Osmanthus heterophyllus

Common Name: holly olive 
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Oleaceae
Native Range: Japan and Taiwan
Zone: 7 to 9
Height: 8.00 to 10.00 feet
Spread: 7.00 to 9.00 feet
Bloom Time: September
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Evergreen
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Drought, Clay Soil


Winter hardy to USDA Zone 7 (perhaps Zone 6). If grown in Zone 6, it should be sited in a protected location with a winter mulch. It is best grown in rich, 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. Clip off growing tips to maintain compact size and to encourage bushiness. In St. Louis, plants may be grown in containers which must be overwintered indoors in bright cool locations.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Osmanthus heterophyllus, commonly called holly olive or false olive, is a dense, upright, bushy evergreen shrub that typically grows to 8-10' tall and as wide in cultivation, but may reach 25' tall in the wild in its native habitat (Japan and Taiwan). It is noted for producing leathery, ovate to elliptic, deep green leaves (to 2 1/2" long) which vary in shape: juvenile leaves typically have holly-like spiny margins (often 3-5 spiny teeth per side with a single tooth at the apex) and adult leaves typically are entire. The amount of toothing per leaf often varies considerably on the same shrub. Although the spiny juvenile leaves resemble the leaves of some hollies, holly olive leaves are opposite and holly leaves are alternate. Tiny fragrant 4-petaled white flowers bloom from the leaf axils in small clusters in fall. Plants are dioecious (male and female flowers on separate plants). Flowers are often hidden in the foliage. Fruits (5/8" long) on female plants ripen in the year after flowering, but are usually not produced in cultivation.

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

Specific epithet comes from the Greek hetero meaning different and phyllus meaning leaf in recognition of the leaf variations.


No serious insect or disease problems. Watch for scale and aphids.


Where winter hardy, holly olive forms an excellent screen or hedge. Shrub border.