Can You Grow Olive Trees in USDA Zone 7? Which Are Best?

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Written By Shannon Campbell

Off-Grid Gardener & Food Forager

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Home » USDA Zone 7 » Can You Grow Olive Trees in USDA Zone 7? Which Are Best?

Olive trees are a highly appealing crop for home gardeners.

Not only do they produce delicious fruits that can be cured and pickled, eaten fresh, or used to make olive oil, but as an evergreen tree, they add a touch of the Mediterranean to the US landscape.

Naturally, many gardeners in the northern US want to know if heat-loving olive trees will suit their cooler climate.

Lets find out!

Can You Grow Olive Trees in Zone 7?

Beginning in the pacific northwest and running from west to east through many southern and central states of the country, USDA hardiness zone 7 encompasses some of the most balanced climates in North America. However, despite enjoying long and relatively hot summers, it is not the most ideal zone for planting olive trees.

Olive trees thrive in a somewhat narrow temperature range – most will be at risk of serious frost damage in temperatures lower than 20 degrees F, and cannot tolerate temperatures warmer than 104 degrees F.

They also need 2 months of consistent 40-50 degree F temperatures to produce flowers. Since they are best suited to USDA hardiness zones 8 to 10, zone 7 is not ideal. However, it is possible with the right conditions and precautions.

Unfortunately, there are no cold hardy olive trees that can thrive in zone 7 without significant winter protection. For zone 7 gardeners who want low-maintenance fruit trees that are least time-consuming as possible, olive trees are not likely to be a good option. However, strategies for overwintering should include:

  • Mulching
  • Adequate moisture
  • A sheltered location
  • Wrapping
  • Air circulation
  • Container planting

Above all, container planting runs the least risks if you want to ensure that your trees survive and thrive through winter.When planted in a container and moved inside through winter, some cold hardy olive trees can survive in as low as zone 4.

If you’re serious about planting robust zone 7 olive trees, take a look at these cold hardy varieties that have the best chance of thriving on your property.

7 Cold Hardy Olive Trees For Zone 7

1. Manzanilla (Olea europaea ‘Manzanillo’)

Manzanilla Olive tree
Image via Nature Hills

A popular olive variety known for its small to medium-sized fruit, the Manzanilla is perhaps the most important Spanish olive cultivar and is known and appreciated around the world, often used as simple table snacks and in high-quality olive oil production. Their olives are green and meaty, but the tree also provides extra appeal via its white spring flowers.

Manzanilla olive trees require full sun exposure and well-draining soil to thrive. Otherwise, they can tolerate a range of soil types, including loam, sandy, and clay soil. Adequate irrigation during the growing season is crucial, but be mindful not to overwater it. Regular pruning is necessary to maintain a balanced shape and promote fruit production.

These trees are relatively hardy, but since they thrive best in zones 8 to 10, winter protection in zone 7 is essential. Outside of frost damage, pests and diseases such as olive fruit fly and fungal infections are also a risk and should be monitored appropriately.

Other Common Names: Manzanillo Olive, Manzanilla de Sevilla

Growing Zones: 7-10

Average Size at Maturity: 20-30 feet tall, with a 20-foot spread

Fruiting Season: Early Fall

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

2. Picual (Olea europaea var. Picua)

Another popular Spanish olive is the Picual, the most widely planted olive variety in the region. The black, elongated fruits of the Picual are slightly bitter and have a naturally high oil content, hence why they are primarily used in olive oil production – in fact, Picual olives make up 25% of the world’s olive oil production!

These trees tend to have a high yield potential, vigorous growth, and attractive evergreen foliage. But in order to fulfill its high yield potential the Picual trees need optimal growing conditions. In particular, it prefers a Mediterranean climate with long summers and mild winters. Planting beside a Manzanilla or Gordal Sevillana variety can also boost its yields.

Though zone 7 winters tend to be more mild than harsh, some winter protection is still needed, particularly when trees are young and freshly planted. Plant the Picual in slightly alkaline, well-draining soil with full sun exposure and adequate air circulation to prevent frost damage.

Other Common Names: Lopereña, Marteña

Growing Zones: 7-10

Average Size at Maturity: 25-30 feet tall

Fruiting Season: Fall

3. Mission (Olea europaea ‘Mission’)

The fruits of the Mission olive tree may be lacking in size, but they more than make up for it in rich flavor! This Californian cultivar is one of the most cold-tolerant olive trees in the US and is also widely planted in South Africa. Its purplish-black olives are excellent both cured for table olives and used in oil production.

But the Mission olive isn’t just commercially useful – it also makes an attractive specimen plant for landscape gardeners, with a vase-shaped canopy and silver and grey-green foliage, guaranteed to add a touch of the Mediterranean to your zone 7 landscape.

The Mission olive is technically self-pollinating but its yield will be significantly boosted if planted with a suitable cold hardy companion like the Arbequino. Pruning is essential for fruit production, but also to keep the Mission at a manageable size. Plant in well-draining soil with full sun exposure.

