Botanical Name: Olea europaea and hybrids
Growing olive trees indoors has become popular in recent years -- and for good reason. This Mediterranean native is tolerant of dry air and (somewhat) dry soil, making it an extremely adaptable house plant.
In its natural habitat, an olive tree can reach up to 20 ft (6 m) tall. However, indoors, planted in a pot, you can keep it much smaller. Dwarf olive trees only grow to 6 ft (1.8 m). Pruning olive trees will keep them compact.
Olive tree branches are covered with attractive, narrow, gray-green leaves that grow 1-3 in (2.5-8 cm) long. The undersides of the leaves are covered with fine hairs.
Clusters of small, creamy white flowers may appear in the axils of the leaves in summer, followed by ripening fruits.
Use sharp pruners to cut the stem at a 45° angle, 1/4-inch above a leaf node (where a leaf attaches to a stem). Pruning olive trees will force branching from just below where the cut was made.
Prune your plant back when new growth begins in spring to keep it compact. Pruning olive trees long branches will promote vigorous new growth and an attractive shape.
Repot in spring. Move a young olive plant to a pot that's just 1 size larger every couple years or when it outgrows its pot. Always use a pot with a drainage hole to prevent soggy soil and root rot. Large plants can be top-dressed each year, instead, by replacing the top 2-3 inches of soil.
You'll find that growing olive trees indoors is well worth it. These evergreen trees are low-maintenance and long-lived.
Origin: Mediterranean region
Height: Up to 10 ft (3 m) when grown in a container. Dwarf varieties reach up to 6 ft (1.8 m). Pruning olive trees will keep them compact. A bonsai olive tree is pruned and shaped to stay much smaller.
Light: Full sun. Turn the plant a quarter turn every week to ensure even growth.
Water: Growing olive trees are thirsty spring through fall. Water thoroughly, then allow top 2 in (5 cm) of soil to dry out between waterings. Don't allow the soil to get soggy which can quickly kill this tree. Reduce water in winter, when plant is resting.
Humidity: Average room humidity; tolerant of dry air.
Temperature: Average to warm 65-75°F/18-24°C. Olive trees will tolerate high temperatures, so don't worry about putting your tree outdoors for the summer -- it can take the heat. It will tolerate a minimum of 40°F/4°C.
Soil: Sandy, fast-draining mix, such as a cactus potting mix.
Fertilizer: Feed every 2 weeks in spring and summer with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted by half. Or, apply a slow-release fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, in early spring.
Propagation: Sow seeds or take stem tip cuttings in spring. With a sharp knife or razor blade, take a 4 in (10 cm) stem tip cutting with 2-3 leaf nodes. Dip cut end in hormone rooting powder before inserting in moist potting mix. Olive tree cuttings do not root easily.
Growing olive trees need as much direct sunlight as possible year-round.
Moving your plant to a sun-drenched porch or patio for the summer will give it a boost.
You can buy olive trees from online nurseries.
A dwarf olive tree is an attractive non-fruiting tree that will stay much smaller, making it an ideal house plant. A bonsai olive tree also makes a beautiful accent for any room.
The olive tree is a member of the Oleaceae family, along with fragrant lilac and jasmine.