There are 139 confirmed olive tree varieties and probably even more undiscovered ones. Mostly, the popularity of some specific olive tree varieties depends on your location since most people prefer to plant domestic varieties.
However, some olive tree varieties are popular worldwide. Today, I’ll show you the most famous olive cultivars worldwide.
To make it even easier for you, I categorized them into three categories: producing olive oil, producing table olives, and for landscaping purposes only. So, based on your needs, you can check which are the best for your particular situation.
Some of these olive tree varieties are fantastic for multi-purposes. So, I’ll tell you if a specific variety can be used for two or all three categories.
6 Best Olive Trees For Olive Oil
Even though most fruiting olive trees are suitable for producing olive oil, some varieties stand out when compared to others. Here’s the list of the six best olive trees for producing olive oil.
Frantoio originates from Tuscany, Italy. It’s a self-fertile olive tree that starts bearing fruit 3-4 years after it’s been planted. Even though it likes humus-rich soils, it can grow in poorer soils too. They can be grown in USDA 8-11 zones.
They regularly bear plenty of fruits, so you can expect rich yearly yields. The average yield is around 20+ lbs per tree. When fully ripened, the fruit is vinous red. However, most people harvest them earlier while still green (because of high-quality extra virgin olive oil production).
Frantoio olives have a high olive oil percentage, which makes them ideal for producing olive oil. Olive oil from the Frantoio cultivar has an extremely fruity flavor with some bitter and spicy notes.
Even though the Frantoio cultivar is best for producing olive oil, you can also use it to produce table olives and landscaping. If adequately pruned and grown, it can even stay small all the time.
Arbequina cultivar originates from Arbeca, a village in Spain. It’s a self-fertile olive tree; however, planting more trees will increase the harvest. You can expect it to bear fruits 2-4 years after planting, which is pretty quick when compared to other olive cultivars. It’s the most common olive variety grown in California and can be grown in USDA 8-11 zones.
Arbequina trees usually bear plenty of fruits and are highly adaptable, making them perfect for large and high-density plantations. That’s why it’s primarily grown in large olive groves.
Arbequina olives have an extremely high yield of oil, and the average oil yield is around 14-17%, meaning that you could get anywhere between 14 and 17 liters of oil per 100kg of olives. Oil made from arbequina olives is considered high-quality since they’re packed with antioxidants. The taste is aromatic, sweet, and flavorful with bitterness and itching.
Even though its oil is exceptionally high-quality, it’s not so stable, meaning it’ll go bad quicker than oils from other cultivars. Shelf life is usually up to 1 year.
Arbequina can also be used for producing table olives; you just have to harvest it later in November or December, when the fruit is fully ripe.
Arbosana cultivar originates from Spain. Arbosana is a self-fertile olive tree, which is fantastic if you only want to plant one tree. It starts bearing fruit very quickly, only 1-2 years after planting, which is one of the quickest growing olive trees. Arbosana is commonly planted in Northern California and can be grown in USDA 8-10 zones.
Arbosana trees usually bear plenty of fruits, yielding over 20lbs per tree. Also, it’s a pretty small tree compared to others. Its size in maturity is mainly 10-15 feet in height, and you can make it even smaller with proper pruning.
Together with Arbequina, Arbosana is 2nd most commonly used olive tree for oil production in California. Olives are smaller, but they grow in massive clusters. Arbosana olives produce high-quality olive oil, which is why many people use it to produce EVOO. The flavor is intense and fruity, with hints of almond and tomato.
Also, even though olive fruit from Arbosana is pretty tiny, it’s fantastic for curing too.
Koroneiki originates from Greece, and it’s the 3rd most commonly planted olive cultivar in Greece. Koroneiki trees are self-fertile, but they perform best when planted together with more trees. It starts bearing fruits quickly, 2-3 years after planting. It’s a very hardy tree and can be grown in USDA 8-11 zones.
Koroneiki trees bear a lot of fruit every single year. Some trees even yield more than 100+ lbs of fruit. The tree can reach 20 to 25 feet in height and 20 feet in width.
Koroneiki olives have an extremely high percentage of oil content, around 22%. And more importantly, the oil made from Koroneiki olives is highly appreciated and of high quality. It’s rich in antioxidants and has very low acidity, which is why it’s fantastic for producing high-quality extra virgin olive oil. The flavors remind of fresh fruit and have medium bitterness and pungency. The shelf life of Koroneiki olive oil is exceptionally long – up to 2 years.
Maurino also comes from Tuscany, Italy. Even though it’s a good pollinator, it’s not a self-pollinating tree and needs another tree to produce fruit. It performs best when planted next to Frantoio cultivar, and you can expect it to bear fruit 2-4 years after planting. It’s an extremely hardy tree, especially well-performing in colder climates. However, the best is to grow it in USDA 8-11 zones.
