Dying Olive plant


I inherited this young olive tree plant from a friend in September 2022. For 6 months it sat in a Southeast facing window. For a while it did okay, but then started to wilt. I think I was over watering it (once every 7- 10 days). Since May it has been sitting under a sun lamp near an east facing window. I have reduced watering – a small amount every 2 to 3 weeks. The soil drains well. It has not improved. Is it a lost cause?


We are sorry to hear that your olive tree is having a hard time.

The leaves on this tree look like they are dry and brittle, which is a sign that the tree may be dead. Another thing to examine is the trunk (is it mushy?), and the roots (are they soggy and rotting?). Inadequate sunlight and overwatering are two common reasons for olive trees dying. Check the trunk and roots for signs of life such as new shoots growing at the base or on the branches. The trunk should be greenish on the inside and the roots should be firm and pliable. This site has specific instructions and images for checking for signs of life on an olive tree. Also ensure that the saucer that the pot is sitting in has good drainage. Further, the plant may need to be potted up to a bigger container with some additional potting soil.

Here’s some general advice about how best to grow an olive tree indoors from a previous Toronto Master Gardeners post (Please note: all previous posts are searchable by using the search bar on our website).

You should follow this advice over the next while to see if the tree perks up:

“Make sure [your olive tree] gets at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. Ensure the leaves do not touch the window glass, as this can burn them. And keep them away from heat vents and radiators. Fill a large container half full with a potting mix that drains well, e.g., one that contains sand. Place the tree in the container and add potting mix, making sure it is planted no deeper than in the original pot. Water thoroughly. Check the soil periodically and water thoroughly when the soil is dry to a depth of 2.5 cm (1 inch) – check with your finger. Be patient with the olive tree, it will grow slowly during the autumn and winter, don’t overwater! But don’t let the soil dry out completely, either.”

Best of luck!