Planting and caring for your Wild Olive

Planting and caring for trees

Thank you for taking me into your care! You can find me mostly on the southern slopes of the Magaliesberg mountain range from the rocky areas exposed to all the weather elements, in the kloofs, right down to the river bank areas of the Magalies River.

I grow as a single stemmed tree branching out quite low down on the trunk with my branches “fanning” out from the lower part my trunk. I have a dense and round-shaped canopy. I may look a little weather-worn and less dense if I grow in a very windy area and I would be smaller all round if I grow in a more exposed area like an open rocky ridge.  Being drought and wind resistant, frost tolerant and requiring little in the way of water, I can grow in full sun and am hardy enough to do really well in a variety of habitats.

One of the things people and animals love about me is that I am evergreen! From October through to February I have sweetly scented creamy-white flowers which then become a berry shaped fruit and that turns purple-black when ripe usually during my fruit period which is from March to July.

Because I am so special I am considered a protected tree in the North West Province, the Northern Cape and Free State.

Fortunately for you, my wood is hard, dense and borer and termite resistant which means that you can use me for making furniture, carvings, kitchen utensils and fence posts on farms.

Some people when they are ill will use my leaves to make an eye lotion for themselves as well as their cattle or gargle with liquid out of an infusion made with my leaves if they have a sore throat.  My water-soaked leaves can even be used as a substitute for tea!

My berry fruit is a favourite for fruit-eating birds, so look out for the Grey Lourie, Speckled & Red-faced Mousebirds, Redwinged & Pied Starlings, Rameron, African Green Pigeon and the Blackeyed Bulbul that visit me.


I’m a Olea Africana – Wild Olive

Botanical Name: Olea Africana
Common Name: Wild Olive, Olienhout
Plant Shape: Dense rounded crown
Indigenous/ Exotic: Indigenous
Evergreen/ Deciduous: Evergreen
Dimensions: 6-18m
Frost Tolerance: Frost hardy
Drought Resistance: Drought hardy
Growth Rate: Slow

  • Flowers – creamy-white(Late Spring-Summer), scented
  • Fruit – purple-black (Autumn)
  • Foliage – grey-green to dark-green

Wildlife attraction: Birds, animals and insects. The fruits are popular with people, monkeys, baboons, mongooses, bushpigs, warthogs and birds (e.g. redwinged and pied starlings, Rameron pigeons, African green pigeons, Cape parrots and louries. The fruit has an either sweet or sour taste. Browsed by game and stock.
Use in the garden: Used as a windbreak and sometimes as a clipped hedge, it is a good tree for containers, courtyards, as a shade tree, street tree and screening. It is also used for bonsai. It is also an excellent fodder tree for farmers.
Root system: Can sometimes be aggressive
Soil type: Not restricted

How to plant me

  1. Dig a hole slightly wider and deeper than my roots. (The bigger the better). The extra space below and at the sides will be in-filled; but, having been loosened, will help my roots establish.
  2. Square holes are better than round ones as my roots can go round in circles if unable to break out of a round hole (yes, seriously!)
  3. As I have an aggressive root system don’t plant me near your house, a pool or other buildings.
  4. Although this step is not essential, I will grow better if you mix some compost and bone meal (available at Willow Feather Farm) with the soil taken out of the hole. Also it would be a good idea to fill the hole a little so that I will be exactly the same height in the ground as I was at the nursery.
  5. If I am planted too deep my stem may rot; too shallow and my roots above ground will die.
  6. Before planting remove me from the plastic bag!
  7. Put me in the hole and replace the soil, compost and bone meal mixture, firming it down all around me. My roots must be immobilized, so it’s essential that I am not loose in the ground.
  8. Use the heel of your boot to firm the soil as you back-fill, but do not compact the soil until it is like concrete, as this prevents water and air circulation, causing roots to die.
  9. Water me and cover the soil with a good heap of mulch (e.g. 6-month-old wood-chip).

How to care for me

  • After planting me it is important to water me at least once a week.
  • It is better to give me one good watering once a week than a little bit every day.
  • Monitor me to see if I look thirsty (sagging limp leaves) and water if needed.
  • Once planted you can apply a general fertilizer around my base.  (Culterra 5:1:5  is a good option)
  • As I grow I will require staking and pruning. Stake me against a straight wooden stick or pole, taking my strongest shoot up and pruning the bottom branches off.
  • Relax and watch me grow approximately 800mm each year.

