Growing Olives in Zone 7?

USDA Zone 7 is typically considered too cold for olive trees. But we're gardeners, which means we want to grow beautiful trees that aren't recommended for our zones. That goes both ways too -- for every New Yorker wanting a Meyer lemon tree we have a Southern Californian longing to grow Bartlett pears. Tricia plants an olive tree in our latest video and that probably has you fired up about the beautiful and long-lived trees, with their crop of health-giving fruit. Here's how to push the envelope for olives in your climate.

Classic ways to find warmth for olives in your zone

Find the warm microclimates on your property Microclimates are the hotter and cooler parts of your landscape. Tips for locating warm microclimates: Up against the wall Heat will reflect from a south or west-facing wall of your house, outbuilding or wooden fence. The stored heat from the daytime will continue to warm the tree at night, raising the temperatures by several degrees. Plant an olive near one of those structures (allowing room for mature olive tree branches and good air circulation around the tree). Facing south or west Garden areas that get full southern exposure are the warmest parts of the landscape. Western exposures come next as hot spots. An eastern exposure captures morning sun, but is shaded in the afternoon, so there is not enough additional heat to really create a warmer microclimate. Higher is better The upper part of a slope will be warmer than the lower part. Cold air heads down hills and into valleys, bringing cooler temperatures and increased potential for frost.

Choose olive varieties that are cold-tolerant

Typical olives trees will be damaged by temperatures below 17F and may not survive temperatures below 10F. A few varieties are a bit tougher and more likely to make it through cold spells. If you're in USDA Zone 7, we recommend Mission and Arbequina olive trees.

Baby the olive trees through cold spells

A reliable, temporary measure for protecting your olive tree in a cold spell is to use floating row cover fabric like Agribon as a shield over the tree. An unusual cold-proofing method is suggested by the Texas Olive Council, "To protect from the cold, mound trees with about 18 inches of soil on the trunk until they reach the age of five. Soil should be mounded in November and removed in late March." Grow olives in containers A sure-fire way of controlling the climate is to grow olive trees in containers (they adapt well to that life). Either seasonally, or during cold spells, move the containers under the eaves of your house, or into a structure where the olives will remain at comfortable temperatures. With a combination of warm microclimate, a proper variety, and safeguards during cold spells you should be able to grow olives in Zone 7.

26 comments

  • Susan, you might want to wait until spring to plant to allow it to establish over the summer, the problem is that we may not have any olives available for sale in the spring.

    Suzanne
  • I want to try an olive tree in Atlanta Ga…Im ready to buy now but wondering if it makes sense to wait until spring? So it can get establishes more before winter? Thanks for any help you can provide.

    Susan Elisha
  • Peter, you may be able to grow them if the conditions are right. As the article stated, you need to find a warm spot in your yard and will need to really baby them through the winter until they get established.

    Suzanne
  • We live a dozen or so miles north of Boston. Many years ago a small guest house sat on top of the abandoned foundation in our yard. Our plan is to build a greenhouse (10-ft x 22-ft inside dimensions) and grow a few olive trees in about a 6-ft x 4-ft plot against the back wall. Do you think this is a feasible idea?

    Peter M. Mirandi
  • Melanie, those trees can get to 15 feet tall and probably 8-10 feet in diameter. If you are going to move them, the winter is the least stressful time to dig them up, as long as they are not too big. You can remove the suckers anytime.

    Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com
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