Olive trees are beautiful as ornamental additions to many landscapes, growing quite well in a variety of soil types and climates, or can be grown for their fruit by the gardener who lives in an area with the proper climatic conditions. If planting olive trees for production, planting two or more is best, as cross pollination is necessary for many varieties to be fruitful. Olive trees are most productive in areas with hot, dry summers and milder winter weather. Hard freezes or prolonged cold spells can be quite damaging, reducing or eliminating the production of olives for the season. However, given the proper conditions and a great deal of nurturing and patience, olive trees can produce an abundance of fruit, and home gardeners who live in less than ideal climates can grow dwarf varieties in containers, allowing them to be moved for protection against harsh weather. Read on to learn how to grow olive trees.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
Understand that propagation of olive trees is most commonly done with hardwood cuttings, which are cuttings taken from mature branches, rather than new growth. Cuttings should be taken from a mature and fruitful tree by cutting a 12- to18-inch length of a branch that is one to three inches in diameter and two seasons old. Treat the cuttings with rooting hormone, then plant them in a lightweight potting medium. Keep the soil moist to promote root growth, but not soaking wet, as excessive moisture can cause tender new roots to mould or rot.
Once roots are established and your young olive trees have begun to grow, transplanting them outdoors is the next step. Choose a location for your young olive trees that is in full sun, especially if fruit is your goal, and be sure to avoid areas where fallen fruit can be a nuisance, such as near sidewalks or patios that could be stained. Olive trees will thrive in most any type of soil with a pH between 5 and 8.5, so long as it is well drained. Olive trees do best with unrestricted root growth, so be sure to loosen the soil in the area in which they will be planted. Add a bit of compost to the soil to give it nitrogen boost, as olive trees grow and produce best in nitrogen rich soil. Then, place your young olive trees, tamp soil gently around the roots to be sure no air pockets are left in the soil, and water thoroughly.
Stake your young olive trees to support them until they have developed a root system capable of anchoring them firmly. During dry periods, water them deeply once a month. Olive trees are drought resistant, but fruit can be affected by excessively dry conditions. Olive trees grown from cuttings can be expected to produce fruit within four years.