How To Grow Autumn Olive

Written by: Lars Nyman

Growing Autumn Olive

Growing Autumn Olive

Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) is a deciduous, nitrogen-fixing shrub native to Asia that has become widely naturalised throughout temperate regions of the world. It grows quickly in sunny and disturbed habitats, with its edible fruits popular with birds, making it a valued component of the garden ecosystem. It was introduced to the US in the early 1800s for soil stabilization and wildlife food, but it has since spread widely and out-competed some native plants.

Cheatsheet: Growing Autumn Olive

1. Planting

🌱 Autumn Olive is a hardy shrub that thrives in diverse climates.

🌍 Choose a sunny location with well-draining soil.

💦 Ensure regular watering during the first year to establish strong roots.

2. Propagation

🌱 Collect seeds in autumn and stratify for 30-90 days in the refrigerator.

🌱 Soak seeds in water for 24 hours before planting.

3. Growth & Maintenance

💪 Autumn Olive grows quickly, reaching heights of 15-20 feet.

🍃 Prune regularly to maintain shape and promote fruit production.

🌳 Consider planting a mix of male and female plants for better pollination.

4. Harvesting & Usage

🍒 Harvest berries in late summer or early fall when they turn red.

🍇 Autumn Olive fruits are rich in antioxidants like lycopene.

🥗 Use the berries for jams, jellies, sauces, or drying.

5. Benefits & Considerations

🌿 Autumn Olive fixes nitrogen, enriching the soil and benefiting nearby plants.

🌎 It helps prevent soil erosion and creates wildlife habitat.

💚 Incorporating Autumn Olive into your landscape promotes self-sufficiency.

Growing Autumn Olive

Understanding Autumn Olive

Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) is a deciduous shrub native to Asia. This hardy plant offers both beauty and utility.

It's known for its silvery foliage and abundant bright red berries. The berries are a favorite among wildlife.

Autumn Olive can fix nitrogen in the soil, enhancing fertility. This makes it beneficial for poor quality soils.

Selecting the Right Site

Autumn Olive thrives in full sun but tolerates partial shade. I’ve noticed they perform best in well-drained soils.

These plants can grow in a variety of soil types, from sandy to clay. They are not fussy, truly resilient.

Avoid planting Autumn Olive *near water bodies or conservation areas*. It's quite invasive in some regions.

Planting Tips

Planting this shrub is straightforward. Early spring is the ideal time to plant.

  1. Dig a hole twice the width of the root ball.
  2. Place the plant in the hole, ensuring the root collar is level with the ground.
  3. Backfill with soil and water thoroughly.

Consider spacing each plant about 6 feet apart. They need room to grow.

In my garden, the plants established quickly and grew over 3 feet in the first season.

Ongoing Care

Once established, Autumn Olive requires minimal care. Water regularly in the first year.

Mulching can help retain moisture and suppress weeds. I use a 2-3 inch layer of organic mulch.

Pruning is essential to manage their growth. Prune in late winter or early spring.

Always wear gloves while pruning. The branches can be quite thorny.

Harvesting Autumn Olive Berries

The berries are ready to harvest in late summer to early fall. They're rich in *lycopene*, an antioxidant.

I usually wait until the berries are deep red and slightly soft. They come off the stem easily.

Autumn Olive berries are tart and sweet. Perfect for jams, jellies, and even wine.

A 100 gram serving of berries can provide up to 50 mg of lycopene, surpassing tomatoes!


In summary, growing Autumn Olive is rewarding but comes with responsibility due to its invasiveness. Ensuring proper management can yield a lush, fruit-bearing shrub that's both a visual and practical asset to your garden.


1. What are the ideal growing conditions for Autumn Olive?

The ideal growing conditions for Growing Autumn Olive include full sun and well-drained soil.

2. When should I plant Autumn Olive?

You should plant Autumn Olive in the early spring or late fall.

3. How often should I water Autumn Olive?

Autumn Olive requires regular watering, especially during dry periods. Water deeply once a week.

4. Do I need to fertilize Autumn Olive plants?

Fertilize Autumn Olive plants once a year in the spring using an all-purpose fertilizer.

5. How do I prune Autumn Olive?

Prune Autumn Olive in late winter to early spring to maintain its shape and remove any damaged or crossing branches.

6. Are Autumn Olive trees prone to any diseases or pests?

Autumn Olive trees are generally resistant to diseases and pests, making them easy to maintain.

7. When can I harvest Autumn Olive berries?

You can harvest Autumn Olive berries when they turn red and are soft to touch, usually in late summer or early fall.

8. How do I propagate Autumn Olive?

Propagate Autumn Olive by taking hardwood cuttings in late winter or early spring or by using seeds stratification method.

9. Can Autumn Olive be grown in containers?

Autumn Olive can be grown in large containers, preferably at least 20 gallons in size, with well-draining soil.

10. How fast does Autumn Olive grow?

Autumn Olive is a fast-growing plant, typically growing about 2 to 3 feet per year under optimal conditions.

Growing Autumn Olive is a great way to attract wildlife and create an environment that is sustainable and eco-friendly. It produces an abundance of fruit, which can be used for jams, jellies, and syrups, and its efficient roots help to repair damaged soils. Additionally, its nitrogen-fixing properties make it a great choice for natural fertilization, as well as for soil and habitat restoration. Overall, Autumn Olive is an excellent choice for a backyard garden as it is low-maintenance, produces delicious fruit, and improves soil quality.

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