Olive Tree Growth Stages

Understanding the life cycle of an olive tree will help you be a better gardener. What are its growth stages?

The olive tree, one of the world’s first cultivated trees, is treasured for its flavorful fruit and ornamental qualities. These remarkable trees highlight the garden all year long with their silvery foliage, twisting trunks, and clusters of fragrant white flowers in the spring.

Even though they thrive in sunny Mediterranean settings, olive trees can be cultivated almost anywhere as long as they are protected from harsh winters.

Growing an olive tree from seed is possible. Still, it is time-consuming, and the tree will look more like a wild variety than its parent cultivar. The following information looks at an olive tree’s stages, from germination to maturity. 


Germination can take up to three months, but it should begin between three and six weeks. An olive seed is covered with a thick layer of white endosperm and a brown seed coat.

Cotyledons are the first leaves that develop after a plant germinates. The cotyledons emerge white and progressively turn green. The seed leaves help feed the plant nutrients before the seedling’s true leaves appear.

Photosynthesis begins when the seed leaves emerge from the soil into the light and gives the plant all the nutrients it requires to mature.


Olive trees are slow-growing, with around 12 inches of growth added annually. The olive tree’s juvenile stage is longer than other fruiting trees. As the trees mature, the growth rate slows even more.

The young leaves of olive trees are smaller, and the branches have shorter internodes. They are tiny, rounded, or slightly elongated and contain sufficient chlorophyll to give them a fleshy, dark green appearance.

The roots develop vertically until the third and fourth years of life when a new root system generates tubers to replace the juvenile roots.

juvenile olive plant in the farm


At the end of winter, vegetative and floral buds begin to form on 7 to 8-year-old trees. The blooms appear in clusters on two-year-old fruiting shoots, called inflorescences. Each cluster has an average of 10 to 30 flowers with green sepals. Flowers typically blossom for a week, but the entire blooming period can take up to three weeks. 

Pollination occurs when pollen from flowers is distributed and transported from one plant to another. The process is aided by the wind, water, and pollinating insects, birds, and even bats. Because most olive trees are self-fertile, a single tree can produce fruit independently.

Few blossoms will be fertilized and develop into fruits. However, only one to two percent of the blooms developing into fruit are sufficient to produce a good fruit crop in years with heavy flowering.

little white olive flowers


Fertilized flowers drop their petals after blooming. The fruit begins to solidify, expand in size and turn an intense green color.

Cell division and expansion cause the fruit to grow. The end of this phase happens between 7 and 9 weeks after blooming when the bone has finished hardening. Before ripening, the fruit goes through 2 growth stages, and the color shifts to a yellowish-green.

ripe and red olive fruits


The tree may take up to 12 years to mature from the juvenile stage to maturity, depending on the type and growth conditions. The mature wild olive tree is a broad, medium-sized tree that can grow 15 meters tall. It is well-known for its thick, dense crown.

Olives are long-lived trees. They can regenerate thanks to the tubers that grow in their root systems during maturity. They have a distinct root system composed of separate grains and a tendency for vegetative development.

The delicious flesh of olives attracts animals. The seeds are dispersed by animals eating the fruit whole, with the hard exterior of the seed protecting its contents. Birds are responsible for the majority of wild olive seed dispersal.

Carley Miller
Carley Miller is a horticultural expert at Bustling Nest. She previously owned a landscaping business for 25 years and worked at a local garden center for 10 years.
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