How to Grow Your Own Olives!

How to Grow Your Own Olives!

olive tree

Savory briny Olives are a favorite snack and topping for many around the world! But did you know you can grow your own olives?

Since ancient times, Olive trees (Olea) have been a staple in the Mediterranean landscape and diet. Capture the essence of sun-drenched coastlines and connect to a sense of antiquity with Olive trees from Nature Hills Nursery.

Not just a fantastic specimen, shade, and landscape tree, Olive trees are a long-lived cash crop and specimen plant for many around the world and right here in the US!

All About Olive Trees

olive tree flowers

Creamy white blooms appear in sprays all over the tree, sometimes in such quantities, the tree will look frosted! Beloved for their wonderful fragrance, they are nestled among the tree's dark green leaves, but your pollinators will find them in swarms! These flowers are also wind-pollinated, further increasing pollination chances.

Flowering is induced by fluctuation between day and nighttime temperatures, as well as two months of temperatures below 50°F for flower initiation. While mostly self-fertile, having multiples of the same Olive tree, or planting a Pendolino Olive as a universal pollinator, you’ll enjoy a far larger harvest per tree.

The Olive fruits themselves are considered botanically drupes, or stone fruits like Peaches, in fact, they’re closely related! Other close relatives are Cherries, Almonds, and Pistachios.

olive tree blooms

The exotic sage-green to gray-green foliage makes these fantastic specimen trees and airy shade trees! Adding a wonderful Mediterranean aesthetic to your landscaping, Olive leaves offer a soft and subtle fine texture while the leathery broad-leaved evergreen foliage suits even the smallest properties!

The most unique characteristic of this tree is its slower-growing nature, creating a gnarled, twisted trunk. Over time, this tree adds character and a sense of antiquity to your landscape! The wood is decay resistant and even recovers after fires. Want a faster-growing Olive tree? Try the Frantoio Olive Tree, which is also one of the few that can tolerate down to zone 7 climates!

There are 139 Olive varieties and each olive cultivar has its own unique chemical and taste characteristics. Living for 300-600 years, the oldest Olive tree in Greece is 2,000 years old and still produces fruit! Performing best and living the longest in Xeric, arid, and Mediterranean climates, but also doing well in any tropical to temperate area with adequate drainage.

  • Fruit Ripens From Green to Purple to Black With 1-2 Seeds
  • Self-Pollinating - Prolific Harvest
  • Fragrant Creamy White Blooms
  • Shade, Specimen & Container Plants
  • Great for Edible Landscaping
  • Grey-Green Silvery Broad-Leaf Evergreen Foliage
  • Slow to Fast-Growing Varieties
  • Unique Twisting Trunks

History & Symbolism of Olive Trees

olive tree by ocean

There is fossil evidence that wild Olive trees appeared in the area around the Mediterranean Sea millions of years ago. As far back as the Bronze Age, humans have relied on Olives for food. That long historic relationship gave rise to symbolic meanings linked to the tree and its versatile fruit.

An Olive branch is a universal symbol of peace. Greeks and Romans crowned victors of war or competition with crowns of Olive garlands, and Olive Oil is an important element in many religious ceremonies. Spanish explorers introduced Olive trees to the New World in the 1500s and to California in the 1700s. Today, these Fruit Trees are cultivated throughout the tropical regions of the world.

Nutrition and Health Benefits

olives in a bowl with oil

Olives contain 11 - 15% fat, and 3/4th of that fat is oleic acid, a type of monounsaturated fatty acid. They are also low carb and high in Vitamin E. Olives are also a fantastic source of Iron and Copper. Olives are rich in polyphenols which have antioxidant properties. The beneficial effects of these compounds include reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as atherosclerosis and cancer. These healthy snacks and frequent charcuterie board additions are only around 60 calories for 10 Olives!

Where to Plant Olive Trees

Olive tree in container

The highly adaptable Olive variety does well in the ground and in containers, making it easy to keep one near the kitchen for your culinary masterpieces! Olive trees do well in sunny areas and will be happy in soil with excellent drainage. 

They’re easy to grow and are resistant to most insects and disease issues. Olive tree varieties are tolerant of drought and brief chill. Olive trees grow best in planting zones with hot, dry summers and mild but cool winters that never freeze.

Just avoid planting one near a patio, driveway, or sidewalk as the dropping fruit can be a bit messy. 

But you won’t have to worry about birds eating your harvest, because of the saltiness and bitterness of fresh olives, your feathered friends won’t eat your crop. Squirrels however may eat the seeds, but they prefer other nuts and seeds over Olive pits. Unless you have cattle, sheep, goats, and camels, there’s no reason to chase wildlife out of your tree!

Where Olive trees grow best

olive tree

  • Full sun - Minimum 6 hours of direct sunlight a day
  • Low moisture needs & moderate fertility once established
  • Can prune smaller for use as an ornamental container tree
  • Pest & disease resistant
  • Loves heat! - USDA zones 8 - 10 outdoors (Frantoio Zone 7)
  • Drought tolerant & thrives in coastal conditions
  • Highly adaptable!

Are Olive trees high maintenance?

Not at all! Olive Trees are ideal for the home grower because they are small and hardy, and require very little maintenance to turn out a bumper crop of olives. Outdoors, the Olive is adaptable to a variety of conditions, even doing well in poor soils or drought once established!

What is the easiest Olive tree to grow?

The Arbequina Olive Tree is regarded as one of the easiest to grow and is often used for patio containers and produces high-quality Olives around November. Arbequina is also one of the most popular Olives at!

Maintenance Pruning & Thinning

pruning shears

If you decide to shape or control the size of your Olive tree, they are amenable to pruning. Needing regular pruning to maintain vigor and increase fruit production, prune after fruiting for best results. It’s best to prune established trees for shape and to keep them from growing too large. Keep an open canopy and remove weaker and less productive branches. Olive flowers in the shade will not set well, so ensure sunlight can penetrate the entire tree canopy.

Thin fruit by removing excess fruit, keeping three or four fruit per foot of twig as soon as possible after the fruit set. This increases the size of the fruit you leave on the tree.

Olive Trees in Containers

Pot with olive tree on window sill

For colder climates, plant a Mission or Leccino Olive tree in a container. Bringing fruit trees indoors for the winter protects the plant and lengthens your enjoyment of your Olive tree. Try these Olive tree varieties in containers with adequate drainage. Olive trees grown indoors do not set fruit, but they are lovely ornamentals to decorate your interiorscape when enough bright light is available.

Harvesting Olives

harvesting arbequina olives

How many years does it take for an Olive tree to bear fruit?

Olives can start producing fruit after 3-5 years of age and Nature Hills ships trees at least 2-3 years old already! Some Olives can produce small to large crops annually, while others are biennial bearing, while others yet have a decent crop one year and then a light one the next. But a mature tree can produce over 200 lbs (100kg) of fruit!

The Olive fruits are botanically drupes, similar to the Peach or Plum. An Olive begins as a green fruit that makes a slow transition to purple before turning black, indicating it's time for harvesting. This happens sometime in late November til January.

Harvesting olives

What’s the difference between green and black Olives? Other than the color, green Olives are saltier, tangier, and can be a bit more bitter, while black Olives have more oil and less salt. You can change the ultimate flavor by how you preserve them.

They're just perfect for snacking, adding to drinks, and slicing for use as a topping on pizza. Olives also produce high-quality oil for culinary uses and cooking, beauty and health care, and religious purposes.

  • Olives can be harvested while unripe and green, or when ripe and fully black
  • Harvest for oil when the fruit is black on the outside, but the inside is still green/yellow
  • Pick gently to avoid bruising if used for brining
  • You can knock them out of the tree with a pole when harvesting for oil
  • Olives must be cured before they can be eaten. Once cured they are great table fruit
  • Preserve in water, oil, brine, salt, or lye to remove the bitterness and preserve them

Preserving Olives

Olives black

Curing and preserving methods range from curing your Olives in caustic soda, in a salt/water brine, or in a vinegar and oil mixture. Make sure your containers and utensils are clean and sterile, and made from non-reactive materials (avoid copper, brass, iron, or galvanized pots/utensils). Once canned, the Olives will be ready to eat in 3-6 weeks depending on the variety, how much oil is in the Olive, their size, and the method of preservation.

Outstanding Olives!

Olive Tree Infographic

What Olive trees are available at Nature Hills?

  • Leccino - 25-30 feet tall - #1 Worldwide - Zones 8-9
  • Frantoio - Semi Dwarf 12-15 feet - Olive Oil & Curing - Zones 7-10
  • Arbequina - Semi Dwarf 12-15 feet - Early Flowering - Zones 8-10
  • Arbosana - Semi Dwarf 12-15 feet - Flavorful Olives & Oil - Zones 8-10
  • Koroneiki - Semi Dwarf 12-15 feet - Mid-season - Zones 8-10
  • Mission - 15-18 feet - Unique Fruity Flavor & Scent - Zones 8-10
  • Pendolino - 15-20 feet - Universal Olive pollinator - Zones 8-10
  • Manzanillo - 20-30 feet - Easy to Remove Pits - Zones 8-10
  • Little Ollie® Dwarf Olive - shrubby non-fruiting landscaping Olive

These hardy, yet fruitful trees will add beauty to your landscape! An old-world favorite, the Olive is a symbol of peace and friendship! So an Olive would be a fantastic gift for a new homeowner!

Check out all the varieties of Olive trees available at Nature Hills and get growing your own tasty Olives for your family today!

Happy Planting!

shop olive trees

← Previous Next →