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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

  • Charles, you can either bring your trees inside or wrap them with a frost blanket. 15 degrees is really low and you may get damage to the tree at those temps.

    Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com
  • Thanks for the response. When I wrap my fig, it first goes dormant (loses leaves) and it stays wrapped until spring when it leafs out again. Will the olive react the same way or would I have to cover and uncover it over the entire winter depending on temps? It dips to single digits here for brief periods at night for a few days at a stretch every winter. Otherwise hovers in the 25-35 range for lows most of the winter.

    Eric Deaver
  • Eric, you may be ok with planting on a south facing location, but be careful how close you plant it to the wall, olives can get pretty good size. You may be able to get away with just wrapping the tree with a frost blanket on the coldest nights. It just depends on how cold the nights get. The most critical time would be the first year you put it out, so wrapping it is a great idea.

    Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com
  • Eric, well it kind of depends on what variety of olive you have. As stated in the article above, most olives will be damaged by temps lower than 17F and will most likely die below 10F. I think you would be ok to wrap it and keep it wrapped.

    Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com
  • I’m in central New Jersey, zone 7A. Will it be possible to grow an Arbequina olive tree in-ground in this zone?

    max
  • I live in zone 8, in atlanta GA. Since moving here in 2013, we see periods in early winter where the night time temperature has gotten as low as 15 degrees F for a few days with daily highs in the mid 20’s. Our arbequina olives are potted. So I am assuming that we should bring them inside when temperatures are expected to dip into the low 30’s?

    charles
  • Stan, it could work as long as your greenhouse will stay above 20°F. The tree could survive and thrive in a large pot or half wine barrel.

    Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com
  • If I potted my olive tree and keep in a green house during the mid December until after the last freeze will I be able to grow olives in zone 6b?

    Stan Kauling
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