Evergreen Favorite: Container Grown Olive Trees

By Laura Miller | December 20, 2020
Image by kokoroyuki
by Laura Miller
December 20, 2020

As a gardener, I like to be adventurous. I’m always up for trying new plants or growing new varieties of familiar plants. So, naturally, I was excited when I saw olive trees for sale at my favorite store. I’m a sucker for impulse buying, especially when it comes to plants.

Excitement for Growing an Olive Tree

I picked through the selection of olive twigs poking from the cardboard boxes and chose the one I felt was healthiest. Living in northeast Ohio, I knew olive trees are not winter hardy in our area. But I’ve grown container fig trees for years. Growing olive trees in containers seemed the next logical step in my evolution as a gardener.

The cool thing about trying out new plants is being pleasantly surprised by the outcome. Let me just say, growing an olive tree has been extremely rewarding. (And my tree isn’t old enough to produce fruit yet!) Unlike my fig trees which lose their leaves in the winter, olive trees are evergreens.

These beautifully shaped trees retain their foliage year-round. Their silvery-green leathery leaves make container-grown olive trees an attractive indoor alternative to ficus or umbrella trees. They only require light pruning to retain their shape. And, as a houseplant, caring for an olive tree is easy.

Caring for an Olive Tree Indoors

Olive trees are extremely hardy. They are one of the oldest cultivated trees, having been grown in the Mediterranean for at least 6,000 years. They tolerate poor soil and require very little water. In fact, overwatering is the biggest mistake to make when growing an olive tree. 

In addition to the aesthetic value container-grown olive trees lends to any home d├ęcor, these trees are pet and child safe. Considered non-toxic, I need not worry about growing an olive tree inside my home. So many times, I’ve purchased a houseplant on impulse only to find it was extremely toxic.

While it’s not difficult keeping a poisonous plant out of reach of my dogs, cats pose a different problem. Their athletic prowess allows them to reach any heights and their proclivity to gnaw on plants makes anything remotely toxic too dangerous to grow. (I tossed my sago palm after I became weary of keeping it locked up in one of the bedrooms.)

Fruit Production in Container-Grown Olive Trees

There is one downside to growing olive trees in containers. In order to produce fruit, olive trees need to be five years old and they require 200 to 300 chill hours. For me, this will mean either overwintering my olive tree in our unheated, enclosed front porch and producing olives or keeping it in the house where I can enjoy its beauty.

Of course, there is a third solution. Olive trees tend to be slow growers. So, in a few years when my olive tree gets a bit older and has bigger branches, I can start more container-grown olive trees from hardwood cuttings. The process seems simple. I’ll need to remove several pencil-sized twigs, dip them rooting hormone and place them in damp soil. Yet another new adventure to try!

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  • Laurie
    Comment added February 14, 2021Reply

    I have my olive tree growing in an oak barrel. It's about 9 years old and has not produced olives yet. We live in a tropical setting and it gets a lot of sun daily. What am I doing wrong? Thanks

  • Lorri Swafford
    Comment added December 26, 2020Reply

    I live in zone 8b. I want to create a side garden and grow some of the plants this winter inside.

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