How to Care for Russian Olive Trees

Overview

Russian olive trees (Elaeagnus angustifolia) grow naturally in the majority of the United States. These trees thrive in a variety of soils, often invading areas along bottomlands and pastures. The quick growth and aggressive habits of these trees made them common selections for early settlers to use in windbreaks and natural fences. The long, silvery leaves on these thorny trees supply food for wildlife. Russian olive trees reach an average height between 15 and 25 feet.

Step 1

Plant your Russian olive trees in areas that provide full sunlight. These trees thrive in locations that receive full sunlight, but can tolerate slight shade. Do not grow your Russian olive trees near large trees that may cast shade over these smaller varieties. Select areas that do not experience standing water or collect runoff. Russian olive trees prefer slightly dry soils.

Step 2

Water your Russian olive trees only after long periods of drought. These trees prefer dry soils with minimal amounts of moisture. Frequent supplemental watering can kill these drought-resistant trees. Watch for dropping leaves during a long period without rain. Falling leaves can signify thirst in a tree. Apply about 4 to 5 inches of water in a circle around the base of the tree if you notice this condition during an extended period of drought.

Step 3

Place a root barrier around the circumference of your Russian olive trees. These trees spread rapidly by means of root sprouting, often taking over areas of gardens and yards. Insert a strip of 18- to 24-inch-wide root barrier in a trench around the group of trees to discourage spreading. Watch for new sprouts outside of your barrier that may also form from scattered seeds. Remove these sprouts to keep your trees from spreading beyond your desired location.

Step 4

Prune off any dead or damaged branches on your Russian olive trees. These trees do not require seasonal pruning to keep them healthy. Use a limb saw to cut broken and damaged branches close to the trunk. Remove the trimmed vegetation from the area to avoid the development of diseases near your trees.

Tips and Warnings

  • Always wear thick gloves when working near these trees. The long spines can damage your skin and injure animals and children.

Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Root barrier
  • Shovel
  • Limb saw

References

  • North Dakota State University: Russian Olive
  • Utah State University: Russian Olive
  • "Waterwise House & Garden", Allan Windhust, 2003
Keywords: Russian olive tree, thorny trees, native olive tree

About this Author

Laura Dee is a writer, artist, and the co-owner of Wallace & Wallace Copywriting,an online business which specializes in providing marketing materials and copy to various companies. She has written for Demand Studios since 2008 and is currently working on a series of childrens' picture books.