Osmanthus Fragrans Growing and Care Guide

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Osmanthus fragrans is an evergreen broadleaf shrub or small tree that belongs to the Oleaceae family and is native to Asia, particularly in South China, Taiwan, Japan, Cambodia, Thailand, Japan, and the Himalayas.

The botanical name osmanthus is derived from the combined Greek words osme, meaning fragrant, and anthos, which means flower.

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This plant is also well-known for its other common names, including:

  • Fragrant olive
  • Fragrant tea olive
  • Sweet osmanthus
  • Sweet olive
  • Tea olive

Commonly grown as a large indoor plant, Osmanthus fragrans is increasingly popular as an ornamental plant in the landscape due to its attractive evergreen foliage and fragrant flowers.

In this article, we will discuss the important growing and care tips of Osmanthus Fragrans to ensure your plant thrives in your garden.

Osmanthus Fragrans Care

Size and Growth Rate

Osmanthus Fragrans is a medium-sized evergreen shrub that can reach up to 10′ to 15′ feet tall and wide in cultivation. However, this plant may grow up to 20′ to 30′ feet tall and 10′ to 14′ feet wide in its native habitat.

Its growth rate is moderate with an upright form, and it can reach its mature size in about 10 years. However, the growth rate may vary depending on the growing conditions, including soil type, temperature, and moisture.

Moreover, this evergreen shrub features elongated leathery, dark green leaves that are either smooth or finely toothed.

Its smooth and attractive bark is grey-grown when exposed.

Flowering and Fragrance

Sweet osmanthus produces small but extremely fragrant flower clusters that appear in leaf axils in spring or sporadically year-round in late fall.

The aromatic flowers come in a wide variety of shades, including white, creamy yellow, pale yellow, or orange-yellow. However, the flower color may vary depending on the variety. Some may bear reddish hues, orange, and gold.

In addition, these dainty, fragrant flower clusters cover this densely branched shrub.

One of the most distinctive features of Osmanthus fragrans is its fragrance, which is often compared to apricot, peach, or jasmine, filling the entire garden with its aroma.

Moreover, this plant also features a purple-black drupe fruit containing a single hard-shelled seed, which matures about six months after flowering in spring.

Light and Temperature

Osmanthus Fragrans prefers full sun to partial shade but can tolerate shade.

This plant requires about 6 hours or more of direct sunlight daily, while it only needs about 2 to 6 hours of direct sunlight only part of the day.

In hot southern regions with warm climates, it’s best grown in part afternoon shade to prevent leaf scorch.

This evergreen shrub thrives in warm temperatures but can withstand temperatures as low as 10° degrees Fahrenheit as it’s winter hardy there. However, it may suffer frost damage below 20° degrees Fahrenheit.

To protect the plant from extreme weather conditions, provide a sheltered location and mulch around the base.

Generally, the Sweet Osmanthus is also hardy in USDA zones 8 to 10.

Tea Olive Shrub Watering and Fertilizer Requirements

Osmanthus Fragrans needs average but regular watering, especially during the growing season. This will help prevent the soil from drying out.

Remember to provide about 1 inch of water per week during the growing season.

However, ensure you’re not overwatering because it can lead to root rot and other problems.

Remember, young Tea olives should be regularly watered for the first year or so.

Once established, your Sweet Osmanthus is somewhat drought tolerant and only needs watering when there is no weekly rainfall. However, be sure to supply supplemental watering in hot, dry months.

For fertilizer application, feed your fragrant plant with a slow-release fertilizer or a time-release shrub and tree fertilizer in the spring and summer to promote healthy growth and flowering.

When moved inside for the winter, potted plants will also need light feeding, preferably complete fertilizer with slow-release nitrogen.

However, your tea olive shrub doesn’t need any fertilizer before winter begins because frost will damage new growth.

Soil and Transplanting

Sweet olive grows best in fertile, well-drained soil but may grow well in moist soils with good drainage.

This plant can also grow easily in any good garden soil, and heavy clay soils or sandy soils are tolerated.

However, ensure the soil is not soggy because this plant cannot tolerate wet soil.

Remember, the soil should have a slightly acidic to neutral pH, between 5.0 to 7.5. But if you have highly alkaline soil, you can add elemental sulfur to lower the pH.

When transplanting Osmanthus Fragrans, it’s best done in the spring or fall when the plant is dormant. Before transplanting, prepare the new planting hole by digging a hole twice as wide as the root ball and incorporating organic matter.

Growing in the Landscape

Osmanthus Fragrans is a versatile plant that can be grown in various settings, including hedges, foundation plantings, and mixed borders.

