Growing Olive Trees is the Pits!

Not Really, I Just Couldn’t Resist Making a Lame Joke.

Growing olive trees is an easy and beautiful option for those in USDA zone 8 and warmer. Olea europaea trees grow to 30 feet under favorable conditions but can be kept smaller by pruning or by planting in pots.

Olive tree growing inside the conservatory at Longwood Gardens PA.

They are grown both as an ornament and for the savory fruit they produce. The evergreen 3 inch leaves are a dull green on top–silvery gray underneath. When the wind blows, this coloring creates a wonderful shimmering effect.

Olive trees produce panicles of fragrant white flowers during the summer months.

The small tubular blossoms are followed by fruit which will stain any concrete surface it falls onto.

If you plan on growing olive trees to shade a patio, prune them just after they bloom to keep most of the fruit from being produced.

The fruit is an oily drupe.
Olive tree trunks are usually twisted or lumpy. The bark develops surface cracks with age.

These natives of the Mediterranean appreciate a well-drained and sandy soil in full sun. This is especially important if you want quality fruit. The trees can fruit in a greenhouse, even when restricted in pots.

Buy Trees Here

Koroneiki Olive TreeArbequina Olive TreeOlive, Hardy

Pruning Olive Trees

Picture of an olive tree growing indoors at a botanical garden.

Olive trees can be grown with one or multiple trunks. They are attractive either way so it’s just a matter of personal taste. Untrained, they tend to grow into shrubs. To turn Olea europaea into an attractive tree, you need to direct its early growth.

To grow a tree with a single trunk:

Order a Gift Olive in a 4″ Clay Washpot

Begin with a young tree that only has one trunk. Rub off all sprouts that form on the trunk. Pull basal sprouts out rather than cutting them as pulling is more likely to remove the sprout’s base.

You can apply a sprouting inhibitor to keep these sprouts from forming.

To grow a tree with several trunks:

Olive Tree Growing in the Forest


New trees can be started by digging and moving suckers, taking cuttings or planting the pits.

Olive seed germination is slow and erratic.

Begin with a young tree with a few strong main stems arising from the soil. These will become your tree’s trunks.  Select 3-5 of the strongest of these and remove all others.   Cut back all the side branches growing off the selected trunks by one third of their current length to encourage upward growth of the main stems.

Rapidly growing olive trees will fill out and form interesting heads naturally. Once your tree has become established, all you will need to do is an annual thinning.

As with any tree, remove all dead, broken or crossing wood. Then, thin the canopy to reveal the beautiful branch structure the first year. To maintain it in subsequent years, continue to limb the tree up as it grows taller.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.