Fragrant Tea Olive
Osmanthus fragrans

Tea Olive is one of the hardiest, most fragrant, and longest-blooming plants available to Texas gardeners. Blooms begin to appear in central Texas in mid- to late October. Blooming continues through winter and spring, often remaining on the plant for more than six months. Opinions vary widely on the scent of these small, white blooms. Some people think they are reminiscent of roses. Others are reminded of scented geraniums or sweet jasmine ... or even Grandma's apricot pies! All agree that the scent is intoxicating and can carry strongly for more than 100 feet in the garden. It is a magnificent bee, butterfly and hummingbird magnet!

This is a small tree or large shrub depending upon how you chose to prune the plant. Tea Olives make an excellent, highly scented hedge when planted 3 to 5' apart. If planted as a specimen plant, then site it so that the most can be made of the wonderful scent such as near a patio, front door, or as a foundation plant under windows. Tea Olive can also be used for bird habitat. The plant adapts to multiple soils, including clay, and thrives on neglect. It is one of the few landscape shrubs in Texas that can bloom equally in full sun, dappled shade, or full shade.

Once established, it is drought-tolerant, demanding moisture only through dry winter months to ensure bloom. Tea Olive is hardy and evergreen in USDA zones 7-9. Standard size is 10 to 12' and 2' to 5' wide in most gardens. If you seek a legacy plant for your children and grandchildren, this is a good choice. It's slow-growing, but one of the longest-living plants viable for central Texas.