Olea europaea, commonly called common olive or the olive tree, is an evergreen tree that is native to the Mediterranean region. It typically grows to 20-30’ tall with a rounded crown. Young trees have smooth gray bark, but trunks and branches will gnarl somewhat picturesquely with age. Opposite, elliptic to lance shaped leaves (to 3” long) are gray-green above and silver-green beneath. Very small white flowers bloom in panicles (to 2” long) in summer on stems from the leaf axils. Flowers are fragrant. Flowers give way to oval green drupes (olives to 1.5” long) which ripen to black. Each olive contains a single pit. Olives from this species are commercially harvested as eating olives and for production of olive oils. Hardy in zones 8-10.
The seeds have a period of dormancy. They can be planted outdoors in the fall or winter for spring germination or they can be cold stratified to simulate winter conditions and to break their dormancy at any time of the year.
- Scarify the seeds by nicking or sanding the seed coat.
- Soak the seed in water for 48 hours.
- Place the seeds in a plastic bag and seal it. Store the bag in a refrigerator for 1 month.
- The seeds like moist, well-drained soil. Prepare a mixture of half potting soil and half sand, perlite or vermiculite. Put the soil in a pot.
- Sow the seeds on the soil and cover them with a thin layer of soil.
- Water the soil.
- Put the pot in a warm, sunny area. The seeds take 3-6 weeks to germinate.
- Water the pot regularly so that the soil is moist but not wet.
- The seedlings can be transplanted when they are a few inches tall.