Featured image by: alexindigo


About Lisa Breedt

I'm responsible for The Success Academy’s visual brand, which includes developing strategies for marketing, heading up the creative department, directing the creative efforts around branding and design activities (including digital and print media), leading creative sessions and managing multiple projects from concept through completion. I'm also responsible for managing an internal online customer community, developing lasting relationships with company's clients.

21 Responses to “Planting and caring for your Wild Olive”

  1. Caroline November 22, 2012 9:42 am #

    Hi, I have a Wild Olive tree planted about 1.2 meters away from the house.
    Should I try to move the tree? I see you say the “roots can be aggressive”
    Can I move the tree?
    It’s already 2.5 m high?
    Look forward to your advise.

    • Lisa Breedt November 23, 2012 8:55 am #

      Hi Caroline, the distance from the house should be fine from a root point of view, but it will grow into a large tree and 1.2 metre in our opinion is too close. It should ideally be planted approximately 3 metres away from a house. You would be able to move it, this will cause some root damage but it should be fine if extra care is taken.

  2. Lafras Steyn June 5, 2013 7:58 am #

    will this tree survive in a pot say a 100 L or so?

    • Lisa Breedt June 6, 2013 7:51 am #

      Hi Lafras, yes the Wild Olive do pretty well in large pots! Our team at Willow Feather Farm has done this with a few landscapers and clients. The tree obviously won’t reach its full potential in size but it makes a really nice feature in a pot!

  3. Lrrehman November 23, 2014 11:48 am #

    Hi Lisa! its a nice itroduction to the wild olive plant.. i have a wild olive plant that i have planted in the ground at present and i am planning it for a future bonsai… but all its leave have dried out and mostly dropped. it looks like the plant is dying however, the stem is still green inside which shows a bit sign of life. . is there any way i could rescue this plant plz help…

  4. Wessel January 6, 2015 12:23 pm #

    HI Lisa
    I have a Wild Olive next to my swimming pool(2 metrers away) it is already 5 meters tall and it is great, it feels as if it is shedding quite lot of leaves at the moment, can i treat it in some way?
    Also will the roots be a problem so close to the pool?

    • Lisa Breedt January 12, 2015 10:52 am #

      Hi Wessel, please see a reply from Francois, Willow Feather Farm‘s Nursery Manager: “Wild Olive trees are evergreen and should barely loose its leaves, especially in summer. My concern is that 2 metres away from the pool might cause a problem in a few years time. If you have very clay soil it might cause a problem a lot earlier though, but loose, sandy soil would be fine. The shedding of leaves might have been caused by too much water (due to all the rains), or it could be a fungi that’s causing it as well. That could easily be treated with a systemic fungicide such as Bravo, Virikop or Tenazole, for the tree hasn’t reached maturity yet. Hope this helps? If you need more info please contact me on

  5. Ronell January 12, 2015 10:39 am #

    Hello Lisa

    I am trying to find out what plants will grow under the wild olive tree. I have been told that the soil under the tree is acid.

    • Lisa Breedt January 13, 2015 9:44 am #

      Hi Ronell, please see a reply from Francois, Willow Feather Farm‘s Nursery Manager: “Olive trees are evergreen and quite dense growing especially during spring and summer. You will have to get some plants that are suitable for filtered sun as well as shade loving. There are a few i can suggest. Gardenia Belmont (Katjiepiering) would be my first choice. They love the shade and makes really nice flowers which has a sweet smell. They are also acid loving so no problem there. Treeferns would also do well as well as certain azalea species. You also get all of the Plectranthus plants (especially the Mona Lavender) which would be ideal for shady areas and acid soil conditions. Clivias are another best seller when it comes to shade. There are a few more i can suggest but it will take me forever to write it all down. Please feel free to come and visit our nursery for i can then show you some varieties and help you in making some decisions. Hope this will help a little? Have a good day further.”

  6. Ronell January 13, 2015 5:37 pm #

    Hello Lisa and Francois

    Thank you so much for the information. I will come and visit for some suggestions.
    Kind Regards


  7. Zanne-Marie January 26, 2015 11:48 am #

    Hi. I am planning to plant a wild olive next to my wall, so that it also can provide privacy. Will the roots be a problem for the wall? It isn’t close to our house.


