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Kelways Guide to Osmanthus

Osmanthus, commonly known as Sweet Olive, are evergreen shrubs or small trees with serrated or coursely toothed leaves, often producing clusters of highly fragrant flowers. They perform best when grown in full sun or partial shade and prefer a fertile, well-drained soil, sheltered from cold, drying winds.

Best planted during the autumn to enable faster root development over the winter months, containerised plants can also be planted throughout the year so long as you ensure they receive adequate water, though it is probably best to avoid planting them in the height of summer. A sprinkling of Bone Meal or some Microrrhizal Fungi in the hole when planting will be of benefit in helping the plant develop its root system.


They require very little, if any pruning, only really to remove any dead, dying or diseased stems, or for shaping. Pruning is best done after the plant has finished flowering. Follow this with a top dressing of well-rotted manure or compost and a sprinkling of a slow-release fertiliser.

Some of our Favourite varieties

Osmanthus x burkwoodii 

Possibly the most popular variety, this elegant, rounded, evergreen shrub has glossy, dark green leaves which are finely toothed at the edges. In mid to late spring it produces clusters of highly-scented, jasmine-like flowers. Osmanthus x burkwoodii has been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit.

Osmanthus delavayi 

A slow-growing species with dark grey-green foliage which is finely toothed at the edges. In mid spring it produces clusters of tubular white flowers which have a heavy jasmine-like fragrance. It can grow up to 6m in height ultimately, though more generally it stays more compact and rounded in shape, typically attaining a maximum height of around 3m. Osmanthus delavayi has been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit.

Osmanthus armatus

A more scarce variety, this evergreen shrub, originating from China, has shiny, dark green, holly-like leaves. This variety flowers in autumn, producing deliciously fragrant tubular flowers which are followed by purple fruits.

Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Goshiki' (v) 

A variegated form which performs well in a sunny spot with marbled foliage which is bronze when young. Sweetly scented tiny white flowers in autumn. Growing to around 1m in height, it can be used to form an attractive low hedge. Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Goshiki' (v) has been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit.

Osmanthus heterophyllus 'All Gold'

A beautiful evergreen shrub with rich golden yellow holly-like leaves. Producing sweetly scented white flowers in autumn, it performs well in light shade and fertile, well-drained soil.