Olive Tree Guide

 
East of Eden Plants design gardens, plantscapes, courtyards, sun terraces and superior patios with plants from around the world. We are experts in creating themed designs from climate zones including desert, Mediterranean, tropical, sub-tropical and mountain regions from every continent, creating stunning exterior and interior designs. All of our plants are hand-picked for design quality. Olive trees as used in Kew and Chelsea Flower Show. Buy individual plants and olive trees in our shop.

OLIVE TREE GUIDE
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(Olea Europaea)

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Help! My Olive Tree is losing its leaves Olive trees

   
     

Guidance for Olive trees

General Care Instructions
Olives are evergreen trees, growing (slowly!) to 9 - 12m tall, with a spread of 7-9m at 100 years. This gives plenty of time for pruning of olive trees grown in smaller gardens.

The fruits may be gathered while they are still green, or when they are fully ripe and have turned black. How to prepare olives for the table.

Olives grow well in sub-tropical and temperate areas with an optimum temperature range of 5-25°C. They need long, hot summers for the fruits to ripen fully, followed by winter temperatures that are low enough to meet the chilling requirement of the specific cultivar. Although mature trees are remarkably frost tolerant, down to -12°C, young olive plants are not fully hardy. So to be completely safe container grown plants can be placed outdoors in the summer and brought into a cold greenhouse or conservatory for winter protection.

Hot, dry winds and cool, wet weather during the flowering period reduce fruit set.

In temperate areas olives are usually grown as ornamental trees in warm spots in the garden, but as our UK Olive Tree Survey is now beginning to show, olive trees grow successfully all over Britain and you may even be lucky enough to be eating the fruit.

 

OLIVE TREE OWNERS IN THE UK
Are you producing olives you can eat?
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Olives are tough - let us know.

The Great British Olive Tree Survey
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The Great British Olive Tree Survey

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UK Olive Growing Guide
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Olive Growing Guide UK

 

How to prepare table olives
How to prepare Olives for eating at the table - recipe
How to prepare olives for eating

 

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OLIVE TREES FOR SALE Olive trees and olive plants in the shop

The Olive tree symbolises the essence of the Mediterranean landscape. It is an elegant, evergreen tree which makes an excellent specimen plant for a sunny courtyard in a terracotta pot or planted in a Mediterranean style garden.

Greek town house, Santorini - Olive trees are always the first choice
Santorini
- September 2009

If you are bold enough, there is nothing quite like your own olive grove, under planted with lavender to stimulate the imagination.

Olive trees for sale

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Pots and compost
Olives grow and fruit well in terracotta pots. They are best grown in well drained pots with loam-based compost, such as John Innes No 3 adding grit for good drainage, and crock at the base of the pot. Raise pots on feet for free drainage in wet seasons. It is recommended to start off with smaller pots, gradually repotting until you reach the largest size. If your plants get too large to move there are some great pot movers now on the market.

 

See our large plant pots for olives, and other architectural plants.

Olive trees in  terracotta pots

Site and Planting
Olive trees are happy in a wide range of soils, although low to medium fertility is preferable. Soils that are very fertile are likely to result in excessive vegetative growth. We find that the establishing of newly planted olives is enhanced by the use of a Mediterranean mycorrhizal mix, such as ‘Friendly Fungi' produced by Rootgrow.


The site must be well drained. Olive trees grow well on alkaline soils, including those with a high level of salts, provided that the pH level does not exceed 8.5. Windbreaks should be used in exposed areas.


The usual planting distance varies from 7m to 12m each way, depending on the habit of the cultivar; all olives should be staked to avoid wind damage. Closely planted trees may be thinned by re-moving alternate trees when the canopies begin to overlap.

Routine care
Top-dress with slow release fertiliser, or any general fertiliser with medium to high levels of nitrogen, at a yearly rate of about 0.5-kg per tree, applied in two or three doses when the trees are in active growth. Applications of potassium and, possibly, boron supplements may be necessary on some soils. Apply a liquid feed every three to four weeks such as Maxicrop Plus 5-5-5. Re-apply a soil conditioner such as Maxicrop Original Seaweed Extract every 12 months to produce optimum growth and fruiting.


