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Tea Olive

Posted by nuguy 7 (My Page) on
Fri, Oct 4, 13 at 10:05

Just recently came in contact with this shrub/bush. Was amazed at the fragrance and I would like to plant one. What variety should I buy for my Zone? Any advice on purchasing and planting would be appreciated. Thanks.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Tea Olive

Unlike many other shrubs, there is really only a single form of tea olive, Osmanthus fragrans, so you don't have many options :-) It will be borderline hardy for you in zone 7 so you may want to site in a somewhat protected location.


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RE: Tea Olive

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Sat, Oct 5, 13 at 0:13

Most recent set of shoots burned away periodically by cold even here in USDA 8. Definitely a hot climate shrub that is not northern adapted - grows too late in the season, produces thin, yellowish leaves and slender shoots, making it look quite the house plant when seen at outlets alongside genuinely hardy outdoor shrubs.

Except for a type that has grown for years on a wet clay bank at the Seattle arboretum. It is so much more manly than the usual garden forms seen in outlets here I have to wonder if it is actually another species. Otherwise it must be from a colder area - maybe farther north and/or higher up the mountain than the dominant versions.


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RE: Tea Olive

There are actually several cultivars of Osmanthus fragrans, many of which have been cultivated for their scent. Lots of people grow them as container plants.

I'm going to have to toss a monkey wrench into the conversation with my experience with Tea Olive here in my zone 7, Northern Alabama, in red clay soil. We can get pretty hot in the summer but also see temperatures in the single digits over the winter. Teens are common and twenties are normal.

Our neighbor gifted us with a small (three gallon) tea olive when she came home from the garden center with several for herself. Professional horticulturists, we planted our shrub near our back patio, but with little hope of enjoying this plant for very long.

Have we ever been proved wrong! With zero protection, no babying, precious little watering (we don't have an irrigation system), and planted directly into the clay soil like the rest of the plants, this plant has thrived.

By 'thrive ', I mean that it has grown from a little 2 foot baby to a hulking 9 or 10 foot specimen....in five years! It has never suffered freeze injury, and our neighborhood is called Breezy Knoll for good reason. It's a lush, voluptuous shub with zero pest problems other than the birds that squabble loudly for nesting rights.

It blooms on and off throughout the year.....like right now. The fragrance carries down the street.


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RE: Tea Olive

Where in zone 7 do you live? Makes a difference.

Regular tea olive: Osmanthus fragrans is considered borderline in a northern zone7A by most references, pretty solid for 7B. There is a yellow-flowered variety 'Aurantiacus' which is supposedly hardier. That one should be OK in 7A. I have not tried it yet. There is a Fragrant Osmanthus one street over from me which looks pretty good though - white flowered, so go figure.

Now there are other Tea Olive species and hybrids that are hardier -- such as the hybrid Osmanthus x fortunei (snow white flowers). It should be good into 6B, but it is not quite as fragrant as O. fragrans. But the fragrance does still fill the air. It blooms in October. I have it as well as O. x fortunei 'Fruitlandii' (creamy flowers). Both are real nice.

There is also a cultivar called 'San Jose'. Fruitlandii and 'San Jose' are smaller than straight O. x fortunei by about 2/3. They are all spiny though. Eventually they lose spines once they get some size to them .. maybe 12 feet or more?

Osmanthus armatus is also very hardy. I cannot say I've smelled it though. Hard to find in the market.

Osmanthus americanus is a US native with no spines. Get's to be a small tree. It should be bullet proof in zone 7a. It blooms in spring with fragrant blooms.

I also have Osmanthus x burkwoodii, another hybrid. White flowers in spring smell like honey. Not as potent though. Smaller leaved and no spines.

This post was edited by dave_in_nova on Sun, Oct 6, 13 at 19:21


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RE: Tea Olive

When one is at the edge of hardiness, provenance can matter. I'd try to find something propagated locally.


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RE: Tea Olive

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Thu, Oct 10, 13 at 11:33

Inherent hardiness is based on genetics, not location of production facility. Except where stock in an advanced stage of growth - a temporary condition - is sent north too early in the season for northern springs it does not matter where plants are being grown at time of purchase.

Now, if by "propagated" you meant place of original origin of a selection, if that selection occurred in a mild climate then sometimes a particular clone or cultivar may not have been screened by that climate for northern conditions. But as soon as it has been dispersed to other areas and tested for enough time there it is known if it is hardy in colder places.


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RE: Tea Olive

Sorry, my sentence was incomplete, TY for the help.
Corrected:
"I'd try to find something propagated from locally grown stock."

Sources of info and anecdotes about provenance in relation to hardiness are abundant, though like many things, subject to dissenting opinion and interpretation. Apparently you discount the notion. If given a choice, I'd choose a local one. Other mitigating factors such as drainage, leaf cover, elevation, can exist and I would consider them as well.


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RE: Tea Olive

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Thu, Oct 10, 13 at 20:08

Much material is grown in the south, because conditions there lend themselves better to commercial production of various nursery and food crops.

And cold hardy types of plants being produced there has no bearing on their performance in cold climates, as long as they are shipped at suitable times.

A lot of the stuff offered here for instance comes from California. The hardy kinds grow and the tender kinds freeze at some point, because of what kinds they are and not because they were grown in California.


