The olive tree, also called Olea europaea L., is a native plant of the Mediterranean, Asia and Africa. It is an evergreen in warm, dry regions and can be grown outdoors. Pruning potted olive trees is done mostly to shape the plant and maintain a short height. The olive is an avid grower and springs back quickly from even severe pruning.
Wait until the early summer when the flower blossoms appear on the olive tree to prune. In addition, the tree should be at least 4 years old.
Prune any small horizontal suckers or twigs growing from the lower section of the olive tree trunk as close to the trunk as possible, using hand pruners. Prune off all suckers to the point where you want the lowest branch to be.
Hold back one of the branches near the middle region of the tree and examine at the inner branches of the olive tree. Identify branches rubbing against other branches and branches that grow down or at awkward angles. Cut them off as close to the trunk as possible, using a pruning saw.
Cut off one or two of the tallest branches 15 to 30 cm (6 to 12 inches) below the desired height of the tree, using a pruning saw or loppers for thinner branches. Do not remove more than one-third of the vertical stems.
Prune off the tips of some of the branches that have a large number of blossoms. Remove no more than one-third of the flowers, using hand pruners.
The ideal height for most olive trees is 1.2 to 1.5 m (4 to 5 feet), although you can keep it shorter if desired. Pruning potted olive trees must be done annually to control growth. If desired, you can prune off all of the flower buds to prevent the tree from producing any olives for that season.