Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Silver Russian Olive
Elaeagnus angustifolia

Family: Elaeagnaceae
Genus: Elaeagnus (el-ee-AG-nus) (Info)
Species: angustifolia (an-gus-tee-FOH-lee-uh) (Info)

2 vendors have this plant for sale.

19 members have or want this plant for trade.


20-30 ft. (6-9 m)

15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)

USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)
USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:
Pale Yellow
Bright Yellow

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer


Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)
7.9 to 8.5 (alkaline)
8.6 to 9.0 (strongly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From woody stem cuttings
From semi-hardwood cuttings
From hardwood cuttings
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse
From seed; stratify if sowing indoors
Direct sow as soon as the ground can be worked
From seed; sow indoors before last frost
From seed; direct sow after last frost
From seed; germinate in a damp paper towel

Seed Collecting:
Unknown - Tell us

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There are a total of 13 photos.
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6 positives
6 neutrals
7 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Negative coriaceous On Feb 3, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

This plant looks better when seen from a distance than from close up. An untidy tree/shrub, it always seems to have shriveled leaves clinging to its base and lower branches making it look unkempt, and it's grudging about releasing them. It's always dropping debris or showing dieback. It's also spiny. In the eastern US, it's subject to many diseases which guarantee individual plants a short lifespan.

The flowers are fragrant but not showy, as they're more or less the same color as the foliage. Bloom occurs in May (Boston Z6a), when lots of other fragrant plants are in bloom. An allergy to the pollen is common.

This plant doesn't look much like an olive tree. What it and the true olive have in common is an olive-shaped fruit, a silvery cast to the foliage, and a well-deserved reputation for being a "dirty" tree.

I don't consider it a good plant for the home landscape. It was once much planted along highways, until it was found to be destructively invasive to natural habitat. Seed are spread into wild areas through birds taking the fruit.

This is banned in Connecticut and declared a noxious weed in Colorado and New Mexico. It's considered invasive throughout most of the US.

This looks so much like the autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) that I can have a hard time telling them apart.

Negative Rickwebb On Jan 29, 2014, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

This small tree with pretty silvery foliage was once commonly planted in the Chicago area of Illinois in the 1960's into the1980's, but it only lives about 15 to 20 years and then dies from canker diseases and/or Verticillium Disease in the humid climate of the Midwest or East. It also grows sort of ratty and is dirty, so it lost favor in much of the upper Midwest and is usually not sold anymore by regular nurseries. It can still be bought from cheap mail order nurseries that unfortunately sell not only good plants but also very bad, inferior plants too. In dry western US climates it probably is alright.

Neutral Larch16 On Aug 29, 2011, Larch16 from Kamloops, BC (Zone 5a) wrote:

These trees will take over. Around here, they grow thick by rivers and roadsides. They are prickly as well. But they are a tree and in my opinion look better than no trees at all. I really like the look of the bark. The trees kind of look like giant sagebrush. I would not recommend planting this tree unless you make sure it doesn't spread and are prepared for the new trees.

Positive mechanicx On Jul 3, 2011, mechanicx from Slave Lake
Canada wrote:

I think I live in zone 2A... bear with me... I'm an occasional gardener... if it grows, I leave it alone. This tree is unique to our town - I think I have one of very few (if not the only one in town). It has done quite well but hasn't gotten out of hand - probably due to our climate. In about 8 years, it has reached about 12 feet tall and about 10 feet across with a forked trunk (kids will be kids). My wife and I love it.

Positive Bar4h On May 27, 2011, Bar4h from Amarillo, TX wrote:

I had a great Russian Olive in my yard in Southern CO. We lived in a high desert area, very dry climate. I never had trouble with dead limbs, thorns or suckers. I was very consistant with pruning on Valintine's Day weekend and it leafed out great. I do know they can be very invasive in wet areas such as river banks, so I wouldn't even consider them in a wet climate.

Negative Quixxel On Jul 6, 2010, Quixxel from Salt Lake City, UT wrote:

This tree is absolutely horrible. My neighbors have some, and every year we have to go out and kill the sprouts that have appeared on our yard. We let them get big once, and it was a definite battle to get past the thorns and cut it down. They are also very invasive in this area

Positive eggmont On Sep 20, 2007, eggmont from Leesburg, VA wrote:

I have this growing wild on my 3 acre property. It's mostly on the borders of my property line. In the summer, it makes a great visual blockade to my idiot neighbors' Fred Sanford-esque property. Yep, there's nothing like living next to a guy who'd rather pave a basketball court in his side yard, next to my front yard, than re-shingle his house, which is falling into dis-repair. Oh, and the junky motorhome, bobcat excavator, and other various heavy equipment implements haphazardly strewn about his yard, further add to the low-life ambience.

Which brings me back to the Russian Olive. I plan to propagate a lot more of this natural screen along my property, in hopes that I won't have to see his eyesore, save for the Winter months, after the leaves have fallen.

Positive dicentra63 On Jun 21, 2007, dicentra63 from West Valley City, UT (Zone 6b) wrote:

I absolutely love my mature Russian Olive tree, which provides wonderful shade for my hammock and looks fabulous.

Ok, except for the lower branches that have died and are very difficult to remove because the wood is very hard. But other than that, I have had no problems with it. There are a few suckers, but nothing out of control, and the seeds don't seem to germinate at all. Compared to the two specimens of Ailanthus altissima (Tree of H*ll; which seeds and suckers like crazy) and the two Chinese Elms nearby (whose paper-coin seeds are ALL viable), my Russian Olive is a perfect angel.

