How to plant an olive tree

Planting Olive Trees - Stark Bro's

Successfully establishing a young olive tree starts with your planting site and method. Once established, it needs little assistance to grow and bear fruit; but you’ll want to make sure you give your tree the right foundation.

NOTE: This is part 4 in a series of 11 articles. For a complete background on how to grow olive trees, we recommend starting from the beginning.

Before you plant, check your soil pH. Contact your local County Extension Office for information about soil testing in your area, or purchase one of our digital meters for quick and accurate results. Olive trees need a pH level of 5.5 to 6.5. They grow well in almost any well-drained soil, but prefer deep, fertile soil with high moisture capacity.

Planting Site

  • Choose a site that is protected from wind and freezing weather and receives plenty of sunlight.
  • Olive trees don’t mind cooler temperatures, but they should not be allowed to experience freezing weather. If your outdoor temperatures do not support these requirements, your olive tree can be potted and moved indoors during the colder months. Overwinter your olive tree in a protected area where it is not exposed to freezing temperatures.

Planting Tips

  • Olive trees need to receive at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight. Full sun is ideal.
  • Spacing should be about 10 feet apart.
  • Dig the planting hole about the same size as the container.
  • Untwist or cut any circling roots; otherwise, disturb the root ball as little as possible.
  • Do not add soil mix, compost or fertilizer to the hole.
  • Fill the hole with the original soil and water thoroughly.
  • No pruning necessary at planting time.

Potting Your Olive Tree

  • Potted trees should be planted at the same depth they are in the shipping pot.
  • Choose a potting mix/medium rather than top soil to avoid any contaminants and avoid compacting around the roots within the container in the future.
  • When planting in a container, the pot you choose needs to be large enough to accommodate the tree’s current root system with room to grow. Be sure the container you use has adequate drainage holes.
  • In cool climates, keep protected until outdoor temperatures warm and the chance of frost is gone. Move the plant into a protected, sunny location, preferably with a southern exposure.
  • Water as needed, when the potting mix in the container is dry to the touch an inch or so below the surface. Avoid overwatering and watering too frequently, as this creates an environment for root rot and other root-related issues.
  • As your olive tree grows, you will be able to increase the pot size to allow for more room to grow. Restricting the roots in a smaller container may limit growth and fruit production.
  • By your tree’s second summer, you can plant it in a larger container, usually 16-20 inches in diameter. Refreshing the soil every one to three years will give you the opportunity to replenish soil nutrients and encourage healthier growth in your olive tree.

NEXT: Soil Preparation for Olive Trees

Previous: Choosing a Location for Olive Trees

In This Series

  • Introduction
Getting Started
  • Acclimate
  • Location
  • Planting
  • Soil Preparation
Care & Maintenance
  • Fertilizing
  • Pest & Disease Control
  • Pruning
  • Spraying
  • Watering
Other Topics
  • Harvesting

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Planting Olive Trees - Olives

These recommendations are intended as a guide only.  Soil types and climate vary and must be taken into consideration on a specific site basis. We support and encourage sustainable growing practices.

Extreme cold is not compatible with olive production. Although olives do require some chilling for fruit set—about 200 hours of winter temperatures below 45º F—the University of California guidelines state that temperatures below 22º F can kill young trees and cause branch die back on older trees. Mature trees are said to be at risk at temperatures below 15º F.

There are many variables in cold tolerance, including the olive variety, the severity of temperature fluctuations and how much water the tree has in its tissues. Microclimates can also be critical when temperatures are low, so avoid frost pockets and stagnant areas. Cold temperatures, or extremely hot and windy conditions, during bloom in April or May can also be a problem, causing poor fruit set. In the Fall and Winter before harvest, temperatures below about 29º F will freeze the fruit and cause defective flavors in olive oil.

Olive trees can thrive in a fairly wide variety of soil conditions with one important exception: they are completely intolerant of poor drainage. Waterlogged soil probably causes the death of more olive trees than anything else. Soils with a moderately high clay content are not completely off limits, but you must improve drainage by planting on a hillside or on a berm. A soil test will reveal any nutrient deficiencies or toxicities in a particular location. Olive oil production does not benefit from first-rate soil; modest fertility will produce the best olive oil. One other important issue when selecting a site is the cropping history of the location. Olive trees are susceptible to verticillium wilt. If the field has been planted in tomatoes, cotton, peppers or any other verticillium susceptible crop, the soil should be tested for the presence of this pathogen.

Newly planted olive trees will do best if they are well watered. Even though olives are famously drought tolerant when established, they will be more attractive and productive if they receive regular, deep watering–especially when young. Your soil type will have a big impact on water needs, so monitor your irrigation carefully; you want to give the trees adequate water but it is critical to avoid “wet feet.”  When the trees are first planted, be sure to place a drip emitter close to the trunk so that the root ball of the tree is being watered. As the tree grows, however, you want to move the drip emitters away from the trunk to encourage the roots to spread. The majority of any tree’s roots are at the drip line of the canopy, so don’t crowd the emitters close to the trunk.

