If booking your dream Mediterranean vacation isn’t on the cards this very minute, rest assured, you can still invite the seaside lifestyle into your own home. Replicate the charm of those tiny villas scattered across the hillsides of Greece with your very own indoor olive tree. We turned to the wisdom of Greg Salmeri, owner of Rolling Greens Nursery, to learn all there is to know about caring for indoor olive trees.
Meet the Expert
Greg Salmeri is the co-owner of Rolling Greens Nursery, a new type of full-service gardening store in LA. Salmeri is also a well-respected landscape designer.
With the right environment, these majestic shrubs can be extremely easy to care for—just think of the dry regions they naturally call home. However, at the end of the day, olive trees are not really intended as indoor plants; they are a fruit tree that needs pollination like any other. Salmeri tells us that these hearty trees can prosper indoors for a few years, but following his tips is key.
Keep Positioning in Mind
Olive trees can be a little contradictory. They need sun, but never too much sun, as just like us, they can get a sunburn. Salmeri tells us that the most important thing to note before bringing home your new olive tree is that these plants need sunlight, air, and movement. If you are living in an apartment that receives no natural rays, this might not be the best choice for you. However, if your olive plant can be placed near a window that can open for a bit of air, you have the potential to healthily promote growth for a few years at least.
Wash Your Tree Every Few Months
If possible, Salmeri says your olive tree plant should be taken outside once every few months and washed down completely to include the underside of the leaves where pests accumulate. This will also allow it some fresh air.
Do not allow your tree to be in direct sunlight while outside. “Put it in a shady area so it won’t burn," Salmeri says.
Olive trees are accustomed to hot, dry climates where water isn’t available for months, so Salmeri cautions that you never want to overwater your olive tree. "Allow it to dry out between waterings and test the soil with your finger to get a sense for when water is needed," he says. "Fully dry soil means it’s safe to grab the watering can. If it’s slightly damp, wait until it dries. Your olive tree will communicate when it needs water through its soil."
It's also a good idea to really drench the soil with a water hose and let all the excess water run out of the bottom. "This allows the plant to get rid of built-up, salts, and chemicals in the water and the soil," he adds. If you still aren’t sure, follow Salmeri’s rule of thumb. “Feed Olive trees about once every three weeks during the warmer months and once every month during the colder months,” he says.
Prune Every Four Months
If you seek that sculptural shape in your tree, Salmeri suggests pruning your olive tree about once every four months, “especially during the spring growing season,” he says. "This helps them to keep their shape and not get too 'leggy,' as the industry calls it."