Olive trees thrive in USDA zones 8-10. This makes growing olive trees in zone 9 an almost perfect match. Conditions in zone 9 mimic those of the Mediterranean where olives have been cultivated for thousands of years. Whether you want to grow an olive for the fruit, to press for oil, or simply as an ornamental, there are plenty of options for zone 9 olive trees. Interested in olives for zone 9? Read on to find out about growing and caring for olives in zone 9.
About Olives for Zone 9
Olive trees like it hot – hot and dry in the summer and mild in the winter. Of course, if you live in a cooler climate, you can always container grow an olive and bring it inside in the winter, but be sure to choose a dwarf, self-fertile variety. If you don’t, space may become an issue since some olive trees can grow to 20-25 feet (6-8 m.) in height and many olives need a partner to pollinate so you may need more than one tree.
You’ll know growing an olive tree is for you if you live in a dry, balmy region with plenty of sun, low wind, and humidity with winter temperature never below 15 F. (-9 C.). Olives have very shallow root systems, so planting them in a gusty area is a recipe for disaster. If you have some wind, be sure to double stake the tree to give it extra support.
Zone 9 Olive Trees
If space is an issue and you want fruit, choose a self-fertile variety. A well-known self-fertile variety is ‘Frantoio’. Consider whether you want to grow the tree as an ornamental (there are some varieties that don’t fruit) or for the fruit or oil produced from it.
A great table variety is ‘Manzanillo’, but it does need another tree nearby to set fruit. Other options include ‘Mission’, ‘Sevillano’, and ‘Ascolano’, each with their good points and bad. There are so many types of olive it may take a little research on your part to determine which one will be best in your landscape and area. Your local extension office and/or nursery are great sources of information.
Caring for Olives in Zone 9
Olive trees need at least 7 hours of full sun per day, preferably on the east or south side of a house. They need well-draining soil, but it doesn’t have to be highly fertile, as long as it isn’t overly sandy or clay laden.
Soak the root ball for 30 minutes until it is damp prior to planting. Dig a hole that is at least 3 feet wide by 2 feet deep (61 x 91.5 cm.), loosening the soil around the edges of the hole to allow the roots to spread out. Plant the tree in the hole at the same level it was in the container and tamp the soil down around the roots.
Sprinkle compost over the planted area. Don’t amend the planting hole with any additional compost. Mulch around the olive to retard weeds and then water it heavily. Thereafter, water each day there is no rain for a month while the tree establishes. There is no need to stake the tree unless you live in a windy area.
After the first month, only water the olive tree once a month. If you water it more often, the tree will produce shallow, weak roots.
Upon arrival, check the soil around the roots to make sure it's moist. If it's dry, water the soil until it's thoroughly moist but not soggy. Do not let the soil dry out at any time.
Keep the potted plant in a sunny location. The potted olive tree can remain indoors or be moved outdoors after all danger of frost has passed. Slowly acclimate the plant to outdoor conditions by placing it in a sheltered location (light shade, out of the wind) for a few weeks before moving it to a full-sun position.
When roots begin to grow out of the bottom of the container it's time to repot. Do not re-pot your olive tree more than necessary. Always re-pot to a pot that is just slightly larger.
Dieback of small stems and leaves occurs when olives are exposed to temperatures below 18 degrees Fahrenheit. These will have a shrivelled, grey appearance at first, but within a couple days all affected areas will become brown and dead. In more severe freezes the trees will shed all their leaves, with larger branches dying at 12 degrees and the entire tree being killed to the ground at 10 degrees. Flowers and fruit are damaged at 28 degrees and will quickly fall to the ground after a freeze.
Olive our Knowledge – Olive Tree Planting Guide
Lots of people ask us do olives grow on trees?Yes, you CAN grow olive tree plants!
Growing olive trees in the backyard orchard or in a container is not only possible, but easy and very rewarding. Learn how to plant an olive tree with this Olive Tree Planting Guide it will lead you in the right direction for a healthy and thriving fruit tree!
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Olive plants do best where the summers are long, hot and dry, and the winters are cool and not so dry. They are native to Mediterranean climates. They like a sharply drained calcareous or limey soil, and can tolerate salty, coastal locations. Many varieties of olive trees require cross-pollination that is, you need at least two different varieties to reliably get olive tree fruit.
Perfect Plants offers the Arbequina olive variety (Olea europaea) which is self-fertile and a semi evergreen tree.
Where do Olives Grow?
To produce olives, the Arbequina olive tree requires at least 300 chill hours that is, 300 hours below about 45°F in the wintertime, making it well adapted for in-ground cultivation in United States Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zones 7B-11 (find your USDA zone). Arbequinas cannot withstand below freezing temperatures below 25-30°F.
