Olive trees are one of the most popular edible plants to grow at home, for a number of reasons:
- Olive trees are easy to care for, as they can adapt to many different soil types.
- Olive trees can be grown successfully in a variety of climates and can handle temperatures as low as 20°F.
- Olive trees are fairly resistant to pests and disease.
- Olive trees are a compact size, ideal for small spaces like balconies.
- Olive trees yield delicious olives, which contain heart-healthy antioxidants, “good” fats, and fiber.
- Olive trees, when cared for properly, can thrive for years. (There are famous olive trees in the Mediterranean region that are reported to be more than 2,000 years old—and still producing olives!)
- Olive trees also produce beautiful, fragrant, dainty white flowers.
When you’re growing an olive tree at home with a goal of harvesting lots of tasty olives, it’s essential that you see flowers on your tree in the springtime. If you’re not seeing flowers, ask yourself these important questions:
Does it have to do with your growing zone?
If you live in Zone 3, an olive tree likely won’t do well for you. Olive trees grow best in Zones 4-11. In Zones 8-11, they can be planted in the ground or in pots, but in Zones 4-7, they do better in containers. (link to zone map)
Is it the wrong time of year for your olive tree?
Olive trees produce their flowers in the spring and their fruits in October-November.
Is your olive tree too young?
With most types of olive trees, it takes an average of 3 years for them to start bearing the lovely flowers and the delicious fruit. Once the first olives appear on your tree, however, production increases substantially, so you might eventually end up with more olives than you ever thought possible!
Is your olive tree getting the correct amount of sun?
To grow properly and become fully productive, olive trees need to get about 6-8 hours of direct sunlight every day. The plants can also tolerate partial sun, but that may decrease the amount of flowers and fruit that you get.
Is your olive tree sick?
Although olive trees are fairly resistant to pests, there are some bugs that are attracted to them. Scale insects, for instance, feed on the tree’s sap. Look for yellow spots on the leaves, a sticky residue on the leaves or stems, or orange-brown circles (the bugs themselves) on the leaves or stems.
Is your olive tree too wet?
Although olive trees like moisture, they definitely don’t like to be completely waterlogged, so make sure your container has adequate drainage.
Is your olive tree too dry?
It’s all about finding a happy medium, because although olive trees don’t like to be too wet, they don’t appreciate being too dry, either. Check the soil with your finger, to a depth of 1-2 inches. If it feels dry, it’s time to water.
Is everything fine with your olive tree but you still don’t have any flowers?
Don’t worry! Olive trees produce flowers and fruit according to a natural cycle—but it’s not always evident right away what that cycle is. Some trees only produce flowers and olives every other year. Others alternate year to year, with a heavy crop in one year followed by a light crop the next.