Can You Grow Olives in Oklahoma

ever01August 7, 2007

Does anyone know what part of oklahoma where you can grow an olive tree?

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rjj1(Norman OK Zone7)

Anywhere in Oklahoma, provided it's in a container to be winter protected. It's a tropical.


    Bookmark   August 8, 2007 at 7:33AM
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SO DOES THAT mean that i would have to bring them in in the winter? I wanted to leave them outside at all times.

Is this possible in southern oklahoma?

    Bookmark   August 8, 2007 at 10:22PM
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rjj1(Norman OK Zone7)

Tropical basically means no freezing temps over an hour or so. Any longer than that and there is serious damage or loss of plant. When you think olive, also think oranges, lemons, limes, papaya, guava, bananas and other tropical fruits that will not survive Oklahoma winters.

If you have your heart set on olives, they will have to be container grown and winter protected.


    Bookmark   August 8, 2007 at 11:40PM
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What you are wanting to do may not be much different than what I'm trying in North Mississippi. We are also zone 7A. I remember temperatures -8 deg F with highs on bright sunny days of 5 deg F, but temperatures have not gotten below 10 deg F in the last ten years. Summers are hot getting up to 95 and sometimes 100 deg F recently. Its more humid here and we get 45 inches of rain or so per year although its been dry recently.

I just planted 20 Mission Olive trees, supposedly hardy to 8 deg F, the most hardy olive tree variety. In general the other varieties don't have any problems unless below 15 to 20 deg F. There is an article on the internet about a freeze in 1990 in California where temps got as low as -9 deg F, and while many olive trees died mature Mission and Ascolona varieties survived. I hope it stays fairly warm for a few years but there is always a chance they will all get killed by a bad freeze.

I also have an Arbequina variety but have been told it was not a good pick for zone 7A.

I'm not sure what freeze protection is best with one source saying to mound soil around the olive trunks during winter for the first 5 years, another says wrap in burlap. Any advice would be appreciated.

By the way the Arbequina had been here since March and is doing fine but hasn't seen winter yet. The rest are just planted.


    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 9:49AM
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Wow! Now that's what I call useful input!

Tahlequah, OK

    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 9:53AM
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Simple answer is no.

Olives are subtropical and do best with mild winters and long dry summers like found in California. Branches are killed by temperatures below 22 degrees and whole trees will be killed by freezing temperatures to 15 degrees.

Olives will grow in climate zones 10 and 11. Some varieties are hardy to zone 9, Oklahoma is zone 6 and 7. Freezing conditions lasting days or a hard freeze will kill or severely damage an olive tree.

You could grow a tree "bonsai style" and keep it indoors and some people have trees in large containers who move them indoors or into a hothouse during winter but this is probably impractical for most growers.

Although non-deciduous, olive trees do require a cold period to go into semi dormancy. If you have a winter month where the average daily temperature is below 54 degrees or less then the tree will get the message to slow growth and change gears for flowering in the spring.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2007 at 10:43PM
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Rather than posting a generic answer, do you grow olives in Texas?

There is a great deal of difference in cold hardiness between varieties and established trees. Some varieties are cold hardy to zone 8. Its been proven that the Mission variety is not a european import with no ancestry in the 700 Spanish olive varieties. The First Texas olive Oil company has 1000 olives planted near Austin and is producing oil. They had some damage to just planted trees (but did'nt kill them) when it dipped from 68 to below 25 deg F only because the trees were not mature.

This is from UC Davis who has seen plenty of olives:

Although temperatures at which olive trees can be damaged vary, depending on climatic conditions, temperatures at or below 20F (-6.7°C) are often critical. Factors affecting coldhardiness Cultivar differences. Although olive, as a species, is the most cold-hardy of the subtropical fruit trees, certain olive cultivars are more cold-hardy than others. For example, in the 1990 California freeze, ÂManzanillo trees suffered more damage than did any other cultivars grown in the state. Where ÂManzanillo was grown alongside ÂMission, ÂAscolano, or ÂBarouni in the same orchard, the ÂManzanillo trees sustained obvious
damage, but the other cultivars sustained little or none.
Responses of growers to the questionnaire clearly
supported differences in coldhardiness among the five
major California cultivars. ÂManzanillo was the most
damaged. Other cultivars appeared to be hardier;
ÂAscolano emerged as the hardiest.
Acclimation. Hardiness increase when trees are
exposed to cold temperatures as autumn proceeds into
winter, a process called "acclimation." Differences in
damage to California cultivars from place to place may
be partly explained by differences in acclimation.
Cultural practices. Pruning, irrigation and fertilization
affect tree growth and thus influence coldhardiness. For
example, in a ÂSevillano orchard near Corning, trees
pruned in the fall before the freeze produced vegetative
growth that did not have enough time to harden off
before DecemberÂs severe cold. Although ÂSevillanoÂ
trees are normally rather cold-hardy, pruned trees were
damaged by the low temperatures; nearby unpruned
ÂSevillano trees escaped injury. This pattern was
repeated in numerous locations statewide and with other
cultivars. The open canopies on pruned trees probably
exposed tree parts to frigid air and wind stress. Wind
stress may also account for increased damage seen in
trees along orchard perimeters.
The bottom line with respect to irrigation seems to be
this: (1) little or no irrigation after harvest encourages
hardening off before cold weather and decrease chances
of freeze damage, and (2) adequate irrigation in spring
encourages recovery from freeze damage.

As I said earlier in the 1990 freeze, Mission and Ascolona olive trees survived -9 deg F.

