How to Grow Olive Trees in Central Florida
Florida is one of the states growing olive trees (Olea europaea, USDA hardiness zones 8-10) for the production of fruit and oil. Since the late 1700s, olive groves in Florida 's central region have been successfully cultivated. Tolerating temperatures to 12 degrees Fahrenheit, Central Florida offers prime growing conditions for olives.
Three cultivars that do well within the area are Arbequina, Mission and Manzanillo, which are self-pollinating as well as disease- and pest-resistant. The University of Florida IFAS Extension notes that Arbequina is is the most popular cultivar in Florida, which may be a factor when considering an olive tree for sale. Olive trees grow well anywhere citrus trees thrive. Trees are suitable for growing inside containers as well as in the ground and produce fruit in three to 15 years, depending on the cultivar.
Olive Tree Care: Florida
Consideration of an olive tree's growing environment and the cultural care that's needed will go a long way toward ensuring a healthy tree and successful harvests. Select a location in your Central Florida landscape that is large enough to house the olive tree at maturity. Depending on the cultivar you plant, your tree will grow 15 to 30 feet in height and about 20 feet wide.
A location that has full sun is best; aim for at least six hours each day. Trees will grow best and produce the most fruit if they receive sunlight during the day, and they won't grow well or bear prolifically in full shade. Plant the olive tree on a well-draining site that does not hold water during rainy periods in Central Florida. Other than mucky or acidic soils, Central Florida’s soil is prime for growing olives since it drains very well.
Site Preparation and Planting
Clear an area that is approximately 3 feet in diameter and free of unwanted vegetation. This will cut down on possible trunk injury from lawn equipment or damage from applications of weed-and-feed to the surrounding lawn area. Keep the area vegetation-free for the duration of the life of the tree. Dig a planting hole that's two times wider than the root ball, keeping it the same depth as the olive tree’s container. There is no need to amend the soil, as the tree is well adapted to growing in native Central Florida soil.
Inspect the olive tree’s roots once removed from the container. Carefully pull apart any roots that are growing in a circular direction so they will spread out properly once planted into the ground. Situate the olive tree into the planting hole at the same depth it was inside the container, and backfill halfway with soil. Apply water into the hole and tamp down on the area with your foot to firm the soil and release any remaining air pockets. Backfill the remainder of the hole with soil and tamp down on the area again.
Post-Planting Olive Tree Care
Water the olive tree after planting, allowing the water to saturate the soil around the tree’s roots. Continue to water the tree once each week with approximately 1 inch of water, considering your Central Florida weather conditions. Trees are drought-tolerant once established but will benefit from regular watering.
Stake young trees until their trunks grow to approximately 1 inch in diameter. Place a sturdy piece of wood into the ground and tie arborist’s tape around the stake and trunk, holding the tree upright. Remove the stake once the tree reaches an appropriate size.
Fertilize the tree from March throughout the middle of August with a slow-release citrus fertilizer applied every other month. It's better to apply fertilizer lightly and more frequently than to give olive trees infrequent heavy doses, according to Olive Tree Growers. Spread a layer of organic material such as compost or manure over the planting site in March.
- Prune to control its shape.