Can Olive Trees Grow in Tennessee? (6 Varieties)

Written by Sophia Roa in Olives

Olive trees, which typically flourish in Mediterranean climates, are challenging to grow in Tennessee, given its USDA Hardiness Zones of 5b to 8a. These zones suggest colder winters than olive trees can endure, as they are vulnerable to temperatures below 20°F (-6°C). So, can these lovely, silver-leafed trees adapt to the more variable temperatures of the Volunteer State?

Olive trees can be grown in USDA zones 7-11, making it possible for them to grow in the warmer parts of Tennessee, primarily in zones 7 and 8, where cold-hardy varieties like Arbequina, Koroneiki, and Frantoio can adapt. However, they require well-drained soil and protection from the coldest winter temperatures.

While these trees crave the warmth and dry conditions of their native lands, a select few varieties whisper promises of adaptability, even in the face of Tennessee's winter chills. Learn how these trees navigate the complexities of Tennessee's climate, as you read below.


  • Cold-hardy varieties like Arbequina, Mission, Koroneiki, Frantoio, Picual, and Manzanilla can withstand Tennessee's chillier winters.
  • In areas of Tennessee where temperatures drop below freezing, it may be necessary to provide winter protection for olive trees. This can include mulching the base, using frost cloths, or even constructing windbreaks.
  • While olive trees might not bear as much fruit as they would in a Mediterranean climate, with the right care, your Tennessee garden can indeed become home to these ancient and resilient trees.

Olive Trees Can Grow in Tennessee

Cultivars like Arbequina and Mission are known for their higher cold tolerance. Koroneiki, Frantoio, Picual, and Manzanilla are other olive tree varieties that you might consider due to their suitability for the climate variations you'll encounter.

When selecting a cultivar, think about both temperature resilience and whether the variety is well-suited to the humidity levels in your area.


Arbequina olive trees are compact, evergreen, and can tolerate cold temperatures better than many other varieties. Your Arbequina will likely produce fruit even in the variable Tennessee climate. These trees are self-pollinating, which simplifies matters for you, as only one tree is needed for fruit production.

Your Arbequina olive trees are highly appreciated for their small but flavorful fruit, which is excellent for both table consumption and producing high-quality oil. They're also suitable for growing in containers, which means you can protect them during the colder months.


The Mission olive, originally from California, is another versatile variety. As a mature tree, it offers a generous yield of fruit which can be eaten fresh or used for oil. Mission olive trees are known for their ability to thrive in different soil types and conditions, which is beneficial for the mixed terrains of Tennessee.

The Mission olive tree is a bit tougher and can bear fruit even in less than ideal conditions, similar to what you might encounter in some parts of Tennessee.


Growing Koroneiki olive trees in Tennessee can be challenging due to the state's climate. Tennessee has a predominantly humid subtropical climate with hot summers and mild to cool winters.

Koroneiki olive trees are adaptable and suited for high-density growing systems, flourishing in warm, Mediterranean climates. Considering Tennessee's varied climate, success may depend on selecting the right location and providing appropriate care.

Koroneiki olive trees, originating from Greece, are known for producing small, high-quality olives that are particularly well-suited for making extra virgin olive oil. The Koroneiki variety is one of the most popular and highly regarded for oil production due to its high oil content and robust flavor profile.


Frantoio is a high-yielding tree, revered for its excellent oil quality. However, it does require a pollinator. Frantoio trees are also valued for their adaptability and are considered one of the more cold-tolerant varieties of olive trees, which is a positive trait for growing them in a climate like Tennessee's.

Take advantage of any microclimates on your property that may offer a more suitable environment for olive trees. For example, planting near a south-facing wall or on a slope can help mitigate some of the cold stress and potentially extend the growing season.

Frantoio and European olive tree varieties could be an option for your Tennessee garden. While traditionally these cultivars are used for oils, they can also produce fruit that's enjoyable when picked ripe directly from the tree.

Originating from Tuscany, Italy, Frantoio olives are known for their fruity and well-balanced flavor profile, making them a favorite among olive oil connoisseurs.


Picual, known for yielding abundant oil, thrives in hot conditions but might require some extra care when the temperature dips in Tennessee. It's a robust choice if you're ready for the commitment.

Picual trees are known for their vigor and can be relatively cold-hardy, but they still may not tolerate the coldest temperatures experienced in some parts of Tennessee without protection. While these varieties may survive in Tennessee, they might not produce fruit consistently due to the climate not being ideal for olive fruit maturation.

Picual olives are native to Spain and are one of the most widely cultivated olive varieties in the world, particularly valued for their high oil content and stability. The oil from Picual olives is known for its robust flavor with a peppery finish and high levels of polyphenols, which contribute to its stability and shelf life.


