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 inches (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. Give your olive tree plenty of sunlight to get it to bloom. Although the flowers aren't long-lasting, they are delightfully fragrant.
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. 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 will force branching from just below where the cut was made.
Repot in spring. Move a young olive plant to a pot that's just 1 size (1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm)) larger every couple years or when it outgrows its pot. Keep the crown of the plant at the same level as it was; don't bury the stem because the plant may suffer from stem rot. 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 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 a sunny room.
You'll find that growing olive trees indoors is well worth it. These evergreen trees are low-maintenance and long-lived.
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. Growing olive trees need as much direct sunlight as possible year-round. Give the plant a quarter turn every week in front of the window to ensure even growth. Moving your plant to a sun-drenched porch or patio for the summer will give it a boost. Olive trees also grow well under an indoor plant light.
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 growth has slowed.
Humidity: Average room (around 40% relative humidity); tolerant of dry air.
Temperature: Warm 65-80°F/18-27°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, so bring it indoors for the winter.
Soil: Sandy, fast-draining mix, such as a cactus potting mix.
Fertilizer: Feed every 2 weeks in spring and summer with a balanced (such as 10-10-10 N-P-K) water-soluble fertilizer diluted by half. Or apply a slow-release fertilizer in early spring.
Propagation: Sow seeds or take stem tip cuttings in spring. With a sharp knife or razor blade, take a 4-inch (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.