A small group of lesser known flowering shrubs, mainly grown for their evergreen glossy leaves and masses of fragrant white flowers in spring.

Family: Oleaceae (olive family)
Botanical Name: Osmanthus
Common Names: Sweet olive, tea olive, fragrant olive, holly olive

Foliage: Evergreen, glossy, narrowly ovate leathery leaves. Sometimes serrated.

Flowers: Small, trumpet-shaped, white flowers, usually with a delightfully fragrant scent. Followed by blue-black fruits.

Flowering Period: April.

Soil: Well-drained soil (chalk, clay, sand or loam). Any pH.

Conditions: Full sun or partial shade. Can be grown in any aspect, in either a sheltered or exposed location.

Habit: Bushy.

Type: Medium to large shrub or small tree.

Origin: China, Japan, Korea, Indochina and the Himalayas.

Hardiness: Most forms are hardy in the UK, except for O. fragrans.

Planting and Growing Osmanthus

Container grown plants can be planted out at any reasonable time of year.

Grow in an open sunny position, in any good well drained, fertile garden soil. Plant in full sun or light shade. Site it where the massed scented white flowers can be fully appreciated.

A good low maintenance plant that makes a neat, dense, flowering hedge or large bush.

Taking Care of Osmanthus

Water thoroughly during dry weather until well established. Mulch with organic matter in spring and apply a general fertilizer suitable for shrubs.

Pruning Osmanthus

Large plants can be kept more manageable by pruning or trimming, once flowering has finished.

Pests and Diseases

Generally pest and disease free.

Propagating Osmanthus

Seed can be sown outdoors in spring, although cultivars will not come true to type.

Semi-ripe cuttings can be taken in early summer.

Popular Varieties of Osmanthus

Osmanthus burkwoodii is a medium-sized shrub with dark green glossy leaves. Abundant, fragrant, white flowers in early spring. Height from 5 to 8ft (1.5 to 2.5m).

Osmanthus decorus is a slow growing spreading bush, with white fragrant flowers in spring. Height to 10ft (3m), spread to 16ft (5m)

Osmanthus delavayi is a dense, slow-growing, evergreen shrub. Height and spread to 11ft (3.5m).

Osmanthus fragrans (sweet osmanthus) is a popular choice in warmer regions (frost tender). Strongly scented flowers in early spring. Often grown successfully as a conservatory plant or as a wall shrub in milder regions. Eventual height and spread to 20ft (6m).

Osmanthus heterophyllus (false holly) has attractive holly like foliage and tiny sweetly scent flowers in autumn. Makes a good dense, prickly hedge. Good cultivars include: 'Aureomarginatus' with golden yellow edge markings, 'purpureus' with purple leaves that mature to green, and 'variegatus' with white edging to the leaves.