Elaeagnus is sometimes underrated. It’s certainly not a showy shrub, although the foliage is often attractively variegated, making it the perfect foil for other garden plants. The flowers are hard to spot, but they are beautifully scented and will definitely turn your head as you look for the source of the heady aroma as you walk past.
Elaeagnus are also known by the common names thorny olive, spiny oleaster and silverthorn. They’re native to Asia.
Elaeagnus make good structural plants, particularly the evergreen varieties, and they work well as hedging. But one of their biggest selling points is that they’re salt tolerant, making them a reliable choice for coastal gardens.
How to grow elaeagnus
Grow elaeagnus in well-drained soil, in full sun. Cut back after flowering and mulch annually, in autumn.
Where to grow elaeagnus
Elaeagnus grow best in full sun and well-drained soil. They’re tough plants and can cope with a range of soil types, including dry soil. They work well as a hedge or shrub, in front of which you can grow more colourful plants. Or plant one near a bench or seating area so you can appreciate its fragrant blooms.
How to plant elaeagnus
Plant elaeagnus in autumn if buying bare-root plants or at any time if pot grown. Ensure the plant sits in the soil at the same depth it was previously – look for a soil ‘tide mark’ on its stem. Firm the soil around the roots and water thoroughly.
How to propagate elaeagnus
Propagate elaeagnus by taking semi-ripe cuttings in summer. Semi-ripe cuttings are made using the current year’s stems, when they are woody at the base and soft at the tip. Cut them down to a around 5cm and remove the lower leaves, then push them into a pot of gritty, yet moist compost. Cover the pot with clear polythene or place it in a propagator to maintain humidity levels. Pot on each young plant as soon as you spot signs of growth.
Growing elaeagnus: problem solving
Elaeagnus is generally pest free but can be affected by coral spot or fungal leaf spot. However, look out for the sap-sucking elaeagnus sucker that will leave sooty mould on the leaves – try to pick off the affected leaves before it becomes a problem.
How to care for elaeagnus
Elaeagnus are relatively easy to care for and don’t need regular pruning. However, to maintain a particular shape, cut your elaeagnus back after flowering, using shears or secateurs. Mulch annually with compost.
Advice on buying elaeagnus
- Elaeagnus is available from a wide range of garden centres and nurseries, but you’ll find greater choice at specialist retailers, and online
- Always check plants for signs of damage or disease before buying or planting
Where to buy elaeagnus
Elaeagnus varieties to try
Elaeagnus ‘Quicksilver’ – a large, deciduous shrub with silvery leaves. It flowers in the summer, but these are hard to spot, although they have a strong, distinctive sweet fragrance.
Elaeagnus pungens ‘Maculata’ – this large, evergreen cultivar has golden leaves with large, irregular green margins. It makes a good hedge or screening plant and the foliage looks good for winter floral arrangements.
Elaeagnus x ebbingei ‘Gilt Edge’ – an evergreen cultivar with attractive green and gold foliage. Much later flowering, the tiny, intensely scented flowers appear in October, followed by red berries. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it its prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
Elaeagnus umbellata – this is a large deciduous variety with silvery foliage and small, fragrant flowers in late spring, followed by red fruits.