Plus, learn how to care for your own.
olive tree in terra cotta pot
Credit: Getty Images

As our houseplant obsession grows and grows, it only makes sense we're rediscovering the classics. Take, for example, the olive tree. Given that we've been growing them for at least 8,000 years, it's fair to say that humans and olives have been coexisting for quite a while. But lately we're seeing perky olive trees everywhere: in gorgeous home tours, in chic décor catalogs, and, of course, all over our Instagram feeds (especially in the homes of Californians). That's why we're bidding adieu to the oversized, dark green leaves of the ever-popular fiddle leaf fig and mixing it up with the feathery, sage-colored foliage of an olive. Outdoors, they're hardy to USDA zone 8. But indoors? Well, it's a whole new take on an ancient tree. Here's everything you need to know to keep your own touch of the Mediterranean good life thriving for years to come.

Pick the Right Variety for Your Space

Olives in containers will max out around ten feet. If that's feeling a little too large for your indoor space, don't worry—go for a dwarf option instead. Dwarf varieties will eventually reach six feet tall and can be kept even smaller by pruning. 'Montra' is a particularly compact variety we like.

Give It Some Room

Olives are slow growers, but they still need some room. Keep your olive happy by replanting it in a container that gives the root ball a few inches on all sides to keep growing.

Use the Right Soil

Olives appreciate pitch-perfect drainage. To achieve that, plant your olive in a blend of cactus and potting mix.

Don't Over Water

Being from the Mediterranean, olives are quite accustomed to periods of drought. What this means for your new houseplant version is that you want to let the soil dry between waterings and you certainly don't want to over water. Less is more. Use your finger as a moisture gauge—when the soil is dry a few inches beneath the surface, it's time to water.

Bring on the Sunlight

Olives prefer full sun, which means at least six hours a day. A great spot is a south-facing window, but don't let leaves touch the glass as that contact can cause burning. Being able to open that window is a major plus—olives appreciate air circulation from time to time.

Feed Regularly

No need for its own fertilizer—any houseplant formula will do. Olives will be happiest with twice monthly feedings in spring and summer, and once monthly in fall and winter. Follow package instructions for exact amounts.

Stay on Top of Pest Patrol

Indoors, olive trees are prone to scale—sap-sucking insects that can weaken plants. Should you find sooty deposits, white waxy eggs, or small black bugs with hard protective shells, use an insecticidal soap to treat the problem and bring your tree back to health.

Don't Hold Your Breath for Olive Oil

You can't have it all. In this case, that means you're not going to have olives. Trees need about two months of temperatures below 50 degrees to stimulate flowering (which is a precursor to fruiting), so unless you plan on wearing your parka indoors for a stretch, you can plan on enjoying the foliage but skipping the fruit. Consider this a positive—the flowers are messy and leave a dusting of small petals on everything.


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