Olives are most comfortable growing in Mediterranean climates. But did you know you can grow olives in North America? Not only can you grow them in specific areas in the United States, but you can also grow them indoors.
It takes around 3 to 6 years for olives to grow on outdoor trees and around 1 year indoors. The negative aspect of indoor trees is they don’t get to experience the natural season cycles that outdoor trees receive. Olive trees can be transplanted outside in warm climates once mature.
Growing olive trees is not difficult but they do require certain provisions to provide you with the best harvest. Let’s dive in to learn more about how long it takes olives to grow and how best to facilitate that growth!
Where Do Most Olive Trees Grow In The World?
Olives like to be warm and cozy so they like growing up in Mediterranean countries. You can’t blame them! You will notice when buying olive oil most of the best brands come from that area. The top places for growing the best olives are Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, Chile, and Argentina.
Olive trees thrive in places that enjoy warm spring and summer months and cool winters but nothing below 15 degrees. While they like it warm they don’t like it too hot and they still need some cool air for the olives to reach their optimum size and taste. Olive trees do not do well in tropical temperatures.
What Areas Of The US Are The Best Places To Grow Olive Trees?
California leads the way in the United States with the highest number of olive trees making it the top producer of olive oil. The other areas that are the best places that successfully grow olive trees are Georgia, Texas, Arizona, Florida, Alabama, Oregon, and Hawaii.
Texas is next in line with more than 250 olive oil growers across the state!
If you want to know where the olive oil you are interested in purchasing is from making sure you check the label on the bottle. It should tell you everything from where the oil was produced to the date of the press and when it expires.
What Zones Are Best For Growing Olive Trees Outdoors In The US?
If you are an experienced gardener you are already familiar with this, but if you are just starting, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a map of where you can find out what you can and cannot plant in your area. The USDA Planting Map posts a complete map of the United States with the zone numbers listed for every area.
The best places to grow olives outdoors in the US are in zones 7 to 10. You can find the map on the USDA’s site and just locate your state and area where you live to see if you are living within this range. The following list tells you what each zone encompasses and which olive trees will grow well in these areas.
The zones listed may show a state but you will have to look up your specific area to see if it is part of this zone hardiness area.
- Zone 7 includes areas in the Pacific Northwest, Utah, Nevada, California, Arkansas, Texas, Arizona, Virginia, Tennessee, New Mexico, New Jersey. and Pennsylvania.
The best olive trees for Zone 7 are Mission, Picual, Arbequina, and Manzanilla.
- Zone 8 includes South Carolina, North Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, Florida, Georgia, Arkansas, California, and Arizona.
The best olive trees to grow in Zone 8 are Arbosana, Arbequina, and Koroneika.
- Zone 9 includes areas in California, Louisiana, Texas, Florida, and Arizona.
The best olive trees you can grow in Zone 9 are Frantoio, Mission, Ascolano, and Manzanillo.
- Zone 10 includes much of South Florida, coastal California, and a bit of south-central Arizona.
The best olive trees you can grow in Zone 10 include the Mediterranean tree, the Arbequina olive tree, the Pendolino olive tree, the Koroneiki Greek Olive tree, and the Mission olive tree.
Do Olive Trees Need To Be Pollinated?
Pollination of olive trees happens when the trees have flowers. The pollen from the male portion of the plant, the anthers, joins the female portion of the plant, the stigma. These spring flowers will later become ripened olives.
Not all olive trees need to pollinate because many are considered self-pollinating. This process means that instead of having to be planted next to another similar tree to produce olives, pollination can occur via the wind or even by bees.
Make sure you purchase your olive trees from a reputable nursery. Most of the olive trees sold are self-pollinating but the professionals will be able to confirm that for you.
How Do You Plant An Olive Tree?
If you have found that you live in a zone that is conducive to growing olive trees, the next step is to find just the right area to plant them. Find an area in your yard or garden that gets at least 6 to 8 hours of full sun each day.
