Olive trees

Asked March 20, 2019, 11:44 AM EDT

Can I grow olive trees in the Salem area? Which varieties do best in our climate?

Marion County Oregon

1 Response

What a timely question! OSU Extension is currently conducting research trials to figure that out.

The short answer is yes, you can grow olives in the Salem area. There are a handful of commercial growers in the Salem area, including growers in Keizer, Dallas, and Amity, who successfully produce olives for oil. Innovators within the industry are interested in finding a niche market for high quality and distinctive regional olive oils in the state and the region.

The longer answer is yes and successful olive growing is dependent on which cultivars you attempt to grow in the Salem area. We do not yet have a recommendation for which varieties do best in our climate. We are in the process of collecting cultivars from other olive growing regions of the world to test them in various trial sites within Oregon to determine their cold hardiness. The results from this research are still a few years out. In general, for Oregon olive trees, whether your trees are susceptible to cold damage is the greatest indicator of success or failure. We are a colder growing region than the traditional olive growing regions of the world.

Most olive cultivars are considered to be unsuitable for areas with extreme temperatures below 20┬░Fahrenheit (USDA Hardiness Zone 8, which describes Salem) as they may not be resistant to the cold-inflicted tissue damage and plant necrosis. Additionally, the precipitation and humidity of many of Oregon's climates may prove to be challenging for olive development. The plant prefers well-drained soil and dry springs for optimal fruit set and complete fruit ripeness. Research into successful cold hardy cultivars that yield sufficient quantities of high quality fruit is necessary to establish a knowledge base for this developing industry.

Are you a home grower looking to add olives to your landscaping? Or a commercial grower looking for a new enterprise?

If you would like to talk further about the potential for olive production in Oregon, please contact Javier Fernandez-Salvador, the principal investigator on the olive research: javier.f-s@oregonstate.edu

AND, we are hosting a general interest meeting for olives in Oregon on April 19th, from 2:00-3:00pm at the OSU Extension office in Marion Co, 1320 Capitol St NE, Salem. We'd love to see you there!