Olive tree losing leaves – House Plant Journal

Olive tree losing leaves

Plant: Olive tree

How long have you had the plant? 1 to 6 months


I’ve noticed that the leaves are falling a lot. I don’t know if I’m over or under watering, and not sure how to tell. It started happening when I first got her but seems more leaves are falling recently. The plant is growing still.

Light Situation: near my windows getting about 3 hours of direct sun plus using a grow light set to 8 hours a day.

The grow light is: LORDEM Grow Light for Indoor Plants, Full Spectrum Plant Light with Auto Timer, 72 LEDs

How do you determine WHEN to water: I follow the schedule I was told/researched for this plant – once a week.

Describe HOW you water: I pour a small amount of water onto the soil.

What fertilizer do you use? I have never used fertilizer.

Soil situation: I have the plant in a giant pot for the size. I know it’s excessive but google told me I needed this size and I didn’t realize how big it was until it came. It’s 12 inches in diameter.

Darryl’s Analysis

Thanks for all the photos and care details.  While I’ve never grown an olive tree myself, my research indicates that the plant needs “Full Sun” (6 or more hours of outdoor direct sun) to grow thick and lush.  If you’re attempting to grow it indoors, the plant would need to be right in front of a very large, sunny window – seeing direct sun for as long as possible (4-6 hours of direct sun).

From your current position, you indicated it’s getting 3 hours of direct sun but this is unlikely given the distance and angle the plant is sitting relative to your windows.

Now about the grow light you’re using – it is set much too far away from the plant to be of any use.  Correctly setting up a grow light REQUIRES a light meter (or that you follow the grow light manufacturers specifications exactly).  For this plant, I would set the grow light close enough so the reading at the top of the plant is 1000 to 2000 FC and to be kept on for 16 hours a day.

The specifications of this grow light aren’t even correctly stated by the manufacturer (which happens a lot) – see below:

The light strength must be stated with a distance, otherwise you won’t know how far away to place the light to achieve the stated strength.  In this case, they’re using lux – so in FC, they’re saying this light will produce about 100 to 800 FC, but they don’t say what distance will get you 800 FC.

If you want to understand how to use grow lights effectively, read this article.

While the speed of growth and survival is dictated by light, the lushness (foliar density) is dictated by soil nutrients.  You said you never used fertilizer, which means the soil nutrients have been slowly depleting over the past few months and lower leaves continually fall off.  If you improve the light and regularly use fertilizer, the plant will hold on to as many leaves as possible (you’ll still lose leaves but hopefully at a slower rate).

My fertilizer recommendations: HERE

Losing older leaves is inevitable, which is why it’s unhelpful to correlate it with under or overwatering.  If you want to get out of this trap of believing “leaves tell you if something is wrong”, my book and online course teach a more enjoyable and smarter approach to houseplant care.

• ASK ME about one plant
• 30-Minute Consultation (for lots of plants)

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