Olive Pit Propagation – Learn How To Plant Olive Pits

Green Olives And Pits
olivve pits
(Image credit: digitalr)

Have you ever wondered if you can you grow an olive pit? I mean, you can grow an avocado from a pit so why not an olive? If so, how do you plant olive pits and what other olive seed info might be useful?

About Olive Pit Propagation

Yes, you can grow an olive pit, but there’s one caveat – it has to be a “fresh” pit. By this I mean not a pit from a store bought olive. The olives that we eat are treated with lye, among other things, and are unlikely to engender olive pit propagation. Oh, by the way, did you know that both green and black olives are the same? The only difference is when they are picked. Green olives are picked before ripe, while black olives are allowed to ripen on the tree.

Olive Seed Info

Olive trees (Olea europaea) grow in areas of long, warm summers and mild winters and can be grown in USDA growing zones 8-10. Olive trees are primarily grown from cuttings but growing olive trees from pits or seeds is also possible. 

The pits need to be thoroughly cleaned and processed to break dormancy and facilitate germination. When growing olive trees from pits, keep in mind that the germination rate is frustratingly low, so hedge your bets by planting multiple pits. Wondering how to plant olive pits? Read on.

How to Plant Olive Pits

The first step in growing olive trees from pits is to gather seeds in the fall once the fruit has ripened, but before they turn black. Don’t gather the olives from the ground but rather harvest the fruit directly from the tree. Use only olives that are unmarred by insect holes or other damage. Put the olives in a bucket and lightly hammer the flesh to loosen it. 

Cover the crushed olives with water and soak overnight, stirring the water on occasion. Skim out any floaters, which are likely rotten. Drain the water. Using two scouring pads or the like, rub the olives to remove any residual flesh and then rinse them thoroughly. 

Carefully, nick the pointed end of the olive pits with a pair of bolt cutters. Don’t break all the way through the hull or the seed will be ruined. Soak them for 24 hours in room temperature water. Now it’s time to sow the olive pits. Use a well-draining soil mix of half sand and half seed compost in individual 6-inch (15 cm.) containers. 

Sow the olive seed to a depth equal to two times their diameter. Put the pots into a shaded cold frame with a germination mat set at 60 degrees F. (16 C.) for about a month. Keep the top 2 inches (5 cm.) of each pot moist while the seed germinates but allow the top ¼ to dry out between waterings to deter fungal and bacterial disease.

Increase the germination mat’s temp to 70 degrees F. (21 C.) after the first month of warm stratification and continue to water as before. Seedlings should emerge in this second month. When they do, begin to drop the temperature of the mat by 5 degrees (15 C.) each week until the temp is equal to the exterior temperature.

Acclimate the seedling to outdoor conditions gradually over the course of a couple of weeks. Keep them in a lightly shaded area during the hot summer months and then transplant them in mid-autumn when the weather is again cool and moist.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.