New mexico olive tree

How to Grow Olives

The attractive tree has silver, elliptical leaves and small, whitish, fragrant flowers. Once established, it is highly drought-resistant and tolerant of poor, infertile soils. With the increasing interest in Mediterranean food and garden design has come a demand for home-grown olives. There are also many plantations now producing high-quality olive oil in Australia.

Planning the crop

Olives need a warm, sheltered situation in full sun. However, they will usually only produce flowers when at least two months during the year have average temperatures below 10 degrees centigrade. They also need a 12 to 15 week period during which there are fluctuations between day and night temperatures. This means that olives can be grown with reasonable success in open gardens and farms in many parts of Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. For olives to set fruit, a warm to hot summer is necessary. You can purchase young olive trees and bushes from many nurseries and garden centres, by mail order or via the internet. Ask for plants for fruit harvest, not for oil production. The trees don’t begin fruiting until they are about five years old, so the larger the specimen, the sooner it will produce fruit.

Invariably, olive trees and bushes are container-grown, so you can plant them at any time of the year when the weather is suitable. It is best, however, to plant in late winter to early spring to allow the tree to become established before the cold weather sets in. A semi-mature tree grown in the ground will have quite a large spread, and this should be taken into account when deciding where to plant. One option is to plant olives in large tubs or containers. They do well in this situation and the effect is both ornamental and fashionable. You could also consider planting a small olive grove as a garden feature, particularly if you have the space and you live in a Mediterranean-climate area. The olive tree’s silver foliage and drought resistance make it ideal for regions with hot, dry summers.

Olives require a well-drained soil that is not overly rich; keep compost use fairly restricted. They prefer a limey soil, so a top dressing of garden lime, according to the degree of acidity, should be applied to soils with a pH of less than 6.5.

How Many to Grow: Young olive trees are quite expensive, so your budget might govern how many to grow. It’s a good idea to start with one or two trees or bushes. You can always buy more if these are a success. Most varieties are self-fertilising.

Varieties: Recommended varieties for fruit, not oil, are Manzanillo, Mission, Kalamata and Sevillano. All are self-fertile.

Growing Tips

To plant, dig a hole large enough to accommodate the root ball and fill with water. Also water the pot containing the olive tree thoroughly. When the water has drained from the hole, plant the tree firmly. Ensure that the root ball and stem are set at the same depth in the soil as they were in the pot. The trunk or stem should be staked up to the crown to keep it straight and prevent wind rock. Keep the tree well watered, adding a liquid feed once a week, until it is established.

Top-dress with a pelleted slow-release organic fertiliser every year in spring. To obtain high-quality fruit, train the young trees to an open vase shape for good air circulation and sun access. Do this in summer. First remove the central leader. Then choose five strong, well-placed branches to form the tree’s scaffold; remove any other branches. Once the vase shape is established, pruning is subsequently only carried out every winter to remove damaged wood and branches that are rubbing against each other.

Growing in a pot: If you choose to grow a tree in a large pot, fill it with a free-draining mix of loam and compost. Each year in spring, remove the top few centimetres and replace with a fresh mix. Regular liquid feeding, from spring to late summer, is essential for pot grown olive trees if they are to produce fruit regularly.

Pests and Diseases

An olive tree that is grown in good conditions is rarely troubled with pests and diseases. Pot-grown olives may be attacked by scale insects at times. Verticillium wilt can sometimes affect olive trees. To avoid this disease occurring, it’s always worth checking with your supplier that the tree you are buying has been grafted onto a verticillium-resistant rootstock.

Harvesting and Storing

Commercially grown olives are either harvested in early autumn, while they are still green, or they are left on the tree until winter, by which time they turn purple. The green fruit has to undergo a chemical treatment process to remove the worst of the bitterness before being bottled in brine. Olives turn purple when fully ripe. They don’t need to be treated with chemicals, so you can pickle your ripe olives in brine to make your own homemade preserved black olives.

