How Long To Grow an Olive Tree From The Seed? (Growth Timeline)

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If you ever wanted to propagate an olive tree from the seed instead of the seedling, you should know its growth timeline, and that’s what I’m bringing you today.

Key Takeaways:

  • It takes approximately 18 months for the olive seed to become a seedling that can be planted in the soil.
  • Once the seedling is planted in the soil, it takes three to five years for it to reach maturity.

From Seed To Seedling

growing olive tree from seed

When growing an olive tree from the seed, the biggest challenge is to grow that seed to the point when it can be planted to the ground. We call them seedlings – tiny olive trees grown enough to be planted.

Olive seeds are first planted in small cups. Mostly, it’ll take about one month for the seed to germinate and start growing. From there, it’ll take another 6-7 months for it to become large (trunk should be at least 5mm thick) enough so that you can transport it to the pot.

When you transport the olive stem to the pot, it’ll take another 10 months for it to grow into a healthy seedling that’s ready for planting in the ground. Some varieties can grow a bit faster or a bit slower.

The most important thing is that the stem reaches at least 80 cm of height, ideally over one meter. Also, a trunk should be at least 20 mm thick, and it should have three or four well-developed branches.

When it’s completely ready to be planted – we call it a seedling. So, to conclude, it’ll need around 18 months to grow an olive seed to a seedling. The best-case scenario is that it’ll happen in 15 months, but it can take up to 24 months for the seedling to be ready.

Reaching Maturity

Once you plant the seedlings in the soil, it’ll take 3-5 years to reach maturity and become a healthy olive tree producing a significant amount of fruits.

Some varieties will start bearing fruits after only 3 years from being planted, while others might take up 5-7 years for the first fruits. The most popular sort is Arbequina, which grows pretty fast, and you can expect plentiful harvests after only 3-5 years.

Of course, the olive tree is never wholly grown. It grows at the fastest rate when it’s 2-15 years old, and then the growth rate slows down. When I say that the tree is grown, it means that it’s producing a significant amount of fruits, from which you can make olive oil and other products from the olive fruit.

So, if we count the whole process, it’ll take anywhere between 5-7 years for an olive seed to grow into an olive tree that bears fruits and can be harvested.

Pros and Cons of Growing Olive Trees From Seeds

There are both good and bad sides to growing olive trees from seeds. You can check both of them in the table below.

PROS

  • You could create a new olive variety by accident.
  • You don’t need to spend extra money on buying seedlings.
  • You’ll know the exact methods and fertilizers used.

CONS

  • Olive seeds don’t always have the same properties as the tree they grew on.
  • Trees grown from olive trees may be less resistant to viruses, pests, and weather elements.
  • It takes too much time, and it’s simpler to buy healthy seedlings from an experienced nursery.
  • Some olive seeds will never germinate, no matter how well you care for them.
  • You should start growing them at least a year and a half before you plan to plant them in the soil.

As you can see, it’s not all milk and honey, and it requires a lot of time and dedication to grow a healthy olive tree from the seedling.

Seed vs. Seedlings – Comparison

As you can see in the table above, there are many reasons why you may want to grow olive trees from seedlings instead of growing them from seeds. Here I’ll quickly compare these two ways so that you can decide which one will suit you.

AspectSEEDSSEEDLINGS
Time to GrowTakes a lot of time to growCan be purchased when ready to plant
Resistance to IssuesNot very resistant to viruses and pestsMore resistant to weather, viruses, and pests
Germination RateSome may never germinateHigher chances of success
Planning NeededRequires precise planningCan be bought whenever convenient
Growing LocationNeeds space in a weather-protected area with sunlight (room or similar)Adaptable to various growing conditions
Time to MaturityTakes 5-7 years to grow into a mature olive treeMay start producing fruits in three years
PropertiesUnique characteristicsSimilar to the tree they come from
Olive Seed vs Seedling Comparison

As you can see, it’s much more complex to grow an olive tree from the seeds than from seedlings. The most important factor is time. You can save yourself almost two years if you decide to buy and plant olive seedlings. Here’s a great article on How Much Olive Trees Cost, where you can check average prices for seedlings and even more mature trees.  

My Advice

In the end, I want to give you my advice on growing olive trees from seeds. In my opinion, it’s not worth it. The biggest problem is the extra time you’ll invest in that tree. Spending 18 months to grow seedling (potentially) isn’t worth it, in my opinion, and it won’t have the same properties as its parent tree.

Professional nurseries grow seedlings from tree cuttings, which will always have the same properties as the parent tree, and that’s the best way to continue growing one olive cultivar.

In my opinion, you should buy olive seedlings from a reputed nursery. If you’re interested in that, check my post on the best places to buy olive trees.

However, if you’d like to grow your own olive tree completely, the best way would be to grow olive seedlings from tree cuttings. Here’s a great how-to guide. That way, you’ll save a lot of time, and a new tree will have the same properties as the parent tree, which is the most important thing.

In the end, it’s up to you to decide. If you like growing plants from seeds and have 18 months for that, why not? Maybe you even develop a new cultivar that will be even better than the original one.

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