Olive trees are a beautiful addition to your summer garden and even though they can take between three and five years to bear their first fruit, it’s something of an enjoyable challenge for hobby gardeners. However, one of the main problems for olive trees is that they are used to living in warmer, drier climates. In the UK, winter can be pretty extreme, and here, younger trees might not survive. What’s surprising is that it isn’t so much the cold that will harm the tree (although it certainly won’t do it any favours) but more the moisture levels. In fact, what a lot of people don’t realise is that if the air is dry, these hardy trees can manage down to between -8 and -12ºc! But of course, that’s not something you want to risk. So, if you want to grow olives, you’ll need to know how to wrap an olive tree for winter.

How to Wrap an Olive Tree for Winter UK
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What is an Olive Tree?

The olive tree was originally cultivated in Mediterranean regions and there is evidence to suggest that humans have been making use of the fruit as far back as 3000 BC! These evergreen plants are pretty hardy, and they do need cooler temperatures during the winter. But too much of a good thing and you’ll find that frost damage becomes a problem.

During the spring, olive trees need a lot of sunlight in order to blossom and what’s great is that they can be grown both in the ground and in pots.

Young Potted Olive Tree
Young Potted Olive Tree

How To Wrap An Olive Tree For Winter

Wrapping an olive tree will provide the best level of protection against frost and excessive moisture.

What You Need

  • Horticultural fleece (Amazon link – opens in a new tab) or burlap
  • Twine or sturdy string
  • Scissors
  • (Optional) Bubble wrap for potted trees
  • (Optional) Straw or mulch for added insulation

1 – Choose the Right Time

Begin wrapping your olive tree when consistent cold weather is forecasted, typically late autumn or early winter.

2 – Clean and Prune

Remove any dead or diseased branches from the tree. This helps in ensuring the tree’s health and makes the wrapping process easier.

3 – Water

2 to 3 days before any forecasted frost, water your olive tree well.

4 – Start with the Trunk

Begin at the base of the tree trunk and wrap the horticultural fleece or burlap around the trunk, working your way upwards. Ensure that each layer slightly overlaps the previous one for maximum protection.

5 – Secure the Wrapping

Use twine or sturdy string to tie the fleece or burlap in place at various points, ensuring it’s snug but not too tight.

6 – Protect the Canopy

Drape a larger piece of horticultural fleece over the top canopy of the tree. This will protect the leaves and branches from frost and cold winds.

7 – Secure the Top

Tie the fleece around the lower branches to keep it in place, ensuring that the entire canopy is covered.

8 – Additional Insulation (Optional)

For added protection during extremely cold periods, remove any weeds that may be there and place a layer of straw or mulch around the base of the tree. This helps insulate the roots as Kathy Low, U.C. Master Gardener, Solano County says “Bare soil radiates heat” and we don’t want that.

9 – Potted Trees

If your olive tree is in a pot, wrap the pot itself with bubble wrap or additional burlap. This provides extra insulation to the roots. Ensure there’s proper drainage to prevent waterlogging.

10 – Monitor the Weather

On warmer days, you can temporarily remove the wrapping to allow the tree to breathe and get sunlight. Always re-wrap the tree if cold temperatures or frost are expected.

11 – Unwrap in Spring

Once the threat of the last frost has passed in the spring, carefully unwrap your olive tree. This allows it to resume its normal growth and enjoy the warmer weather.

Note: Always monitor your wrapped tree throughout the winter to ensure the wrapping remains secure and the tree remains healthy. Adjust as necessary based on weather conditions.

How to Protect Potted Olive Tree in Winter

As well as wrapping, there are also other ways to keep your tree warm and dry during the winter season. One of the greatest things about growing an olive tree in a container is that you have the freedom to move it around. This means that it is possible to bring your tree indoors throughout the winter if you have the space to do so. Even if you can’t bring it into the house, a greenhouse or shed will be better than leaving it outdoors. You might also consider using bubble wrap to wrap the pot which will protect the roots and keep it out of the cold. If your tree is staying outside, placing the potted tree as close to a window as possible will allow it to share some of the heat from the house.

