Olive trees grow best in subtropical, Mediterranean-like climates: they do well in warm climates, tolerate drought, and are highly sensitive to frost. Olive trees are best suited to the Mediterranean countries or the hardiness zones 9 to 11 of the United States. In addition to California, U.S. olives grow in Texas, Georgia, Florida, Arizona, Oregon, Alabama, and Hawaii (on the island of Maui).
While olive trees can live in conditions that are less than optimal, olive fruit production is affected. For example, in regions, such as California and Florida, olive trees need to be helped along with water and heat to ensure a full harvest.
Best Climate is Subtropical for Olive Trees
Olive trees grow best in the subtropical zones with mild winters and long, warm, and dry summers.
Olive trees thrive in temperatures between 80ºF to 90ºF (26ºC to 32ºC) degrees but tolerate the high temperatures experienced in regions, such as California, where temperatures can climb over 100ºF (38ºC) degrees.
Olive trees need full sun for fruit production, which is limited if the tree is in shade for more than six months.
Cold Tolerances is Moderate
Olive trees are limited by cold temperatures; below degrees 55ºF (12ºC) the tree becomes inactive.
The olive fruit is killed in less than an hour when the temperature drops from 26ºF to 28ºF (-3ºC to -2ºC) degrees, and stems and leaves are killed in a few minutes at temperatures below degrees 22ºF (-5ºC).
The olive tree is killed or severely damaged where freezing conditions lasting days or a hard freeze at temperatures below 15ºF (-10ºC).
The olive tree can fare better or worse at the limits of cold temperatures depending on various factors, such as the age of the fruit, leaves and branches, dryness of the air and length of the cold period.
You can protect your potted olive trees from freezing temperatures by moving olive tree indoors for winter.
Best Water Conditions for Olive Trees
Olive trees are sustained when the mean annual rainfall is between 35 and 120 inches (88 – 305 cm).
For significant olive fruit production olive trees need 35 in (88 cm) a year; otherwise irrigation is necessary.
The olive tree tolerates one to three consecutive months with less than 1.6 inches (4 cm) of rain, though it grows in the Mediterranean, where dry seasons can last up to 4 months. Without irrigation, olive fruit production is reduced in drought conditions.
Strategies for Cultivating Olive Trees
Irrigation and frost-protection measures keep olive trees productive at the limit of their tolerances. Irrigation supplements rainfall; keeping olive trees well-watered and healthy helps them withstand frost.
Planting olive trees at higher elevations where the air is warmer than in low spots minimizes frost damage, and fertilizing and pruning early in the season stimulates growth so the fruit has time to develop before cold weather.
A full canopy has a sheltering effect for the olive fruit in case of freezing temperature. As well, a light bulb can be placed in the tree to prevent frost damage.
Grab Essentials for Your Potted Olive Tree
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Conclusion on Where Olive Trees Grow Best
Finally, there can be substantial microclimate differences within one olive grove which affects olive tree growth for the better or worse. For instance, small valleys, in particular, can be substantially colder than more open areas and may make a difference between having frost damage or not.
So if you live in a colder climate which is not the best place for olive trees to thrive, you can always grow olive trees indoors. Or do it outside and then ensure moving olive trees indoors for winter.
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