How to Grow Olea – Olives

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Olea–commonly called olive–is a genus of evergreen trees and shrubs best known for producing edible fruits, but some cultivars are fruitless and grown as ornamental plants.

Olea is a medium-sized tree growing to as tall as 35 feet and spreading 20 to 30 feet wide. Olives have distinctive grey-green foliage of 1 to 2 inches long leaves and bear creamy yellow flowers in mid-spring. Fruiting olives develop green fruits in summer which mature to black by winter.

Olives are widely adapted to many types of soil as well as sun, heat, cold, and drought, Olives are grown in Mediterranean regions in coastal, inland, valley, and desert regions. Olives are often used as a specimen plant in courtyards, lawns, entries, and on slopes.

Olea is a genus of about 20 species of evergreen trees and shrubs native to dry, rocky places in the Mediterranean and Africa.

Get to Know Olea – Olives

  • Plant type: Evergreen tree or shrub
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 8-10
  • Hardiness: Hardy to Zone 8
  • Height and width: 30 feet (10m) tall and wide
  • Foliage: 1 to 2 inch grey-green, leathery leaves
  • Flowers: Small daisy-like flowers often with ray florests brone single or in panicles
  • Bloom time: Spring and summer
  • Uses: Specimen, shrub border
  • Common name: Olive
  • Botanical name: Olea
  • Family name: Oleaceae
  • Origin: Mediterranean region
Fruit on olive tree, Olea europaea
Fruit on olive tree, Olea europaea

Where to plant Olea – Olives

  • Plant Olea in full sun.
  • Grow Olea in deep, fertile, well-drained soil. Olea can adapt to many kinds of well-drained soils.

When to plant Olea – Olives

  • Set container-grown Olea outdoors in spring or autumn.

Planting and spacing Olea

  • Space Olea 30 feet (10m) apart.

How to water and feed Olea

  • Water Olea moderately until established. Established plants require only low amount of water; young plants grow more quickly if watered regularly.
  • Periodic deep watering is recommended to encourage deeper roots and increase drought tolerance.
  • Fertilize Olea with a balanced liquid fertilizer.

Olea care

  • Fruits can stain pavements and walks; plant away from walking or driving areas.
  • Pollen from flowers is highly allergenic to many people.

Olea pests and diseases

  • Olea is prone to olive know, Verticillium wilt, mushroon root rot, lesion nematode, and Soutern blight.
  • Scale insects often attack Olea.

Olea propagation

  • Sow Olea seeds in spring.
  • Take semi-ripe cuttings in summer.

Olea varieties to grow

  • Olea europaea, olive. Slow-growing evergreen tree to 30 feet (10m) tall and wide; develops roun head which can become irregular with age; leathery, ellipitic to lance-shaped leaves are gray green; triny fragrant flwoers are boren in panicles; spherical to ovoid green fruits 4cm across ripen to black.
  • O. e. ‘Fruitless’ standard size produces less fruit.
  • O. e. ‘Little Ollie’ dwarf fruitless form to 3 feet tall with dense branching and tiny leaves.
  • O. e. ‘Majestic Beauty’ standard size, no mature fruit, light green leaves.
  • O. e. ‘Manzanillo’ standard form, large fruit.
  • O. e. ‘Mission’ standard form, small fruit, used as an ornamental.
  • O. e. ‘Skylark Dwarf’ small, compact, fruting vareity grows as dense shrub.
  • O. e. ‘Swan Hill’ non-fruiting for ornamental gardens.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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