Planting and Caring for Olive Trees

Care of an olive tree should start from the day it is planted. After that, olive trees need annual fertilizing, regular irrigation during hot and dry weather, and some pruning. Growing olives in the correct planting zone is important for fruit production and tree survival. Most olive varieties do best in zones 10 and 11, although some cultivars are suited for zones 8 and 9.


Planting an Olive Tree

Plant olive trees in the spring, summer, or fall. Avoid planting during hot spells in summer, and be sure your irrigation system is in place before you put the tree in the ground.

Before planting, help the tree get acclimated to outdoor temperatures by:

  • Moving the new tree to a shady outdoor place during the day and bringing it in at night for several days.
  • Then move the tree into the sun in the mornings and to shade during the afternoon, bringing it indoors at night.
  • In 7 to 10 days, trees are ready for planting as long as minimum temperatures are close to 50°F (10°C).
  • If possible, plant trees on a cloudy day.
  • Water trees thoroughly each day while moving them in and outdoors and also at planting time.

Plant olive trees in a location with as much full-sun as possible. Many olive varieties need cross-pollination with a compatible cultivar or they won’t set fruit, so make sure you have trees that can pollinate each other.

Olive trees tolerate many soil types, as long as they have good drainage. If water drains out of a test hole at a rate of 1 to 4 inches (2.5 to 10.2cm) per hour, drainage is good. Amend heavy or sandy soils by adding peat moss or coco peat.

Spacing of Olive Trees

Olive trees can be planted in a grid pattern or in a hedge row. For grid planting, space trees 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9.2 meters) apart in all directions. In hedge planting, space trees up to 8 feet (2.4 meters) apart in the rows with at least 16 feet (4.9 meters) between rows.

Fertilizing, Pruning, and Watering Olive Trees

Olive trees need annual nitrogen fertilizing. For mature trees, spread about 50 pounds (22.7 kilograms) of compost or decomposed manure or 2 pounds (907 grams) of urea fertilizer around the base of the tree and water it in. Fertilize young trees with smaller applications several times per month.

Avoid applying fertilizers between March and August. Keep fertilizers and compost at least 6 inches (15cm) away from the trunk of the tree.

Do not prune olive trees for the first four years. After that, use trimming each year to encourage good fruiting and to let light reach the inside of the tree.

Water the trees weekly or whenever they are dry during the summer months.