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How to choose olive trees

Sep 05, 2014 -
  How to choose olive trees
Arbequina olive

You can see it all now—it’s a sunny day and you’re sitting at a wooden table in your olive grove, eating olives and crusty bread, and drinking wine with your friends and family. You grew and cured those olives yourself.

The question is—WHICH olives?

Which olive trees will get prized positions in your olive grove? It’s like growing any other edible—grow the flavors you like to eat.

You may already have favorite olives, or perhaps you’re from the school of All Olives Taste Great. If you have a chance, stop by your local deli or olive bar and do some sampling to point you in the right direction.

How to Choose Olive Trees With Our Custom Tools

Go to our Olive Trees page where we created tools to help you choose the right olive trees for your farm or garden.

1) Determine your USDA hardiness zone then choose your zone number in the sidebar under USDA Zone. You will now have a list of olives for the zone that you entered. From here you can further sort the list by olive uses.

2) Olives can be used for either eating (Table), for oil production, or both, eating and oil. Go to the Olive Uses tool. If you want to grow table olives to cure and eat, choose Table in the sidebar. If you want to press olive oil, choose Oil. Several of our olive trees are “dual purpose” and appear on both lists. Remember olives must be cured before eating. You can watch Tricia show you how to cure olives using the lactic fermentation method, or Greek-style brined olives.

3) Olive trees are particularly attractive and have been a motif in art since ancient times. If you’re planning to use olive trees as edible landscaping, you’ll appreciate our tool that sorts the trees by growth habit. Within Olive Tree Habits, choose Upright for a tree that grows mostly upward, and Weeping for a tree that has drooping branches.

4) Olive trees will not be fruitful without the right pollination. Our Pollinated By tool shows you which olive trees work as pollenizors for others. Some olive trees are self-pollinating, and our sorting tool will tell you that too. Would you like an introduction to fruit tree pollination? We have an article about pollination that explains the process.

Here Are A Few Suggestions Based on Climate

The following is a list of suggested varieties based on “cold”, moderate or mild climates:

“Cold” Climates - regions where temperature can fall as low as 18°F and snow may fall occasionally. The selected varieties can withstand short periods of cold, but keep in mind, these are well established trees and they are not actively growing.

  • Frantoio
  • Leccino
  • Arbequina
  • Pendolino
  • Sevillano

Moderate Climates - regions are where minimum temperatures are usually between 25-27°F, and rarely drops below 21°F. This is typical of the world’s olive growing areas.

  • Most varieties sold in the US

Warm Climates - regions where the winter temperatures rarely fall below 28 to 32°F. Any warmer, the trees do not receive the winter chill required for dormancy.

  • Kalamata
  • Manzanillo
  • Arbequina
  • Koroneki

Not all olives are listed here, only varieties that have well documented information. Every tree has suggested USDA zones, and that should be the guideline. Olive trees can be grown in a pot for several years and brought indoors during cold winters. There are also microclimates within zones and if you live in a “banana belt” in your cold climate zone, olives may survive. The first few years is the most critical to get your olive established and happy.

So if you like olives or want to try your hand at pressing your own oil, plant an olive!


Categories: Fruit Trees, Olive Trees, Edible Landscaping

Lisa Avila Says:
Dec 17th, 2012 at 10:51 am

How to choose an olive tree.

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Dec 17th, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Lisa, I am glad to answer any of your questions about olive trees.

Anita Oleksy Says:
Jan 9th, 2013 at 5:15 pm

Are “Russian Olives” edible?

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Jan 10th, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Anita, Yes, “Russian olives” are edible. They aren’t really olives and are considered noxious weeds in many Western states.

Sgoff Says:
Nov 14th, 2013 at 5:45 am

I am in north central Louisiana. Zone 8. Are we too humid for olives?

Stephanie Brown Says:
Dec 19th, 2013 at 5:39 pm

Sgoff, You might have trouble if you have humid, wet springs since that will cause the olive tree to not set much fruit. Otherwise, it should be possible to grow an olive, you might have to protect it from frost when young though.

