Olive trees, decorated with green olive fruits, have been enchanting our gardens for centuries and are quite easy to grow. So how do olives grow?
Here you find detailed information on olive growth. As well, planting, pruning, and care are all upright practices that will allow you to grow luscious olives and avoid olive tree diseases.
Olive Tree Growth-Related Facts
Firstly, I would like to share a few important olive tree growing characteristics.
Name – Olea europaea, meaning “European olive”
Family – Oleaceae
Type – fruit tree
Fruit – olive
Height – 26 to 49 feet (8 to 15 meters)
Soil – well-drained, sandy and rich
Exposure – full sun
Foliage – evergreen
Flowering – May to July
Harvest – November to February
Health: Benefits of Olive Oil
For more olive tree knowledge, join the olive tree growers community I have just created on Facebook for you to ask questions, share experiences, and post pictures of your olive trees!
How do Olives Grow? – Olive Growth Cycle
As with all living organisms, the olive has its own growing cycle – from dormant period to birth (sprout), to infancy (flower buds), to juvenile (fruit), to adult (olive ripe), and finally to death (harvest). Because olives are renewable, the olive growth cycle begins again every spring.
For the olive life cycle to run full circle, various external and internal conditions must be favorable for the olive tree. For instance, the olives require adequate space, water, nutrients, and enough sunlight for their successful growth. However, even with great conditions, various stresses such as insects, diseases, weather, and time itself weaken the olive tree and can cause olives or tree itself to die. Although an olive growth cycle may be stopped at any time for many different reasons, a new growth cycle can begin again next spring.
So let’s look at each of the stages of the olive growth cycle separately.
1. Dormancy Period
At first, there is a dormancy period for 1 – 3 months in the olive growth cycle. This is the time when olive tree rests after the harvest season-ending January and collects the energy and recourses to start a new olive life cycle.
2. Sprout Growth
In February, after the olive tree has been pruned, the floral induction begins. As a result, new sprouts begin to grow and covers all the olive tree. Please bear in mind, the sprout season may start even later, depending on your climate zone. But here is described an olive growth cycle around the Mediterranean coast.
Later in March, you can spot flower buds appearing on evergreen olive trees (see an image in the infographic below). This is the start of the olive flowering season in May. Thus olives are flowering only around 1 week, it brings small beautiful white blooms.
4. Fruit Developing
Then, the olive fruit development stage starts in June. It starts with the falling of petals, then with the forming of olive pit and hardening, and olive fruit growing. Overall, it takes around 3 months to build up an olive fruit.
5. Olive Ripe
Finally, olives reach their last stage in the growth cycle in October. And the olives start to mature and ripe until they are ready for the harvest in early December up to the end of January. By the way, it’s good to know, that the color of the olive corresponds to how ripe they are when harvested. For example, the green color is unripe young olive. There as the dark purple or black is ripe olive.
Planting and re-potting an olive tree
Olives grow on the olive trees planted in the ground in warm temperate climates or indoors in containers or pots in cooler climates. The olive tree adds a beautiful addition to your landscape and yummy olives to your side dishes when grown under ideal conditions.
Planting olive trees directly in the ground
Olive trees need time to acclimate to their new surroundings. You can plant an olive tree in fall or in spring before the heavy summer heat. Early spring is the perfect time for olive tree planting and growing as the frees have the entire spring and summer to establish themselves in the soil with warm weather at their disposal. Find a sunny, south-facing area of your garden or house which has no grass. Ground cover tends to steal nutrients and soil moisture away from olive trees, which compromises their growing and fruiting prospects.
- The olive tree can be planted directly in the ground only in regions where it doesn’t freeze in winter.
- If you are planting in spring, provide for regular watering over the first year after planting.
Your soil must be well-draining and fertile. The best soil includes a balanced mixture of organic matter (manure or seaweed), sand and clay. A smart way to determine if your soil structure is healthy for olive trees is by adding water. 1 inch (2.5 cm) of standing water on the soil’s surface should absorb into the ground after one hour. If the water stays on the surface, you need to amend the soil with sand to loosen the compacted soil. You can work in nutrient-rich soil to improve the quality before planting.
BOTTOM LINE: When considering soil requirements, the most important factor is olive trees can typically grow in a variety of soil types, but they don’t tolerate saturated soil.
Tools required to plant an olive tree
Indeed, you don’t need any fancy gardening tools for olive tree planting or re-potting in your garden. The most important is to have a showel and soil tester to check soil quality prior to planting. Thus, the rest of the garden appliances you can mix and match with what you already have in place. As to make it faster and easier, I added some references to Amazon in case you are interested to get one of those:
- Soil tester
- Planting soil mix
- Plant food (for soil)
1. 2. 3.
- 4. Root Slayer Shovel
- 5. Scissors for pruning roots
- 6. Watering can
4. 5. 6.
Steps on how to plant an olive tree in the ground
Let’s go through the olive tree planting process step by step:
- Dig a planting hole 2 to 3 times wider the diameter of the olive tree’s root ball you are transferring. This large hole offers a comfortable area for new roots to acclimate and spread into the surrounding soil.
- Break up the soil that was dug out. Check that odd bits and pieces have been removed, such as rocks or wood.
