How to Grow Olive

Olive tree image by Public domain by João Correia, Wikimedia Commons


Olive trees grow best in subtropical climates that also experience a winter chill. It can take up to four years for a tree to begin producing olives. Some varieties of trees yield olives used for eating while others yield olives used for making olive oil. In addition to producing olives, this plant decorates any garden with its unique gnarly branches and gray leaves. Fragrant cream color flowers are produced in the spring and olives soon follow. Consult a local gardening expert for recommended olive saplings that will thrive in your local soil and climate zone.

Step 1

Plant saplings in a site that has full sun and well-drained soil. A southern exposure will protect the olive from winter freezes and produce a better fruit yield.

Step 2

Dig a hole approximately the same size as the sapling's container and place the sapling in the hole. Position the tree a little higher than grade level. Cover root ball with one inch of soil.

Step 3

Water olive tree regularly. Keep soil around tree damp, and avoid having it dry out. If possible install a drip irrigation system or sprinkler to ensure constant moisture. Do not over saturate. The tree is prone to root rot, which can be caused by overwatering.

Step 4

Fertilize the olive tree in the early spring prior to flowering. Consult your local gardening expert for recommended nitrogen based or organic fertilizer.

Step 5

Harvest olives when ripe. According to the California Rare Fruit Growers, depending on the variety green olives will turn a blackish purple or copper color when ripe. Pick the olives with care as they are sensitive and can bruise easily.

Step 6

Prune the olive tree after the first harvest of the season using pruning shears. This will help shape the tree and regulate olive production.

Step 1

Grow olives in colder non-tropical areas by planting the olive sapling in a gardening pot. Keep the pot outside in southern exposure during the warmer months.

Step 2

Follow steps 3-6 as in the first method.

Step 3

Winterize your olive tree and protect it from the cold by bringing the pot inside once the winter season begins. Place it in a sunny spot away from any home heating sources or vents.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not prune olive trees in the rain. Pruning in wet weather with unclean tools can spread a bacterial disease called olive knot.

Things You'll Need

  • Olive tree sapling
  • Shovel
  • Water
  • Irrigation system or sprinkler
  • Fertilizer
  • Pruning shears
  • Gardening pot


  • Agriculture and Natural Resources University of California
  • California Rare Fruit Growers

Who Can Help

  • The United States National Arboretum
Keywords: Olive tree, Growing olive, Subtropical fruit

About this Author

Antonia James is a Florida-based writer who began writing full-time in 2009. After starting her career in the world of journalism she ventured into the courtroom as an attorney. James holds a Bachelor of Arts in media studies from Fordham University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Miami.

Photo by: Public domain by João Correia, Wikimedia Commons