Steve Says:
Sep 6th, 2014 at 10:20 am

How would olive trees do in the hot Mojave desert of southern California, elevation about 2400 feet?

Leslie Says:
Sep 6th, 2014 at 2:29 pm

Why did my olives live and grow but not produce any flowers last spring? They did fine year one, but year two, not one bloom. I have 5 varieties all self pollinators. I have a nice insecterary to help, just no blooms, no fruit! I live in
Pasadena, CA

Tim Says:
Sep 6th, 2014 at 7:46 pm

Will any olives make it/produce in Central Virginia, Zone 7a?

barb Says:
Sep 7th, 2014 at 6:41 pm

What about Detroit?

Norm Says:
Sep 10th, 2014 at 7:45 am

I’ve been ordering trees from you guys for my grove in southern NM for the last few years. I have found the French varieties do best in my area, but the ones I want are hard to find. Would love to have ordered Salonoques, but you have not carried them the last two years. My grove is now full, but do please keep up the good works you guys are doing. May God bless! wink

Suzanne at Peaceful Valley Says:
Sep 12th, 2014 at 12:54 pm

You can grow it in a pot and bring it indoors in the winter. But typically, they will not grow in Detroit.

Frank Says:
Sep 27th, 2014 at 6:44 am

I live in Charleston, SC (zone 8) and would like some recommendations on olive trees? I would like to eat them and make olive oil. Do I need 2? Which variety (any Italian options)? Planting suggestions?


Suzanne at Peaceful Valley Says:
Oct 7th, 2014 at 10:54 am

Olive trees should grow in the Mojave desert, zone 9, as long as the nighttime temps. in the winter do not drop much below 32F.

Suzanne at Peaceful Valley Says:
Oct 7th, 2014 at 11:04 am

Olive trees require specific conditions during the winter months in order to set flowers and eventually produce fruit. The night time temps need to be cool (35-50F) and daytime temps need to be mildly warm (< 80F). This is essential to flower development. In Pasadena, CA, possibly the temperatures during the winter do not drop low enough, or too hot during the day, for trees to develop fruit.

Suzanne at Peaceful Valley Says:
Oct 7th, 2014 at 11:06 am

In zone 7a, olive trees will probably get too cold during the winter months. Olives are slow growing, so you could put it in a pot and bring it into a sheltered area in the winter.

Suzanne at Peaceful Valley Says:
Oct 7th, 2014 at 1:58 pm

Choose olives according to whether or not you want table or oil olives, some have dual uses. Usually you will need a pollinator, which is listed for all of our trees. If you search olive trees, with the list of trees you can further sort according to the use, either table or oil. Olives need well drained soil, full sun. Watch our video on planting an olive and our helpful blogs on olives.

Local yokel Says:
Nov 25th, 2014 at 4:20 pm

Could I grow commercial olives on the western slope of the Sierra?  Warm summer days, rarely lower than 20ºF wintertime, around 2400-2500 ft. elevation.

Suzanne at Peaceful Valley Says:
Dec 1st, 2014 at 5:46 pm

My first question is what is your USDA zone? We have a good blog with suggestions for growing olives in zone 7, really the low end of the spectrum for growing olives. Take a look and I think it will answer your questions. Here is the link, http://www.groworganic.com/organic-gardening/articles/growing-olives-in-zone-7

Hajdar Fejzulla Says:
Jan 4th, 2015 at 11:58 am

What is the minimum distance between olive trees so it is not crowded and allow for full growth?
Hampton, Virginia.

Suzanne at Peaceful Valley Says:
Jan 9th, 2015 at 2:06 pm

This is from our Growing Guide for Olive trees, “A good spacing to follow is 18’ x 14’ if planting in an orchard. This allows enough space for air & light to penetrate. If dry-farming your trees, choose a bigger tree spacing of 24’x 24’.”

Here is the link for our growing guides for tons of information. http://www.groworganic.com/media/pdfs/olives-l.pdf

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