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
Name – Elaeagnus angustifolia
Family – Elaeagnaceae
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.
- Choose well-drained soil and follow our guidance for planting shrubs.
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
- 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.
- Russian olive in the Americas is an invasive species that must be controlled.
- See whether you’re in the native or invasive range for Russian olive.
Read also on shrubs:
- Go for green all year-round and start an evergreen hedge
- Or create a flowered hedge that blooms as seasons fly by
- Attract birds with berry shrubs
- Learn to create mixed hedges which are great barriers against diseases and parasites
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