FAMILY: Oleaceae

  • Evergreen
  • Shrubs
  • Full Sun
  • Partial Shade
  • Drought Tolerant
  • Moderate Water
  • Regular Water

Plant Details

This versatile group of easy-to-grow, broad-leafed evergreens combines handsome foliage with fragrantthough inconspicuousflowers (white, in most cases). Most are large shrubs that can eventually reach the size of a small tree. Use them as tall screens, hedges, or foundation plantings. They tolerate many soils (including heavy clay), accept heavy pruning, and do well with little moisture or regular garden watering. Some- what resistant to damage by browsing deer.

O. americanus. DEVILWOOD. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to Mexico, and from North Carolina to Florida and Mississippi. Grows rather slowly to 15 25 ft. tall and 1520 ft. wide, though it may eventually become much larger. Neat, upright, oval form. Handsome, leathery, shiny olive-green foliage: smooth-margined leaves to 7 in. long, 212 in. wide. Creamy flowers in spring; dark blue, 12-in. fruit in early fall. Very cold hardy. Tolerates wet soil.

O. xburkwoodii. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Hybrid between O. delavayi and O. decorus. Slow growing to 610 ft. tall, 812 ft. wide. Densely clothed in 1- to 2-in., glossy, bright green, tooth-edged leaves. Spring bloom. Useful as a hedge.

O. delavayi. DELAVAY OSMANTHUS. Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9. From China. Slow-growing, graceful plant with arching branches; reaches 46 ft. tall, 68 ft. wide. Dark green, oval, tooth-edged leaves to 1 in. long. Blooms profusely in spring, bearing clusters of four to eight blossoms (blooms are 12 in. widethe largest of any osmanthus). Attractive all year. Good choice for foundation plantings, massing. Handsome on retaining walls where branches can hang down. Does best in partial shade.

O. xfortunei. FORTUNE'S OSMANTHUS. Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9. Hybrid between O. heterophyllus and O. fragrans. Slow, dense growth to an eventual 1520 ft. tall, 68 ft. wide; usually seen at about 6 ft. tall. Oval, 4-in.-long leaves resemble those of holly (Ilex). Extremely fragrant flowers in autumn. Selection 'San Jose' bears flowers ranging in color from cream to orange. 'Fruitlandii' is a slightly more cold hardy, compact form with cream-colored flowers.

O. fragrans. SWEET OLIVE, TEA OLIVE. Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11. Native to China, Japan, Himalayas. Long a favorite of Southern gardeners. Broad, dense, compact. Grows at a moderate rate to 15ft. tall, 810 ft. wide (though older plants may reach 30 ft. tall, 1215 ft. wide). Oval, glossy, medium green leaves to 4 in. long, toothed or smooth edged. Flowers are powerfully fragrant, with a scent like that of ripe apricots. Bloom is heaviest in spring, but plants flower sporadically throughout year. Can be pruned to upright growth where space is limited; can be trained as a small tree, hedge, screen, background, espalier, or container plant. Pinch out growing tips of young plants to induce bushiness. Give afternoon shade. 'Butter Yellow' produces lots of butter-yellow flowers. 'Fudingzhu' is an outstanding form, more cold hardy and not as large as the species, and it blooms for a much longer time with large, showy clusters of blooms. 'Orange Supreme' is a well-shaped plant with bright orange blossoms. O. f. aurantiacus has narrower, less glossy leaves than the species; its crop of wonder-fully fragrant orange flowers is concentrated in early fall.

O. heterophyllus. HOLLY OSMANTHUS. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. From Japan. Grows to 810 ft. (possibly 20 ft.) tall and slightly wider, with 212-in., spiny-edged, glossy, green leaves. Resembles English holly (Ilex aquifolium), but leaves are opposite one another on stems rather than alternate. Fragrant white flowers in late fall and winter are followed by berrylike, blue-black fruit. Useful as hedge.

'Goshiki'. Erect growth to 312 ft. tall, 5 ft. wide. New leaves have pinkish orange markings; in mature foliage, the variegations are creamy yellow (on a deep green background). Few flowers.

'Gulftide'. Dense grower to 810 ft. tall and 10 ft. wide (may eventually reach 20 ft. high), with deep green, very glossy foliage. More cold hardy than the species. Probably the most popular selection.

'Purpureus'. Same growth habit as species. Leaves are dark purple when new, maturing to purple-toned deep green.

'Rotundifolius'. Slow growing to 5 ft. tall and wide. Small, roundish leaves are lightly spined.

'Variegatus'. Slow growing to an eventual 810 ft. tall and wide, with densely set leaves edged in creamy white. Useful for lighting up shady areas. A bit less cold tolerant than the species.

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