Skip to main content

Q: Would Tea Olive be a good hedge choice here?

A: Tea Olive, Osmanthus fragrans, is a small evergreen tree or shrub which can grow up to 25 feet tall but typically is about 15 feet tall with10 feet spread.  The lustrous, medium‐green leaves have paler undersides and are joined from October through March by a multitude of small, but extremely fragrant, white blossoms. They perfume a large area of the landscape and can be showy in some years. I believe they would make an excellent hedge as long as you kept them tall.

It tolerates full sun to part shade but does poorly in wet sites and where soil does not drain well. It is not salt tolerant and although can fit into a landscape well with typical lawn irrigation, the one at my office receives no additional water outside rainfall and does beautifully.  No pests or diseases are of major concern. Scales and nematodes may present a problem, and mushroom root rot is troublesome when the soil is kept too wet.

With its upright oval to columnar growth habit in youth, Sweet Osmanthus is ideal for use as an unclipped hedge or trained as a small tree, and should be placed where its fragrance can be enjoyed. Since the flowers are not particularly showy, people will wonder from where the delightful fragrance originates. This is a subtle plant which should be used more often in Southern landscapes.

Plants thin somewhat in the partial shade, but form a dense crown in a sunny location. Planted on 4 to 6 foot centers, Sweet Osmanthus can form a wall of fragrance during the fall, winter and spring and should be planted more often. They will not grow as fast as Leyland Cypress, but think of this Osmanthus as a substitute for use in a sunny spot. Plants can be clipped to form a denser canopy, but flowers form on old stems.