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RE: Tea Olive

Hi Nuguy,
I share your fondness for Tea Olive. Plant your TO in the Spring in a sheltered spot. Mulch it the following fall with something like pine needles. See link which has some good advice.

Here is a link that might be useful: fragrant forum thread


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RE: Tea Olive

They are in blooming season. The scent is sweet, intense and drifting far, but cannot be conveyed via the webpage. Thanks to the GW improvement, I can put the Asian Characters in :)

Tianxiang Taige (天香臺閣) - a cultivar of 4-season O F with profusion of largest flowers.

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Rixiang Gui (日香桂) - a newly discovered natural mutation with long blooming season and intense scent.

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Yin gui (銀桂) - a primitive silver cultivar, known to occasionally produce O F olives.

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The location is Chongqing, Sichuan Province, China. It seems they grow pretty well :) The river is the Long River (Yangtze River). Imagine the miles and miles of sweet scent.

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There are also red cultivars - Dan Gui (丹桂).

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RE: Tea Olive

Jujujojo, those photographs are wonderful. Wish I could be there to experience the fragrance.

Nuguy, Dave_in_nova gave you an excellent list of Osmanthus which have also done very well for me in central Maryland at zone 6b/7a. I could add a couple more you might look for.

Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Gulftide' and 'Sasaba" are both blooming right now and wonderfully fragrant on warm October/November afternoons. After a frost night, the unopened buds do continue to open and bloom, so the season doesn't end with the first cold night. 'Goshiki' is easy to find, but I have not noticed as much fragrance from it as from the others.

My experience is that the O. x fortuneii does show some leaf burn in very cold winters. The Gulftide has no problems except snow breakage.


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RE: Tea Olive

I just smelled Osmanthus armatus at a local park. It is not fragrant at all! Kind of a dissapointment.

There's also Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Rotundifolius' with nearly spineless leaves if one doesn't like the spines of typical heterophyllus. I'd like to have this one in my yard.


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RE: Tea Olive

I have the Goshiki but it has not bloomed for me yet--relatively small still, or just did not notice it in bloom. But O. Heterophyllus is certainly cold hardy, at least to 6b. I am tempted to try fragrans in the ground--have a couple of containerized specimens and aroma is terrific even with only a few flowers.


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RE: Tea Olive

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Mon, Nov 11, 13 at 15:46

O. armatus, like the others is in fact fragrant - maybe the temperature was not right at the time you tried it.


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RE: Tea Olive

bboy, thanks. What time(s) of year does O. armatus bloom? Primarily fall?

I'm assuming what I saw was armatus. Very large leaves -- to 5 inches long, and some not very spiney at all Shrub was about 8 feet high or more.

I will post in a separate post to get a confirmed ID what I'm assuming was armatus. The temp that day was maybe 70 degrees. But NO fragrance at all.


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RE: Tea Olive

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 12, 13 at 16:13

There's a few others grown in the West with bigger leaves, but these bloom end of winter/spring.

Here is a link that might be useful: Bing Pictures of Osmanthus yunnanensis


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RE: Tea Olive

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 12, 13 at 17:23

This says they're all fragrant.

Here is a link that might be useful: Flora of China Osmanthus Key


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RE: Tea Olive

Here's the osmanthus I was wondering about. Does this look like O. armatus? It's a very large shrub and has outgrown it's very spiny juvenile period. But there are still some spines on the leaves.


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RE: Tea Olive

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Wed, Nov 13, 13 at 14:36

There are pictures of similar examples on Bing. Otherwise, check by comparing details in Flora of China key and full description. The description page also has a link to an illustration, with an example of a shoot as well as part of the inside of a flower - you could open up a flower and look at it with a magnifier, see if the basic layout and proportions are the same as in the drawing.

Here is a link that might be useful: Flora of China - Osmanthus armatus

This post was edited by bboy on Wed, Nov 13, 13 at 14:44


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RE: Tea Olive

This is an Osmanthus armatus obtained from Woodlanders about ten years ago. Yes, it does get big.


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RE: Tea Olive

bboy and hollygrove,

thanks! It sure looks like that's what it is. Are any of you growing O. americanus? I have a very small plant. Not sure if this one is fragrant as well. It hasn't bloomed yet.


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RE: Tea Olive

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Wed, Nov 13, 13 at 22:21

Sure that last one isn't O. heterophyllus?


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RE: Tea Olive

I have also grown O. americanus for about 10 years. As with the O. armatus, it came from Woodlanders, which I consider a reputable nursery which can correctly identify the plants it sells. Planted in the shade of oaks, the O americanus has stayed small, maybe 3' tall and wide. It probably needs more sun to do better. Blooms in the spring, has never been nibbled by the deer.


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RE: Tea Olive

Bboy, heterophyllus has much smaller leaves. This plant has leaves to 5 or 6" long.


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RE: Tea Olive

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Thu, Nov 14, 13 at 14:48

Yes, when the scale is indicated it makes a difference.


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RE: Tea Olive

In another forum, susanc just ID'd this as O. serrulatus, rather than armatus. I think she may be right.

There's not a lot of information on it. It is very large-leaved with older growth partially spineless. Looks less spiny than armatus.

Does not have much of a fragrance. Here's another photo.


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RE: Tea Olive

My Tea Olive had some browning on the leaves, due to the cold weather, here in Greenville,SC. Unusual winter, with cold temps, below freezing. Hope it will return to a healthy plant. What should I do to help it along? Thanks.


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