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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.

Olive varieties that are more 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.

28 comments

  • I have a small 3-year-old olive tree in a container in my patio area, something has been eating the leaves summer and this winter. I am in Ga. zone 7. What would be eating my leaves and what can I use that is not chemical?

    katy
  • Terry, I would wait to plant it outside when it has warmed up a bit. Unless you get one locally that has been acclimated to the cold weather. It might be quite a shock putting in a tree that has been kept indoors. Our trees are probably not as big as you want, they are about two feet and pencil size caliper.

    Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com
  • I am in North Central Texas, zone 7, and I want to plant an Arbequina olive tree. I want to get one that is already 2-3 ft tall, when would be the best time to plant it outdoors?
    Thanks!

    Terry
  • This is my first winter with an olive tree.(potted) It flourished outside all summer and fall but its been dropping leaves all winter inside no matter what I do. It barely has any healthy leaves remaining. Its in a room with plenty of sunlight. Is it normal to drop leaves? The tiny branches that are now bare are also brittle like tbey are dead. Any tips for me? I’m afraid it won’t last another month.

    Derek
  • I have an olive I have been growing for several years in a pot in Zone 7a. I bring it inside in a greenhouse-type area beneath my deck for each winter. I would like to plant it out on a south facing protected wall and was thinking I could build a temporary hoophouse-like structure on the wall that I could take down each spring. Would that possibly work? I think it would stay warm enough but would it get too hot on warm days? I do protect a fig in this same area each year but it is wrapped and insulated top to bottom with leaves. I can’t do that with an olive can I – because that would be easiest? Any thoughts

    Eric Deaver
  • Max, it is possible, but you should follow some of the suggestions in this article. It will be more work and you will need to be dedicated to taking care of the olive during the winter months.

    Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com
  • Max, it is possible, but you should follow some of the suggestions in this article. It will be more work and you will need to be dedicated to taking care of the olive during the winter months.

    Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com
  • Derek, Zone 6 is pretty cold for growing an olive unless you have a heated greenhouse. Good luck.

    Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com
  • It is an Arbequina. I’m in zone 6 in Southern Pennsylvania. I started out watering very little and it did not do well. The last month I watered more often and it has not changed. I’m hoping to get it outside in the next couple weeks.

    Derek
  • Derek, what kind of olive tree and what zone do you live in? Sounds like your tree is very stressed. How much are you watering the tree? You don’t want to over water the tree.

    Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com

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