Landscaping with olives in pots on a white balcony.

Olive Trees in Landscape Design

The olive tree (Olea europaea) is a species of small tree or shrub in the Oleaceae. It is traditionally found in the Mediterranean Basin. One well known specie of olive is dwarf olive or little olive, which is cultivated in all countries of the Mediterranean, as well as in Australia, New Zealand, and North and South Africa. Olives are one of the oldest cultivated trees globally, not only for their flavoursome fruit but also their many ornamental features.

Where do olive trees grow best?

Climate: Olives grow in an environment with long, hot, dry summers and chilly winters. This tree prefers moderate climates and will not thrive in the tropics. The olive tree likes well-drained soil and the entire sunny area of the garden. So plant this tree in a position where it receives at least six hours of direct sunlight. Olive trees are drought-tolerant plants known for their delicious, curvy fruit that can be picked, pickled, and eaten.

Potted Olive Tree - Reds Landscaping & Design
Potted olive tree on a terrace with sea view. Sunrise at seaside, blue sky.

How big do olive trees grow?

The height of the olive tree ranges from 2 to 12 metres, and it has numerous branches. The leaves are small, round-headed, leathery, dark green above and silvery at the base. Olives produce small whitish flowers in loose clusters in the axils of leaves during late spring. The flower has four white petals and a strong fragrance. The trunk of a young Olea europaea is usually single and upright, but as the tree becomes older, it may become gnarled and twisted.

Olea Europaea twisted tree trunks - Reds Landscaping & Design
Olive Grove on the island of Greece. As the tree becomes older, the tree trunk may become gnarled and twisted.

The bark of a young olive tree is smooth and light grey, but as the tree matures, it becomes fissured, rough, dark grey, and full of bumps and fractures. The wood of the olive tree is resistant to decay. A new trunk will often arise from the tree's roots being cut back. Olive trees bloom in the late spring and are harvested in the late autumn and winter, about six months after flowering.

Branch with Black Olives - Reds Landscaping & Design
Olive tree branch with black olives.


How long does it take for the olive tree to bear fruit?

Most olives take about three years to mature and begin to set a noticeable number of fruits. The yield of the fruits will be increased year by year. If you go to a small olive tree, you can do it by pruning. But the best option is to choose a dwarf variety that can grow up to 6 feet, and you can keep it shorter by pruning.

Olive Fruit - Reds Landscaping & Design
Olive fruit and leaves.


Are olive trees toxic to dogs?

There is no danger if your dog eats parts of an Olea europaea, just as there is no danger if your dog eats olive fruit. They are not toxic in any way. The only time you need to be concerned about a dog eating an olive tree is if they consume very many olives from it. This shows they may have ingested a lot of olive pits, which is not healthy.

Caring for Your Trees

Water olives regularly until they are developed. Mature trees are drought-hardy but will produce the most if adequately irrigated. To promote growth, prune suckers and low branches during the winter season and the tips of stems that have grown excessively long.


Growing for Oil - Reds Landscaping & Design
Olea Europaea growing in a growing in Mediterranean plantation.

Problems with Olive Trees

Olive lace bugs are Australian native insects harmful to the Olea europaea. It feeds on the sap from the underside of the leaves. They can entirely defoliate the tree and finally destroy it. If an insect is spotted, thoroughly treat the bottom of the leaves with organic or inorganic insecticides.

Lace Bugs - Reds Landscaping & Design
Olive lace bugs can have between 2 to 4 generations per year depending on the climate. Eggs are inserted into leaf tissue on the underside of leaves often near the main vein. - Agriculture Victoria

The leaves and strip of the olive can also be affected by peacock spot, a widespread fungal disease. It forms bad odour spots on the leaves in the winter, which grow into greenish-black circular patches. This disease may be managed by carefully spraying copper fungicides on infected leaves.

Landscape design with Olea europaea

Top tips from our landscape designers

Growing olives will add lovely silver leaves to your landscape and provide you with an evergreen tree suitable for landscaping and hedging. In landscape design, olive trees look great bordering entryways, driveways, paths, patios, and pools. Because of the distinctive branching of the olives, you may easily create a unique landscape. Olive trees may be a significant focus in a Mediterranean-style landscape design.

Where to buy Olive Trees

A wide range of Olive Tree varieties are available at large tree nurseries like The Advanced Tree Company in Wooralla Drive Mornington.

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