The sweet osmanthus (Osmanthus fragrans) not only spreads an intense scent in the garden, the plant from the olive tree family is also an eye-catcher. Several small inflorescences can be found on each branch. Depending on the species, the plants flower in spring or autumn and then often in shades of white to orange. In addition, the osmanthus grows as an evergreen shrub, more rarely as a tree. This makes them particularly popular in our latitudes, because who doesn’t like to be surrounded by lush green when the world has been cold and gray for months? Osmanthus fragrans has also found its way here, although the plant originally comes from Asia, where most species are also resident.


The sweet osmanthus grows as an evergreen shrub, more rarely as a tree. Although the species is considered slow-growing, the plant can reach a height of three to five meters. The sprawling crown is often enthroned over a multi-stemmed base. Fragrant flowers can reach a relatively old age, with older specimens of the plant tending to spread. The ornamental tree can then achieve a very compact appearance, with the plant being about as high as it is wide. It is interesting that the twigs inside become completely woody and no longer have any leaves. On the outside, however, the osmanthus keeps a full growth that gives no hint.

Due to their oval shape, the leaves of the Osmanthus fragrans are reminiscent of laurel. The plant bears many flowers that are close together. Each individual calyx is very small, about 1 mm in size. As a rule, the flowers appear in our latitudes in summer or even early autumn. Typically, the osmanthus blooms between September and October. As the name suggests, the small flowers exude an intense, sweet scent despite their small size. The fragrance can be perceived up to a distance of 30 meters. The warmer the environment, the more blooming the osmanthus. In the southern countries of Asia as well as in the lower-lying states of the USA, the sweet osmanthus blooms twice a year, in spring and again in autumn.

The specialist trade offers different varieties, which differ primarily in the color of the flowers. Special breeding forms are “Apricot Gold”, which delight with flowers in a color of golden apricots. The Butter Yellow and Orange Supreme forms have yellow and orange flowers, respectively. The “forma aurantiaus” variety, on the other hand, has flowers in a pale orange tone.

Plant the sweet osmanthus in the garden

To ensure that the ornamental tree has the best starting conditions and beautifies your garden over many years, the following things must be observed when planting out:

  • Spring and fall are the best planting times
  • The planting day should fall on a cloudy day
  • Choose a partially shaded to sunny spot that is at least 2.5 meters away from other plants
  • Dig a hole that the root ball will fit completely in. The width should be about twice the length of the root ball or the previous pot.
  • Before planting, remove the soil from the root ball and loosen it a little
  • When inserting, make sure to place the roots evenly in the excavated hole in the ground
  • Cover the root ball of the osmanthus with a mixture of garden soil and the soil in the purchased pot
  • Press firmly to avoid air pockets and ensure good growth
  • Water generously, the soil should be fairly moist at least 7 cm deep
  • Spread a layer of mulch around the new shrub without getting too close to the trunk. Mulch in close proximity to the trunk can provide a nesting site for unwelcome plant pests.
  • Pay attention to regular watering, especially in the first year after planting
  • Fertilize more in the following year before the flowering period, i.e. throughout spring and early summer

location and substrate

In terms of location, the osmanthus is not particularly picky. However, the place should not be completely in the shade. Anything between partial shade and direct sunlight is fine. On unusually hot days with blazing sun, however, it is a good idea to postpone an osmanthus flower that is cultivated in a bucket and allow it to cool down a bit. This is especially true for young plants, which tolerate direct sunlight less than adult plants. However, since the plant originally comes from southern climes, it usually tolerates the local summer sun without any problems.

The ideal location for the osmanthus is also sheltered from the wind, as it does not like drafts. Osmanthus fragrans is also sold commercially as a privacy screen, but it is advisable to place the plant along a fence or wall so that it is never exposed to direct wind.

As an evergreen plant, the osmanthus needs a rather nutrient-rich soil so that it can regularly produce its intensely fragrant flowers. Normal potting soil, which is regularly supplied with fertilizer, is completely sufficient. The osmanthus grows particularly well in loose, well-drained soil.

