Encyclopedia of Houseplants

How to Grow Olive Trees, the “Next Big Thing” Taking Over Interior Design

updated Jan 23, 2024
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Olive tree
Credit: Milles Studio/Stocksy

The fiddle leaf fig may have been the potted tree du jour of the past few years, but there’s a new indoor tree that’s taking over now: the olive tree. You might have seen these trendy trees popping up on Instagram, showing up in your local home centers, and gracing your favorite nurseries. Once you have your eyes open for them, you’ll start to see potted olive trees everywhere.

With their sage-colored leaves and delicate branches, olive trees look striking in a range of interior styles, from traditional Victorian to modern minimalist. Growing an olive tree indoors is brings a sophisticated air to your decor — like showcasing a tiny bit of Tuscany in your own home. If you’re considering growing an olive tree at home, here’s everything you need to know.

Quick Overview

How to Grow an Olive Tree Indoors

Olive trees like a lot of light, so it’s best to grow them in a sunny south-facing window. Water when the top inch of soil is dry.

What is an Olive Tree?

Olive trees are native to the Mediterranean and grow best in areas with hot, dry summers and mild winters. For this reason, they’re not well suited as outdoor plants in many areas of the United States — but they are great candidates for indoor growing.

Olive trees have a signature silvery, sage-y color to their leaves, along with a twisted trunk that gives them a distinct silhouette. They also typically produce fruit (the olives you know and love), though non-fruiting varieties are available.

For indoor growing, dwarf varieties are best; they won’t grow taller than 6 feet.

Credit: Irina Polonina / Stocksy

How to Plant an Olive Tree

Olive trees like soil that drains easily, such as a cactus mix. Potting mix that is too dense can become water-logged, which can hurt your olive tree.

Make sure that your pot has drainage holes, as well, so that any excess water won’t pool around the roots.

Although olive trees grow quite slowly, you want to make sure that the container is at least several inches larger than the root ball on each side to allow the roots room to expand. Planting in a larger container will mean you’ll have to re-pot your tree less often.

How big does an olive tree get?

Olive trees can reach up to 10 feet tall even in containers, so unless your ceilings are particularly high you’ll probably want to opt for a dwarf variety. Dwarf olive trees will grow as tall as 6 feet, although you can keep them shorter by pruning them.

How much water does an olive tree need?

Allow the top inch of soil in the pot to try out in between waterings.

Olive trees are particularly suited to dry air, so no need to mist or add any extra humidity to your home’s air.

Credit: New Africa/Shutterstock

What kind of light does an olive tree need?

Unfortunately, these plants aren’t tolerant of low-light conditions. Like most other fruiting trees, the olive tree prefers full sun (at least six hours a day).

A sunny, south-facing window is the ideal spot to plant an indoor olive tree.

Credit: New Africa / Shutterstock

Will an indoor olive tree grow fruit?

As with many other fruiting trees, you aren’t likely to get fruit out of your olive tree. However, if you want to try anyway, there are a couple of things you can do to increase your odds.

First, make sure the olive tree variety you buy is fruit-bearing and not purely ornamental. Two good fruit-bearing options you can try include the Arbequina and Picholine varieties.

Next, make sure to bring your olive tree outside in the summer. Olive trees need to be placed outside for a few months in order to set fruit. They’ll need to sense a change in temperature that mimics the seasons in their native Mediterranean climate, which helps kickstart the fruiting process.