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Can you grow olive trees from seed? April 24, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here (again). Since our friend Ben and I are fortunate enough to have a greenhouse here at Hawk’s Haven, our cottage home in the precise middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania, we yearn to grow edibles that would normally be out of our geographical reach: limes and lemons, ginger and cardamom, bananas and cinnamon, coffee and tea, figs and olives, maybe even a pineapple. But, while many of these plants are pretty affordable, the price of an olive tree—even a tiny one—is out of sight. Ouch!

The whole olive-tree issue returned to mind this morning when I was straightening up the house and saw that, grrrrr, someone had left some kalamata olive seeds in a non-standard place, i.e. on the coffee table, after an apparent midnight snack. Eeeeewwww!!! As Louis XIII famously said after waking up with a headache, “Someone will pay for this.” But I digress.

I was in the process of tossing them into the trash when I wondered if maybe I could sprout them instead. Hmmm. Unfortunately, some internet research turned up the Olive Oil Source website (www.oliveoilsource.com), which had a comprehensive section on propagating olive trees. It pointed out that few olive pits were viable in any case, but that no olive pits were viable if they’d been brined (like, say, our kalamata olives). Oh, well, back to the trash. It also listed some propagation techniques I’d never heard of. In addition to the usual grafting, hardwood cuttings, stem cuttings, and suckers, it went on to talk about propagating from ovules (and no, this has nothing to do with fertilized eggs) and rooted truncheons. (And anyway, aren’t truncheons those clubs people used to crack each other over the head with back in the day?!) But of course, to do any of the above requires you to have an olive tree to begin with.

Back to the drawing board. Does anyone know of an affordable source of potted olive trees? Maybe I could, ahem, persuade OFB to get me one to compensate for this lapse in table manners…

               ‘Til next time,




1. Victoria - April 24, 2009

Yeah, wasting kalamata olives! What were they thinking? Good luck with your olive tree search.

Thanks, Victoria! I’m ready to take the plunge this year!

2. Lzyjo - April 24, 2009

Mary from Citygarden.eu has olive trees at her garden in Greece, she explains some pest problems and the crop cycle. They take many decades to bear fruit, if I’m not mistaken. I have had delusions of harvesting and brining my own olives. LOL!

Me, too, lzyjo, much like curing my own coffee beans and tea leaves! Uh-huh. But bananas, citrus, pineapple, figs: all very doable, as long as you don’t expect too much of a harvest from any given plant! Still, darnit, I want an olive tree!!!

3. nancybond - April 24, 2009

My Dad has a Russian Olive tree on his property — about 30′ high, I’d guess. Beautiful and it does have lots of fruit, but it’s dry and sort of mealy. Not the same tree, obviously, but they’re very pretty with silvery foliage and grow fast in almost any condition. Good luck with your search for a “real” olive tree. 😉

Thanks, Nancy! Russian olives are lovely, aren’t they? That silvery foliage is just exquisite. Of course, now I’m trying to remember if it’s Russian or autumn olive that’s considered a pest tree here because of its adaptability and rapid spread by birds. Probably autumn olive because of all that red fruit!

4. scm - April 29, 2009

Yes, yes, olives, too tragic and all that. But let’s not overlook a potentially bigger question, can you grow cardamon from seed? Anybody out there tried it?
Cardamom is one of my favorite flavors, and I find the pods quite appealing. But I’d never thought of planting one before your post. (And er, my apologies to fans of olives.)

Well, er, only one way to find out, right? I’m ashamed to say that I’ve twice been privileged to find actual cardamom plants and have twice killed them. Inexcusable! They look a lot like ginger, low-growing with tall, thin, upright green leaves. I got one of mine from Well-Sweep Herb Farm in New Jersey (www.wellsweep.com); you might give them a call to see if they have any in stock. Meanwhile, I too am determined to find another one and treat it better this time!

5. Khan - December 3, 2009

So did you ever find out where to find an olive tree?
I was trying to acquire a Nabali (or Baladi) olive tree, thinking it would be easy-ish, as I have done dates from trees.
I ran into the same websites during google searches.
I had ordered some organic Nabali dates in Olive oil, lemon juice and Dead Sea salt. Is that considered brining, you think?

Hi Khan! Yes, I did find two sources of olive trees for sale: Logee’s and White Flower Farm. Logee’s are less expensive, and I’m very tempted to get one. Chceck them out and see what you think! And yes, in my book at least, that’s definitely considered brining. I’ve never heard of dates being preserved that way, but they sound delicious!

6. Ivan - March 17, 2010

I am harvesting the largest juiciest Kalamata olives at this moment from a tree grown from seed. This is my third harvest after planting the seed 7years ago

That’s fantastic, Ivan! Where did the seed come from?

Doris Sneed - May 24, 2012

where can i can i get a seed, or a tree?

7. DaGoatLady - March 24, 2010

We have a variety of olive trees, mission, kalamata, manzanilla..and last year we put some home made mulch around the trees to help conserve water. The mulch is made from everything from pineneedles to oak wood, just sread it out about 3 inches deep around the trees. This spring we have HUNDREDS of olive trees sprouting from fallen fruit around the trees!

I too am wondering (after paying $30 for twigs) if these trees might be decent enough to save?

Yikes, sounds like you could plant your own olive grove! If you have room, of course you should transplant some of those seedlings and see how you like their fruit. But though they may be mere twigs now, bear in mind that olive trees eventually get very large! So I’d suggest saving (and moving) two or three if you have space and digging out the rest. Maybe you could pot some of them up and sell them to local garden centers, participate in plant sales, even donate them to fundraisers. (And, of course, share them with friends and family.) As you say, olive trees, even “twigs,” are expensive, so I think people would love getting yours as gifts, in plant swaps, and at bargain prices. Good luck with your future grove!

