Sweet olives pack powerful fragrance

Plant a sweet olive and your nose will thank you. Photo by Kathie Rowell

My sweet olive is blooming!

Excuse me while I go outside.

I’m convinced that if sweet olive flowers were as beautiful as their fragrance, no yard in the South would be without one. And no yard should be, even if the clusters of tiny flowers are so insignificant you’ll never notice them.

Unlike gardenias, another iconic fragrant Southern plant, sweet olive scent is always soft and elusive, never overpowering. If you’re unfamiliar with the plant, you can stand right beside it and not know the source of the unbelievable smell. It’s been described as similar to ripe peaches, apricots and orange blossoms. I just think it smells like sweet olive.

Osmanthus fragrans, known as sweet olive, tea olive and fragrant olive, is a large evergreen shrub that can be trained into a tree form as it matures. It reaches about 20 feet tall by 10 feet wide so don’t be fooled by its appearance in a pot. I knew how big it would get and still planted it too close to the house so it would be right by the back door and I would never miss a whiff.

It likes sun to part shade and well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Few pests bother it, so there’s simply no reason not to plant one this fall. And you won’t even have to endure that whole delayed gratification thing that usually comes with planting flowering trees. Sweet olive cycles in and out of bloom several times from fall through spring so there will be plenty of chances to go outside and take a deep, sweet breath. Your nose will thank you.

What’s your favorite fragrant plant?

 

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