The ideal pH for Osmanthus fragrans is between 5.6 and 7.5. If your garden soil is unusually acidic or alkaline, this can be counteracted with a suitable fertilizer. Lime fertilizer is a good way to raise the pH value, i.e. with an acidic substrate. For alkaline soil, peat or sulfur can be mixed in to lower the pH.


The osmanthus is considered to be very easy to care for and easy to handle. It can stand alone in the garden or be planted in a bucket. The plant has only low demands in terms of substrate, water and nutrient supply.

watering and fertilizing

For healthy growth, the osmanthus requires even moisture. Regular watering is especially important for young plants. So that the entire shrub gets enough water, it should be watered in such a way that the top layer of soil, i.e. approx. 7 – 8 cm deep, is well moist. Wait until this layer of soil is dry again before watering again. Excessive watering can lead to mold diseases in the root area.

The osmanthus can withstand short periods of drought well, but the evergreen ornamental tree does not tolerate prolonged drought. Even in the winter months, the osmanthus needs enough water. If the temperature is below zero, you should temporarily refrain from watering.

For the beautiful flowers and strong green leaves, the osmanthus should be fertilized about two to three times a year. Dry fertilizers are particularly good for this, as they slowly release the nutrients into the soil. When buying, look for a nitrogenous supplement or use an organic fertilizer such as compost.

The fertilizer can be sprinkled in a circle around the trunk of the ornamental plant. A distance of approx. 10 cm from the trunk is optimal.

To cut

Known as a slow-growing ornamental tree, the osmanthus can grow by up to 60 cm per year. The best time for pruning is always after flowering, usually in late autumn.

Do not cut off more than a third of the branch, if you cut back harder, the plant may no longer sprout at this point. If you want to remove branches completely because they grow too much, more than a third of the branch can be trimmed.

The plant usually tolerates pruning quite well and can be cut into any shape. Therefore, the ornamental tree, like the box, is suitable for very well-kept gardens designed according to geometric aspects. However, the fragrant flower does not necessarily have to be cut. If allowed to grow freely, it will reach a similar height and width of up to 5 meters. The natural growth usually assumes a columnar shape.
It should be noted, however, that the crown of the plant slowly lignifies towards the inside. The external impression of a full, lush growth remains unaffected. Therefore, you should start with the topiary when the fragrant flowers are young. Later in life, a new topiary can reveal bald spots that detract from the overall beauty of the plant.

After the flowers have withered, they can be cut off to give the plant a well-groomed appearance again. The sweet osmanthus can easily be cut with normal pruning shears.


The Osmanthus fragrans variety has a fairly high degree of winter hardiness. The plant is often specified as hardy down to minus 7 degrees. The ornamental tree can therefore remain outdoors in winter and survives frost and temperatures in the minus range of up to twelve degrees Celsius.

pests and diseases

An infestation by pests as well as other diseases is unlikely with the sweet osmanthus. The plant is considered resilient and robust. The most common problems are caused by excessive watering. If the plant gets too much water over a longer period of time, mold can settle in the lower stem area and in the roots, causing lasting damage to the entire plant.

Interesting facts about the osmanthus

The flowers of the osmanthus have a special, sweet smell. That is why they are dried in the Southeast Asian culture and used as a spice. The dried blossoms can then be found as an aromatic in so-called scented wine or as an addition to tea blends. The “Chin Hsuan Cha” tea blend is particularly well-known for its fragrant flowers.

The osmanthus is also used as a fragrance in perfumes. The osmanthus essence used as a fragrance is considered very noble and is traded at high prices.

The sweet osmanthus is a beautiful addition to any garden and also cuts a fine figure in the bucket on the patio or balcony. Thanks to its intense aroma, the plant offers more than just the visual appeal of the many colored flowers. The osmanthus is also easy to care for and even hardy.

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