Things You'll Need
Fruitless olive trees tolerate heavy pruning without suffering any damage or delayed growth.
Olive trees typically hail from the Mediterranean and produce small edible berries that are slightly bitter in taste. For gardeners and home owners who desire the look of an olive tree without the actual fruit, there are fruitless varieties, such as Hills of Santa Cruz and Majestic Beauty. Trimming these olive trees is similar to pruning fruit-bearing olive trees, except there is no trimming or shaping to increase bud development or fruit harvest.
Wait until the winter months when the fruitless olive tree is dormant and has dropped all of its leaves. Pruning during this period allows you to inspect the branching pattern of the limbs better than when they are covered in foliage.
Look down near the base of the fruitless olive tree trunk and follow it upward to locate any suckers. Suckers are small twigs that will eventually turn into branches. Cut each sucker off 1/8 to 1/4 inch from the trunk using hand pruners.
Examine each of the branches closely for signs that they are dead, such as black or dark coloring or visibly broken areas. Prune off all of these damaged branches by placing a pruning saw 1/4 inch from the trunk and sawing downward until the limb detaches.
Look for limbs that have grown too long and are touching other trees, impeding walking areas or touching buildings. Cut these branches off 1/4 inch away from the tree truck using the pruning saw.
Stand back and examine the overall height of the fruitless olive tree to decide if you are happy with it. If a lower height is desired, cut the vertical branches back to any desired height using a pruning saw. Use a ladder if needed to reach the branches safely, and slope the cuts down from the top of the canopy along the sides so that the top of the tree is not flat.
Kimberly Johnson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in various online publications including eHow, Suite101 and Examiner. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and began writing professionally in 2001.