It doesn’t bear much fruit; you can expect 20-40 pounds yearly. It usually grows up to 20 feet, which is pretty tiny compared to other trees. Yet, it’s easier to prune it because of that.
Maurino olives produce high-quality olive oil with medium intensity and delectable aromas of grass and tomato. Acidity is usually very low, which is fantastic for making extra virgin olive oil. The oil yield is around 20%, which is considered a medium to high yield.
Maurino olives are also considered fantastic landscaping olive trees because of their lush looks.
6. Leccio del Corno
Leccio Del Corno is another olive tree that originates from Tuscany in Italy. It’s not self-fertile, so you’ll need another tree for it to bear fruit. The best companions are Frantoio and Maurino, which usually start bearing fruits four years after planting. Leccio del Corno is a cold-resistant olive tree, but it performs best if grown in USDA 8-10 zones.
When it comes to productivity, it’s a medium-productive olive tree. The oil yield is around 19%, which is considered medium too.
Olive oil made from Leccio del Corno olives is usually excellent, with outstanding organoleptic characteristics and a shelf-life. The flavor is fruity, with a spicy and bitter taste. Aromas remind of fresh grass, almonds, artichoke, and tomato.
6 Best Olive Trees For Producing Table Olives
As I already told you, olive tree fruits can be used to produce olive oil or table olives. However, some varieties always perform better in something, and here I’m bringing you the list of the six best olive trees for producing table olives.
Picholine olive cultivar originates from France, where it’s the most widely available cultivar. It’s a self-fertile tree, but you should plant it together with some other cultivars such as Manzanillo to increase yields. It should begin to produce fruit three years after planting and performs best if grown in USDA 8-10 zones.
It’s both cold and drought resistant and usually grows up to 25-30 feet when it reaches maturity. The yield is medium, with medium-sized fruits weighing around 3-5 grams each.
Picholines are also known as cocktail olives, so they’re perfect for table use. Usually, they’re harvested while green for table olives and when they ripen for olive oil.
Amfissa originates from Greece and is usually known as Greek Amfissa. It’s a self-pollinating olive cultivar that bears fruit 3-4 years after planting, and it performs best if grown in USDA 9-11 zones.
It’s drought tolerant but not so resistant to colder climates. When mature, you can expect it to be around 25 feet high, but it’s easy to maintain this tree to stay smaller.
Amfissa olives are round with a firm texture and come in green, black, and brown colors. Around 70% of all table olives in Greece come from the Amfissa olive tree. With a mildly sweet flesh, they’re perfect for all kinds of curing methods.
Nocellara olive trees are native to Sicilia, Italy. It’s a self-pollinating olive tree, but if you want to increase yields, you should plant it next to some other Italian olive cultivars. It starts bearing fruits quickly, only 1-2 years after planting and performs best in USDA 8-11 zones.
Even though the tree is pretty hardy and adaptable to most soils, it loves warm, dry summers and is sensitive to overwatering. When mature, it’ll reach around 20 feet in height, which is perfect because of the ease of maintenance and pruning.
Nocellara olive fruit is extensive, weighing around 5-8 grams, with a high flesh-to-pit ratio (ca. 85%). Because of the size, it’s one of the best olive cultivars to produce table olives. For table olives, it’s best to harvest them while still green, which is usually in late September.
Nocellara cultivar is also excellent for producing olive oil with a fruity taste and flavor.
4. Gordal Sevillano
Gordal Sevillano originates from Spain. In the USA, it’s known as Gordal Olives. It’s a self-pollinating olive tree that’s great for pollinating other trees too. Usually, it’ll start bearing fruit 3-5 years after planting, and it is best to plant it in USDA 8-11 zones.
Gordal olives are drought tolerant but don’t like freezing climates. So, warm and dry summers with plenty of sunlight are preferable. In maturity, it’ll usually reach 25-30 feet in height, but it can easily be pruned to stay lower.
Gordal Sevillano olive fruit is only used for pickling. Even though the fruit is extremely large (7-10 grams), it has a very low oil content. However, they’re one of the best table olives since they have a mild but fruity flavor.
Because of the lovely and open canopy, Gordal Sevillano olive trees can also be used for landscaping.
Kalamata olive cultivar originates from Greece and is one of the most famous cultivars worldwide. Even though they can grow and produce fruit alone, you’ll get the best yields if you plant them together with other olive species. They should be planted in USDA 8-11 zones for ideal growth.
Once established, the tree is tolerant of droughts but not so much of colder weather. In maturity, it usually reaches 25-30 feet in height.
Mainly, Kalamata olives are used for curing because of their small almond-shaped fruit. However they can also be used for olive oil production, but the oil is slightly bitter.
