Olive Tree Sunlight Requirements [Everything You Need to Know]

Olive trees need full sun to produce the best harvest. A minimum of six to eight hours of sun is required, but the optimum amount is eight to 12 throughout the growing season. You can grow olive trees in many different areas, but a hot climate where sunshine abounds is the best option. Olive trees do not do well in cold climates where cloudy weather is commonplace or where winds are harsh.

Do olive trees need full sun?

How Many Hours of Sun Do Olive Trees Need

Olive trees should be exposed to eight to 12 hours of full sun daily. They will still thrive and produce a good crop if they receive a minimum of six to eight hours of daily direct sunlight, but more sun is always better for these Mediterranean trees.

An olive tree planted in the sunniest spot of a yard.
An olive tree that I planted in one of the sunniest spots in my yard.
  • Olive trees should have 8–12 hours of full sun daily.
  • If olive trees get at least 6–8 hours of direct sunlight each day, they’ll yield a good crop.
  • If olive trees are planted indoors, 12 hours of light is preferable.

You may decide to start your olive trees indoors, but it is important to increase the sunlight hours in this case. Aim for at least 10 hours of sunlight indoors, but 12 is even better if possible.

Can Olive Trees Grow in Indirect Sunlight?

It is possible for olive trees to thrive and produce some fruit in indirect sunlight. However, the harvest will yield significantly less fruit if the trees never receive full sun.

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  • Olive trees can flourish and provide some fruit when grown in indirect sunlight.
  • 4–8 hours of full sun is enough during the dormant winter season.
  • Growing olive trees in indirect sunlight year-round will lead to a substandard harvest.

During the dormant winter season, four to eight hours of full sun per day is enough. However, during the growing season, direct, full sun is required. The olive tree growing season begins in spring and ends after the harvest in fall.

Can Olive Trees Grow in Shade?

Olive trees can grow in shade and they can even be started indoors, but it is not the best environment for them. In some cases, the olives will take substantially longer to bud, and sometimes may not bud or produce olives at all. 

An olive tree growing in some shade, even though it is not recommended.
You can see this olive tree growing in some shade of my yard.
  • Olive trees can grow in the shade, but the environment is not ideal.
  • Olives will take much longer to bud if trees are sun-deprived.
  • Olives may be small and bitter if the tree does not get adequate sun exposure.
  • It is best to provide your olive trees with at least 6 hours of full sun per day.

Olives from sun-deprived trees are often small and are usually bitter. If you are trying to grow an olive tree in the shade, it is important to keep the environment warm—olive trees have very little tolerance for cold. The best option is to provide plenty of sun to keep your trees warm.

What Happens if Olive Trees Don’t Get Enough Sun?

Olive trees that do not receive full sun probably won’t die, but they will have an unhealthy appearance. They may fail to blossom and they might not produce any fruit. In addition, when they do bear fruit despite sun deprivation, it typically takes a lot longer.

  • Olive trees can live without sun.
  • Sun-deprived olive trees are not usually healthy.
  • Fruit and blossoms may not appear on olive trees that don’t get enough sun.
  • Olives may fail to ripen if trees are underexposed to full sun.

The olives on an undersunned olive tree will fail to fully ripen in some cases. These issues will ultimately produce a bad harvest, so it is best to make sure your trees get the sun they crave.

Can Olive Trees Get Too Much Sun?

It is possible for any tree or plant to get too much sun, but olive trees are very drought-tolerant and enjoy up to 12 hours of full sun exposure during the growing season. There is little danger of olive trees being harmed by the sun, even during heat waves in the heart of summer.

An olive tree growing in maximum sun.
One of my favorite parts of growing olive trees is how drought-tolerant they are.
  • Olive trees typically won’t be harmed by too much sun.
  • During a long hot drought, a bit of afternoon shade won’t hurt.
  • Wilting is a sign of overexposure to the sun.

If temperatures are exceptionally hot and it has not rained in a long time, a bit of afternoon shade is good for olive trees. However, unlike most trees, when olive leaves develop brown or yellow spots, this is usually a sign of too much water, as opposed to too much sun. Extreme heat and overexposure to the sun are more likely to cause wilting. If this occurs, provide your trees with some shade, especially in the afternoon.

How Much Sun Do Olive Trees Require?

Olive trees thrive in a subtropical climate and need full sun to produce full-sized, ripe fruit. Plenty of sunlight and warmth is necessary for them to flourish and produce a good harvest. 

  • A hot climate with plenty of sunshine is the best environment for olive trees.
  • A minimum of 6–8 hours of sun per day is vital to olive tree health.
  • 8–12 hours of sun is the ideal amount for olive trees.
  • Olive trees do not do well in cold climates or in strong winds.

You can’t go wrong by providing as much sunlight as possible to your olive tree. This evergreen tree is happy to soak up the sun year-round. Typically, the more sun and warmth they receive, the better your olive harvest will be.

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