Arbequina Olive Trees – Care, Propagation, and Harvesting Tips
Arbequina is an extremely long-lived olive tree that originates in the Mediterrenean. With its evergreen foliage and quick growth habit, this olive tree can easily be grown in the backyard or in a container.
Want to learn how to grow and care for an Arbequina olive tree? This article will lead you in the right direction and give you an insight into producing a healthy and thriving fruit tree.
Arbequina Olive Tree Quick Overview
|Hardiness zone||8-10 outdoors, 4-7 indoors|
|Fertilizer||Slow-release nitrogen rich|
|Max growth||15-20 feet|
|Water||Regularly weekly and more frequently in extreme heat|
|Temperature||Mediterranean climates/ long hot summers and cool winters|
|Soil||Alkaline well-drained, chalky|
|Propagation||From cuttings or seed|
|Pests||Olive fruit fly, peacock spot, Cercospora leaf|
Characteristics of Arbequina Olive Tree at a Glance
Self-pollinating and medium flowering
Very high rooting capacity
Aromatic creamy, white flowers
Small and short leaves
Resistant to low temperatures
Can produce fruit within 2-3 years
Fruits turn black when fully ripe
Tree: weeping branches with silverish-green leaves.
Fruit Size: Arbequina is among the smallest olives varieties, weighing just 1 or 2 grams. Due to its small size, collecting the fruit can be quite difficult, hence the reason it’s normally planted in a hedge.
Fruit shape: the fruit has symmetrical and spherical shape.
Skin color: the skin is black once the fruit reaches maturity.
Arbequina Care Guide
Arbequinas don’t tolerate below freezing temperatures. To produce olives, the tree requires at least 300 hours of 45 degrees fahrenheit or higher. These trees thrive in dry, hot summers but they will also tolerate coastal climate.
Newly planted Arbequina requires watering regularly to help establish a deep and healthy root system. For the first few weeks after planting your tree, water it twice per week before gradually reducing to once every 10 days. Once your olive tree has matured, it becomes very drought tolerant, thus requiring about an inch of water every 10 days in spring and summer only.
If growing the olive tree outdoors, it requires a minimum of 6-8 hours of sunshine a day. If grown indoors, place the potted tree in a room where it can get plenty of natural light throughout the day.
Arbequinas must be grown in a very well-drained soil. These trees don’t tolerate heavy clay soils. They prefer alkaline, sandy soil that drains easily.
Feed your Arbequina tree twice a year to boost the crop. This should be done during the growing season using a slow-release, nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Whether you grow your olive tree in a container or in the ground, it should be fertilized with a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer every 4 weeks starting from the tree’s second spring. Never allow the fertilizer to come in contact with the tree’s trunk as it may burn or kill it. Stop feeding in late summer so as not to encourage new growth.
Arbequina olive trees prefer light pruning. The best time to trim their branches is in spring. Never prune the tree in winter or during a cold spell as this can kill your Arbequina. By pruning in spring, the young tree will grow new buds and better tolerate frost or freezing temperatures.
Follow these steps to prune your Arbequina olive tree:
Use shears to prune shoots that are less than 1 inch in diameter, and a hand saw for branches of up to 3 inches in diameter.
Remove the outgrown branches starting from the foot of the tree or along its trunk.
Now remove the branches that have grown upwards, inwards or are crossing each other.
Trim any major branches that have caused a silhouette of the tree.
Avoid leaving stubs when you are cutting the branches. It is better to make slanted cuts against the larger branches.
While Arbequina olive trees can be propagated from seed, it can take much longer to grow. And when the seed olive does grow, it won’t resemble the parent plant. Most olive growers prefer to grow Arbequina from branch cuttings. This can be done in summer once the tree is more than halfway through the growing season. Once the blooms have faded and the fruit starts appearing, it’s time to propagate. Follow these steps to learn how it’s done:
Step 1. Get an 8-inch nursery pot and fill it with a mix of half milled peat and half-washed sand. Saturate the sand/peat mixture with water and make a 4-inch hole with your finger in the moistened mix.
Step 2. Get an 8-inch long cutting from a healthy olive branch. It should be a quarter of an inch in diameter, ideally below a leaf node. Remove all the leaves from the base of the cutting, but leave just 5 or 6 remaining at the tip.
Step 3. Place the cutting into the moistened hole you created earlier. Make sure the sandy mix is firmly against the stem.
Step 4. Place the nursery container in a well-ventilated, lightly shaded room or outside in a sheltered area. The temperature shouldn’t exceed 70 degrees fahrenheit.
Step 5. Mist the cutting twice a day using a spray bottle. Always check the moisture level of the sand mixture when misting. Only add water to the mix when it feels dry on the top.
Step 6. Check the roots regularly to ensure they are growing optimally.
Step 7. Once the first frost has passed, repot the olive tree in a bigger container and water weekly.