Manzanilla trees are less cold-hardy compared to Picual and may struggle in Tennessee's winter climate. Choose the warmest and most protected sites possible, such as south-facing slopes, to give the trees the best chance of survival.

Famous for its green table olives, Manzanilla grows well in the sunny spots of your garden. If you ensure it gets plenty of sun and protect it from the harshest winter weather, it can do well.

Manzanilla olives, also originating from Spain, are often used for table olives due to their pleasant taste and firm texture. The oil from Manzanilla olives is typically fruity and slightly sweet.

How to Grow Olive Trees in Tennessee

Choose drought-tolerant and cold-hardy varieties

In Tennessee, especially areas in zone 7, it's important to choose drought-tolerant and cold-hardy cultivars.

  • Temperature: Olive trees require temperatures that do not drop below 20°F (-6°C) to avoid frost damage.
  • Planting time: Early spring or fall is the best time to plant, allowing establishment before extreme temperatures set in.

While Tennessee does not have a typical Mediterranean climate, Zone 7 sits at the edge of olive tree viability, with many cultivars requiring cold hardiness that may not withstand the colder subzones without protection.

The state spans USDA hardiness zones from 5b to 8a, which implies a range of minimum winter temperatures. Some areas experience freezing temperatures that can damage or kill olive trees, which are sensitive to extreme cold.

Extreme winter cold and humidity can be limiting factors for olives in Tennessee, contrasting with the warm and dry summers of the Mediterranean region. Your olive trees will need to cope with hot summers and manage through winter temperatures that can get below 20°F, which can be challenging.

Olive trees flourish in areas with long, warm summers and mild winters; however, some cold hardiness in a variety can make cultivation possible in Tennessee. To maximize your tree's potential, select an area of your garden that has good sun exposure and protection from harsh winds.

Plant in a sunny spot

When you're planting olive trees in Tennessee, selecting a location that gets full sun is essential, as olive trees need at least six hours of sunlight per day. Plant your olive trees in a sunny spot. If your area experiences harsh winters, growing olives in a large container might be optimal, as you can move them indoors when needed.

Plant in well-drained soils

Ensure the soil is well-drained to prevent root rot; a sandy loam and a pH that leans towards the neutral to slightly alkaline range, typically between 6.5 and 7.5, is ideal.

When planting, the root ball should be level with the soil surface. Avoid disturbing the root ball more than necessary.

Space your trees

Make sure to space your olive trees adequately, allowing room for them to mature and ensuring good air circulation. Olive trees can be quite hardy once established, but to start a healthy life, transplanting carefully is crucial.

Water olive trees

While olive trees are drought tolerant, during the first year, ensure consistent watering to establish the tree. After established, water sparingly, but deep watering in dry spells common in Tennessee is beneficial. Be cautious not to overwater, as this can lead to disease pressure.

Prune trees minimally

Prune in early spring to shape the tree and remove any dead or diseased branches. Avoid heavy pruning of developing suckers and branches. Olive trees require minimal pruning and are relatively low-maintenance once established.

Ensure consistent feeding

Use mulch to retain soil moisture and a slow-release fertilizer in spring for the necessary nutrients. Your olive trees will benefit from a nitrogen-rich fertilizer, ideally one that is slow-release to ensure consistent feeding. Apply as instructed and consider reapplying in late fall after the last harvest.

Prevent pests and diseases

Keep an eye out for common pests and diseases that can affect olive trees. Treat accordingly to keep your tree healthy.

Potential Solutions to Challenges

Even with the right variety, olive trees can suffer from freezing damage, wilt, and increased disease pressure due to humidity. To prevent freeze damage, you might need to provide winter protection, such as using frost cloths or planting in a sheltered location.

For disease management, ensure proper air circulation and consider organic or chemical treatment options if problems arise. Keep an eye on weather forecasts and be prepared to act quickly to protect your trees from extreme weather conditions.

If the native soil is heavy and does not drain well, amend it with organic matter, such as compost, to improve soil structure and drainage. Alternatively, consider using raised beds or planting on mounds to enhance drainage around the root zone.

Winter protection strategies

  • Mulching: Apply a thick layer of mulch around the base of the trees to help insulate the roots from freezing temperatures.
  • Wrapping: Use burlap, frost cloth, or even bubble wrap to insulate the trunk and lower branches. This can be particularly important for young trees.
  • Windbreaks: Planting a windbreak or constructing a barrier can reduce the impact of cold winds on the trees.
  • Temporary greenhouses or hoop houses: Erect temporary structures to cover the trees during the coldest months, creating a greenhouse effect.

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