Nicoise, also known as the Cailletier olive tree, originated in France. It’s a self-pollinating olive tree that’ll start bearing fruit 2-4 years after planting and is best for planting in USDA 8-10 zones.
They’re much more resistant to colder temperatures than other olive cultivars. In maturity, you can expect them to grow up to 30 feet in height.
For table olives, Nicoise olive trees are usually harvested when the fruit is black, and they’re trendy to use in Nicoise salad. Olive fruits also have a high amount of oil content, making them great for producing olive oil too.
5 Best Olive Trees For Landscaping and Ornamental Purposes
Not everyone grows olive trees for their fruits. Some people are big fans of Mediterranean-like landscapes in their garden or yard. Here are the five best olive trees you should consider if you want them for ornamental purposes.
Manzanillo is one of the most famous Spanish olive cultivars. It’s a self-pollinating olive tree that bears extremely quality fruit. It’s very drought tolerant and grows best in USDA 8-10 zones.
Manzanillo trees are trendy throughout California, and they’re mainly used as shade trees. It’s an evergreen tree with soft grey to green leaves and white blossoms in spring.
The unique characteristic of Manzanillo trees is their trunk. The tree is growing slowly, and the trunk becomes twisted, which adds up to the ornamental value of this tree. With size up to 30 feet both in height and width, it’s fantastic to plant in front of your house.
Together with landscaping purposes, people often plant these trees to produce oil or table olives.
2. Majestic Beauty (Fruitless)
Majestic Beauty is a fantastic tree if you don’t want to deal with falling fruits that’ll mess up your walkways, patios, etc. It prefers hot and dry climates and performs best if planted in USDA 8-11 zones.
With evergreen long narrow leaves of grey-green color and a wide open canopy, it adds to the appearance of any place. Majestic Beauty is a great rounded tree to plant if you want to make a Mediterranean-style garden.
It’ll have beautifully looking white flowers during the blooming season, but they’ll mostly be obscure. So, it’s great for parking spots, too, since there’s almost nothing falling from this tree.
3. Swan Hill (Fruitless)
Swan Hill is a fruitless olive that’s a perfect choice for everyone who wants an ornamental olive tree without messy fruits. It’s a USA tree that grows well in USDA 8-11 zones. It prefers hot, dry summers, and even though it’s pretty cold resistant, you should shelter it from extremely low temperatures while the tree is still young.
It has attractive, evergreen foliage with silvery undersides and larger leaves. When matured, the olive tree should reach 25-30 feet in height and width, creating a fantastic shade for hot summer days. Also, this olive tree grows quickly compared to other olive tree varieties.
Swan Hill can be planted in Mediterranean-styled gardens as well as desert-styled gardens. You can plant it next to your swimming pool, walkways, patios, parking spots, etc.
4. Wilsonii (Fruitless)
Wilsonii olive trees are similar to Manzanillo trees but without fruits. Actually, they’re descended from the Manzanillo cultivar. Since it’s fruitless, it also won’t generate any pollen, which is fantastic for people with allergies.
Wilsonii trees fit well in all Mediterranean-style gardens, especially when planted near pools or walkways. Since it’s a low-maintenance tree, it’s a perfect choice for people without too much free time.
The foliage color is usually gray to green, with evergreen leaves. You can expect it to grow up to 25 feet in height and 20 feet in width, creating a nice shade area in your garden.
5. Little Ollie (Dwarf)
Little Ollie is the most famous dwarf olive tree, which is also a non-fruiting olive tree. It’s incredibly resistant to hot weather and performs best in USDA 8-11 zones. However, it’s not so resistant to freezing weather. Usually, this ornamental tree grows more like a bush, but you can easily prune it to any shape you want.
Because of its small size, it’ll reach maturity in just a few years. You can expect it to grow up to 5 feet in height (in some cases, even 8-10). However, it’ll mostly depend on your pruning methods. Leaves are narrow, small, and have greenish tops and silvery bottoms. New foliage will have a sheen, while matured one will have a distinctive matte look.
Little Ollie is a perfect choice for anyone with smaller gardens who don’t want large trees which are hard to maintain. Also, its size makes it an ideal tree for improving indoor design. They grow well in pots, so you can keep them in your house as long as you want. Just make sure they have enough sunlight throughout the day.
As I already said, there are dozens of olive tree varieties, and choosing the right one for you may be challenging. I hope the choosing process will become much easier with this list of the most popular olive cultivars.
If you’re looking for places to buy olive trees at normal prices, make sure to check the following nurseries:
- Nature Hills (my recommendation)
- Fast Growing Trees
- Olives Unlimited
I wish your trees a rapid growth and rich yields!