Olive’s First Winter

by Daisy on 01/06/2014

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IMG_1653After seeing an olive tree at the local botanic garden, I bought a small tree of my own and gave her a place of honor at the center of the main garden.

I picked an Arbequina olive tree, a Spanish variety that is self-fertile, fruits early (2-4 years), and is considered cold-hardy. It has small, brown/black fruits and a mature height of up to 20 feet, but can be easily kept to 8-10 feet, which I plan to do.

By the way, if you’ve never visited your local botanic garden, it’s a great way to get a sense of what will and won’t grow well in your area. More than likely, you’ll be pleasantly surprised, as I was, that some of the things you previously thought were no-go’s are actually fine in your area. Just ask if extraordinary measures like digging up and overwintering in the greenhouse are necessary.

Cold hardy it may be, but of course when the weather forecast is for unusually cold temps, all bets are off. Our average low here for January (our coldest month) is 31 degrees F but the forecast for t0night is a cool 9 degrees.

SO. I’m worried about Olive. She has completely strolled through a couple of 17 degree nights, including an ice storm, and she looks great. Her leaves are green and supple and perfect.


I did cover her with a sheet during the ice storm, but I don’t think it was necessary. From what I’ve read, 14 degrees is the danger point, so I began covering her up starting last night when it went down to 11 and again tomorrow and Tuesday when that 9 degree mark is expected.

So here’s hoping Olive will be okay. If you have experience with olive trees in the cold I’d love to hear your experiences.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Valerie fanning January 7, 2014 at 3:15 pm

I have found that putting a simple strand of Christmas light on the plant and covering with a sheet or blanket does wonders

Sarah January 7, 2014 at 3:32 pm

So, how’d she do? We also have a few young olive trees, and I realized Sunday afternoon that they were planted in the gap where the cold north winds come from. Essentially goners. So we dug them up and put them in the garage, and will be re-planting them on a south-facing slope, with rocks behind (and wrapped in deer fencing!). I’m hoping they weathered our record low of 4F in the garage okay!

Daisy January 7, 2014 at 5:28 pm

Sarah–Well, I can’t tell yet. Seems ok, but it hasn’t been above freezing so time will tell. I hope yours will be all right.

Daisy January 7, 2014 at 5:28 pm

Valerie fanning–I wish I’d thought of the Christmas light. I hope the blanket was enough, fingers crossed.

Lois January 8, 2014 at 6:57 am

Where can I purchase an olive tree. I live in zone 8.

Natalie January 8, 2014 at 7:06 am

Yes, I don’t know what will survive this freezing weather. I live on a mountain in Tennessee and the temps went below zero. Wonder if my flowers and bushes have made it.

Daisy January 8, 2014 at 7:11 am

Lois–I got mine online from Willis Orchards: https://www.willisorchards.com/category/olive-trees#.Us1OZPavV4c

Lois January 8, 2014 at 10:40 am

Do you need to plant two varieties for cross pollination?

Daisy January 8, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Lois–I forgot to mention Arbequina is self-fertile, so not for this variety.

Holly January 8, 2014 at 12:31 pm

I’m in zone 8 in Portland, OR and have a 3 year old Arbequina olive tree that I planted last year. We had lower than normal temperatures last month and it got down to 9 degrees. For the coldest nights, I covered the tree with an old burlap coffee sack (ask your local coffee house, they usually give them away for free). I’ve also kept the ground around the tree’s base mulched with 2 or 3 of the coffee bags all winter. The tree seems fine; it’s still green and appears to not have been impacted at all!

Holly January 8, 2014 at 12:33 pm
Vickie January 9, 2014 at 10:48 pm

Hubby and I are planning to plant olive trees this next spring – probably Arbequenia – like yours. Are you planning to make olive oil or cure your olives – or both?

Daisy January 10, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Vickie–Well, with one tree, I have pretty low expectations in terms of harvest. If I get any olives I will probably cure them and/or gaze rapturously at them until I wear them down with my eyes.

Tom Cagle January 11, 2014 at 7:40 am

You haven’t given a zone anywhere I can find. My olive is being grown as bonsai, but does live out of doors from late April to mid October, in SE-OH.

Temperature below 32F it is time to bring your olive indoors. It might survive a couple frosts, but your pushing its limits.

Daisy January 11, 2014 at 11:02 am

Tom Cagle–We’re in zone 8a/7b. Amazingly, this one looks like it has survived the “polar vortex,” thanks I guess to the thick blanket I put around it. I may be fooling myself, but it looks great so far. I definitely agree I’m pushing it.

erin January 16, 2014 at 8:50 pm

What a great idea to use Christmas lights as a sort of built-in heater! Smart!

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