Make sure that the soil you are using for your olive trees is light enough to remain drained at all times. Olive trees will not thrive in heavy soil that is thick and clay-like. Most importantly, give your tree plenty of room to expand so the roots have a good amount of space to spread out through the years.
Can You Plant an Olive Tree from Seeds?
The quick answer is yes, you can plant an olive tree from seeds. The long answer is you have to get a fresh olive and not one that you purchased from a grocery store and just finished eating. If you know someone who already has an olive tree you may be able to get fresh seeds from this person’s tree.
Popular Florida horticulturist, Stan DeFreitas, will guide you in planting olive trees with seeds in this informational YouTube video Gardening from Seeds: How to Plant an Olive Seed. If you have the patience, you can do it, but it’s not cheating if you buy the tree already growing!
How Do You Plant Indoor Olive Trees In Pots?
The first thing you need to do to grow an olive tree indoors is to find a type of tree that will grow well indoors. When purchasing a new tree at your local nursery, make sure that someone who specializes in indoor plants and trees helps you make your selection.
Next, look for a window that gets at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight every day. Transfer the tree into a pot that is large enough for the roots to fit but also provides them with room to grow. Before you leave the nursery pick up a bag of potting soil that drains freely.
Water your olive tree thoroughly every week. Put another container under the pot so you can let the water drain out of the bottom. When the tree starts to grow more slowly, during the fall and winter seasons, you can cut back on watering it to one time a month.
During these slow-growing months, you can give it a dose of a houseplant fertilizer that includes nitrogen once a month a well. In the spring you can increase the type of fertilizer to one that provides a slow-release twice a month.
8 Olive Trees That Are Perfect For Growing In Pots Indoors
Koroneiki Olive Trees
Koroneiki olive trees are perfect for growing in pots in your home as they are easy to grow and virtually maintenance-free. Their leaves are larger than most olive trees but you will be able to see olives by the first year. Talk about immediate gratification!
This tree should be placed in an area that gets full sun but it can also thrive in partial sun as long as it is at least for 6 hours a day. You can fertilize it between 4 to 6 weeks later when the tree becomes dry but you can cut that down during the winter season.
Perfect for making olive oil.
Arbequina Olive Trees
This tree is the most popular olive tree for growing indoors. They are self-pollinating and the colors they offer make them an asset to your interior décor. Look for the beautiful flowers that begin to bloom in spring and change colors until they become yummy ripe olives.
Place the pot in front of a window that faces the south and gets sunlight for a minimum of 4 to 8 hours every day. Water when dry and you can enjoy your first olives in the first year.
Perfect for curing and making olive oil.
Mission Olive Trees
Mission olive trees started as popular trees in Spain but they have become equally as popular in California. They are already self-pollinated so they are ready to grow and produce great-tasting olives.
Mission olive trees can take cooler temperatures so if you don’t live in an area that is warm most of the time this will is the perfect olive tree for you to grow indoors.
Mission olive trees make great indoor plants, they have pretty leaves that are both green and gray, and they remain free of diseases as they grow indoors.
Perfect for making your olive oil or brining the olives for a snack.
French Picholine Olive Trees
This tree bears the most popular olives in France. When the fruit of this tree grow and ripen they have a flavor that is nutty with a spicy kick. The olives are picked when they are still green to use as a snack or stay on the tree until they turn black to make a nice olive oil out of them.
The Picholine is well suited to be an indoor plant as it is easy to grow and will thrive if you keep it pruned.
Perfect for snacking as well as making olive oil.
Manzanilla Olive Trees
These olives may hail from Spain but they have achieved the status as the number one olive in the United States. They are almost always brined and topped with a red pimiento.
They can be eaten in foods, like potato or tossed salads, in martinis, or even snacked on alone.
Their requirements are few – they don’t need to be pruned much but they do like warm air rather than cool air.
Perfect for snacking, charcuterie boards, salads, and martinis.
