The fruitless olive is a distinctive evergreen that grows at a slow to medium rate to twenty-five to thirty feet tall and wide, and has an airy appearance. It is either a single- or multiple-trunk, has narrow, gray-green foliage with a light silvery-green on the undersides of the leaves. This fruitless variety does not produce fruit, eliminating any messy fruit drop, maintenance, and possible allergic reactions to pollen produced by the flowers. The tree has a dark gray, rough bark, and it grows with a twisted open canopy. Mature olive trees often develop contorted, massive trunks, and are quite interesting in appearance. In the spring, this tree produces insignificant yellowish-white, tubular blooms that grow in clusters at the end of the leaves. However, the flowers are sterile and the tree will not produce olive fruit. Several municipalities in the Southwest desert have banned the planting of the fruiting olive tree from residential and commercial landscapes due to allergy-producing pollen and the mess created by the fruit. Use the olive as a specimen tree or shade tree, or mixed with deep green or evergreen plants in the foreground. The species provides a Mediterranean feel and presentation in the landscape. The popular fruitless varieties ‘Swan Hill’, ‘Majestic Beauty’, and ‘Wilsonii’, are available in local garden centers. The tree is a native of the Mediterranean region near Crete and Syria and is commonly grown throughout the Southwest desert.
Olive trees are hardy to fifteen to twenty degrees Fahrenheit, enjoy full sun and reflected heat, and require little water. However, an occasional irrigation during the hot, dry summer provides a boost. The plant species is generally long-lived; olive trees have been known to live for several hundred years. However, it is susceptible to Texas root rot. It also produces tree suckers and needs yearly pruning to maintain its interesting form. Fertilize it with a high-nitrogen fertilizer once a year before growth begins in the spring.