Osmanthus delavayi

sweet olive

  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

Outstanding Qualities

Combining tiny, very dark green leaves and small, fragrant, tubular white flowers, this evergreen shrub provides year-round interest. Blooming in April, its flowers perfume the garden. Its leaves are .5 inch to 1 inch long. Adaptable and flexible, Delavayi's osmanthus can be clipped to form a hedge or screen or left to grow naturally. Its very dark foliage and fine texture create a punctuation mark in the perennial border and provide winter interest when other plants are dormant. Combine it with shrubs with larger or paler leaves. This plant has a great track record: Its was collected by Abbe Delavay in 1890 in Sichuan and Yunnan and sent to a French nursery for introduction.

Quick Facts

Plant Type: shrub

Foliage Type: evergreen

Plant Height: 5 ft. 0 in. (1.52 meters)

Plant Width/Spread: 7 ft. 0 in. (2.13 meters)

Plant Height-Mature: 20 ft. 0 in. (6.10 meters)

Plant Width-Mature: 20 ft. 0 in. (6.10 meters)

Hardiness: USDA Zones 7 to 9

Flower Color: white

Sun/Light Exposure: full sun or light to deep shade

Water Requirements: drought tolerant when established, but appreciates occasional watering

Wildlife Associations: birds

Colors & Combos

Great Color Contrasts: silver, gold, variegated, bronze

Great Color Partners: dark green, chartreuse, blue

Culture Notes
The false holly is very easy to grow in full sun to deep shade, although it will flower less in more shade. It prefers well-drained soil, but will tolerate sand and clay. It is drought tolerant once established, but would appreciate occasional watering during dry weather, especially if in a sandy site. It can grow openly while it is young, particularly if it is in shade- light pruning can help keep this shrub dense in youth.