5 Terrific Tea Olives & Where to Plant Them
With more than 20 varieties, there’s a tea olive right for almost every landscape. Tea olives offer evergreen foliage for year-round interest and tiny flowers with a sweet, intense fragrance. They’re drought tolerant, slow growers, and require little maintenance once established.
Let’s look at five terrific varieties and some great places to plant them:
- Foundations and small spaces. The dwarf rotundifolius (Osmanthus rotundifolious) is well-suited to foundation plantings and small spaces. A very slow grower, it may eventually reach 4 or 5 feet tall, and it has a naturally dense, rounded shape that requires minimal care to maintain. It features oval leathery leaves, tolerates full sun or part shade, and produces tiny but fragrant flowers in late fall or early winter.
- Green screens. To create a green screen for your pool or patio, opt for faster growing varieties such as the hybrid sweet olive (O. burkwoodii). It’s hardy, a comparatively fast grower, and establishes quickly. It produces fragrant spring flowers, does well in full sun, and tolerates heavy, dry shade. It can reach 5 to 8 feet tall, but you can control it with occasional pruning.
- Hedges. Holly tea olive (O. heterophyllus) is a good hedge option. A compact, slow grower, it has a dense growth habit, very small somewhat spiky leaves, and intensely fragrant flowers in fall. At full maturity, it may reach 8 to 10 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide. However, it tolerates pruning and shearing, so it’s a good choice for both formal and informal hedges.
- Shrub borders. The variegated hybrid Goshiki (O. goshiki) adds a bright spot of color in shrub borders. A very slow grower, it requires little pruning or care. New growth features hints of green, yellow and red, and mature leaves have splashes of orange, pink, yellow and white. It rarely flowers when young, so choose it for color and convenience, not fragrance.
- Specimen plants. With its intense fragrance and attractive form, fragrant tea olive (O. fragrans) makes a great specimen plant. Evergreen leaves offer year-round interest, and fall blossoms deliver a delightful aroma. It will grow into a large vase-shaped shrub with multiple trunk branches, but you can shape it into a tree by removing the lower lateral branches. Give it some room, a mature plant can reach 25 feet tall and 20 feet wide.
There are many other tea olives to choose from, just be sure to choose varieties hardy in your region. Because they grow slowly, buy the largest plants available. For advice on plant selection, care or additional ways to use tea olives in your landscape, talk with your landscaper.