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What are the Best Tips for Planting Olive Trees?

By Christina Edwards
Updated May 16, 2024
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An olive tree, or Olea europaea, is an evergreen tree native to many parts of the Mediterranean region. Planting olive trees can be done using either seeds, known as pits, or seedlings sold in pots at most nurseries. Olive trees planted from seeds may not produce much fruit, though, if any. These trees must be planted in the right type of climate and soil, and special care should be taken during planting and during the first few years for the tree to thrive.

As olive trees are native to the Mediterranean, they prefer milder climates. Warm, sunny regions are best, and planting olive trees in wet regions or where the temperature drops below 15 degrees F (-7 degrees C) is not recommended. Also, these types of trees have a shallow root system, and areas with frequent periods of high winds may not be the best place to plant an olive tree. The winds can uproot the tree and, possibly, cause the fruit to drop too early, resulting in a poor crop.

Olive trees can often grow in a variety of soil types. It is believed that mildly fertile soil is best, though. The soil should be well-draining because these trees prefer a somewhat dry environment.

When planting olive trees from a pot, the hole should be dug approximately the same size as the pot. Without disturbing the root ball too much, roots that are tangled or circling the outside of the root ball should be untwisted or cut, and the tree can be placed in the hole just below the surface. It is recommended that the root system be placed no more than 1 inch (2.5 cm) below the surface, and the root ball should fit snugly into the hole.

To ensure proper growth, many experts agree that pruning and shaping of the tree should be kept to a minimum in the first few years. One strong main trunk should be left, along with five or ten of the strongest top branches. If, after planting olive trees, they seem to lean or fall over, the top branches can be pruned, or they can be staked until they are able to stay upright.

Watering olive trees is recommended until the tree is established. To ensure that the trees are not over watered, gardeners can install a drip irrigation system. After new growth begins to appear on the trees, they do not need to be watered as much. Gardeners can then gradually reduce the amount of water given to the trees and, afterward, only water them during dry spells.

If a gardener is planting olive trees simply for the crop, to make olive oil, for example, more than one tree would be ideal. Depending on a number of factors, an average olive tree will produce between 10 and 500 pounds (4.5 to 227 kg) of olives each season, and it takes roughly 40 pounds (18 kg) of olives to make 1 gallon (3.8 l) of oil. Younger trees will generally produce fewer olives. If a person is planning to produce a few gallons of olive oil, a small olive tree garden is usually preferred. In this case, many experts agree that the trees should be placed no less than 20 feet (6 m) apart to allow for maximum growth.

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Discussion Comments
By Sporkasia — On Apr 25, 2014

I have a friend who grew up in a cold weather climate. She always said that if she ever moved to a place where the weather would accommodate them, she was going to plant olive trees. Well, she did eventually get to a place where the temperatures were warm year around, and she planted her trees.

Everything went well and my friend was happy with her new trees until they began to produce fruit. She had failed to take into consideration what would happen when the olives starting falling from the trees. What happened was the olives fell and splattered on her driveway and concrete parking spots, leaving dark stains.

By Feryll — On Apr 25, 2014

@Animandel - In addition to California, Olive trees thrive in other areas of the United States as well. Though the olives are not a major cash crop in Hawaii, olive trees are grown in the state and the climate throughout much of Hawaii is ideal for the growing of these trees.

Also, as you might imagine, olive trees can thrive in much of the state of Florida. Northern Florida can get a bit cold for the trees, but olives are a big commercial item in the state as a whole.

By Animandel — On Apr 24, 2014

While the olive tree is more at home in the Mediterranean, the trees have been grown in the United States in California since the 18th century.

My family often vacationed in and drove through California when I was a kid. I can remember seeing the trees growing in the valley regions along the coast of California when we were driving.

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