Garden Plant of the Month for November: Osmanthus


Sweetly-scented shrub
Osmanthus is a holly-like shrub with leathery, sharp leaves and small white scented flowers. This plant has various cultivars which all differ in terms of leaf colour. It is an evergreen shrub which is also very suitable for topiary or hedging.

Osmanthus: lovingly pricking leaves!
Osmanthus is a genus of 30 species from the Oleaceae family, which also includes the olive. They are an evergreen shrub which is very hardy, originally from China, Japan and the Himalayas. They grow relatively slowly, making them easy to look after. The shrub requires little pruning and remains compact, which is ideal for on the balcony and patio. Osmanthus x burkwoodii is a hybrid of two holly-like plants. The plant has beautifully scented white flowers and is a real enhancement on the patio. Other Osmanthus species are particularly attractive because of their leaf markings and colour, and can therefore still be used effectively in the garden in November. The fact that the leaves resemble holly means we often associate the shrub with the festive period. Osmanthus heterophyllus comes in a number of cultivars, of which the best-known are ‘Tricolor’ and ‘Variegatus’ and ‘Goshiki’. Its origin and appearance mean that the plant works well in Japanese and Oriental gardens combined with other garden plants from those regions such as Skimmia and Pieris.

Caring for Osmanthus
Osmanthus will remain healthy and attractive by following a couple of simple tips. The plant is particularly hardy, and very easy in both full sun and partial shade and even full shade.

  • Osmanthus enjoys a normal humus-rich soil, not too wet and not too dry.
  • Give the plant a mixed fertiliser in spring and autumn to keep it healthy.
  • If the plant is pruned at the right time, it can last for years. Pruning too early in the winter can cause the branches to freeze.

Osmanthus pruning tips
Osmanthus does not grow particularly rapidly and only really needs pruning if it gets too big, or if it has ugly or dead branches.

The best time to prune Osmanthus is the end of February or beginning of March. It’s not a good idea to do it any sooner, since the branches can then freeze. If Osmanthus is used as a hedge or other topiary form, it’s advisable to prune it in June and September. It’s a good idea to prune every year if the plant is used as a hedge or for topiary. Osmanthus burkwoodii is best pruned after flowering in May/June, so you can still enjoy the beautifully scented flowers.

More information about Osmanthus and other garden plants can be found at