Fortunes OsmanthusOsmanthus x fortunei
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Osmanthus x fortunei
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
Fortune’s Osmanthus is an evergreen bush with glossy leaves that look a little like holly. It forms a dense shrub to 8 feet tall, and then develops into a small tree that can reach 20 feet in time. It can be trimmed as needed to make dense hedges from 2 feet to 10 feet tall. In fall small white flowers open among the leaves. These are not showy, but they release a rich, delicious fragrance that fills the garden with a luxurious perfume. It makes a good background shrub and grows well in containers too. This is a top-quality shrub with subtle charm.
Plant Fortune’s Osmanthus in full sun or partial shade. It will even tolerate light full shade. It is hardy from zone 7 and grows well in all warmer zones. The soil should be well-drained, and while acidic soil is preferred, alkaline soil is tolerated well. Once established it has some drought tolerance, but regular watering will give the best results. Trim between spring and fall, and don’t trim too frequently or flowering will be reduced.
Not every plant in the garden needs to be showy and bold – in fact the best gardens have plenty of quiet plants in them, to show off all the better those premium showpiece plants. There is a good selection of quiet evergreens, but there aren’t many that also perfume the air around them in fall, ask for almost nothing, and quietly get on with the job of bringing structure and form to your garden without demanding attention from you. Fortune’s Osmanthus fits this description perfectly, as a valuable plant with subtle charm. A rounded bush with small leaves, you would be forgiven for thinking it was some kind of holly bush. It does have spines along the edges of some leaves, and they do have the same glossy, dark-green appearance. But fall will show you the difference, when clusters of white flowers open among the branches, releasing a rich fragrance that you might encounter in luxury perfumes. Tolerant of many garden conditions, including shade and drought, this plant finds a place in every garden, especially for informal hedges and background planting.
Fortune’s Osmanthus is an evergreen shrub, growing steadily into a rounded form that typically can be 10 feet tall and 8 feet wide, but that over time, if untrimmed, can pass 20 feet tall, developing into a multi-stem tree with a broad crown. The gray-barked branches are tough and resistant to breakage, and this plant develops a sturdy structure without any fancy training or pruning. The leaves are 2 to 4 inches long, with a leathery texture and a glossy surface, colored rich dark-green all year round. This tree has the interesting feature that the leaves are of two kinds. On lower branches and new growth, the leaves look like a holly, with a row of small spines down each side. As the stems grow taller the spines become fewer, and less noticeable, and the leaves on upper growth usually have smooth edges, with no spines. This is perhaps a defense for small plants against being grazed.
In fall you will certainly notice the wonderful wall of fragrance that comes from this bush, but it might take you a few moments to discover its exact source. Nestling among the leaves are clusters of tiny, tubular white flowers, each with four petals. These open in late fall, and they may continue to be produced well into winter in mild areas This hybrid plant is a male tree, so no berries are produced.
This shrub is relatively slow-growing, so it should be planted where it is valuable while smaller, but where it has room to develop over time into a larger plant. It can be grown in a shrub bed, or around your home among other evergreens. It can be grown as a hedge, border or background, left naturally, or trimmed as you choose. It is also very valuable as a container plant, and once it becomes too large for the planter it can be transplanted into the garden. As it becomes taller it can be gradually pruned up into a small, multi-stem tree, making an attractive feature surrounded by smaller shrubs.
Fortune’s Osmanthus is hardy in zone 7 and tolerates temperatures close to zero without damage. As a container plant it should be grown in zones 8 and 9 only. It grows well in warm and humid conditions, and it thrives in all the milder parts of the country.
Full sun to full shade suit Fortune’s Osmanthus, although growth may be thinner in full shade. Partial shade, with morning sun and afternoon shade is ideal, especially in hot areas and in dry soil. It will give its best in moist, acidic, well-drained soil, but it grows well in ordinary soils, including alkaline ones, particularly if they are enriched with organic material, and the plant is mulched regularly. Once established it has good drought tolerance for ordinary dryness, but it should be watered if possible during severe drought.
No particular attention is needed to grow this plant. It normally doesn’t suffer from any pests or diseases. A little evergreen fertilizer in spring will keep it growing vigorously. It can be trimmed at any time between spring and early fall, but too much trimming will reduce flowering. For hedges plant at 2 feet intervals for lower hedges, and 3 or 4 feet intervals for tall ones.
Robert Fortune was a Scottish botanist in the 19th century who is famous for stealing the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) from China and smuggling it to India for the British (although most of the plants he sent died, and are not the source of India’s teas). He also collected many new plants in China and Japan, some from the wild, but many from nurseries and gardens. One of those, brought to England in 1862, was the plant we know today as Fortune’s Osmanthus, or Osmanthus x fortunei. It was independently introduced into Holland in 1856 by the German botanist Philipp Franz von Siebold. This is a hybrid plant, a cross between Osmanthus fragrans, a less cold-resistant species, and Osmanthus heterophyllus, sometimes called False Holly, from which it gets its mixed thorny and thornless leaves. Both of these plants are native to Japan. Osmanthus fragrans is often called Tea Olive, because a few flowers were added to tea so as to perfume the tea with its delicious fragrance. That fragrance was passed on to Fortune’s Osmanthus.
This plant may be quiet in its charms, but it is incredibly useful in any garden, and you will come to love its calm beauty and delicious fragrance. Many other gardeners already have, and it comes highly-recommended by many experts. Order now, because it will not be in stock for long.