Scientific Name: Olea europaea
Common Names: Olive
Origin: Mediterranean Basin (Italy, Spain, Morocco, Greece, France, and Portugal)
Other plants in the Oleaceae family: lilac, jasmine, forsythia, ash tree
Climate: Because olive is native to the Mediterranean, it grows best in a climate where the summer is long and hot and the winter is cool. The olive tree is quite a frost tolerant. The olive tree is native to the temperate climate and grows well in the area with a cool winter, meaning the tree needs a certain number of chill hours for blooming. Chill hours are a number of cold hours that a tree accumulates (usually below 45 °F, but sometimes occurs also above 45 °F to about 55°F) to resume normal growth, including flowering and fruit set. Olive varieties have different chill hours but in general, olives need 200-300 hours of chilling. If olive trees are grown where chill hours are insufficient to satisfy chilling requirements, blooming and foliation will be delayed, and fruit set and fruit quality will be poor. The charts below show the chill hour in St. Lucie and Marion counties for this season, last season, and the average. The north of Florida has colder winter and may have enough chill hours to satisfy olive chilling requirements. Based on the chart below, south Florida may not have enough chill hours for most olive varieties.
Propagation: Olive trees can be propagated from cuttings or are grafted. They start fruiting after about four years.
Flower: Most olive varieties are self-incompatible or self-sterile. The flowers open in April or May in Florida. Cross-pollination from two distinctly different olive cultivars can result in successful fertilization and fruit production. They are fertilized by the wind.
Fertilizer: Olive trees have low nutrient requirements. Too much N will cause excessive vegetative growth and delay reproductive growth (fruiting). Also, excessive N will negatively affect oil quality.
Irrigation: Excessive moisture may cause flowers to drop and reduce fruit set. Olive trees are irrigated and fertilized in their native habitat like in Greece, however, many parts of Florida received more than 60 inches of rain per year which is a big concern for growing olives in those areas.
Pest and Disease: Compared to other fruit trees, olive trees have the least pests and diseases. The common pests of olive trees in Florida are scale, caterpillar, grasshopper, hornworms, and stink bug. One of the common fungal problems of olive trees is sooty mold. Honeydew is produced by aphids, mealybugs, and some scales. Sooty mold is a fungal organism that lives on honeydew. The best approach to control sooty mold is to manage the insects that are excreting the honeydew.
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