Other Common Names: California Mission

Growing Zones: 7-10

Average Size at Maturity: 15-18 feet tall, with an 18-20 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Mid Fall to Late Winter, depending on usage

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

4. Arbequino (Olea europaea ‘Arbequina’)

Arbequina olive tree
Image via Nature Hills

Now highly popular around the world, the Arbequino is a cold hardy olive tree that was cultivated in the Spanish town of Arbeca in the 17th century. It is both fruitful and beautiful, producing more delicious brown olives than you can eat on your own, and making gorgeous outdoor specimens with its evergreen foliage and delicate white flowers.

On its own, the Arbequino is hardy to temperatures as low as 5 degrees F – with a bit of winter protection it has a high chance of thriving and producing in zone 7. But if you can’t be bothered with mulching and burlap, you’ll be pleased to know this olive tree is one of the best options for container growing. That way you can keep it outdoors for most of the year before moving it inside for the winter.

Plant your Arbequino in loamy or sandy well-draining soil with a neutral pH.

Other Common Names: Arbequina

Growing Zones: 4-10

Average Size at Maturity: 12-15 feet tall, with a 15-20 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Late Fall to Early Winter

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

5. Ascolano (Olea europaea ‘Ascolano’)

Next, we have an Italian native, the Ascolano olive tree which is prized for its large, fleshy heirloom fruits. The green Ascolano olive is known for its sweet, mild flavor which contains unusually tropical notes. They are used both as table olives and for olive oil. If planting olive trees for the harvest, it is important to know that Ascolano olives cannot be cured.

These trees have a wide, spreading canopy, upright growth habit, dark-green leaves, and dense foliage. They are very versatile trees, able to thrive in average soil as long as it is slightly alkaline and well-draining. The Ascolano is partially self-fertile, but planting with a companion like a Manzanilla or Mission variety will ensure a higher fruit yield.

The Ascolano will be one of the more difficult trees to grow in zone 7. It is highly recommended to plant it in a container so it can be moved inside during winter.

Other Common Names: Ascolana

Growing Zones: 7-10 (only 9-10 without winter protection)

Average Size at Maturity: 20-30 feet tall

Fruiting Season: Fall

6. Leccino (Olea europaea ‘Leccino’)

Leccino Olive tree bearing Olives
Image by Ole Husby via Flickr

When it comes to the production of Italian olive oil, the Leccino is one of the most important olive tree cultivars. Originating in Tuscany, the Leccino is now grown all over the world for its use in both cooking and beauty products. Though most esteemed for its oil, it is a very delectable option for brining and as a table olive.

In terms of landscaping, the Leccino tree is most esteemed for its semi-weeping habit, which adds a graceful note to the landscape. It is a fast-grower with a dense canopy, and when left to grow naturally tends to look more like a tree than a shrub.

The Leccino will grow best in zone 8-9, but as it is an unusually cold-hardy variety there have been many examples of gardeners finding success with the Leccino in zone 7 by providing adequate winter protection. It likes full sun and well-draining soil.

Other Common Names: Leccio, Premise, Silverstone

Growing Zones: 7-9

Average Size at Maturity: 25-30 feet tall, with a 15-20 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Mid to Late Summer

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

7. Frantoio (Olea europaea ‘Frantoio’)

Fast-growing with a high potential yield, the Frantoio is a very versatile olive variety when it comes to culinary usage – when black, its plump olives are excellent eaten fresh or pickled, and when green they are also used to produce a fragrant, high-quality oil. The tree itself provides extra visual interest in summer when its branches are covered in small white flowers.

While the Frantoio can be grown in the ground in zone 7 with enough winter protection, it is best grown in pots where it will require less maintenance. This is also convenient since this olive tree variety is self-fruiting, so you will need only one container to ensure a yearly harvest.

The Frantoio is highly adaptable, able to grow in sandy, loamy, and clay soil, and it even grows well in poor-quality, nutrient-deficient soil. It is not fussy about pH levels either – just make sure the soil is well-draining and the tree gets plenty of sunlight.

Growing Zones: 7-10

Average Size at Maturity: 12-15 feet tall, with a similar spread

Fruiting Season: Fall

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

Robust Olive Trees For Zone 7

As olive trees thrive in a consistently warm, dry Mediterranean climate, the temperature range of USDA hardiness zone 7 is not always ideal. Fortunately, there are a number of cold hardy cultivars that will make it through the coldest months of the year in zone 7.

With enough attention and adequate winter protection, you are sure to grow an attractive fruiting and flowering olive tree that thrives on your property.

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Shannon Campbell

Off-Grid Gardener & Food Forager

Shannon has always loved looking after trees and plants since as long as she can remember. She grew up gardening with her family in their off-grid home and looking after her neighbor's plant nursery. As a child she also participated in native tree replanting, and as an adult has volunteered in reforestation programs in northern Vietnam. Today, she puts her horticultural efforts into tending her vegetable and herb gardens, and learning about homesteading and permaculture. When she’s not reading, writing, and gardening, she’ll be out fishing and foraging for edible flora and fungi in the countryside around her home.

2 thoughts on “Can You Grow Olive Trees in USDA Zone 7? Which Are Best?”

    • Hi Pam, Arbequina is generally considered to be self-fertile so a companion tree is not strictly necessary. Having said that, there are studies that suggest Arbequina is not fully self-compatible and you will get larger yields and better fruit set if you do have a pollinizer. Picual and Manzanillo are both good options. All the best with your olive growing!


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