Osmanthus are hardy, small to medium-sized shrubs grown for their handsome evergreen foliage and, with some species, spring flowers. Most species are easy to grow and thrive in sun or shade. However, don’t expect quick results – Osmanthus are slow growing and can also take a year or two to establish, but given time they make excellent feature plants for borders, screening or hedging.
The key attribute varies according to the species – foliage is the main attraction of Osmanthus heterophyllus, which has prickly, holly-like leaves that come in a range of colour variegations as well as dark green. Other species such as Osmanthus x burkwoodii and Osmanthus delavayi are grown more for their clusters of white, sweetly scented spring flowers. Many species also bear purplish or black berries, in autumn. Some species of Osmanthus work well as alternatives to box.
How to grow Osmanthus
Plant osmanthus in spring or autumn in any reasonably fertile soil, in sun or shade, avoiding exposure to cold winds or ground prone to water-logging. Mulch with compost and feed annually with a general fertilizer, in early spring. Trim only if required, in late winter or early spring.
Where to grow Osmanthus
Plant Osmanthus at the middle to back of a border, in a woodland garden, or as a hedge planted in a single row, spacing three plants per metre. Variegated varieties are most compact in shape and are suited to growing in large pots. Although Osmanthus grows either in sun or shade, more flowers will be produced in a sunny site.
How to plant Osmanthus
In colder regions, plant Osmanthus in spring so it has plenty of time to become established before winter. In milder areas, plant in autumn or spring.
How to care for Osmanthus
Water during dry spells for the first couple of years, taking care to water thoroughly so the moisture penetrates deep into the soil, to encourage development of deep roots.
Annually, in early spring, mulch the soil around the base of the plant with well-rotted organic matter such as home-made garden compost or leaf mould, or chipped bark, avoiding contact with the stems. Apply a general fertilizer at the same time.
How to prune Osmanthus
Trim only if needed to restrict or re-shape growth, immediately after flowering for spring-flowering Osmanthus, or in late spring for species grown predominantly for foliage.
How to propagate Osmanthus
Cuttings or layering are the most reliable ways to propagate Osmanthus. Take cuttings of young, healthy, vigorous, non-flowering shoots in mid to late summer, then insert them in to pots of moist seed compost and place in a heated propagator until new growth begins to appear.
Layering takes longer but is done in situ and doesn’t need any special equipment. Again, select healthy young shoots growing near to the ground and bend down to touch the soil. Then, using a sharp knife, remove a sliver of bark at the contact point. Peg firmly in place and leave for up to 12 months until roots have formed, at which time detach the rooted piece from the parent plant, pot up, and grow on until the root system is sufficiently well established to plant it in the ground.
Growing Osmanthus: problem solving
Once established, Osmanthus is a trouble-free plant to grow.
Advice on buying Osmanthus
- A limited range of Osmanthus is available from nurseries and garden centres
- Variegated forms of Osmanthus heterophyllus are widely sold as young plants in autumn, for planting in pots for winter interest
- A wider range of Osmanthus species is likely to be offered by specialist shrub nurseries. Osmanthus burkwoodii is often available from hedging specialists.
Where to buy Osmanthus
Osmanthus varieties to grow
Osmanthus delavayi – white, jasmine-like flowers appear with glossy, dark grey-green serrated leaves. Height x Spread: 3m x 4m
Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Variegatus’ – rounded, evergreen shrub with glossy, cream edged, dark green leaves and fragrant, jasmine like, white flowers. H x S: 1.5m x 1.5m
Osmanthus × burkwoodii – rounded, evergreen shrub with glossy, finely toothed, dark green leaves and fragrant white flowers. H x S: 3m x 3m