The olive tree originated in Asia and is still an abundant part of their thick forests. Over several thousand years, it spread to other regions, including Syria, Palestine, Cyprus, Crete, Egypt, Greece, Italy, and Spain. Today, these plants can be found all over the world due to the hardiness of the tree and its high tolerance for dry conditions. The simplicity of their care makes growing olives indoors a breeze, adding a tasty and decorative appeal to any home. In this article, we’ll explore everything it takes to start growing olives indoors, and by the end you’ll be an expert in their care.
Growing Olive Trees Indoors Overview
- Overall, olive trees are low-maintenance plants that are perfectly suited for indoor growth.
- That said, they grow quite slowly and will take about 3 years to bear fruit. Start with a sapling to speed this up.
- Olive trees need a lot of sun, stick them in a bright spot that gets 6-8 hours of bright light per day. Supplement with a grow light in the winter if needed.
- Olive trees like dry soil and don’t need to be watered all that often. 1-2 times per week is usually good.
- Go with a well-draining cactus soil over a more traditional potting soil.
- To harvest, simply pick ripe fruits off the tree, no tools needed!
Olive trees come in several varieties, though not all of them are compatible with an indoor garden. For instance, standard olive trees can grow up to 30 feet tall, which is far too large for any home. Luckily, dwarf varieties grow about a fifth of that size, so they shouldn’t reach heights of more than 6 feet.
There are also fruiting and non-fruiting varieties available. If looking for an in-home olive source, a fruiting option is best. For those looking for an ornamental tree, a non-fruiting option adds a decorative touch to any space.
For indoor fruiting varieties, good options include the Arbequina, Koroneiki, Picholine, Amfissa, Manzanilla, or Mission olive trees. For ornamental dwarf options, stick with the Montra, Little Ollie, or Skylark Dwarf trees.
Olive trees prefer dry conditions, so they need soil that releases moisture instead of holding onto it. The best option is cactus soil since it is well-draining and includes the right mix of organic and mineral elements. You can purchase a cactus mix at any gardening store or home center.
You can also make your own using one part organic matter and two parts mineral materials. For the organic matter, try low-peat potting soil and coconut coir. The mineral components could include coarse sand, tiny clean gravel, and perlite. You can use any combination of these elements as long as the ratio of organic and non-organic materials is correct.
As for the container, olive trees grow best in clay pots since these are porous and allow the release of moisture to prevent too much moisture retention in the soil. Choose one about 2-3 inches larger than the root ball of your plant. Drainage holes in the bottom of the container are also a must to release extra moisture after watering.
Olive trees prefer at least six hours of direct sunlight each day, so place your plant next to a south-facing window. Don’t let the leaves touch the window, though, since the heat can burn the delicate foliage. Olives also like fresh air, though you don’t need to move them outside to give the tree what it needs. Instead, open a window for a few hours each day when the weather is warm. On cooler days, a nearby fan can be used to provide good airflow and circulation.
That said, olive trees will grow best when brought outdoors in the summer. If possible, move it outside when the threat of frost has passed to help encourage faster growth. Olive trees are fairly resistant to pests, but you should check them every day for signs of stress.
Watering and Feeding
Though they don’t like their soil to be soggy, olive trees still need water, especially during their growing season. To properly water, first, check that the top 2-3 inches of soil are dry to the touch. If they are, give it a thorough soaking until you begin to see water leaking out of the drainage holes. If the soil isn’t dry, then check again tomorrow.
In the winter, the olive tree [will go dormant], requiring less frequent watering.
Like most plants, olives need fertilizer to retain the proper nutrient levels in the soil. A balanced 16-16-16 fertilizer is best to ensure the tree is healthy and produces a hearty supply of fruit. If using a liquid fertilizer, dilute it to half strength and add it every two to three weeks. You can also use a slow-release fertilizer instead. Regardless of the type, only add it during the growing season, beginning in the early spring, and stop as the plant goes dormant in mid-fall.
Olives are used to the warmth of a Mediterranean climate, so they prefer their living area to match these conditions. Hot, dry summers and cool, damp winters are best, which can be replicated in your home with a few simple alterations. Keep the temperature between 65 and 80 degrees, sticking with the warmer range in the summer and cooler temperatures in the winter. Humidity levels should be lower at about 40% for an olive tree to thrive.
Olives are ready to harvest when they are almost ripe, which is when their skin changes from green to reddish-purple. The olives on the tree may not all mature at the same time, so you likely won’t be able to pick them all at once. If you’re unsure if an olive is ready, give it a gentle squeeze. If it gives a bit, it’s ready to pluck off the tree.
Extra Olive Care Tips
Many olive trees are self-pollinating, though the wind aids this process when grown outside. To help indoor olives with pollination, after the flowers have bloomed, give the tree a gentle shake. You can also lightly touch the nose of each flower to increase pollination.
Keep an eye on the leaves to monitor the plant’s health. Yellow leaves indicate high moisture levels, requiring less frequent watering. Brown leaves often curl, letting you know the plant is too dry and needs more moisture. Dropped leaves are due to a lack of sunlight, so adjust the plant’s placement for better light levels.
Growing Olive Trees Indoors
Olive trees are one of the easiest plants to care for, requiring minimal moisture levels and normal home conditions to thrive. With so many varieties to choose from, you can find the perfect plant for your home. Best of all, with the correct care, you can even have a decent crop to munch on every fall.
Frquently Asked Qusetions
How long do indoor olive trees live?
Olive trees can live between 500 and 1500 years when grown outdoors, though their lifespan is significantly shorter when grown as an indoor plant. It may live for about 8 to 9 years inside before it dies and needs to be replaced.
Are olive trees toxic?
Olive trees are completely non-toxic. All parts, including the bark, leaves, and fruit, are safe for humans and pets, making them a great addition to any home.
How often do olive trees need repotting?
Yes, absolutely; olive trees are hardy and low-maintenance making them a great choice for an indoor garden. That said, they will grow faster when brought outdoors for a few months during the summer.
How Big Do Indoor Olive Trees Get?
Dwarf varieties are best for indoor growing, and will only reach about 6 feet in height. Standard ones can reach closer to 10 feet.