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Cultivars and varieties of the Olive tree, Olea europaea

The olive tree (Olea europaea) has been cultivated for thousands of years, which has led to the selection of different forms and habits of olive trees. Once these forms are cultivated, they become known as 'cultivars'; each olive cultivar is given a name and its provenance maintained by propagation, by cuttings or the preferred method, grafting.We have selected what we think is a varied and interesting range of olive cultivars, suitable for growing outdoors in the UK, which are listed below.

Unless you are intent on becoming an olive tree collector, we would suggest either Leccino or Frantoio as the easiest and most reliable forms, with a mixture of Frantoio, Leccino and Maurino if you are considering a group planting, or your own olive grow to produce fruits. If space is limited and you only have room for one plant, perhaps the best would be Cipressino for its upright, compact habit.

The best cultivars of olive trees for outside production in the UK:

Olea europaea ‘Arbequina’

Origin: Catalonia, Spain

Olea europaea ‘Arbequina’ is a small tree of medium vigour with a weeping habit. It produces which can be prepared for eating or used to make excellent olive oil. This is an adaptable tree tolerant of frost and poor soils; probably self-fertile.

Olea europaea ‘Cipressino’

Origin: Puglia, Italy

Olea europaea ‘Cipressino’ is a vigorous upright tree, getting its name from its similarity to the habit of the pencil-like Italian cypress. It is a very hardy tree and shows good resistance to coastal conditions but will require a pollinator to produce an abundance of black olives that are best suited for fine olive oil.

Olea europaea ‘Frantoio’

Origin: Tuscany, Italy

Olea europaea ‘Frantoio’ is one of our favourite varieties; it makes the classic small to medium sized olive tree that is indicative of the olive groves around the foothills of Tuscany. It is a self-fertile tree, as well as being a good pollinator; the olives make a lovely, fruity aromatic oil.

Olea europaea 'Hojiblanca'

Origin: Andalucia, Spain

Olea europaea 'Hojiblanca' produces long arching branches covered in leaves that have distinct white undersides, making the trees instantly recognisable when seen en masse. It is tolerant of the cold and produces long oval-shaped fruit that can be used for both table and oil.

Olea europaea ‘Leccino’

Origin: Tuscany, Italy

Olea europaea ‘Leccino’ with its open semi-pendulous habit is a popular and widely planted form - it is easy to cultivate and is tolerant of a wide range of conditions. Leccino produces olives that are of high quality and are suitable for both the table and olive oil production. This is a self-sterile form and so should be planted with a good pollinator.

Olea europaea ‘Manzanilla’

Origin: Andalucia, Spain

Olea europaea ‘Manzanilla’ is a small to medium upright tree with arching fruiting branches. It produces the classic small green olive often sold salted in Spanish markets. It is hardy but requires a companion pollinator.

Olea europaea ‘Maurino’

Origin: Tuscany, Italy

Olea europaea ‘Maurino’ is another typical Tuscan variety often planted with Frantoio and Leccino; it is not a huge cropper but is important as a cross pollinator to the other high-yielding varieties. It is hardy and tolerant of a wide range of conditions.

Olea europaea ‘Pendolino’

Origin: Tuscany, Italy

This is a small compact weeping form that is useful where space is limited; it has long thin leaves which add to its architectural appeal. Although a good pollinator itself, Pendolino is a self-sterile cultivar and needs to be near other pollinators to produce its multi-purpose black olives.

Olea europaea ‘Picual’

Origin: Andalucia, Spain

Olea europaea is a vigorous, fairly large growing olive that is often seen as a heavily pruned, mature specimen. It is hardy and has an amazing ability to regenerate from old wood. Picual is self fertile and a producer of rich, dark olive oil.

Recipes and Plant Care

Click here for more about olive plant care, fruit production and recipes.