New Mexico Olive Tree

Scientific name: Forestiera neomexicana

Alternate names: New Mexican Privet

Description: A deciduous shrub or small tree of the Oleaceae (ash) family. Native to New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, west to California. Little used outside of arid regions. Fairly fast growth makes it a good screening plant as well as a landscape item in arid climates. Does well in full sun. Does well in riparian areas (along streams and near lakes). This is a tree that can be pruned and used in a variety of ways.

New Mexico Olive Leaves

Sometimes multi-trunked, it makes an attractive landscape tree, short enough to grow beneath utility lines. It can be pruned into a shrub or a hedge for screening, garden delineation, or used as one element of a windbreak.

Height: Up to 15 feet and nearly as broad.

Leaves: Small paired leaves

Fruit: Egg-shaped, blue-black fruit, 1/4 inch long, not always produced (some plants do not have both male and female flowers).

New Mexico Olive Fruit

Habitat: Dry, rocky slopes and canyons in deserts.

Water: After established will survive without additional water, but grows faster with some water.

Wildlife: Birds eat the fruits

Management & Care: Pruning causes the many-branching tendency to increase, making it ideal for hedges and screening. Can be pruned into a tree, sometimes multi-trunked.

Texas Olive Tree

May 19, 2007

Plant of the Week

David Rodriguez

In the United States, Texas Olive occurs in the wild in very few locations. Historically, this Texas beauty grew no further north than certain lower Rio Grande Valley counties, including Hidalgo, Jim Hogg and Willacy. It is native to no other state in the United States. Trees may live well over 100 years.

The uniquely flowering Texas Olive is also native to Nuevo Leon, San Luis Potosi, Coahuila and Tamaulipas. In those parts of Mexico, the Texas Olive is commonly referred to as the Mexican Olive (Anacahuita), pronounced ANA-COW-EAT-A. The citizens of Nuevo Leon, Mexico, honor this beautiful tree as their state flower.

Texas Olive (Cordia boissieri) was named, respectively, for Valerius Cordus, a German botanist and pharmacist of the 16th Century and Pierre-Edmond Boissier, a 19th Century botanist. The shape of the yellowish to purple colored fruit lends this tree to many common names, such as the Texas Olive, Wild Olive, and Mexican Olive (Anacahuita). Botanically speaking, the Texas Olive is NOT closely related to other types of olives but is a member of the Borage Family.

Depending on soil and overall growing conditions, this small evergreen tree reaches a typical height of 15 feet with about a 10-foot spread. This native Texan of the lower Rio Grande Valley is naturally found along stream beds and slopes, preferring a well-drained soil. Currently, the Texas Olive is becoming a rare find, and it has even been reported to be close to extinction.

Texas Olive tree flower (Photo: San Antonio Botanical Gardens)

The flowers of the Texas Olive are spectacular and gorgeous. Each individual flower is 1 1/2 – 2 inches or more across. The attractive blooms continue aggressively from late winter through mid to late summer. The rest of the year, the Texas Olive flowers sporadically.

This is a great hummingbird plant. The yellow-throated, tubular/funnel-like white flowers attract hummingbirds, who ardently claim an individual tree as their own. You should stop long enough to admire those little fellows on the Texas Olive, zipping around in defense of their territory. Who said those little fellows are only attracted to red-colored flowers?

Butterflies are very fond of the nectar from the Texas Olive blossom clusters. Many should have their portraits taken in the act of drinking, with their long proboscises, from the yellow throats of those two-inch trumpets. Close relatives of the Texas Olive include other butterfly favorites such as the Turnsoles (Heliotropium) and the Anacua, a highly-attractive, native tree.

Both the Texas Olive and the Anacua have large leaves in comparison to other popular Texas natives. Those of the Texas Olive are soft and grey-green. The leaves of the Anacua are sandpaper-rough, smaller and darker green.

