Learn More About Sweet Olive Trees

The Osmanthus fragrans, also known as sweet olive, tea olive, sweet osmanthus, and fragrant olive, is a popular tree or shrub to plant in your yard. Osmanthus is derived from the Greek words osma (fragrant) and anthos (flower), and the sweet olive tree is most certainly fragrant. During the fall the tree’s unassuming white flowers bloom. While the tree also blooms during the winter and spring, the fragrance is not as prominent.


For the past 2,500 years, the Chinese have cultivated the sweet olive tree. The flowers are typically used in tea, wine, and herbalism. In fact, one of the tree’s common names (tea olive) comes from its use in scented tea. The Chinese city of Guilin takes its name from the sweet olive tree. Guilin means “Forest of Sweet Osmanthus.”

Where To Plant

Since sweet olives smell so wonderful it’s best to plant the trees in a location with a lot of foot traffic. The front yard is a great choice. Sweet olives also make wonderful hedges. A row of sweet olives can provide your home with privacy and sweet fragrance at the same time. Sweet olives don’t require special soil conditions, but it’s still not a bad idea to add a layer of compost to the area where you plan to plant.

Planting Tips

When planting multiple sweet olives to form a hedge, make sure to plant them at least four to six feet apart. This will give them space to grow. Sweet olives do well in full sun; however, some variegated types require shade every now and then so that they don’t dry out.

If you live in a climate that experiences cold winters, then you should reconsider planting sweet olives. The shrubs do best in Mediterranean climates where temperatures don’t go below freezing for extended periods. However, if you live in an area with cold winters, you should consider growing sweet olive in a container. Then you can bring the plant inside when the weather becomes too harsh.

During the first year of the plant’s year, you should water it regularly. Be careful to not overwater, though. Overwatering can cause white oak fungus. After the first year of growth, you will only have to water the plant if your area experiences drought conditions. It’s not necessary to prune sweet olives in order to ensure growth, but you should prune if you want to maintain a particular size.