Amfissa Olive Trees
This olive tree comes from Greece and is one of the most popular olives in that area. It makes a great indoor plant because it is self-pollinated and compact so you can slip it into a corner as long as it gets enough sunlight.
While you may not see olives for a couple of years when they do ripen they will have a purplish-brown color with a buttery, salty flavor.
Perfect for making olive oil or brining the olives.
Nicoise Olive Trees
If you have ever had a niçoise salad you will know why the name of this olive sounds familiar. They come from France but they are Ligurian olives from Italy. Once these olives reach maturity they are dark brown and are brined with a variety of herbs enhancing their smoky flavor.
They love the warm weather and thrive in dry heat. You can expect to see olives on your inside pot in about two years.
Perfect for niçoise salad, tapenade, and on a variety of salads.
Kalamata Olive Trees
Another favorite among olive enthusiasts in the US, Kalamata olives grow primarily in Greece. They have dark skin that is shiny and purple in color.
They like warm conditions but not too hot and keep their soil wet but do not overwater (they are like the Goldilocks of olives, everything needs to be just right!)
These olives are rich in vitamins making them a healthy and nutritious snack. The trees do not grow very fast and it could take about three years to see your first edible olives.
Perfect for snacking, Greek salads, topping pizza, and adding to pasta dishes.
What You Can Do With Your Ripe Olives
- Eat them raw – many olive purists don’t need anything done to their favorite varieties. Most olives have enough of a unique flavor to make them enjoyable to munch on just as they are. However, we don’t recommend eating olives straight from the tree.
- Marinate them – in a mason jar, combine about ¼ cup of olive oil with a couple of tablespoons of red wine vinegar. Add in garlic, bay leaves, fresh rosemary, and some lemon rinds along with about 2-3 cups of olives. Refrigerate from two hours to two weeks. Enjoy!
- Make your own olive oil – this is completely doable but it is time-consuming for a fairly small yield. The easiest instructions that I found online were this video: How to Make Olive Oil at Home. It is just over three minutes and is easy to follow with no special equipment needed.
- Make a tapenade – slathering homemade tapenade on crusty Italian bread will give you the ultimate olive-tasting experience!
Supplies You Need To Grow Your Own Olive Tree
You can find everything right here on the Internet to get started – from the pots to grow them in, to the olive trees themselves!
- Arbequina Olive Tree– this live plant comes with a special blend of food, especially for this type of tree, as well as a planting guide. You can expect a tree that is around 2 – 3 feet tall.
- TreeHelp Annual Care Kit for Olive Trees – for a nominal amount this care kit will make sure your trees are healthy and give you the tastiest olives. It includes a bag of premium fertilizer and can take care of one large tree or a couple of smaller ones.
- Large Outdoor Tall Planter – this 20-inch planter is just the thing for indoor trees that may need to go outside every once in a while. It includes a drainage tray so your tree does not sit in water.
To learn more about how long it takes other trees to produce, check out our article Here’s How Long It Takes To Grow An Avocado Tree (Timeline).
That’s A Wrap!
We hope this guide helps broaden your knowledge about olives! Feel free to refer back to it as needed to know how long it takes olives to grow and which ones grow best indoors.
I don’t know about you, but now I’m in the mood for some tapenade! Until next time!
Chiraz, M. C. (2013). Growth of young olive trees: water requirements in relation to canopy and root development.
Eleftheriou, E. P. (1987). A comparative study of the leaf anatomy of olive trees growing in the city and the country. Environmental and Experimental Botany, 27(1), 105-117.
Sofo, A., Dichio, B., Xiloyannis, C., & Masia, A. (2005). Antioxidant defences in olive trees during drought stress: changes in activity of some antioxidant enzymes. Functional Plant Biology, 32(1), 45-53.
Perpetuini, G., Prete, R., Garcia-Gonzalez, N., Khairul Alam, M., & Corsetti, A. (2020). Table olives more than a fermented food. Foods, 9(2), 178.
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