With olive trees hailing from the Mediterranean, it goes without saying that they really thrive in the warmth of the sun. However, this doesn’t mean that they can’t cope with colder temperatures. In fact, many people all over the world, even those in northern temperate climates, successfully grow olive trees outside throughout the year. The secret is in understanding exactly how cold is too cold for an olive tree, so here’s what you need to know.
What is the Lowest Temperature an Olive Tree Can Survive?
Generally, olive trees will happily tolerate temperatures down to -12°C. That being said, many gardeners have managed to keep their olive trees alive even in temperatures as low as -18°C. While those trees will usually experience some scarring on their bark, this will heal come spring, giving the trunk that distinctive gnarled appearance that olive trees are loved for.
However, it’s not only about the numbers…
Moisture also has a huge impact on how olive trees fare over the winter. If the temperatures drop down to -18°C but conditions remain quite dry, your olive tree will likely do just fine. However, if the low temperatures are combined with lots of water, then this could be fatal for your olive trees.
The Age of Your Tree Matters Too
Just like with all plants, younger olive trees are more delicate than mature specimens. An older tree is more likely to hold up through a cold snap than a tree that’s just a few years old.
When your tree was planted makes a difference as well. Even if you have a mature olive tree but you’ve only recently planted it, then it will struggle more in the winter compared to a tree that has had a few seasons to establish its roots.
Consider Cold-Hardy Olive Tree Varieties
If you live in an area where cold spells are common, then take some time to look into the various olive tree varieties out there. Some are much cold-hardier than others, such as:
- Arbequina – these olives have a wonderful fruity flavour and the trees are quite compact, making them great for smaller spaces or containers
- Mission – a variety developed in America, these fruits are suitable for both brining and oil-making
- Ascolana – very meaty olives that are commonly used for breading and deep frying
- Sevillano – a resilient Californian variety that’s plump, crisp, buttery, and easy to pit, making them a popular olive for stuffing
Winter Protection for Olive Trees
As mentioned, even if you do go for a cold-hardy olive tree variety, anything young or newly-planted will still need some help in order to make it through a particularly cold spell. The best way to do this is by covering your olive trees with a layer of fleece when temperatures are expected to drop – this will help to keep the frost away.
The positioning of your tree will make a huge difference too. The sunny side of a wall will give your olive trees some extra protection and heat – just make sure that you don’t plant your trees into a frost pocket. Growing your trees in a pot can help as well, since this means that you’ll be able to move them to a warmer location come winter.
Olive trees are surprisingly cold-hardy, which is why so many people all over the world are now growing these beauties in their gardens. Even if your olive trees do require a bit of extra help making it through the winter months, your efforts will be rewarded the following year when it’s time to harvest those delicious fruits!