If your tree is planted in a terracotta pot, learn how to protect that too!

Can I Use Plastic to Wrap My Olive Tree?

Using plastic to wrap your olive tree is not recommended for several reasons:

  • Lack of Breathability: Plastic does not allow the tree to breathe. Trees, like all living organisms, need to respire. Wrapping them in plastic can suffocate them, leading to increased moisture retention, which can cause fungal diseases.
  • Temperature Fluctuations: Plastic can amplify temperature changes. On sunny days, even during winter, the sun can heat the plastic, causing the area inside to become much warmer than the surrounding environment. This can trick the tree into thinking it’s spring and start budding. When the temperature drops again at night, these buds can freeze and die.
  • Moisture Retention: Plastic can trap moisture against the tree’s bark. This can lead to rot, mould, and other fungal diseases. It can also provide a haven for pests.
  • Root Protection: The roots are the most vulnerable part of an olive tree during cold weather. Wrapping the trunk in plastic does not provide protection to the roots. If the tree is potted, the pot should be insulated, but again, plastic is not the best insulator for this purpose.
  • Environmental Concerns: Plastic is not biodegradable and can contribute to environmental pollution. Using organic materials like burlap or horticultural fleece is more environmentally friendly.
Olive Tree Brought Inside for Winter
Olive Tree Brought Inside for Winter

Conclusion

If you’ve lovingly grown an olive tree over the spring and summer months, the last thing you’re going to want is for it to deteriorate over the winter. The best way to protect the tree is by learning how to wrap an olive tree for winter. It’s as simple as wrapping it in a horticultural fleece which will keep out the cold and prevent too much moisture from getting to the tree.

Tips for How to Wrap an Olive Tree for Winter Infographic
Tips for How to Wrap an Olive Tree for Winter Infographic

Garden Doctor Tips

“Don’t expect your Olive Tree to fruit until it is at least 5 – 7 years old!”

“If you want your olive tree to fruit, it will need to get as much sun as possible!”

“In areas where the soil is heavy and clay-like, it’s important to add enough gravel so that water can drain away from the roots!”

“When winter sets in, we would recommend cutting back on how often you water the tree as overwatering will cause problems with the roots!”

Frequently Asked Questions

Are olive trees banned in UK?

No, olive trees are not banned in the UK. However, there are a number of laws and regulations that must be followed when importing or exporting plants, including olive trees. The Plant Trade Act 1971 sets out the rules for importing and exporting live plants by land, air or sea across any European state borders.

Do olive trees grow well in the UK?

Olive trees are subtropical trees, so they’ll do best in areas that have a Mediterranean climate. That said, there are olive trees that have been cultivated in the UK for hundreds of years, so it’s definitely possible to grow them in cooler climates if you provide them with enough warmth and sunlight.

Can I leave my olive tree outside in winter UK?

Olive trees can be left outside in winter UK if they are well-protected against the cold and snow with a layer of straw or similar material on the ground around them. It’s also advisable to cover any branches so they don’t get frozen into position by wind or precipitation.


Author

Trevor Wright is not just a seasoned horticulturist; he’s the esteemed Garden Doctor. With a BSc in Horticulture and years of hands-on experience in the soil, Trevor has become a trusted mentor for all things gardening. As the founder of Garden Doctor, he’s committed to clarifying the intricacies of gardening, offering straightforward advice that’s rooted in years of practice. His writing is a garden of how-tos, savvy insights, and comprehensive guides that enable individuals to nurture and grow their garden dreams. When he’s not knee-deep in garden beds, Trevor is at his keyboard passing on his green-thumbed wisdom to budding gardeners, ensuring that the legacy of sustainable and joyful gardening blossoms far and wide.


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