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
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.