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Olive Tree Olea europaea

Growing Olive Trees: Tips at a Glance

Olive trees can live for many centuries if they have optimal growing conditions: warmth, sun, and well-drained soil (in the US, growing zones 8 to 11 will support Olea europaea).

  • Type Evergreen tree
  • Oldest on Record 4,000+ years
  • USDA Zones 8-11
  • Light Sun
  • Crown Spreading canopy
  • Location Mediterranean climate
  • Design Tip Gnarly specimen
  • Other Uses Fruit, oil
  • Companions Gray-leafed shrubs

Olive Trees: A Field Guide

Olive trees are “patient trees which will live in the stoniest ground,” as the British landscape architect Russell Page summed up the situation. What more do you need to  know to know that you want one of these ancient, graceful trees?

You can have one, too, if you live in a warm, sunny climate that mimics the Mediterranean regions where Olea europaea is most at home (USDA growing zones 8 to 11, depending on the cultivar). Olive trees life exceptionally long lives—1,500 years is nothing to them—and will become more characterful as centuries pass and their thicken and spread like gnarly knuckles across the landscape.

An olive tree (or two, if your garden is large and you would like an echo) is best planted as a specimen tree—and focal point.  “I have very often gardened in Mediterranean places where old olive trees gave the basic note with their gnarled and twisted trunks and silvery-green, sun-flecked foliage,” Page wrote in his 1962 book The Education of a Gardener.

As for companion plants, Page recommends: Iris unguicularis (Algerian iris), freesia, and white jonquils (“for their scent).

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Planting, Care & Design of Cedar of Olive Trees

More About Olive Trees

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