The Russian Olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) is a fast-growing, shrub-like tree that has silvery-gray leaves. Its creamy-yellow, strongly fragrant flowers bloom in June and July, followed by clusters of silvery fruits that attract birds and other wildlife. The Russian Olive tree can grow 15 to 25 feet tall and wide, and its foliage turns yellowish-orange in the fall. This is an extremely hardy tree, best grown in USDA Hardiness Zones 2 through 7. Withstanding winter temperatures down to an amazing minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the Russian Olive can grow in nearly any soil composition.
Plant your Russian Olive in full to partial sunlight and well-draining soil in the early spring.
Dig a planting hole that is the same depth as and twice the width of the nursery container or root ball. Gently remove the Russian Olive plant from the container and loosen the outer roots.
Set the roots into the planting hole and backfill the hole with the displaced soil. Water the soil and gently firm it down with your hands or the back of a shovel to settle the soil around the roots.
Spread a 2-inch layer of well-rotted organic compost or aged manure around the base of the Russian Olive plant. Water around the Russian Olive generously to soak the soil down to the root zone.
Water the Russian Olive tree deeply during prolonged dry spells or droughts. You don’t need to water the tree regularly. Spread a fresh layer of compost or manure around the base of the Russian Olive once each year in early spring.
Prune away the dead, damaged or crowded growth on the Russian Olive tree in late winter. If you’re growing the Russian Olive as a single-trunk tree, prune away any vertical growth around the trunk during the first three or four years to prevent the tree from developing multiple trunks.
Prune back or shear the Russian Olive shrubs in late winter to shape if you’re growing them as a hedge or screen. Make the top slightly narrower than the base of the shrubs and remove about one-third to one-half of the previous year’s growth.