Fruit of the Texas Olive is also useful in many ways. Many wild animals, birds and domestic cattle eat the fruit. The leaves are also consumed as forage. The fruit is edible to humans, though not very tasty and should only be consumed with great moderation. In certain parts of Mexico, leaves are used as a medicinal tea to treat rheumatism and bronchial congestion. Some people find this a soothing remedy for the misery associated with the common cold.

The Texas Olive is a drought-tolerant and frost-resistant plant, tolerating temperatures in the high 20’s. In a severe frost, Texas Olives may loose their leaves. Past severe winters, such as the freeze of 1983, caused many of the Texas Olives to freeze and die here in San Antonio. Because of cold tolerance, it is probably best to locate the tree close to the house, where heat may be better retained. Occasional pruning may be needed to create a single-trunk erect specimen.

There are few plants that will bloom almost every day throughout the year. The Texas Olive is among those few exceptions. Many specimens in the Rio Grande Valley take a rare bloom break. This might be that great plant providing the illusion of snow. After a windy day or a long awaited rain, the ground beneath the Texas Olive is often covered in fallen white blossoms.

Texas Olive is that unique flowering tree everyone is wanting. This tree will be that great, unusual plant added to your landscape. It will provide many years of great enjoyment as a small accent tree or as that beautiful decorative patio pot plant. Check it out!

Remember, Learn and Have Fun!

David Rodriguez is County Extension Agent-Horticulture, Bexar County. For more information, call the Master Gardener ‘Hotline’ at (210) 467-6575 or visit our County Extension website at, click under Horticulture and Gardening.

Forestiera neomexicana

Desert Olive is a deciduous shrub that grows fast to 6-8 feet. Native from northern central California to Riverside and east to Colorado and Texas. Useful fast filler for desert conditions, drought tolerant after established, cold tolerant to at least 0 F., and deer have not bothered this plant. Easy to grow. Give it regular water for first year, then forget or keep watering. LOVES deep sand.

It’s kind of weird that our Olive grows in the same situations as the European olive, but the European Olive grows in areas of twice as much rainfall and milder locations. Our Olive is much tougher.

Plants occurring nearby are Prunus andersonii, Encelia actoni, Haplopappus linearifolius, Chaenactis spp., Atriplex canescens, and Cucurbita foetidissima, in arroyo area of Joshua Tree Woodland.

Desert Olive works very well in a California garden and can look small, clean green olive tree. BUT, it’s more cold hardy, more tolerant of bad soils, and a better bird plant. This little tree does well in Los Angeles, San Diego, and the San Joaquin Valley.

(syn. Forestiera pubescens)

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the “About” section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from “Seed Propagation of Native California Plants” by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual “normals” at an 800 meter spatial resolution.
Links: Jepson eFlora Taxon Page CalPhotos Wikipedia Calflora

New Mexican Privet, Desert Olive




Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Sun to Partial Shade

Light Shade


Grown for foliage


This plant is resistant to deer

Foliage Color:

Unknown – Tell us


6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)

12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)

15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)


6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)

12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)


USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 °C (-30 °F)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 °C (-25 °F)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 °C (-20 °F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 °C (-15 °F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 °C (-10 °F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 °C (-5 °F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)

Where to Grow:

Unknown – Tell us


Unknown – Tell us

Bloom Color:

Pale Yellow


Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown – Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown – Tell us

Bloom Time:

Unknown – Tell us

Other details:

Unknown – Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

7.9 to 8.5 (alkaline)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From woody stem cuttings

From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

From seed; stratify if sowing indoors

By simple layering

Seed Collecting:

Remove fleshy coating on seeds before storing

Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds

Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Tucson, Arizona

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Albuquerque, New Mexico(2 reports)

Socorro, New Mexico

La Grange, Texas

Kinnear, Wyoming

Laramie, Wyoming

Pavillion, Wyoming

Riverton, Wyoming

show all

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *