Osmanthus fragrans
Common Name: fragrant olive
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Oleaceae
Native Range: Himalayas, Japan, China
Zone: 9 to 11
Height: 10.00 to 15.00 feet
Spread: 10.00 to 15.00 feet
Bloom Time: April
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Flowering Tree
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Evergreen
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Drought, Clay Soil

Culture

Winter hardy to about 10 degrees F. and generally considered to be plantable in the ground in USDA Zones 8b-11. In these warm winter areas, it is easily grown in average, consistently moist, well-drained garden soils in full sun to part shade. Best with part afternoon shade in hot summer climates. Tolerates heavy clays. Drought tolerant once established. May be trained as a small tree, shrub or espalier. Clip off growing tips to maintain compact size and to encourage bushiness. In St. Louis, grow in containers which must be overwintered indoors in bright cool locations.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Osmanthus fragrans, commonly called fragrant olive, sweet olive or sweet tea, produces clusters of not particularly showy flowers that have an extremely powerful apricot fragrance. It is a small, upright, evergreen tree or large shrub that will typically grow to 10-15’ tall in cultivation, but may reach 20-30’ tall in its native habitat in Asia (Himalayas, China and Japan). It must be grown in containers in the St. Louis area. Features oval, leathery, glossy green leaves (to 4” long). Leaf margins may be smooth or finely toothed. Tiny white flowers appear in axillary clusters in spring, with some sporadic bloom through the summer into fall. Varieties of the species bear flowers in orange, gold and reddish hues. The plant has very fragrant flower. In China, flowers are sometimes added to teas.

Genus name comes from the Greek words osme meaning fragrant and anthos meaning flower.

Specific epithet also means fragrant.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Watch for scale and aphids. For more information see: Problems Common to Many Indoor Plants

Garden Uses

South of USDA Zone 8a, sweet olive is grown as a small flowering tree, shrub, hedge, screen or espalier for lawns and areas around the home. In St. Louis, it is grown as a container plant for decks, patios or outdoor sitting areas or year round as a houseplant.