Fragrant Tree Olive

Sheila Dunning
Commercial Horticulture Agent II
Okaloosa County Extension
5479 Old Bethel Rd
Crestview, Florida   32536

Tea olive (Osmanthus fragrans) is a traditional element in the southern garden landscape and a whiff of its scent carried on a cool winter breeze makes a memorable impression.  Planting one in an outdoor sitting area, along a pathway or near an open window will draw visitors to the discovery of this low maintenance plant.

Tea olive in bloom. Photo Credits: Sheila Dunning, IFAS Extension

Sweet olive, another common name used for tea olive, is a large upright shrub that can reach 20 feet tall and 6-8 feet wide.  While it can be pruned to a tree form it is usually seen in landscapes as a 6-10 foot specimen shrub.  The opposite leaves are a dark green with finely toothed to smooth edges.  Fragrant tea olive (Osmanthus fragrans) has an exceptionally long bloom period, often for two months during the fall, with scattered blooming throughout the winter and into spring.  It also blooms sporadically through the summer.  While individual flowers are small, the clusters are usually large and numerous enough to be quite showy with a powerful fragrance.  The most common flower color is creamy white, but there are several yellow orange colored cultivars.

Tea olive is rather slow growing and is usually quite long lived.  Growth rate is strongly influenced by soil quality and organic matter content, available nutrients and availability.  They perform best when grown in partial shade with well drained soil.  Though native to Asia, not Florida, Tea olive is a wonderful performer with a sweet fragrance and virtually no pest problems.