Tea Olives

Tea olives (Osmanthus species) are a highly fragrant evergreen shrub or small tree that makes them ideal for planting hear windows and outdoor living areas. They bloom in the fall and have a sweet fragrance that is compared to the scent of peaches, orange blossoms, or jasmine. The most common flower color is a creamy-white, but can vary from pure white, pale to deep yellow, or orange. The individual flowers are small, but the clusters are usually large and numerous to be very showy.
Tea olives resemble a holly. They can be distinguished from a holly by their opposite leaves, whereas a holly has alternate leaves. Tea olive foliage is dark, leathery, and usually toothed along the edges. Most species of tea olive grow in a dense and upright-oval to round in form shape making them an excellent choice for hedges, screen, and individual specimen plants.
Tea olives can range in height from 6 to 30 feet tall depending on the species and cultivar with the width being similar to the height. Smaller cultivars of tea olives include holly tea olive (Osmanthus heterophyllus), Fortune’s tea olive (O. x fortune), and Delavay tea olive (O. delavayi). These three cultivars can be maintained as low as four feet tall and will make a good hedge.
Tea olives are a slow to moderate growing shrub that grow only 4 to 12 inches per year. The growth rate in influence by soil quality, organic matter content, available nutrients, and water availability.
Most tea olives will grow in sun to medium shade. Tea olives grow best in fertile, moist, well-drained, acidic soil. They are moderately drought tolerant once established. Tea olives rarely need pruning since they have a pleasing shape of their own. They can be pruned for a selective shape or small leafed types can be sheared as formal hedges. Prune most tea olives before growth starts in spring, since they flower on current season’s growth. The species Osmanthus delavayi and O. americanus should be pruned immediately after flowering since they are two spring blooming species. Tea olives that are pruned back severely may take several years to come back into bloom.
Clemson Extension will be having their annual fruit tree fundraiser. If you are interested in an order form please call the Extension office at 843-774-8218 extension 0.
For more information on tea olives, please visit the Home and Garden Information Center website at hgic.clemson.edu. Tune in on Tuesday nights to watch “Making it Grow” at 7pm on SCETV or mig.org. Email Outen at [email protected]
*Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer.