A member of the ash / jasmine / privet / lilac family. The Olea genus
contains about 40 species, of which the most important is the commercially
grown olive. Olea europaea has hundreds of cultivars and is grown around
Form: A single or multi-trunked large shrub or tree.
Lifespan: 300-600 years.
Leaf retention: Evergreen.
Growth rate: Slow to moderate.
Mature Size: 30' high and wide.
Flowers: Small, clustered, creamy-white. Pollen causes severe allergies.
Fruitless varieties produce less pollen and little or no fruit.
Years before fruiting: 4.
Fruit: Oil-bearing, bitter olives.
Months for fruit to ripen: 6-8. Olives are mature when they reach
their full color, whether red, purple or black. At this time they are
ready to drop from the tree.
Storage after harvest: Olives must be cured and are not edible
until the process is complete.
Leaves: Lance-shaped, narrow, to 3" long, thick, gray-green
on top, lighter underneath. Provides dense shade.
Stems: No thorns. Gray, bumpy, contorted, gnarled trunk.
Roots: Shallow roots can heave walkways and trip pedestrians.
Wildlife: Fruit attracts birds. Rabbits may eat bark, especially
on young trees, and greatly harm the tree.
Toxic / Danger: Olives must be cured, a long process, to be edible.
Origin: Eastern Mediterranean. Commercially cultivated 5000 years ago.
Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: 9-11 for fruit-bearing trees. 8-11 for
Sunset climate zones: 8-9, 11-24.
Chill hours: 200-300. For olives, temperatures above 32°F
and below 55°F accumulate chill hours in winter.
Heat tolerant: Yes.
Sun: Full sun.
Drought tolerant: Yes.
Water once established: Once or twice a month in warm months.
Soil: Well drained, dry, low organic content, tolerates
pH 5.6-8.5 (acidic to alkaline), but pH 6.6-7.5 (neutral) considered
ideal. Avoid locations near frequently irrigated lawns or plants.
Fertilize: Olive trees are better adapted to poor soil than any
other fruit tree and seldom suffer nutritional deficiencies. In residential
settings, fertilization is unnecessary, even for a good fruit crop.
Water and weeding are the most important aspects of olive tree care.
Prune: In spring, in dry weather, after flowers appear, prune to shape.
Fruit is produced at the tips of previous year's growth, so be careful.
Remove small fruit within 3 weeks of flowering so that two to three
fruit are left per foot of branch. This produces larger fruit.
Litter: High due to fruit drop. Fruit stains concrete.
Propagation: Seed or cuttings.
Uses: Ornamental, fruit production. Cultivated for more than
Some municipalities allow only sterile, fruitless cultivars in order to reduce
pollen levels. Hundreds of fruit-bearing cultivars are available. The picture
of the entire tree shows the fruitless cultivar 'Swan Hill'.
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