How to Prune Olive Trees

June 30, 2023 By Joseph Hill
How to Prune Olive Trees


Pruning olive trees is an essential practice that helps maintain their health, stimulate growth, and maximize fruit production. Proper pruning techniques not only enhance the aesthetics of the trees but also improve air circulation and sunlight penetration. Whether you have a small backyard olive tree or an olive orchard, this detailed guide will provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to prune olive trees effectively, ensuring their vitality and productivity.

How to Prune Olive Trees?

Step 1: Pick the Best Time

The best time to prune olive trees is during late winter or early spring, just before the onset of new growth. Pruning during this dormant period allows the tree to recover quickly and minimizes the risk of disease transmission. Avoid pruning during extremely cold or frosty periods, as it may cause additional stress to the tree.

How to Prune Olive Trees

Step 2: Gather the Necessary Tools

Before starting the pruning process, gather the essential tools required. These include sharp pruning shears or loppers, a pruning saw for thicker branches, a ladder (if necessary), gloves to protect your hands, and a disinfectant solution to sterilize your tools. Clean and well-maintained tools ensure precise cuts and reduce the risk of spreading infections.

Step 3: Remove Dead, Damaged, and Diseased Branches

Begin by inspecting the olive tree for any dead, damaged, or diseased branches. Dead branches are dry, brittle, and lack buds or signs of life. Damaged branches may have splits, cracks, or breakage. Diseased branches may display discoloration, lesions, or fungal growth. Use your pruning shears or saw to make clean cuts just outside the branch collar (the swollen area where the branch meets the trunk) to remove these branches. Dispose of the pruned branches appropriately.

Step 4: Thin Out Overcrowded Branches

Olive trees can become dense and overcrowded, hindering airflow and sunlight penetration. Selectively thin out branches to improve the tree’s structure and overall health. Look for branches that are crossing, rubbing against each other, or growing inward towards the center of the tree. Remove the less vigorous or poorly positioned branches with clean cuts just outside the branch collar. Thinning out branches promotes better air circulation and light penetration, reducing the risk of diseases.

Step 5: Shape the Tree

Pruning helps shape olive trees, giving them an aesthetically pleasing form. Begin by removing any suckers or water sprouts that emerge from the base of the tree or along the trunk. Then, selectively prune branches to achieve your desired shape. Keep in mind that olive trees have a natural tendency to grow in an open vase-like form. Maintain this form by removing excessive vertical growth and maintaining a balanced structure. Make clean cuts just outside the branch collar to promote proper healing.

Step 6: Manage Height and Size

If your olive tree has grown too tall or wide, you can manage its height and size through pruning. To reduce the height, identify the tallest branches and prune them back to a desired height, making the cuts just above a node or junction. For width management, selectively prune lateral branches that are extending beyond the desired boundaries. Maintain a balanced shape while considering the tree’s overall health and vigor.

Step 7: Post-Pruning Care

After pruning, provide proper care to support the olive tree’s recovery. Water the tree adequately, especially during dry periods, to ensure the roots receive sufficient moisture. Apply a balanced fertilizer specifically formulated for olive trees according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Monitor the tree for any signs of stress, pests, or diseases, and take appropriate measures if needed.

How to Prune Olive Trees


Can I prune olive trees to control their size?

Yes, olive trees can be pruned to manage their size and height. If your tree has grown too tall, identify the tallest branches and prune them back to the desired height. To control width, selectively prune lateral branches that extend beyond the desired boundaries. Remember to maintain a balanced shape and consider the tree’s overall health.

Can I use regular pruning shears to prune olive trees?

For smaller branches, regular pruning shears or loppers are usually sufficient. However, for thicker branches, a pruning saw may be necessary. Ensure that your tools are sharp and in good condition to make clean cuts. It’s important to use the right tools for the job to avoid damaging the tree.

Will pruning olive trees increase fruit production?

Pruning olive trees can promote better fruit production by improving air circulation, sunlight penetration, and overall tree health. However, excessive pruning or incorrect techniques can reduce fruiting. It’s essential to strike a balance between pruning for tree health and maintaining the right amount of fruit-bearing wood. Proper fertilization, irrigation, and overall care are also critical for optimal fruit production.


Pruning olive trees is an essential task that promotes their health, productivity, and overall appearance. By following the step-by-step instructions outlined in this comprehensive guide, you can confidently prune your olive trees and ensure their vitality. Remember to prune during the appropriate time, gather the necessary tools, remove dead or damaged branches, thin out overcrowded areas, shape the tree selectively, and provide post-pruning care. With these practices, your olive trees will flourish, providing you with an abundant harvest and a beautiful landscape.

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