Osmanthus Heterophyllus, Holly Osmanthus: Heavenly Fall Fragrance

Osmanthus heterophyllusOsmanthus heterophyllus, commonly called Holly Osmanthus, or false olive, is a dense, upright, bushy evergreen shrub that typically reaches a height of 8 to 10 feet tall and as wide, but may reach 25feet tall under ideal conditions.

Holly Osmanthus is noted for it’s leathery, ovate to elliptic, deep green leaves (about 2 ½ inches in length) which vary in shape. Juvenile leaves typically have holly-like spiny margins (often 3 to 5 spiny teeth per side with a single tooth at the apex) and adult leaves typically are entire. The amount of toothing per leaf often varies considerably on the same shrub. Although the spiny juvenile leaves resemble the leaves of some hollies, holly olive leaves are opposite and holly leaves are alternate.

Tiny fragrant (very fragrant) 4-petaled white flowers bloom from the leaf axils in small clusters in fall. Plants are dioecious (male and female flowers on separate plants). The Flowers are typically well hidden in the foliage. Fruits (5/8 inches in length) on female plants ripen in the year after flowering.

How To Make Your Osmanthus Heterophyllus, Holly Osmanthus Thrive

Osmanthus heterophyllus is winter hardy down to Zone 6. If this plant is grown in Zone 6, it should be sited in a protected location with winter mulch. You will get your best results if it is grown in rich, consistently moist, well-drained garden soils in full sun to part shade, ideally with part afternoon shade in hot summer climates. Holly Osmanthus tolerates heavy clays, and is drought tolerant once established.

You should clip growing tips to maintain compact size and to encourage bushiness.

General Osmanthus Heterophyllus, Holly Osmanthus Information

Pests and Diseases

There are no serious insect or disease problems. If conditions are stressful you need to watch for scale and aphids.


Cuttings of half-ripe wood can be taken at the end of July and grown in aframe with bottom heat. Cuttings of almost ripe wood, 3 to 5 inches with a heel can be taken in September or October and grown in a cold frame.

Garden Uses

The dense growth of Osmanthus heterophyllus makes it excellent for privacy barrier, screen, or hedge; it is also useful as a formal specimen plant.

Quick Facts

  • Family: Oleaceae
  • Common Name: Holly Osmanthus, holly olive, false holly
  • Plant Type: Broadleaf evergreen
  • Hardiness Zones: Zone 6 to 9
  • Height: 8 to 10 feet, under ideal conditions 25 feet
  • Spread: 7 to 9 feet
  • Bloom Time: September
  • Bloom Color: White
  • Flowers: White, ¼ inch wide, in clusters of 4 to 5, strongly fragrant
  • Fruit: 3/8 to ½ inch long blue-black drupes, rare in cultivation
  • Bark: Light brown with small, raised lenticels
  • Sun: Full sun to part shade
  • Water: Medium
  • Maintenance: Medium
  • Tolerates: Drought, Clay Soil

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  1. Now I know why my holly osmanthus has never bloomed; I did not realize they are dioecious. No doubt mine need a mate!

  2. What pretty flowers!

  3. Yes very pretty Charlie

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