Where not cold hardy, you can grow Arbequina olives trees in a pot to be brought indoors in the winter months. The Arbequina olive is semi-deciduous, usually dropping some of its attractive gray-green leaves in the winter. Arbequina tends to bear heaviest in alternate years, and fruiting may be increased when another variety is nearby for cross pollination. It is also pest and disease resistant, especially to fungal diseases.
Once established, arbequina olive tree care requires little maintenance! Under good growing conditions, you should expect to harvest some olives by the time the trees are 3-6 years old.
How to Grow Olives Outdoors
For olive tree care outdoors, plant your olive tree where it will get a minimum of 6-8 hours of sun per day, and preferably full sun all day with plenty of light. Choose a site with very well drained soil olive trees don’t tolerate heavy, clayey soils and it must drain easily.
You may be wondering how fast do olive trees grow? Arbequinas can get up to 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide, so plan ahead. Multiple trees should be spaced about 10-20 feet apart. They prefer dry air.
Dig a hole about twice as wide as the pot and at about the same depth. Straighten out and/or trim any coiled roots before placing the root ball in the hole. Do not bury the plant deeper than it was in the pot. You only want a few inches of soil above the root system and you don’t want to disturb the roots too much. Do not add slow release fertilizer at this time. Fill the planting hole in with the native soil and water deeply. Spread a layer of organic mulch about 4-6 inches deep over the root zone and a little beyond, but avoid piling it against the trunk.
For the first six months, while the new landscape tree is getting established, it should be watered deeply two or three times a week. Setting up a drip irrigation will help the tree’s roots grow and will improve fruit production.
Pruning Olive Trees
Pruning olive trees is tricky so take your time! Do not prune in the first year. In the second year, you should begin training the tree for its mature tree shape. As a rule of thumb, prune each year to maintain desired shape and size.
Allow for a central leader at the top of the tree with three “scaffold” side branches. After a few years, you can annual prune for a secondary scaffold system on the first three side olive branches. Prune annually to produce heavy crops.
Olive trees bear fruit on the previous year’s growth, and they never bear on the same wood twice. They should be pruned in spring, removing shoots that bore fruit the previous year, but leaving new shoots that just developed the previous year. Remove suckers and water sprouts whenever you see them.
Olives, generally speaking, alternate years for fruit bearing. Meaning, every other year you will have heavier fruiting than the year before. On off years, pruning non-flowering branches during the flowering period can help home gardeners tremendously for fruit production.
Mature olive trees are very drought tolerant, but if they get about an inch of water every week or ten days during the early spring and summer, they will produce more and larger olives. A regular watering schedule is suggested to establish olive trees quicker.
Indoor Olive Tree Care
Don’t lose hope if you don’t live in the correct olive tree growing zone for growing Arbequinas. Recent studies have shown that it is still possible for potted olive fruit production in areas with warmer climates like Southern Texas or Southern Florida or climates with cold weather. The solution would be to plant the tree where it will receive a decent amount of shade during a warm winter. Olive trees in Florida will perform best in North or Central Florida but with proper care and protection, they can tolerate a variety of climates.
For indoor container cultivation for climates that are too cold to keep outdoors year round, select a pot that is larger than the nursery pot it came in and has big drainage holes. Use a well draining potting mix with some gravel or sharp sandy soil mixed it to make the free drainage even better.
Position the container in full to mostly full sun during the dry summer and water when the potting medium is dry to the touch. You may have to water daily, but be careful not to overwater. The potting soil should dry out between waterings and have good drainage.
Bring the container inside to the sunniest spot available when temperatures get below 25°F. An eastern or western facing window would work best for full sunlight. After a couple of years, you will want to re-pot up to a larger container, replacing as much of the potting medium as practical. Return outdoors once the frost has passed.
Potted trees do grow slower than ones planted in the ground but are equally as beautiful. Growing olives indoors is a great option for those who live in areas with exceptionally cold winters with frost damaging weather.
Olive Tree Fertilizer
Olive trees, in the ground on in a container, should be fertilized with a balanced fertilizer (for example: 10-10-10 with micronutrients included) every 2-4 weeks starting in its second spring. For a 10-10-10 formulation, apply about one cup for each year of age. Always follow label directions and do not let the fertilizer touch the trunk of the tree. Stop fertilizing in late summer so you don’t encourage new growth that could be damaged by frost.
Your olive tree should start producing fruit after 3 years. Since the Perfect Plants young trees are already 2-3 years old they are already producing green olives or will be within the next year! Olives are generally green at first but then turn a blackish purple when fully ripe at the end of the growing season. Arbequina’s can be made into table olives for eating, but more commonly are used in making olive oil due to their buttery and fruity flavor. Ripe olives have a bitter flavor until brined when you let them ripen on the tree.
Check out more information on growing olive tree indoor plants here: