Russian Olive, a nice shrub

Leaves and flower of the Russian olive tree

Russian olive is a beautiful shrub. Its name comes from its native region – Southern Russia – and the resemblance to the olive tree around the Mediterranean.

Russian olive facts

NameElaeagnus angustifolia
FamilyElaeagnaceae
Type – shrub

Height – 6 to 13 feet (2 to 4 meters)
Exposure – full sun, part sun
Soil – ordinary

Foliage – deciduous
Flowering – May to June
Fruit formation – August to October

Invasive in – United States, Canada

Ideal for hedges and very nice as standalones, these shrubs are easy to care for and very ornamental. Note, however, that Russian olive is an invasive species to control in some areas. Growing it is sometimes illegal according to some state and country regulations.

Planting Russian olive trees

Although best planted in fall, Russian olive trees cope perfectly with being planted all year round if they were purchased potted.

If you plant your Russian olive trees during winter or during summer, avoid frost and freezing and heat waves, respectively.

To make a hedge, space trunks around 3 feet (1 meter) apart.

Pruning a Russian olive tree

To increase the number of branches and make your shrubs or hedges more opaque, you can prune the shrubs lightly over the first few years, cutting back about ⅓ of the previous year’s growth.

Russian olive can be pruned at the beginning of spring or in fall.

These shrubs grow back after all sorts of pruning, even if these were drastic.

They can thus be given different shapes, such as a big ball or other, without hindering their development.

  • Russian olive trees grow sharp thorns or spikes, so wear gloves and thick clothing.
  • Follow our advice on pruning shrubs.

Learn more about Russian olive

beautiful close-up of two white Russian olive tree flowersBeing more hardy than classical olive trees and very beautiful with their silver-gold hues, Russian olive trees are making a comeback among the favorite plants in our gardens.

  • Russian olive trees are also excellent shade trees and are perfect to set up wild hedges.

In spring, the discrete and delicate blooming will spread a fragrant bee-pleasing odor, and in fall yellow and silver-colored fruits attract birds with their fruits which are edible even for us. They stay attached to the tree even as leaves drop in Fall. A great winter snack for our fowl friends!

A cousin of Russian olive is American silverberry, Elaeagnus commutata. It’s native to North America, unlike Russian olive.

Read also on shrubs:

Other interesting hedge shrubs: strawberry tree, wild privet, weigela, cypress, camellia, photinia, flowering currant

Smart tip about Russian olive trees

Elaeagnus don’t do well in very wet ground.

Avoid waterlogged soil and stagnant water or your plant will dwindle away.


Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Russian olive leaves and blooming by Evgeny Pervakov under © CC BY-NC 4.0
Russian olive flower by Kit Kestrel under Pixabay license