A member of the Oleaceae 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 the world.
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
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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