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Common Name:

Tea Olive or False Holly

Scientific Name:

Osmanthus spp.

Family Name:



Osmanthus are medium shrubs to small trees with handsome evergreen foliage. On some species it resembles that of English Holly, hence the common name of False Holly. Another asset is the production of highly fragrant flowers, depending upon the species, from autumn to early spring when few other shrubs can provide fragrance in the landscape. These species perform best in the piney woods and southeastern US. Old specimens can be limbed up into handsome small trees, while younger plants make nice background screens.

Plant Habit or Use:

Shrub, medium shrub, large shrub, tree, small tree, topiary


sun, partial sun

Flower Color:

Creamy white, not particularly showy, but fragrant

Blooming Period:

Spring, fall, winter

Fruit Characteristics:

Small blue-black drupes, not particularly showy


8 ft to 15 ft (30 ft) depending upon the species


8 ft to 15 ft

Earth–Kind® Index:

  • Heat Tolerance: High Heat Tolerance
  • Water Requirements: Low Water Use
  • Soil Requirements: Low Soil Requirements
  • Pest Tolerance: High Pest Resistance
  • Fertility Requirements: Low Fertility Requirements
Explanation of the Earth–Kind® Index breakdown

Firewise Index

Explanation of the Firewise Index numerical value

USDA Hardiness Zones:

7, 8, 9, 10, 11

Regions that intersect these hardiness zones:
Region A - Panhandle and High Plains Region B - North and Central Texas Region C - Northeast and East Texas Region D - West Texas Region E - Upper Rio Grande Region F - Hill Country and Central Coast Region G - Southeast Texas Region H - Rio Grande Valley
Click image for enlarged map of USDA Hardiness Zones

Additional Comments:

Becomes chlorotic on high pH soils and does not tolerant salt exposure nor drought.
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A Special Note about Cool Season Annuals

Cool season annuals typically are planted in the fall or early winter and flower in early spring under moderate temperatures. This group of plant materials includes: pansies, snapdragons, violas, dianthus, flowering cabbage/kale, etc. Because cool season annuals flower in the spring when conditions are mild, most have limited heat tolerance.

As a result cool season annuals do not receive a high Earth–Kind® index despite their outstanding landscape qualities.