How to Grow an Olive Tree

A garden is a place to escape to; full of color, peace, love and hard work. It’s many homeowners pride and joy, and with countless dreamy images of beautiful gardens filling Pinterest; gardeners have a wealth of inspiration to draw from in order to keep their garden looking good all year round and a paradise to escape to and relax in.

When the weather heats up, many of think of Mediterranean climates and their tropical gardens. One of the Med’s most famous exports is the olive tree – also known as olea europaea. The ancient plant is a status symbol of this region in Europe and is a plant which can be housed both outside and indoors.

To add a slice of olive greenery to your garden, we’ve spoken to Olive Grove Oundle to get their expert advice on growing an olive tree.

how to grow an olive tree

1. Find the right position

Olive trees are known for their love of the sunshine (it’s their natural habitat after all), so you should take care to place your tree in the sunniest spot you have in order for it to soak up the sun. You should place them where they can gain a minimum of six hours of sunlight per day; south-facing is best if possible!

While trees can withstand temperatures of -10°C, if combined with a cold wind, young trees can struggle to survive. Where possible, provide suitable wind protection, and cover your tree during winter to protect it from the harsh winter elements.

how to grow an olive tree

2. Potting and Planting guidance

It’s best to plant your tree in the ground. However, it is possible to pot it if you wish. When planting, dig a hole around 50% larger than you need to give the tree plenty of space, and ensure you have a good drainage system in place. Gravel can be used here to help water to drain from the root-ball properly, or you could risk water being contained in the roots, and leading your tree to die slowly.

how to grow an olive tree

3. Water cautiously 

Olive trees are relatively low maintenance and require little care in terms of food and water. In fact, if the compost you invested in is of a high-quality, you’ll find that you don’t need to feed your tree. You can simply top up the ground with a slow-release fertilizer yearly if you wish.

As one of the most drought-resistant trees, you won’t need to water your tree once planted. However, you will want to ensure that the soil doesn’t become dry throughout the year, and especially so during the winter.

4. Growing fruit is hard work

In order to grow fruit on your olive tree, you will need to ensure that your tree endures a period of colder weather below 10°C for two months, as well as a difference in temperatures between day and night.

As olive trees are natively exposed to an average of 300 days of sunlight per year, they will need a lot of sunlight in order to produce olives. However, don’t become downbeat if you don’t get as much sunlight, as it is possible to grow fruit in the spring and summer months if the weather has been particularly good.

To improve your chances of fruit production, you can shake the branches during the flowering season, as the self-pollinating branches will be caught by the wind and aid flower production. Pruning your tree can also affect how fruit is produced.

how to grow an olive tree

5. Light pruning

Olive trees require a minimal amount of maintenance and only need to be trimmed when needed.

If you plan on producing fruit from your tree then you will need to prune your tree. This should be done before the tree has flowered, and you should remove dead, diseased or dying branches. Your aim should be to thin out branches to let light into the center of the tree.

You should take care not to over-prune your olive tree as you could ruin the shape or risk over-production of non-fruiting shoots.

Jon Parrott

Garden Expert & Owner at Olive Grove Oundle
The Olive Grove Oundle is one the UK's largest stockists of Mediterranean plants. With over 1,200 varieties of olive trees available and 25 years of experience, Olive Grove Oundle also stocks a range of palm and ornamental trees.

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