San José OsmanthusOsmanthus x fortunei ‘San José’
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Osmanthus x fortunei ‘San José’
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The San José Osmanthus grows into a rounded evergreen of great charm, with neat foliage of a lush green. It forms a dense shrub to 10 feet tall and almost as wide within 10 years, ultimately growing into a small, multi-stem tree over 20 feet high. The dark-green leaves have small spines along the edges like holly, and beginning in September small white flowers among the leaves release a powerful perfume across your garden. Blooming can continue all through winter and into spring, making this a wonderful evergreen to plant around your home, in shrub beds, under large trees and as hedges.
The San José Osmanthus grows well in full sun or partial shade. It even tolerates the dry shade beneath trees, once established. It is hardy in zones 7 to 9, and in warm sheltered spots in zone 6, where it is still going to flower well. It grows in most well-drained soils, and it needs only minimal care. Pests and diseases are normally never problems, and no special care at all is needed to grow this handsome bush.
When choosing evergreens it is all too easy to fall back on the same old plants. Boxwoods, arborvitae, cherry laurel, privet – you know the usual suspects. Good as these plants are – it would be hard to imagine gardening without them – there is always room for something more unusual, with more charm and interest, and if you choose Osmanthus, wonderful fragrance. Also called tea olives and false holly, these plants are a varied group, differing in hardiness and bloom times. The one called Fortune’s Osmanthus combines some of their best features, because it is relatively hardy, and blooms much more reliably than false holly does, and for a longer time. Follow the lead of the best gardeners and grow these fascinating evergreens wherever you can. The San José Osmanthus has been proven in trials to be the hardiest variety that also flowers reliably, and for the longest time.
The San José Osmanthus grows steadily to become an upright, rounded, evergreen shrub and ultimately a small tree. After 10 years it will be 10 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide, and it will reach 20 to 25 feet tall in time, and 10 or 15 feet wide. When planting allow enough space from fixed objects like walls and fences to allow for its mature size. The leaves are slender ovals, between 2 and 4 inches long, with a smooth glossy surface and a leathery texture. They are rich dark green all year round, and they have a row of small teeth along the edges of many leaves. Some leaves may be spineless, typically towards the base of the stems and generally on older plants.
In late September or early October, you will suddenly notice an amazing perfume spreading through your garden. It is coming from your San José Osmanthus, although you may not notice its source, until you see and smell the clusters of small white flowers that have grown along the stems. In colder zones flowering continues until the end of November, but in warmer zones, and particularly as your bush matures and grows, flowering will continue in warm spells throughout winter, ending with a final flourish in March or April. This bush has the longest flowering season of all the different Osmanthus varieties, except for the fragrant tea olive, which blooms a little longer into spring, but only grows in zones 8 and 9. You will love the fragrance, which some say is reminiscent of apricots, and is used in perfumes by the most exclusive perfumeries.
The San José Osmanthus is perfect wherever you need a rounded evergreen of quality, such as around your home, in shrub beds, as accents around the garden, and even on lawns. Grow it on the margins of wooded areas, or on either side of an entrance, to brighten the winter days with its fragrance. It can be trimmed into formal hedges or grown as informal ones – although too much trimming will reduce flowering.
The San José Osmanthus is hardy in zones 7, 8 and 9, as well as in sheltered parts of zone 6. In studies done by Dr. Lisa Alexander, a horticultural researcher with the U.S. Department of Agriculture at the Floyd Nursery Research Center in Tennessee, this variety proved to be among the most reliable and fastest growing of all the varieties she tested at the Center, which is between zones 6 and 7. Not only did it grow quickly, it was much more reliable in flowering than the false holly, Osmanthus heterophyllus, which hardly ever blooms in those cold zones.
Full sun, partial shade or even full shade are all fine with the San José Osmanthus. Growth in full shade is not as strong, but this plant is remarkably drought resistant in dry shade, once it is established. In hot zones morning sun and afternoon shade are ideal. In zone 6, full sun against a sheltering wall is the perfect location. While moist, well-drained, acidic soil is ideal, any well-drained soil is suitable for this reliable and easy-to-grow plant.
The San José Osmanthus is largely maintenance-free after watering it regularly while it establishes itself in your garden. A little evergreen fertilizer in spring will help it grow more quickly. It can be pruned in spring, before the new growth comes, and also trimmed from spring to fall, but it shouldn’t need this unless you want a very formal look, or it hasn’t been given enough room to develop fully. Too much trimming will reduce flowering.
The San José Osmanthus is the recreation of a hybrid plant found a long time ago in Japan. It is a cross between the fragrant tea olive, Osmanthus fragrans, and the false holly, Osmanthus heterophyllus. Used to give its delicious perfume to tea, the fragrant tea olive is only hardy in the warmest parts of the country. The false holly is the hardiest Osmanthus, with a mix of spiny leaves and smooth leaves, and you can see all these characteristics in the child of this cross-pollination. It was introduced into Europe twice – the first time by the German botanist Philipp Franz von Siebold, to Holland in 1856. The second time was by the Scottish botanist Robert Fortune, to England in 1862, and the plant is named after him as Fortune’s Osmanthus. In 1941 W.B. Clarke & Co. Nursery of San Jose, California announced that they had re-created this cross-pollination. Their plant is very similar to the original, but more cold-resistant, and with narrower leaves that have finer spines on them. They named it ‘San José’.
The San José Osmanthus has been proven to be the right choice when you want cold-resistance and good blooming. It is the top pick for cooler zones, but it grows well in warm places too. This special variety is always in high demand, but in short supply. The limited quantity we have sourced will not last long, so order now and enjoy the heady perfume and quiet beauty of a top-class evergreen.