500 Osmanthus fragransCommon Names: tea olive, fragrant olive, sweet olive Family: Oleaceae (olive Family)
Tea olive is a large upright shrub that can reach 20 ft (6.1 m) tall and 6-8 ft (1.8-2.4 m) wide, but is usually seen in landscapes at 6-10 ft (1.8-3.1 m) high. The opposite leaves are a dark, shiny green and the edges may be finely toothed or smooth with both types present on the same individual. As the plant matures, most of the foliage is held at the outermost ends of the stems, but the plant retains a handsome appearance despite the legginess. In autumn, winter and early spring white flowers cover the shrub. It also blooms sporadically throughout the summer. Individually the blossoms are small and inconspicuous, but the fragrance is powerful and exquisite. Tea olive is rather slow growing and is usually quite long lived
The tea olive, Osmanthus fragrans, is native to parts of Asia.
CultureTea olive prefers reasonably good soil, but is adaptable except in the poorest, sandy soil. May be pruned to maintain size and encourage branching, but thrives equally well with neglect. Tea olives are sometimes attacked by scale insects, but usually only when growing conditions are poor. Light: Sun to partial shade; morning sun with afternoon shade, or high, shifting shade is ideal. Moisture: Moist to average. Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 - 10 Propagation: From medium wood cuttings.
Plant tea olives where their lovely fragrance can be enjoyed! Situate a tea olive wherever there is foot traffic near windows or doors and in outdoor sitting areas. Incorporate tea olive into foundation plantings at the corners or use as an accent between windows. A row of tea olive makes a very attractive hedge or screen. In areas where it is tender, grow tea olive as a container specimen so it can be protected indoors in winter.
Tea olive has deliciously fragrant flowers that smell a lot like those of fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus), which is in the same family. Tea olive is a traditional element in the southern garden landscape and a whiff of its scent carried on a cool winter breeze makes a memorable impression.
Jack Scheper 08/17/97; updated 3/20/00, 12/5/03, 12/9/03, 2/25/05, 8/20/05, 3/10/08