- Add planting soil mix and an organic soil conditioner such as manure and seaweed. If your soil is heavy clay, you can also add sand to loosen the compacted soil.
- You may let the olive tree’s root ball sit in a bucket of water for a few minutes to rehydrate the soil and roots of the olive tree.
- If the root ball has any dead or damaged roots, cut them off of the tree. You can also straighten roots that seem to curl around themselves to help them grow better once planted in the ground.
- Place your olive tree in the center of the hole, carefully spreading the roots out along the bottom.
- The top of the root ball should stay 1 inch (2.5 cm) above the topsoil since it settles down into the ground once established. If you plant the olive tree root ball on an even level with the surrounding soil, the tree eventually sinks down into the ground.
- Fungus or mold or mushroom becomes a major issue as moist soil touches the trunk directly above the root ball.
- Planting the olive tree with consideration of the root ball’s position prevents diseases in the future.
- Fill the hole in with the prepared soil mix.
- Do not add fertilizer to the hole when planting, because it can burn the olive tree roots.
- Lightly press the soil down.
- Provide for regular, abundant watering over the first year after planting.
Planting olive trees in pots
In areas where you have cold winters, you must plant your olive tree in a large garden box or pot. Before the winter, the potted olive tree should be placed in a very bright room, where the temperature does not drop below 43°F ( 6° C) in winter.
Early spring, you can bring it out for it to spend the rest of the year outdoors.
Re-potting olive trees
When planting or re-potting, favor a blend of soil mix and plant-based soil without any chalk, one part each.
Re-potting is preferably done in spring, after the fruit harvest or at the end of summer after flowering.
Watering and fertilizing olive trees
Consistent and deep watering of your new olive tree ensures it has enough moisture for healthy growth. If the olive tree is planted in a pot, it tends to dry off much faster, so the watering of the olive tree is very important.
In general, the first 5 to 6 inches (13 to 15 cm) of soil should be moist, but not soggy.
- Olive trees dislike having too much water.
- Consistent watering that keeps the soil moist without being saturated is ideal for tree growth.
- Favor watering in the evening so that water isn’t lost through evaporation so fast.
- It is good practice to fertilize the olive tree during its growing season after the planting process.
- Fertilizers formulated for olive trees, with high nitrogen levels, supplement the tree’s nutrient needs for flourishing growth and fruiting.
- As an example, here are recommended Amazon links for automatic plant watering or adjustable garden watering system
Pruning and caring for an olive tree
Fruits only grow on new growth, so you must prune after the harvest depending on the variety of olive tree, during the month of February and April. Intense sunlight can cause sunscald or bark rot on cut areas if you prune after May.
- Pruning broken or damaged branches help your tree stay healthy.
- You may also want to prune to control the size of the tree or to open up the canopy to let in more light. Remove branches that cross over each other, too.
- Too much pruning can reduce your olive crop.
- Prune lightly.
To learn more about how to prune olive trees follow 7 step guidelines.
Harvesting the finest olives fruit
Olive fruit generally ripens in six to eight months, but that can vary based on the climate. December – January is often the prime harvesting time for olive fruit. You want to leave the olives on the tree until they’re ripe, as they won’t ripen once you pick them.
Olives for eating are harvested either green or when they are fully black (ripe). You can make an olive oil or table olives for your own use.
Instead of growing and harvesting olives, you can adopt our Oliviada Olive Tree in Greece and enjoy our Greek family produces high-quality Kalamata olive oil. We have few Olive Tree Adoption packages to suggest to you. Check it out:
Diseases and parasites that frequently attack olive trees prevention
The greatest initial defense against pests and diseases is to keep olive trees fertilized and sufficiently watered. It helps to grow strong olive trees that enable to withstand attack and less likely to suffer long-term harm.
Once pests are identified, check your garden center for the suitable control products. Cure of pests and diseases are always more successful when done in the earliest stage of development.
- To keep olives free of diseases prune on a yearly basis end of the winter to keep the crown open. By limiting the height it is easier to spot problems, prevent the disease from spreading and pick the olive fruit.
- The olive tree growers must harvest the entire crop, collect all the olive fruits and bin any excess as birds eat the fruit and the seeds may germinate some distance away.
- The biggest curse of the olive tree has always been an olive fruit fly. If you notice the signs of the olive fruit fly, remove fruit as soon as possible once it is ripe to prevent the maggots from leaving the fruit and entering the soil to pupate. Collect fallen olives from the ground and remove as much fruit as possible from trees during the harvest process to prevent the spread of this parasite.
- Here you can find recommended links to sticky gnat traps for Indoor/Outdoor flying plant-insect like Fungus Gnats, Whiteflies, Aphids, Leaf Miners, Thrips and other flying plant insects
- and bio 12 months tree protect and feed concentrate:
In summary, if the olive tree was planted in the great conditions to grow and taken care of properly, then you can expect the olive fruits to be successfully ripe. It takes around 1 year for olive fruit to mature and be ready to harvest.
After the harvest, you can bring the olives home and add great taste to your table! Thereafter, olive is very rich in nutrients and full of vitamins. So don’t forget to include Kalamata olives in your diet, learn how to prepare and marinate them to keep your meals more interesting and flavorful!