The olive branch - universal symbol of peace and fertility

Watering
Water olives regularly during dry periods, particularly for the first two to three years after planting. Mulching with organic material is also beneficial. Keep the planting area free of weeds.

 

Delicate grandeur - flowers appear in late spring

Pruning and Training
Prune newly planted olives by re-moving the leading shoot when it is about 1.5m tall; select 3 to 5 strong laterals to provide the basic branch structure. Subsequent pruning consists of removing older branches to encourage the growth of new shoots, since fruits are produced on one-year-old wood mostly at the edges of the tree canopy
Fruit thinning may be necessary, if the trees show signs of biennial bearing. Thinning is generally done by hand, but applications of a spray containing phytohormones such as Maxicrop Original Seaweed Extract 4-18 days after flowering may also be effective.


Mediterranean colour - leaves turn from pale green to verdigris (oxidised copper and bronze)

Flowering and Fruiting
Olives produce a very insignificant cream flower. To flower and fruit successfully olives need at least two months of temperatures below 10°C in winter. However for best results avoid prolonged cold weather below 7.5°C or winter temperatures above 15.5°C as both can prevent successful fruit production.
Most cultivars are self-fertile, but pollinators may be necessary to increase fruit yield in cooler climates. Olives are pollinated by insects and also by wind; high humidity levels inhibit pollination.

If you have difficulty getting your olive tree to set fruit, you may have a single 'general' olive tree that is self-fertile, but not coping with the British weather. Add a good-sized cross-pollinating cultivar from us that is suited to the UK climate. Ask for the 'Frantoia' cultivar. While this does not guarantee success, it is your best chance. Olive trees in the Shop

 

Harvest time
Picture taken Cornwall 26.11.2004

Pests and Diseases
Olives grown in the open may be affected by various types of scale insect and root-knot nematodes . Olive diseases include Verticillium wilt. Trees grown under cover may be affected by whiteflies, thrips, and red spider mites. Growing under cover, rooted cuttings or budded plants should be grown either in prepared beds or in containers no smaller than 30-35cm in diameter.

Olive tree with olives
Still fruiting
Picture taken Plymouth
January 2009

British olive tree survey

We supply olive trees all over the UK. They are commonly grown and are a favourite feature in our designs. They regularly produce small, ornamental fruit but they are not as good to eat as the Mediterranean grown ones we love so much.

Yet we have heard much 'on the grape vine' about people growing olives in the UK that they can eat. We know of a commercial venture growing olives in Devon.

There is no doubt that olive trees survive well in the UK. Even in Greece, Italy, Spain, etc. olives in the mountains have to cope with frost and snowy conditions in the winter.

So, edible olives grown in Britain? How far spread in our country is this phenomenon? Do you pick your olives? Even if you have produced just one that you ate (and liked) we would love to know.

We are producing a national picture of all olive fruit production in the UK, especially including gardens. Use our form to let us know and we will publish the map of our findings.

LET US KNOW

 Olive tree survey form
Tell us of your olive growing success

Fill in the form with your olive tree - and your olives - story.

How many olives do you get?
What are you doing with them?

GREAT BRITISH OLIVE TREE SURVEY - FORM Olive trees and olive plants in the shop

Adrian's Olive Tree - Edinburgh
Adrian's potted olive tree in Edinburgh

Edinburgh - and loving it

Adrian says -

I bought my olive tree about 3 years ago. The tree has spent its life in a yard alongside a big house, meaning that it seldom goes lower than -1C. Equally in summer it can get much more intense heat than if it was out in the garden proper. It does get very windy in the yard, but I don't protect it from the wind.

Last year I moved it into a bigger pot, using ordinary high grade general purpose potting compost. After that it became fuller and bushier, and set fruits early on. (The year before it had fruited but only very small ones, quite late in the season).

Being enclosed in a yard the tree gets much less sunshine than if it was in the open. It will get, at best, a third of a day of direct sunshine.

I have let it stress in tune with the ambient weather, only intervening when parching was likely to set in. It didn't seem to mind this at all - it has certainly not been cossetted and kept at an even moisture level day to day.