  8. Rose April 17, 2015 11:21 am #

    I have 2 wild olive trees planted on my verge. They are both subjected to gale force South Easter winds! The one is growing very well and the other always looks battered and sad? How can I treat it?

  9. Wilma July 23, 2015 10:32 am #

    I had false olive trees planted in my garden about 18 months ago, I decided on these because it doesn’t have an aggresive root system, when moving the one tree I noticed that the root system is very aggresive. I now suspect that what the landscaper planted was the wild olive and NOT the false olive. I googled the trees but it seems the trees are very similar, how can I identify the false olive (buttleja saligna) from the wilde olive (olea africana) with 100% accuracy?

    • Lisa Breedt July 27, 2015 2:35 pm #

      Hi Wilma, please see a reply from Francois, Willow Feather Farm‘s Nursery Manager: “The False Olive normally has a much finer and longer leaf and is usually lighter in colour. Where the Wild Olive has a much darker and thicker leaf texture. Together with that, the False Olives are much faster growing compared to the Wild Olive tree. They have multi-stem branches, the main stem is usually more paper like. On Wild Olive trees you’ll find tiny olive like fruits where on the False Olive you’ll find fine clusters of white to beige coloured flowers. You are welcome to send me some pictures of the tree, as both plants have very distinguished growing patterns which can easily be identified. Hope this helps!”

  10. Chris September 30, 2015 10:31 pm #

    Hi Lisa

    I have built a swimming pool underneath my wild olive tree that is about 15m high so I think the routes have settled– but this time of the year I have a huge leave problem in my swimming pool – I understand that the tree is evergreen and that it will drop leaves throughout the year – but I am hopeful that the leave dropping will be less than it is currently – If it keeps on like currently i will have to cover my pool , but would appreciate some suggestions.

    kind regards

  11. Tahir Abbas October 11, 2015 2:32 pm #


    In my country we have wild olive trees which bear no fruit,but i have heard that there is a away to extract fruit from such trees by pruning.Anyone has information please

  12. Chris van Melle Kamp October 16, 2015 7:36 am #

    Hi Chris
    I have wild olive tree that has survived many years of frost and drought conditions. It recently developed small white spots on the trunk and branches and the bark turned black. It lost it’s leaves although they seem to be coming back after some or pogrammed watering.

    Can you tell me what these white spots are and how to get the tree healthy again?

    • Lisa Breedt October 19, 2015 3:25 pm #

      Hi Chris, please see a reply from Francois, Willow Feather Farm‘s Nursery Manager:
      “Hi Chris, This is a typical aphid problem…
      This problem sometimes worsens due to drought and excessive heat. The aphids releases a secretion which is sticky and over time the dust and other particles get stuck on it and that again causes fungi and bacteria to grow on it…that explains the black colouring on the bark.

      This has a suffocating effect on the tree and bark over time.

      Firstly I would suggest spraying the tree off with a hose… the stronger the spray the better the effect. This should get rid of the majority of the scales on the bark.
      After that you can apply some ant poison (Maxforce or Nip It), because usually where there are aphids there are ants. They go after the secretions which is a sweet substance.
      If it’s a small tree you can spray the whole tree with a systemic insecticide. (Aphicide, Rose protector)
      If it’s a larger tree I would suggest using a systemic drench insecticide (Koinor, Complete, Meridian or Merit) to be added to the roots of the tree or around the bark so that the roots can absorb all poison and therefore transport the poison to the branches and leaves via the bark.

      And I always suggest that in conjunction with the poisons you use a good fertilizer like 5.1.5 to help the tree recover to a healthy stage in due time. Hope this helps!”

      • Chris November 15, 2015 8:55 pm #

        Hi Francois
        Thank you so much for getting back to me.
        I have completed this treatment that you suggested and we are now hoping to see results. Getting the scales off has proved to be really difficult. New leaves are starting to come back but I think this tree will need multiple treatments. So far so good. We have also planted the new trees that we bought from you. All looking good.
        Kind regards

  13. bongani February 4, 2016 12:21 pm #

    hi i have a problem about 6 wild olive trees they are not growing cos since they were planted

    5 years ago i dont know why pls help

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