How to Grow Russian Olive Trees From Seed

Updated June 26, 2017

Russian olive trees grow to a height near 40 feet, forming a shrubby, carefree growth that resembles a large bush. These trees produce clusters of berry-type fruits that provide food for wildlife and birds. The narrow leaves appear a dull shade of green along its thorny branches. Considered a noxious weed in some states, Russian olive trees thrive in many areas of the Great Plains, as well as several western states and the Great Basin Desert. This aggressive tree grows naturally from seeds formed within the fruits.

Collect ripe Russian olive fruits from healthy specimens in the late summer and the early fall. Look for fleshy fruits that seem almost ready to fall. Avoid picking ones that contain small spots or pits or other damage.

Place your harvested fruits on a screen to dry. Keep them in a single layer and do not allow them to touch one another. Place this in a warm, dry area until the outer skin dries and shrivels. Depending on your climate, this process can take one to three weeks.

Remove your dried fruits from the screen. Place them in a paper bag and fold down the top of the bag. Staple the bag shut to avoid losing any seeds. Place the bag in your refrigerator at a temperature near 5 degrees C. Allow the seeds to remain undisturbed for at least 90 days.

Place your frozen fruits on a counter, allowing them to reach room temperature. Mix equal amounts of clean sand and potting soil to form a loose medium. Fill your biodegradable seed pots with your soil mixture. Set two dried, thawed fruits in the centre of each pot. Press them about 1/2 inch below the surface of the soil. Cover with surrounding soil and tamp down gently, removing excess air from the loose soil. Apply enough water to moisten the soil throughout your seed pots.

Set your seed pots on a warm, sunny windowsill to germinate. Keep the soil slightly moist while the seeds begin to germinate and grow. Thin the seedlings when they reach 3 to 4 inches tall. Leave only the strongest seedling in each pot.

Transplant your young trees outside after the final frost in the spring. Place these trees far away from other trees and plants or provide a barrier around their aggressive roots. Keep the soil slightly damp near the roots during the first season of growth. Russian olive trees seldom require supplemental watering beyond their first year of growth.

Things You'll Need

  • Screen
  • Paper bag
  • Refrigerator
  • Sand
  • Potting soil
  • Biodegradable seed pots
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About the Author

Piper Li, a professional freelance writer, began writing in 1989. Her articles appear online at Biz Mojo, Walden University and various other websites. She is the co-editor for "Kansas Women: Focus on Health." With a bachelor's degree in journalism from Mesa State, Li enjoys writing about health, horticulture and business management.