How to Plant Arbequina Outdoors
Arbequina olive trees should be planted in early spring or fall. When planting outside, choose a site that receives full sun (at least 6 hours) and has good soil drainage. Arbequinas are self-pollinating so they only need one plant to yield fruit. Having said that, you can boost their yield by planting two trees – just make sure they are 10-12 feet apart from each other.
To plant your Arbequinas outdoors, remove any weeds or grass from the planting site.
Dig a hole twice as wide as the pot and the same depth. Important: don’t bury the plant deeper than it was in the container. Only a few inches of soil over the root system would be enough so as not to disturb the roots.
During the planting time, avoid adding fertilizer as this will burn the young tree. Fill the hole with soil and water it deeply.
Spread a layer of organic mulch (around 4 inches deep) over the root but avoid piling up the mulch against the trunk. Mulching prevents weed growth as well as keeps moisture in the soil.
Tip: While the newly planted tree is getting established in the first 6 months, it should be watered deeply two or three times per week. To improve fruit production, set up drip irrigation to increase root growth.
How to Plant Arbequina Indoors
If you live in a colder climate, growing Arbequinas will be more successful in order to keep your olive tree protected from the cold.
Choose a pot that’s bigger than the nursery pot your plant came with. The pot must have large drainage holes.
Use a well-draining potting mix with some sandy soil or gravel.
Now position the pot in full, direct sun during the summer months and water the plant regularly whenever the top soil feels dry to the touch. You may need to water the potting medium daily. Be sure to allow the potting soil to dry out between waterings.
The container must be placed in the sunniest spot when temperatures fall below 25 degrees fahrenheit. An east or west-facing window works best for sunlight.
After your potted tree has outgrown its container, re-pot it and add more soil to fill the new pot. The tree can be returned outdoors once the frost passes.
Bear in mind that potted olive trees tend to grow slower than the ones planted outside. But for those who live in colder climates with high chances of frost, growing olives indoors makes a great option.
Arbequina olive trees start fruiting within 2-3 years. The small, fleshy olives ripen once they turn black – but they don’t ripen all at once. The earliest time you can harvest is in November. Tip: to make your olives palatable and less bitter, cure them in brine first (a mixture of salt and water).
Common Problems & Pests
Weed: baby olive trees are highly sensitive to weed. For the first few years of their life, increase their growing capacity by eliminating all the weed from around the tree. Pull out the weed by hand or use a hoe. You may also use organic herbicides to kill the weeds. Mulching is another effective way of preventing weed growth. Use straw with any type of compost as mulch. Once the olive tree has fully matured, it will no longer be so sensitive to weeds.
Olive fruit fly: This pest was originally only found in the Mediterranean but it unintentionally found its way to the US in 1998. While the fruit fly doesn’t impact the health of an olive tree, the female fly can deposit her eggs into the fruit. Fly traps and insecticides are typically used to control these pests.
Peacock spot: This is a leaf fungus that shows itself as silver or brown spots on the upper leaves of the olive tree. The peacock spot often leaves a yellowish mark around the darkened spots and if left unchecked, it can strip the tree from its foliage. The peacock spot infection is normally experienced in areas with high rainfall. The infected olive tree must be treated with an insecticide annually. A full-canopy spray is required after harvest plus a second application in mid-winter.
Cercospora leaf spot: The leaf spot is often found alongside the peacock spot. It can manifest as an ashy, grey fungus on the bottom of the olive tree’s leaf. Treatment is in the form of insecticide spraying twice a year plus annual pruning in order to reduce leaf spot by providing the tree leaves with ample air circulation.
Can I leave my Arbequina tree outside in winter?
No. Olive trees grown in containers can only be left outside until early October. You must bring them back inside from October until the end of spring. A porch is a suitable place to keep the potted Arbequina indoors during winter.
Why does my Arbequina tree have yellow leaves?
There are many reasons for the yellow leaves appearing on your olive tree. If the yellow leaves are scattered throughout the tree, then this isn’t anything to worry about as Arbequinas experience continual leaf loss through the year. In fact, since these trees aren’t decidous, their leaves have a lifespan of around 2 to 3 years, after which time they turn yellow and fall off. If, on the other hand, the entire tree has yellow leaves, it could be due to lack of nitrogen. More frequent fertilizing will be necessary using a nitrogen-rich fertilizer.
How do I care for my baby Arbequina olive tree?
For starters, make sure the soil is moist by watering the baby plant regularly (once or twice a week). Water slowly using a drip line or hose. If you’ve planted your olive tree outside, remove weeds from around the base of the baby tree to ensure optimal growth. Potted baby olives must receive plenty of direct sunlight (6-8 hours a day). You should only fertilize your tree once it has passed its first year.
How long does it take for Arbequina olive tree cuttings to root?
It takes as little as 2 to 3 weeks for your olive tree cutting to root.
Once your Arbequina olive tree has established, it requires little maintenance. As long as you grow the tree under optimal conditions, expect to harvest some tasty olives within 2-3 years!
Feel free to share your Arbequina olive tree growing experience with us by leaving your comments below.