Doris Sneed - May 24, 2012

hoping you have some seedlings, seeds, twigs, whatever available at bargain price…please let me know
God Bless and Keep You

8. Sarai - May 6, 2010

Be careful about Russian Olive trees. I live in Southeast Washington, and they are almost impossible to get rid of. Very, very, invasive trees.

I have a friend in Spain with an almond farm. He suggests to place the seeds in the freezer for a few weeks to immate winter.

You’re quite right, Sarai, the beautiful silver-leaved Russian olive and related autumn olive are very, very invasive large shrubs/small trees and no one should ever plant either one! Fortunately, they’re not related to the olive trees that produce edible olives and olive oil, and the “real” olive trees aren’t invasive. Thanks for the tip from your friend in Spain!

9. yazmine54546@hotail.com - August 28, 2011

HI can anyone please send me some info on growing from a seed i like was at my mums friends and he had 2 giant olive trees and i harvested alot of olive and am in the prossese of brining them but i left one out ‘cus i wanted to plant it but i dont want it to die as i said i only have one seed PS my email is my name for hear BYE and thx for replying

Hi Yazmine! I can’t guarantee that you’ll have success, especially with just one seed! But if the olive from which you took the seed was ripe, I don’t know why you wouldn’t. It’s certainly worth a try! Plant it in a pot of potting soil with the top (usually more pointy) end up, after removing the olive flesh. Keep the soil lightly moist but not wet. Start with a small pot (4-6″). If your seed sprouts and starts growing, pot up to a bigger size when the seedling is about 4 inches tall, then continue moving to larger pots as it grows, watering only when the soil surface dries out. Olives like sun, so keep the pot in a sunny window or on a sunny deck, balcony or patio. Feed occasionally with an organic fertilizer like liquid seaweed or compost. As you know, olive trees eventually become quite large! If your climate allows, plant your little tree outside in full sun when it reaches about 2 feet tall. Otherwise, just keep slowly potting it up. Good luck! It should set fruit for you even in a pot.

10. cynthia - September 26, 2011

Hello olive tree lovers….I live in Austin,Tx. The Texas Ag.office is now promoting Olive Tree growing as a new industry.there are several groves: here’s a couple of them: Texas Olive Ranch ( I like this guy) his trees were affordably priced. & Bella Vista Ranch….you can actually google texas olive trees and more will come up.I have visited both. I am trying to grow new ones from seed Hope I can say I had success soon!…Cynthia

This is great news, Cynthia! Thanks so much for letting us know!!!

Ashok Thanawala - October 10, 2011

I live in India,at present. i have stayed at Austin, tx, for 3 months.i was searching for the information about olive plantation from seed, As part of the climate in India, resemblance to Texas and Florida. will you please send some more information about grow olive from seed.

Ashok Thanawala
phone no 214-613-7994

Hi Ashok! We’re just amateurs with our single olive tree seedling, and know no more than we’ve posted here, we’re sorry to say. (Our home state of Pennsylvania isn’t exactly the heart of olive-growing country.) We suggest that you contact the Agricultural Extension offices in Texas and California and request more information. Good luck!

Ashok Thanawala - October 12, 2011

Thanks for reply

11. Dr. R K Singh - December 8, 2011

Please post me with development. I want to grow at Ranchi in India

12. Barbara - December 12, 2011

There is places where you can go and pick olives to buy them. Pick as many as you are willing to buy.By the pound. Well anyway, why can’t you plant some of these seeds and see if a olive tree will grow from it. My mom planted a orange seed and they said the oranges wouldn’t be any good. Well the tree had 4 very tastey oranges on it this year. The tree is about 10 years old and never made the first orange when mom was alive, She’s been dead now 2 years. And 4 oranges were on the tree and they were good. Those people that talk grafting and all that don’t know everything. Green Gate Olive Grove, Marianna Florida— Lets you pick olives to buy.

Worth a try, Barbara! And what fun to pick your own olives even if you just want to eat them! I’m glad your mom’s orange is giving you sweet oranges, what a lovely way to remember her.

13. Eddie - January 25, 2012

I see them on ebay all the time. The ones I’ve seen are maybe only two to three years old, some younger. They’re around $10 plus shipping. Just go to ebay and punch in “olive tree” and a bunch will come up.

Wow, Eddie, thanks for the tip! I had no idea you could even buy plants on eBay, much less olives!

14. Jewell Alcott (@JewellBA) - March 7, 2012

About 5 years ago, I was in Israel and was lucky enough to get in the back area (that is off limits to tourists) to the Garden of Gethsamene. I pocketed about 10 olives that had fallen off the trees. I am finally in a position to see if they are still good enough to plant. My husband just bought me a greenhouse for the cold Colorado winters. Here’s hoping….

Here’s hoping indeed, Jewell! Keep us posted. How fabulous if an actual Gethsemane olive would sprout and grow for you!

Jeremy - June 4, 2012

That’s cool, I did the same thing a while back and pocketed olive seeds from israel as well. It took me about 4 years to getting around to planting them and I got nothing from them. Hope your luck is better. 🙂

15. Meredith - March 13, 2013

A great place to buy olive trees is Georgia Olive Farms at http://georgiaolivefarms.com/products-and-services.php. They sell 3 cultivars of 15″ – 24″ olive trees used in high density farming that fruit early and are smaller than most: Arbequina, Arbosana (both from Spain) and Koroneiki (Greece) for $10 each, including shipping. The only catch is that they have changed their policy and the minimum order is 5 trees, which is ok if you have gardening friends you can share with. I have bought 3 trees from them, all going strong, planted in pots.

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