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Olive trees can grow in a multitude of environments. It can grow in deep rich soil as well as in rocky and desert lands. As its oil is amazing, so is the tree itself. It is tolerant of both acidic and alkaline soil, and once established, it needs little water. Not only that, it can thrive very well in hot summer, yet an established tree can withstand temperature as low as -9C.
Where is it grown?
When we talk of Olive Tree, our mind automatically think of the Mediterranean region. It is estimated that these were grown in the region around 9000 years before. Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Tunisia and USA (California, Texas, and South Arizona) are the world largest growers of the tree. It is evergreen and grows as much as 15 m in height.
How Old can the Olive Tree Grow?
There is a big difference of opinion in identifying exactly the maximum age of an Olive tree. The range between 3000 to 6000 years is the most agreed upon. There have been several scientific investigations to find out its average age. Some of the oldest trees have been found with varying ages in different parts of the world.
How to Grow Your Own Olive Tree?
You do not have to cultivate a big olive orchard unless you have commercial interests. You can grow one or a few in your backyard, garden, patios, balcony, in containers, pots etc. Growing an Olive Tree is one of the most beautiful and aesthetic plants additions gardeners and hobbyists do. The Olive trees not only produce fruit but are also great ornamental plants. It does not require much care, and after an initial look after, it establishes itself it as a firm plant.
Composting, watering, pruning are the major tasks with some other minor and ordinary bits.
Although, the climate of the country where you want to plant the tree plays some role, it can be grown almost under any climate. I say “almost” and not “all” because extreme weather like under -10C severely and adversely affects the plant. Other than that, as mentioned in the beginning of this post, hot and cold shall not bear any significant amount of effects.
How to Grow an Olive Tree in a Container or a Pot?
What type of olive plant is suitable for pots and containers? There are mainly two kinds people would like to grow. One that bears fruit and one that does not. The fruitless plant is purely ornamental. Majestic Beauty is a popular variety of ornamental olive and can be grown both in the ground as well as container. It is a slow growing tree which can grow up to 25 feet tall in soil and 8 feet in pots.
The gray-green fragrant tree is easy to maintain and once established requires little care. Another variety is Little Ollie which is also called Dwarf Olive (Olea Europaea Montra). This non-fruit ornamental plant is graceful and bears many branches. This evergreen plant is heat and salt tolerant and can withstand drought conditions. It grows up to 4 feet tall and 6 feet wide.
Among the ones which bear fruit, Arbequina and Picholine are, perhaps, the best of all. The former is slow growing and has a weeping habit, while the latter has an upright habit.
How to care for Olive Trees?
Care and maintenance are important for the growth of any plant that one wants to grow and bloom nicely. Like any other plant, Olive needs some care. However, the maintenance requirement is low as compared to some other high care plants. Following are some of the most common care measures one should be following to ensure good growth.
If growing in a pot or container, use a large one. One between 22 to 26 inches deep and wide would be ideal. Select the soil which is suitable for potting and should be fast draining.
It depends on the country where you live. If you live in a country where the bright Sun always shines, then full sun or bright partial shade is OK. If you live in places like the UK and Europe, plant it in the most possible sunny spot.
When and how often to water depend upon the location and climate. In sunny and hot climate water it regularly, but at intervals. In rainy and cold areas water it only when it requires water. Too much watering can cause water logging and damage the plants. The pot should have enough holes for drainage. If you are planting in the ground, make sure the water drains off the place.
4. Soil and Fertilizer
Most garden nurseries recommend multipurpose compost. Some experts, however, recommend using fertilizers rich in nitrogen. If the soil is sandy and poor, add organic compost and mix well. In case of clay soil, make sure that your have raised the bed enough for drainage.
Some verities like Arbequina respond positively to harsh pruning. They can be pruned multiple times. Others may not be that responsive and should be pruned only in spring. It is recommended that light formative pruning should be done in early spring while heavy trimming should be undertaken only in early spring to mid summer. It is not recommended to prune in autumn and winter.
6. Winter Care
If you live in places where the temperature consistently falls below 5C, it is recommended to take it indoors during harsh cold weather. Temperature below 5c to 9 c damages the plants and may die. There are several things you need to keep in mind after taking the olive plant indoor. Take it indoor far as little time as possible to ensure wind pollination. For ornamental plants pollination is not necessary. Keep away from radiators, heating fans and furnaces etc.
Frequently Asked Questions
I received several emails regarding the cultivation of olive tree. It is, sometimes, not possible to respond to every single email. Also, most emails repeat the questions. The following are the most frequently asked questions and their replies.
Can Olive Trees Grow its Entire Life in a Pot?
Yes, they can. Some people think that it will ultimately die when it grows bigger and the roots grow longer. True that olive trees grow bigger in the container and the roots will grow longer which needs additional soil and space.
There are two simple ways to overcome this. First method is, simply take a bigger pot and transfer the plant from the old smaller pot to the new one to get more soil and space for the roots. The second method is to trim the roots that grow out of the pot. If you trim along the bottom of the pot, it will not damage the plant and it will still be able to absorb enough nutrients for its maintenance.
What should be the size of the container?
It is recommended to use a large pot. It should not be less than 24 inches deep and wide. To use larger than this is optional and depends upon space and location. There is no harm in selecting larger pots than the 24 inches.
My tree produces flower but not fruit,why?
May be you are having only the ornamental fruitless variety. They produce sterile flowers but do not bear fruit. If you are looking for olive fruit, replace it with fruit bearing variety such as Arbequina and Picholine.
My Olive plant started to die out when indoor
It is a good measure to bring it indoor if the outside temperature consistently falls below 5c. Care must be taken to keep them away from radiators, heaters, heating fans, furnaces etc. Also water them only when required. Just poke your finger in the soil and see if it is dry more than 2 inches. Do not water if the soil is moist 2 inches from the surface.
My tree is the fruit variety but still no fruit?
It takes almost 5 years for the tree to bear fruit. May be the plant is still very young and needs some more time. Patience bears sweet fruit.
How many varieties of Olive Trees?
It is estimated that there are more than 800 cultivars which were developed through centuries in the Mediterranean Basin.
Is it true that high fertility soil is no good for the Olive Plant?
It is OK to have high fertility soil and there is nothing wrong. Some gardeners believe that high fertility encourages excessive vegetative growth and so the best soil is low to medium fertility. Removal of excessive vegetation can be easily removed from high fertile soil and should not be pose any threat to the plant.
How should it be saved from windy conditions?
It is best to take the plant indoor in windy conditions to avoid damage. In windy places like England and Scotland, plants are staked unless they are well established and firm. It is good ideal to keep the olive plant staked unless firmly established.
Why should I prune it?
Pruning is necessary for the growth of the plant as well as to avoid over growth in certain cases. Pruning encourages growth of new shoots.
Do I need Pollinators?
Most olive cultivars are self-fertile. In cooler climates, it may be necessary to have pollinators to increase fruit yield. The Frantioia cultivar is considered to be the best cross pollinating cultivar.
Which is better, fruit bearing or ornamental?
Depends what you are looking for. If the sole purpose of getting it is beautification of your garden or patio, then go for the ornamental one. If you want the fruit, go for a fruit bearing type. The only problem with a fruit bearing olive plant is it makes the garden or patio untidy when the fruit falls off.