And I LOVE the hypnotic odor it produces in the spring. I am not tormented by allergies, so I am free to enjoy it.

Neutral Darham On Jun 20, 2007, Darham from La Habra, CA wrote:

This plant grows widely in central Asia. Last week (2007-06-10) I was in Kazakhstan. I noticed several blooming bushes along the roadside. I had a tree in our yard, back home in Afghanistan It's redish fruit consumed by people. The fruit has a seed which could be used to grow seedlings. I have grown plants from seeds. Propagation by cuttings also very common.

Negative frostweed On Dec 14, 2006, frostweed from Josephine, Arlington, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

Silver Russian Olive Elaeagnus angustifolia is Naturalized to Texas and other States and is considered an Invasive plant in Texas,

Negative ineedacupoftea On Aug 13, 2006, ineedacupoftea from Denver, CO wrote:

An invasive, native-damaging weed that reseeds readily. It does fix nitrogen in the soil, growing in very wet to very dry conditions. The "fragrance" is often enough to give people hayfever from the sickly-sweet river of air flowing downwind.

My personal attack on the plant involves revenge. It is a wildcard for woodburning heat quality. And harvest... well, you have not lived until you have had the pleasure of one of its stem-style thorns slash through a wrist or leg.

I see this plant as having some limited but good uses (living snowfence in nasty places like greater Wyoming) but should be carefully thought out before using in a landscape.

Neutral Plant_Gurl On Aug 12, 2006, Plant_Gurl from Bend, OR (Zone 4b) wrote:

We had one on the ranch in Eastern Oregon. It certainly wasn't in bog-like conditions, and grew beautifully.

If it can be planted in less-than-ideal soil where is doesn't have room to 'invade', it is a worthwhile addition, simply for the aroma.

Neutral darylmitchell On Sep 6, 2005, darylmitchell from Saskatoon, SK (Zone 3a) wrote:

We had two Russian olives in our yard when I was younger. It is an introduced species that has become naturalized in North America. It can be considered as either a large shrub or a small tree with single or multiple trunks. It will grow about as wide as it does tall. It is considered drought and salt tolerant.

Russian olives are interesting as ornamentals. The silver foliage contrasts with green foliage from other trees. Its twisting, irregular form and near-black bark provide more interest and contrast against snow in winter. The blossoms are fragrant and the fruit attracts birds.

On the downside, whole branches can die back and require pruning, resulting in an unsightly appearance. The shallow roots may be susceptible to winter injury. The pollen is nasty, and can make life miserable for allergy sufferers. They can be messy; a storm or a windy day will leave a lot of twig and leaf litter. The branches have long, sharp thorns, which can be dangerous for small children or pets. In some climate zones it is considered an invasive plant. It can also suffer from canker and verticillium wilt.

Neutral angele On May 8, 2005, angele wrote:

a beautiful plant that the birds love. There is one growing in the park across from my home. It has been there for many years and has not spread.

Positive Joan On Dec 29, 2004, Joan from Belfield, ND (Zone 4a) wrote:

I love the fragrance this tree puts out. It is a little wicked to mow around, but it has proven to be very drought tolerant for this area, therefore it's earned a positive mark from me.

Positive Mader631 On Sep 12, 2004, Mader631 from Schofield, WI wrote:

Just bought a bare Root Russian olive this spring. It is about 3ft tall, Very strong plant. Can handle Drought type weather, it's planted in almost 100% sand. The thing will not Die...... I bought it for $5.00.

Negative sugarweed On Aug 25, 2004, sugarweed from Jacksonville & Okeechobee, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

This tree is abundant along the banks of the Rio Grande River in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For weeks in the spring. the beautiful fragrance permiatess the air. It is also very pretty in this natural setting with constant wet feet.
Since writing the above description, I have learned that this species is EXTREMLY invasive and chokes out natural habitat. This makes it a bad choice for planting. Do an advanced search and find a tree native to your area.

Negative sheilad On Aug 24, 2004, sheilad from Ottawa
Canada wrote:

I planted a russian olive in summer of 2001. In the Ottawa area it is advertised as a plant with virtually no problems and is widely planted. It has grown quite a lot but every year has had quite a number of branches die, detracting substantially from the beauty of the tree's silvery foliage. The dead leaves hang on the branches all winter and through the summer until they are pruned out. Gummy resin oozes from cracks in the bark. My tree is about 15 foot tall and planted in well drained soil. I have since inquired at my plant nursery and found out that I am not alone.

Neutral smiln32 On Apr 17, 2004, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

Russian-olive is a native of southern Europe and western Asia. It was introduced into the United States in the early 1900's.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Dothan, Alabama
Flagstaff, Arizona
La Habra, California
Florence, Colorado
Grand Junction, Colorado
Pueblo, Colorado
Saint Augustine, Florida
Boise, Idaho
Wheaton, Illinois
Benton, Kentucky
Cumberland, Maryland
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Elephant Butte, New Mexico
Belfield, North Dakota
Medora, North Dakota
Bucyrus, Ohio
Bend, Oregon
Ione, Oregon
State College, Pennsylvania
, Quebec
Amarillo, Texas
Salt Lake City, Utah
Tremonton, Utah
Leesburg, Virginia
Silverdale, Washington
Dubois, Wyoming

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