Pruning and training
In general, olive trees should not be pruned much for the first four or five years. The more foliage an olive tree has, the more energy it produces, so you don’t want to remove growth when the tree is getting established. The primary objective in the early pruning is training the olive tree to a single trunk if desired.   To do this, remove suckers and large branches that develop below about three feet on the trunk. It is not necessary to strip the lower trunk completely during the first few years, but cut back any substantial branches to eight inches so that they don’t compete with the main trunk.  At four or five years you can do the first major pruning to open up the center of the tree and create a good scaffold.

Dig a hole that is one-and-a-half to two times the diameter of the container. Pay close attention to the soil level when you plant an olive tree; you want the final soil level of the planted tree to be at the same place as the ground level was in the container. Don’t dig the hole too deep or you can have problems with the tree sinking—this allows water to pool around the crown of the tree and can cause disease problems. Plant the tree a little bit high to allow for settling.

Weed management
Controlling competition from weeds will make a big difference for your newly planted olive trees. There are many ways to manage weeds, but be sure to do it. One of the easiest and most attractive options is a thick layer of organic mulch around the tree. Keep mulch a few inches away from the tree trunk to avoid trapping moisture at the crown. Poor weed management will stunt the growth of your trees.

We recommend:

1.  Use of sea kelp products, specifically liquid extracts of Ascophillum nodosum.
When the first irrigation after transplanting is made with a 1:500 solution of liquid kelp, the transplant shock will be greatly diminished and the trees will receive an excellent dose of a wide range of micronutrients contained in the kelp.
If you anticipate temperatures low enough to cause tree damage, an irrigation and/or a foliar application of liquid kelp solution is recommended.  An abundance of potassium ions and other elements in the plant tissue will increase the plant’s resistance to freezing at threshold temperatures.

2.  Use of organic mulches to reduce soil moisture evaporation and enhance soil biological activity.
A three to five inch layer of these materials applied under the trees will significantly reduce water evaporation from the soil’s surface,  suppress germination of weed seeds, and will slowly decay, providing a source of carbon—food for microorganisms in the soil.  Since olive trees thrive on free calcium, applications of lime (mined lime, oyster shell lime, dolomite, or gypsum depending on soil needs). The lime should be sprinkled under the trees at the label rate and then covered with the organic mulch.  Mycronized or very finely ground rock (basalt, granite, other igneous rock) can be used in the same manner.

How to grow an olive tree at home



Modest-looking olives contain a storehouse of nutrients - essential amino acids, B vitamins, mineral elements, and vitamins A and E. In addition, fruits contribute to the synthesis of digestive enzymes, improve food digestion and take care of the intestinal microflora. Many women in practice have appreciated the ability of olives to maintain skin elasticity, hair shine and nails strength. So it’s worth trying to grow an olive tree: even if it does not bear many fruits, it will at least delight with its greenery.

Roberta Sorge/Unsplash

Which variety to choose for planting

Olive crops are divided into three conditional groups. The fruits of oil trees , as the name suggests, are suitable exclusively for the production of oil (they are not recommended for consumption due to their specific taste). Combined varieties are used both for cooking and for the production of oil. But table olives after harvest can be served as a snack. Such trees are recommended to be grown at home. Choose varieties such as Della Madonna, Razzo, Sabina, as well as Urtinsky or Nikitinsky variety. And do not count on rich harvests - on average, one tree can bring about 500-600 grams of olives. But, as they say, yours!

Polina Tankilevitch/Pexels

How to plant an olive tree

There are two ways to grow a young olive tree. The first is time-consuming - to sprout a tree from a stone. To do this, it will be necessary to separate it from the pulp and soak in an alkaline solution for a day (the alkali will soften the bone so that it is easier for the embryo to break through). After the workpiece is washed and planted to a depth of 1-2 centimeters in a small pot with ordinary soil. Next, you should be patient: the first shoots with enough light and heat may appear in 3-4 months.

Milada Vigerova/Unsplash

An easier option is rooting the cutting. Cuttings 3 mm thick and 20 cm long are cut from 2-4 summer shoots, and then soaked in a growth stimulator for several hours. After that, they are transferred to a container with water and wait for the roots to appear, and then planted in the ground. When the first shoots appear, the plant is recommended to be covered with a film or glass. From this moment, the so-called rooting process begins: for 4 months, the cuttings should be kept warm and periodically give them a “tropical rain”. After this period, the young plant is planted in a permanent habitat.

