruning neglected olive trees is not a one-time task. It’s essential to prune them regularly to promote healthy growth and ensure the longevity of the tree. A good rule of thumb is to prune the tree annually, removing any diseased or damaged wood and thinning out overgrowth.

Did you know ?

The color of the olives depends on the ripeness of the fruit. All the olives at the end of maturity are black. Green olives are picked before they mature and are unripe.

Caring for Your Pruned Neglected Olive Trees

When it comes to caring for your pruned olive trees, there are several important steps to keep in mind. First, it is important to prune your trees properly in the first place. Olive trees grow slowly and overall don’t need a lot of pruning. Pruning once per year is plenty, and you should be careful to avoid cutting too much on young trees.

Once you have pruned your olive trees, it is important to provide them with the proper care to help them grow and thrive. This includes watering your trees regularly, but not too much, as overwatering can lead to root rot. You should also fertilize your trees regularly to help them get the nutrients they need to grow strong and healthy.

In addition to these basic care tips, there are a few other things you can do to help your pruned olive trees thrive. For example, you can mulch around the base of your trees to help retain moisture and keep weeds at bay. You can also keep an eye out for pests and diseases that may affect your trees, and take steps to address these issues as soon as possible.

Overall, caring for your pruned olive trees requires a bit of time and effort, but the rewards are well worth it. With proper care, your trees will produce healthy, delicious olives for years to come!

Conclusion: Pruning Neglected Olive Trees

Pruning neglected olive trees requires some effort, but it’s worth it to promote healthy growth and ensure the longevity of the tree. By following these steps, you can restore your neglected olive tree to its former glory and enjoy its fruit for years to come.


How do I know if my olive tree is neglected and in need of pruning?

If your olive tree appears overgrown, with branches crossing each other or growing inwards, it may be in need of pruning. Additionally, if it hasn’t been pruned in several years, it’s likely overdue for some maintenance. Check the trunk and roots for any new growth or signs of life to ensure the tree is still alive.

When is the best time to prune neglected olive trees?

The best time to prune neglected olive trees is during the dormant period, which typically occurs in late winter or early spring. This is because the tree is less susceptible to damage and disease during this time.

How much should I prune off of a neglected olive tree?

When pruning a neglected olive tree, it’s important to avoid removing more than a third of the tree’s canopy in a single pruning session. Instead, spread out the pruning over several years to give the tree time to recover and grow.

Can I prune my neglected olive tree myself, or should I hire a professional?

While it’s possible to prune an olive tree yourself, it’s recommended to hire a professional arborist who has experience with olive trees. This is because improper pruning can damage the tree or even kill it, and a professional can ensure the tree is pruned correctly and safely.

How can I prevent my olive tree from becoming neglected in the future?

Regular pruning is the best way to prevent an olive tree from becoming neglected in the future. Pruning once per year is typically enough to maintain the tree’s health and shape. Additionally, be sure to water and fertilize the tree regularly, and keep an eye out for pests and diseases.

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