The following brief notes are extracts from a 12 page Californian paper titled, "Freeze damage and cold hardiness in olives: findings from the 1990 freeze.":

"In December 1990, California USA received a severe, fast hitting freeze which brought temperatures down as low as minus 22.8 degrees Celsius (-9F), and temperatures remained below freezing day and night for five days! It struck fast and the olive trees weren't properly acclimatised to it. The different olive varieties came through as follows:

Ascolano and Mission were the hardiest. The mature trees were cut to the ground at -20 Celsius but reshot in Spring.

Barouni and Sevillano were killed at around -18 Celsius.

Arbequina, Azapa, Kalamata, Picual, Salome and Verdale did not fare as well as the previous varieties.

Manzanillo and Nevadillo were worst hit in this devastating freeze."

What I need is advice on helping the trees make it thru this winter (harder on new trees), where it will probably get to 10 deg F. I'm mulching with pine needles and want to know if mounding the plants with pine needles, pea gravel is better or to wrap in Burlap.

I will let everyone know if they die. It's somewhat of an experiment.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 9:07AM
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rjj1(Norman OK Zone7)

In China some people actually wrap the trunks of palm trees with thatch, banana leaves, and other herbaceous material as a insulator from colder than normal temps.

I would think burlap would be fine if kept dry.

It's nice to know different varieties and cultivars have proven more cold tolerant. I would be interested in hearing how your experiment turns out.

I grow a lot of tropicals and almost all of them seem to handle a little more cold than what most people think. But it's too much of an investment on my part to push the limits too far. :-)


    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 1:03PM
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Rather than posting a generic answer, do you grow olives in Texas?

No it is much too cold where I am at in NTX around Gainesville. I am a sod farmer and landscaper who does a bit of work in southern OK up to OKC.

Austin is quite a hike from southern OK and Austin is on the northern edge of where you can grow olive trees in TX. Here is a link to the Texas Olive Council with a map of the growing regions. Just scroll down to see the map. I am almost certain anyone in the state of OK trying to grow olive trees and leave them out over winter is growing expensive firewood.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2007 at 11:03PM
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There is quite a climate variation in Texas. I used to live in Bryan TX (definately warmer than the panhandle). Also some of the olive varieties that have suceeded in Wimberly TX (near Austin) are not the Mission variety which are hardy to 8 deg F. Many growers in California grow crops which they sometimes have to cover up with blankets or protect with heaters.

Also there was no Texas Oil Council until people decided to try planting olives in Texas and after it suceeeded they formed the organization. Parts of Texas are too cold while other parts are too warm to promote fruit growth.

I'm going to use a radient barrier material to cover a tomato cage over my olives when there are frosts this winter since they are less cold hardy when just planted. As mentioned earlier they are the Mission variety which is hardy to zone 8. Temperatures have not dropped below zone 8 here (this is actually z 7A on maps) in ten years. If Al Gore is right it will work. If wrong, like you said I will have expensive kindling. Hopefully as they mature they will not require this. Giving it a try and if this 20 makes it I will plant another 40 next year. I called MS State Univ about what I was going to plant, and now they are going to do an olive trial next year.

Does the olive sock made of a radiant barrier w R10 sound as good as any way to protect the trees?

    Bookmark   November 1, 2007 at 8:41AM
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Well how did the trees last the winter? I want to plant some in SE OK. Also I have 4 ornamental trees my mom gave me from the Audobon Society they wew planted in a 3X4 area and now several years later are about 10 feet tall. I have lost the names of them they are suppose to produce food for wild birds. How can I move these no so each can fill out? Can I just dig them up in the fall (When I plant my trees)

    Bookmark   August 17, 2008 at 1:11PM
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I was wondering about an update as well. I know I am 7a, but we usually don't go below the lower bound of the trees, apparently, and I was just curious how people trying a relatively colder climate tree have worked.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2013 at 11:24PM
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greatplainsturf(6/7 OK)

Large portions of Oklahoma got to -20F in 2011, some saw -30F. If they made it through that, I'd be surprised, unless they had a blanket on. I saw many zone 7 plants die, deodar cedars and crepe myrtles died all over the place.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2013 at 9:10PM
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I'm an ex-Okie who now lives in Raleigh NC. I'm in zone 7b which is the warmer side of zone 7 - but my zone 7 isn't your zone 7. Here things might get down into the teens at night but only for a few hours and it is pretty moist all year and rarely windy.

I have an Arbequina Olive planted in the ground up against the brick wall on the Southeast side of the house. It has survived a few winters without any major limb die back. It has a few tiny olives on it this year, though it blooms every year and there is a wild honeybee hive in the oak tree around the corner from it. I don't expect it to ever make a bumper crop of fruit and wouldn't be surprised if it dies one of these winters. I used to grow it in a pot but it got so big and never made fruit so I just plopped it in the ground thinking it could just live there until winter killed it. Not only has it survived but it has quadrupled in size!

Here along the humid east coast plenty of people can get olives to survive in their yards with some special attention to siting and maybe some minor winter protection but getting them to fruit seems to be very difficult.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2013 at 3:49PM
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Any chance we can get an update on your Mission and Arbequina tree's?

    Bookmark   December 15, 2013 at 10:11PM
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I went hunting for staghorn sumac in Stillwater. I found a young olive tree growing in the ditch. Had olives all over it.

It was really cold last winter. Who knows?

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 8:42PM
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From Stillwater, Oklahoma. Found growing wild in an unkempt ditch. Olive, right?

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 9:20PM
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