 Adrian's olive tree in Edinburgh
Growing strong - Olives in Edinburgh EH16. Picture 16.3.2009

Is this the best, most northerly fruiting olive tree in Britain?

- or do you know better?

 

JOIN THE GREAT BRITISH OLIVE TREE SURVEY - FORM Olive trees and olive plants in the shop

Garden olive tree  in Lichfield, Staffordshire
Roy's garden olive tree in Lichfield, Staffordshire WS13. Picture 01.03.2009

 

In a Staffordshire Garden

Roy says -

The tree was purchased in Shrewsbury about 4 years ago.

I get plenty of flowers and a few fruit, about 20. The tree was about 2 metres high, but I have just pruned it.

The olives are very salty and bitter. The olive tree is planted near a fence in dry clay soil, between the house and the pond so it is quite protected.

 

 

All olives are bitter on the tree - how to prepare olives for eating

 

 

 

How to make tea from olive leaves Boil two quarts of water, then place 10g of olive leaves (alone or mixed with other herbs/teas) in an infuser or directly into the boiling water. Immediately reduce the heat to a high simmer and allow the tea to brew for about 15 minutes. Stir the tea occasionally, then strain to drink and/or refrigerate. The tea should be a medium amber colour with a slightly bitter taste. To combat a specific ailment, sip the refrigerated or reheated tea and consume the entire two quarts over the course of three days.

Olive leaves: anti-bacterial? A cancer-cure? Full article

UK Olive Tree Growing Guide
- download
Olive Growing Guide UK

Suffolk success - olive tree producing olives
Jules' olive tree in Suffolk, 2009. Happy
memories of Majorca.

Suffolk Success

Jules says -

I brought my olive tree as a small sapling (about 35cm tall) from Majorca where I used to own an apartment with my partner. For the first 2 years I kept it in a greenhouse in our cottage in Suffolk, it produced a lot of flowers and many very tiny olives (2mm) - they always fell off. The next 2 years it lived outside in a medium sized pot, still losing fruit but giving steady and sturdy growth. 2 years ago I planted it in a sunny, sheltered border, well staked. During those 2 years my sister, who dyes yarn, had been tipping her un-unused dye on the border - this year my FIRST olives! I am so excited. Ok, so there are only about a dozen but it's a start and wonderful to have a living memory of some happy Mediterranean years spent in Majorca. I am going to harvest those are of a sensible size and try pickling them this year. I now need to read up and prune the tree as I haven't ever done so and I believe it should have more space in between the centre branches. Here's hoping for an even better harvest next year - something tells me our climate is definitely changing.

How to prepare Olives for eating at the table - recipe How to prepare olives for eating

Colonising Colchester

Michael in Essex says -

12- Olives on one tree, 1- Olive on the second tree. Both trees were purchased in 2008, they are in pots and are about 1 Metre high.

I live in North Essex near Colchester. The fruit is green now and small, about the same size as shown in your photo from Edinburgh.

Help! My olive tree is losing its leaves

The problem of falling leaves has been prevalent this year and due to lack of water, rather than the cold.

The very cold period led to frozen water in pots for a long time, locked away from the roots.

Being evergreen olives do not shut down during the winter and always need a source of water.

The most significant cause of leaf loss is due to the fact that most people never water them over winter.

The tree response is to drop their leaves to stop water loss.

Just be patient. Prune back and re-shape the crown when the severe frosts have stopped. Bare branches will re-bud if left. Pruning encourages bushy growth below the cut.

Water generously through the rootball (at the base of the trunk). Feed with Maxicrop Complete seaweed fertiliser, little and often, throughout the year.

The soil may be so dry that re-wetting the soil may need to be a gradual process. New leaves will flush out in the spring.

 

 

Loads in London

Melanie says -

We have 4 quite mature (about 8/9 ft) olive trees on our roof terrace in central london. They are in pots but very large ones. When we moved here nearly two years ago they were already well established and healthy looking but had little or no olives.

This summer we fed them all regularly with tomorite and now we have hundreds of olives. I was under the impression that they would not ripen so have done nothing with them. However having read the info on your website I now know that I may be able to pick, prepare and eat them.

