European olive strange behaviour

I own an olive bonsai, about 20 years old, that started to act very strange.
Background: tree was always kept outside during spring/summer/first half of autumn, spent winters indoors, room temp, 22-24 celsius(72-75f), good lighting.
The whole year the tree was 100% stagnant. Not a leaf grew, not a leaf was lost. No new growth of any kind.
As it started to get cold, I moved it inside, in a new plant room, with very good lighting, temp around 22-24 celsius(72-75f).
Kept it’s watering routine.
About a week ago the tree simply exploded with new growth, massive number of leaves started to pop all over the branches.
But it also started to drop leaves. A lot. I would say that for every 3 new leaves, it dropped 1 old leaf. Leaves that fall are dry, dark green. Not brown/yellow.
I am unsure what exactly is going on with it, behaviour seems strange.
Tree looks healthy oveall but…
Any thoughts on the matter?

I had an olive that lost half its leaves one year then exploded with new growth a few weeks later and I thought that was strange. I am guessing it has something to do with light (indoor environment). The reason I say that, my tree got better when I improved the natural sunlight my tree was getting, but I live in Southern California so I can keep my tree outside year round. Not sure if this really helps you but some food for thought.

Thanks for the reply.
That’s the thing, my tree was stagnant in full sun and became alive in late autumn, when inside.
The leaves dropping does not concern me much, except that it’s doing it while growing new leaves like mad.
It’s acting like it’s spring and autumn at the same time…

Hi @Brutus
Where are you growing? Do you have any pictures? When did you last repot?

I live in Romania, temperate continental climate.
Was repoted about 2 years ago.
Substrate drains well, made mostly of lava rock. Room is rather dry also.
Here are some pics.
Sry for the mess behind the tree, room used to be a storage, did not have time to move all the stuff out…

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Thanks @Brutus,
I don’t have any experience with olive, but I understand they are tough.
Perhaps there was something missing to trigger growth? It is a little concerning that it is popping now. I would try to let it rebuild its strength and keep my fingers crossed.

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Yeah, not much I can think of either…
Was hoping someone else might have encountered the problem and might have some tips.
I’ll reduce the light intensity and shorten the schedule, nothing else I can do.
Thank you.

Hi Brutus , just read your post on your olive. I see your soil is mostly red lava which although free draining is likely to be too acidic for olives which grow naturally on more alkaline soils so a high concentration of pumice in your mix could be part of the answer. For a comprehensive article on growing olives , Google " growing the olive as a bonsai tree " written by Graham Potter of Kaizen Bonsai in the UK . You may well find all the information you need. Good luck. Kev.

I will give it a good read, thank you!

You say that you moved the tree indoors as the weather was cooling outside. My guess is that the tree was getting ready to go dormant in a cool damp autumn and you moved it into a warm dry environment and now it thinks it is spring. I have had olive bonsai for many years. For the past 15 years I have lived in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains where we get a little snow every winter. My olives are fine outdoors down to about 25 F. I has on occasion gone down to 13 F. If I know it is going to go below 25 F I cover the trees and fill a gallon jug with hot water and set it next to the tree. None of mine have died being out all winter.

Temps here drop way under 13F in winter, keeping it outside is not an option. The tree has never seen winter in it’s 20 or so years, the guy who had it before me used to keep it indoors as soon as temps got to 51F. Don’t think the tree would survive a romanian winter, after 20 years of being pampered like small a child :slight_smile:
The main issue I see is the fact that it was fully stagnant the whole year even tho it was kept in full sun, got fert properly, was taken care of. And now, that autumn hit, it simply exploded with growth.
Yes, being inside might make it think it’s spring but why only this year? And why stagnant for the whole year?

I am as mystified as you are. I know olives hang on to their leaves for a long time. The fact that the dying leaves turn dark brown or black quickly instead of going gradually yellow suggests some pathology. The fact that there is a lot of new growth is a good sign. I would keep on with your currant program and hope for the best.

HI there Brutus,

I’m from South Africa and we work with plenty of Olea Africana. This is quite normal especially after a severe repot. We say that it sulks and it can sulk for years and then suddenly just pop out with new growth. Olives are tough as nails, even when you think that they may be dead there is usually still life there. Just give them time.

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Came with an update, in case it might be of use to anyone else.
After much consideration, I decided the only thing left to do is move it in a pot with better substrate.
And so I did.
2 days later… it exploded with new shoots, new growth everywhere, no more foliage loss, tree is happy as a pig in mud.
So I can only conclude that it was indeed the soil that was bothering the tree. It was not pot bound, nor was it soggy/too wet, just hated the substrate.
Thanks again for all the input.