Yves Cedric Schulze/Unsplash

Olive Care

The olive tree can grow in any soil, as long as it is not too acidic. Young plants in the first years of life need a lot of light, and mature trees prefer partial shade. What olives never have enough of is water: the soil should always be slightly damp. Usually the plant is watered once a week. Pruning of the olive tree is carried out annually - weak branches are cut in such a way as to form a spherical crown. And every 2-3 years, as the tree grows, it is transplanted into a wider tub.

Polina Kholodova/Pexels


remove old shoots. It will take about ten years for a tree “from the stone” to bear fruit, but sprouted cuttings will be able to please olives on a branch in 2-4 years.

Photo of
Gary Barnes/Pexels

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  • Plants in the interior

How to grow an olive tree at home

On the windowsill Author Julia Volkova

Perhaps no other tree in the world has been as popular as the olive tree. This is a real cult plant for the inhabitants of the Mediterranean and not only. A dove carrying an olive branch is considered a universally recognized symbol of peace for many peoples of the planet and is used as an emblem in peacekeeping organizations.

Olive tree is one of the most ancient fruit crops, it is repeatedly mentioned in biblical parables and ancient Greek myths. The history and life of the Mediterranean peoples is inextricably linked with it. It is used in the food industry for the manufacture of oil and preservation, used in medical and cosmetic products, in inlay and wood carving, in the fight against landslides and soil erosion.

The olive is also valued for its decorative effect of silvery foliage by designers who are working on creating a Mediterranean style in the interior or landscape. Trees in tubs decorate courtyards and terraces, create miniature trees - bonsai. For room culture, special varieties were bred and exotic lovers can grow a real olive tree.

Olive leaves

Characteristics and varieties

Olive tree or European olive ( Olea europaea ) is an evergreen tree of the Olive family ( Oleaceae ) from 4 to 12 m in height. This plant is a real long-liver. Some specimens are known that grow for about 2 thousand or more years.

The twisted trunk and long knotted branches of the tree are covered with gray bark. Light green with a silver tint, narrow-lanceolate leaves do not fall off in autumn and stay on the tree for up to two years. It blooms from mid-spring to mid-summer with small, fragrant bisexual flowers, which are collected 10-40 pieces in cream or milky inflorescences.

Flowering olive tree

After four months, the first fruits begin to ripen. These are oblong-shaped drupes about 4 cm long. Covered with a wax coating, they are green, dark purple or black - the color depends on the plant variety.

Important: The tree begins to actively yield after 20 years of age. Fruiting occurs every two years.

The olive is cultivated in Mediterranean countries and in areas with similar climatic conditions. The most famous manufacturing countries are Greece and Italy.

Of more than 30 species of this plant, only European olive is grown in agriculture. Its varieties were divided into groups depending on the application:

  • table - with large, fleshy fruits used for conservation, salting and pickling;
  • oilseeds - have fruits with the highest oil content. It is from these varieties of olives that the famous olive oil is made;
  • universal - with fruits, from which both oil and preservation are made.

Oilseed varieties are very popular and account for about 90% of all trees grown.

Green fruits of the olive tree

Fruiting the olive tree in a pot

Growing the olive tree at home

The olive tree is very resistant to the conditions of urban apartments. To grow it in a room, it is recommended to select varieties of table olives, such as Della Madonna, Urtinsky, Nikitinsky, Crimean, Razzo. The plant will soon perform a decorative function and you should not count on fruiting.

It is quite possible to get a dozen fruits only under the following conditions:

  • The plant is very demanding on lighting, it is important that it be under bright sunlight from morning to evening. In apartments, southern windows are suitable for this, and in the summer it is put on the balcony.
  • One of the main conditions for fruiting is the temperature regime. During the winter, the olive tree needs a temperature of +10°C. For flower growers who have recently bought a plant, the question often arises: should the leaves fall for the winter? Do not forget that this is an evergreen plant, and each leaf can grow on a tree for up to two years. Falling leaves will also be normal, so do not be afraid and apply some kind of resuscitation.
  • In nature, trees tolerate long periods of drought and in an apartment they are also able to withstand short-term drying of the soil. Water the plant only after the soil in the pot has completely dried out and make sure that no water remains in the pan. With excessive moisture, the leaves can become stained and fall off. In winter, watering should be rare and moderate.

Leaf spraying

Olive tree in the interior

  • The plant is adapted to dry indoor air, but if you have it hibernates near the heating radiators, it is advisable to spray the crown with a spray bottle.
  • Autumn forming pruning is definitely needed, you can arrange the olive in the form of a bush or a standard form. If you do not strive for flowering, pruning can be done at any time of the year.

Important: As you can see, it is very difficult to fulfill the temperature requirements of an olive in an apartment, and, most likely, a glazed sunny balcony will be an ideal place to keep it throughout the year, if in winter the temperature on it does not drop below +5 ° С .

Tree trimming process

Formative pruning of the olive tree

Propagation and planting

The olive tree is propagated by cuttings from old and young shoots.

Learn more