18.10.2009

 

Warm in Wrexham

Ceris says -

I have just bought my Olive tree (Olea "Europa") which came with a tiny bottle of oil. There are 12 little green olives already on my plant, which is approximately 12 inches tall. I have potted it into a small pot of ordinary compost, but intend to read more about it's care and go from there.

My tree is at present in my back yard which is South facing (Wrexham) and at present (3.10pm 28th October 2009) warm and sheltered.

 

Happy in Hertfordshire

Susan says -

I got an Olive tree two years ago. It grew quite quickly and is now about 50cms tall (it started at about 10cms tall).

This year I have three olives, I'm about to pick them as they have gone black and I'm very excited to try them! I know its not many but quite a few fruit set and we didn't expect any of them to actually grow. The three that are left are about 2cms long and about 1cm wide.

We live in Hertfordshire (SG7) and I hope that the olives will be worth eating after so long in preperation!

31.10.2009

Do you prefer green or black olives?

They come from the same tree - it just depends whether you pick them early or late.

Kent olives

Delight in Dartford

Simon says -

We live in Kent near the Dartford Tunnel.

The tree is about 1.3m tall/wide and has about 50 Olives max 2cm in size. on its second re-potting It seems to fruit each year but we have never picked them.

This year I think I may give it a go and live in hope I pick the right way to cure them. if thats the right word!

We love the tree; it brings back good memories of our holidays in the Greek islands, and adds to our summer BBQ nights, lit up showing off the lovely different silvery tones of the green leaves for our guests.

During the winter it also adds a little green colour to the garden and reminds us that summer will be back!

06.11.2009

 
 

Four trees in Belfast

John says -

At present I have four small olive trees in my back garden (south-west facing at rear of my semi-detached home in north Belfast).

I bought my first olive tree about 3-4 years ago, and the rest about 2 years ago. The first one was an end-of-line shrub that I picked up at a DIY store, and I bought it to 'give it a go' - the first year I had it, it grew fairly quickly from about 1' to 2' in height, and produced a lot of flowers and small fruit, but most of this fell off - only about 6 or so fattened up, again most fell off, with one remaining that started to swell and blacken - until a crow landed on the back step and ate it!

The next three were bought in Lidl. Two of the trees are now about 1m high, one is 1.2m high, and the fourth is about 1.8m. All have had flowers at various times and started to produce fruit, but this year it has all fallen off - none of them developed on the plants.

To be honest, I'm surprised that they've survived at all, and on the rare occasions where there is good, hot weather the aroma of the leaves is worth it alone - it gives a glimpse of the Mediterranean. Maybe next year we'll get some fruit to pickle.

10.11.2009

 
 

Hundreds in Dorset

Helen says -

The tree was planted in May 09 (not the best time of year, but i'm not very patient!)and is about 8 years old.

The number of olives must be in the hundreds, but they are very small (about 1cm long)and when we picked them yesterday we found only one that had turned black, the rest are very green.

The tree is in a South facing front garden in Wareham in Dorset, sheltered from the North by the house.

Our soil is very acid, poor and sandy. The tree currently stands about 8 feet high to the tip.

23.11.2009

 
     
 

Fun eating own olives

Janet in Essex says -

I received a pot grown olive tree for my birthday at the end of July 2009. It is about 4 ft. high (sorry not metric) and produced 21 olives which I preserved at the end of November using your info.

They are all small and we ate some this weekend after marinating them in olive oil, lemon juice and garlic. Whilst they are not of the quality we purchase in the shops, it was very surprising and fun to eat our own produce. My postcode is SS17.

12.01.2010

 
     
 

Braving the snow

Carole in Milton Keynes says -

My tree was given to me 6 years ago. It was already trained up, but I haven't pruned it at all (don't know how). My post code is MK3 and it has been out during this winter. The pot was largely covered with a carpet during the winter. It lives in a reasonably protected corner of my patio.

The snow was quite thick on the patio; sometimes we had 6 inches or more around the base of the pot.

9.3.2010

 
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

 

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