When planting in the landscape, provide enough space for the plant to grow to its mature size and plant in a location that receives partial shade to full sun.

When growing in containers, use a well-draining potting mix and provide regular fertilization and watering.


To create the optimal environment for Fragrant tea olive, plant it in a location that receives partial shade to full sun and protect it from extreme weather conditions.

Provide regular watering and fertilization to promote healthy growth and ensure the soil is well-draining.

Moreover, Osmanthus Fragrans is also susceptible to pests and diseases, so monitoring the plant regularly and taking preventative measures is crucial.

Grooming and Maintenance

Osmanthus Fragrans only require minimal pruning, but occasional grooming can help maintain its shape and promote healthy growth. It can also be pruned into an espalier, small, or a tree.

Do so by removing damaged or dead branches in early spring to improve air circulation. This will also help prevent pests and diseases.

Clipping off the plant’s growing tips will also maintain the compact size and encourage bushiness.

However, refrain from pruning too much because it can hinder the plant from blooming, which usually takes about two years to resume good flowering.

How To Propagate Sweet Osmanthus

Sweet Osmanthus can be propagated by seed, cuttings, or layering.

Propagation by cuttings is the most common method, and it’s best to take it in late spring or early summer.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Take a 3- to 4-inch-long semi-hardwood stem cutting using clean, sharp pruning shears.
  • Don’t forget to remove the bottom leaves.
  • Then, dip the stem-cutting bottom in the rooting hormone.
  • After that, root it in a well-draining rooting medium.
  • Remember to place the cuttings in a bright outdoor location but avoid direct sunlight.
  • Once you see developing roots and new growth, your Sweet olive plant is ready to be transplanted.

In contrast, layering propagation involves bending a low branch to the ground and burying it in the soil to promote root formation.

Fragrant Tea Olive Pest and Diseases

Fragrant Tea Olive is virtually pest and disease-resistant but can be susceptible to a few common issues.

Therefore, monitoring the plant regularly to identify any problems early and take corrective action to prevent further damage is important.

Here are examples of common insect pests that attack the Fragrant Tea Olives:

Scale Insects

These small, oval-shaped insects feed on the plant’s sap, causing yellowing and wilting of the evergreen leaves.

Scale insects can be treated using insecticidal soap, Neem oil, or horticultural oil. It can also be controlled by regular pruning.

Spider Mites

These tiny, spider-like insects also feed on the plant’s sap and can cause the glossy leaves to turn yellow and brown. It also leads to leaf discoloration.

Spider mites can be controlled by regular pruning, increasing humidity, and using insecticidal soap.


These small, soft-bodied insects can be found feeding on the underside of the leaves, causing them to curl and distort.

Aphids can be treated by using insecticidal soap or horticultural oil.

Moreover, here are common diseases that Sweet Osmanthus may be susceptible to:

Leaf Spot

This fungal disease causes brown spots on the leaves, leading to defoliation and weakened growth.

The leaf spot can be prevented by ensuring the healthy plant has proper air circulation and avoiding overhead watering. If the disease is already present, treat it with a fungicide.

Root Rot

This disease is caused by overwatering and poor drainage, making the roots waterlogged and susceptible to fungal infections.

To prevent root rot, ensure the soil is well-draining, and avoid overwatering.

Powdery Mildew

This fungal disease appears as a white powdery substance on the leaves stems, and flowers, causing them to become distorted and stunted.

Powdery mildew can be prevented by ensuring the plant has proper air circulation, avoiding overhead watering, and treating it with a fungicide.

Sweet Olive Uses in the Landscape

Sweet Olive is a popular ornamental plant in the landscape due to its attractive foliage and fragrant creamy white flowers.

It’s an extremely long-lived plant, making it an excellent choice as a hedge or screen, foundation planting, or as part of a mixed border.

It also works well in a country, Asian, and cottage gardens as privacy hedges or espalier.

You can also enjoy this plant’s delightful fragrance when placed near patios, entrances, and pathways, as it fills the space with its sweet scent.

Moreover, Osmanthus fragrans also make a lovely houseplant or container plant. It also looks great in specimen plantings within natural areas or flower beds.

The plant’s butter-yellow flowers and leaves are also used in tea, and the plant has medicinal properties in traditional Chinese medicine.


Osmanthus Fragrans is a versatile and beautiful plant that can enhance any landscape with its attractive foliage and white blooms intoxicating fragrance .

You can enjoy this lovely plant in your garden and landscape by providing the plant with the proper growing conditions, including light, temperature, watering, and fertilization, and taking preventative measures against pests and diseases.

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