Enthusiasts have the choice of several varieties of olive trees to train and grown as bonsai trees. Softwood olive trees train easily due to the flexible nature of their wood, and softwood varieties produce black, green, Mediterranean and even wild olives. The key to training an olive tree to grow as a bonsai lies in starting small and making minor adjustments to the tree's shape over time. So long as you trim the olive tree yearly and don't let the root ball grow excessively, the tree will remain small enough to keep in a pot or planter.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
Things you need
- Olive cutting or seedling
- Rooting powder (optional)
- Bonsai soil with a high sand content
- Raffia fibre
- Scissors or gardening sheers
Take a cutting from a softwood olive tree that is several inches in length or select a softwood olive seedling that is several inches tall. If starting from a cutting, apply rooting powder to the base of the cutting and keep it in soil until roots develop.
Place the rooted cutting or seedling in a planter filled with bonsai soil that has a high sand content. Olive trees grow in arid environments, and too much moisture will prove detrimental to the tree; the sand aids in drainage and ensures that the soil will stay damp but not become overly saturated.
Secure the olive cutting or seedling with raffia, a natural fibre taken from the leaves of certain palm trees. Wire doesn't work on softwood olive trees, as it will cut onto the wood, so raffia allows you to shape your bonsai without damaging the tree. Use two strands of raffia, looping them around the base of the tree from opposite directions and then tying them to holes in the edge of the planter.
Bend the cutting or seedling slightly in the direction you want it to grow, using additional raffia to secure it. Do not force the olive tree to bend too much; a gentle bend can be adjusted over time to sculpt the tree in the exact manner you want.
Place the planter with your olive cutting or seedling in a location where it will receive full sun. Keep the soil watered enough that it remains damp, but do not overwater.
Adjust the raffia fibres every month as needed to aid the tree's growth. Making a small adjustment each month helps you to train the tree to grow in the direction you want without putting undue stress on the tree or damaging it.
Repot the olive tree each fall, trimming back the root ball as needed and trimming the developing branches to achieve the tree shape you desire.
Tips and warnings
- Bonsai olive trees typically produce olives in the late summer to early fall.
- If you keep your olive bonsai outside, bring it in before the first frost of the year as extreme low temperatures and frost can damage or kill the tree.
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