Adding a touch of the Mediterranean into your UK garden is very possible with the addition of an olive tree. Not only this but they can and do bear fruit in the UK climate too, as long as the summer is mild with plenty of sun.
About Olive Trees
Olive trees originated in the Mediterranean some 6,000 years ago and are a huge part of life there. They are the source of olive oil which is a huge part of Mediterranean food culture. It is an evergreen tree with a gnarly twisted trunk. They have, however, become extremely adaptable to the UK climate
It is common for olive trees to bear their first fruit between 3 and 5 years. They can grow as high as 10 metres but they can be smaller than this too. The fruit on olive trees grows during the summer and autumn months and will ripen over the winter period. Your tree may drop leaves in the spring – this is to make way for the new season’s growth.
Olives make perfect pot-grown trees due to the fact they are slow-growing so will happily sit on a patio or balcony. The advantage to having yours in a pot is that it can be easily moved when temperatures drop too low. Olive trees develop creamy delicate flowers and grow in clusters looking a lot like tiny stars.
How To Grow Olive Trees in the UK
Olive trees can be found in many UK gardens and for the most part, they grow well. They do need moderate care though and need extra protection during the winter too. Follow our care guide to ensure you get the most from your lovely olive tree.
Olive Tree Care – A Step by Step Guide
- Olives can be planted any time of the year providing the ground isn’t frozen. If you bring it indoors, make sure it’s outside again during flowering so it can wind-pollinate.
- Position your olive tree in a sunny location, where it’s well-drained and sheltered too. They will thrive against a sunny wall if this is possible and will benefit from some support such as a trellis while it matures.
- You will be able to collect your olives from the tree mid-winter when it’s ripe. When they are fully ripe they will be black and will begin to fall from the branches.
- Olives don’t require much pruning due to their slow growth rate and also, over-pruning will affect the number of fruit produced. Sometimes thinning crops may be necessary, along with removing any diseased branches. Once branches reach around 1.5 metres tall, you can pinch out weaker ones and keep the strongest.
- Considered a drought-tolerant tree, olives can do well once established, with little water. However, the growth will be supported better with regular watering during hot, dry spells. A good quality fertiliser is recommended in the spring to encourage good growth.
- Any soil will be fine as long as there is good drainage – loam-based compost is a good choice for olive trees.
- Olives are self-pollinating so you do not need more than one. The wind does the vast majority of the pollination process and you can also shake your tree.
- A cold snap of two months is required by your olive tree for the flowering and fruiting process to begin. Temperatures need to be below 10°C and there needs to be that combination of day and night temperatures. For this reason, olive trees kept indoors are unlikely to bear fruit.
Olive Trees, Did You Know?
- An olive tree is also called the “Tree of Eternity”.
- One of the oldest olive trees belongs to Crete and is believed to be 3,000 years old.
- According to Mythology, Athena planted an olive tree as a gift and it’s her name which Athens represents.
- Olives belong to the plant family which also produces lilacs, jasmine, and ash plants.
Olive trees are steeped in history and mythology, making them hugely interesting to learn about. Read our FAQS for the full rundown on all things olive related.
Olive trees can reach heights of 10 metres but ones grown in pots will be smaller than this.
Your olive tree should bear fruit around 3 to 5 years after planting.
Olive trees are self-fertile so you need just one to produce fruit.
Olive trees are evergreen but may drop some foliage in the spring as this makes way for the new leaves to come through.