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Sweet olive in philadelphia region?

Posted by silverneedle (My Page) on
Fri, Aug 14, 09 at 13:56

I would like to plant a sweet olive (osmanthus fragrans) for my mother since it's her favourite, but we are in the surburbs of Philadelphia and I am told that these shrubs can be difficult in zone 7.
Has any one had any success with them in SE PA? Should I wait until spring to give them the best chance of surviving the winter?

Many thanks!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Sweet olive in philadelphia region?

You can't plant a sweet olive in the ground where you are.
You can put it in a pot and winter it inside and then take it outside after Mother's Day and let it grow out in the yard in the pot.
They will die if you plant it in the ground. They can't take your winters.
Put it in a pot.
Good Luck!

RE: Sweet olive in philadelphia region?


Thanks for answering. Will it have a chance with heavy mulching around the base and wrapping? I can't winter it inside, my husband has fairly severe allergies.

RE: Sweet olive in philadelphia region?

perhaps you can create a microclimate around the house somewhere. i.e. plant in a recessed area near a wall with a southern exposure or in a corner of the house. the way our mild winters have been going, might make it for a few years for you. are you a zone 7b? could possibly work with mulch and wrap but i'm just guessing here. if you can find a reasonably priced one....
our temps hit 18 (briefly) last winter and i noticed no damage to my plant.

RE: Sweet olive in philadelphia region?

It won't have a chance outside in PA unless you have a greenhouse.
Sorry, I know your winters very well, and it won't make it.
You could buy one and just let it die every winter and plant a new one in spring.
They grow slowly when they are young though, and you probably won't be happy when it dies in the winter after very little growth.
You won't be able to find them in local plant stores because they aren't hardy in your area.
I bought my sweet olive years ago off of Ebay and brought it inside every fall in a pot. I used to live in PA.
Right before Thanksgiving it would bloom and fill an entire room with that sweet fragrance. It isn't much to look at when it blooms, but you definately smell it.
I wish I could bottle that smell, I would make a fortune.

RE: Sweet olive in Philadelphia region

Do you know what you might look for?
The small shrub sweet box.
Not sweet shrub, sweet box.
Do you have a real shady area outside where you can plant it? They love shade.
They bloom in January and the blooms smell like real sweet vanilla. Very fragrant and nice.
You can cut some blooming branches off and bring them inside to smell them, unless your hubby will sneeze.
Just a suggestion, they are hardy to zone 6.

RE: Sweet olive in philadelphia region?

there is more than one species of osmanthus so perhaps try one of the more cold hardy ones in a protected area such as osmanthus x burkwoodii or o. heterophyllus, said to be the hardiest at -10 to -5 degrees. see link below for listings.
i have a sweet box and am not impressed with the slight fragrance. i can't smell a thing unless i stick my nose right to the tiny flowers and then it's dependent on the weather conditions. just my experience thought it sounds like butterfly is fond of it.

Here is a link that might be useful: cold-hardy osmanthus

RE: Sweet olive in philadelphia region?

Thanks butterfly4u and jeff_al. I have never heard of sweet box before, but I will remember to look for it in the nurseries.

The sweet olive is not just plant however. It has a heavenly fragrance, but for my family it's more emotional than that. It simply reminds my mother of home and she tears up when she smells it. I know it's a foolhardy thing to try to plant a sweet olive in SE PA, but try I will. Butterfly it may just be as you predicated that I will have to replant every spring, but the last few winters has been quite mild and I am thinking burlap with frames might bring it through. I have heard that proper wrapping can bring up a full zone, and as long as it doesn't completely die off, some damages I can deal with.

It will be an interesting experiment next year.. I will keep you guys posted.

RE: Sweet olive in philadelphia region?

Hey there!
How did the "sweet olive experiment" work out so far? I'm very interested in knowing, because I'm coveting one pretty badly!

RE: Sweet olive in philadelphia region?

I used to live in Pennsylvania, and I bought a sweet olive plant off of Ebay. They didn't sell them in the nurseries or garden centers up there.
I kept it in a plain unfinished clay pot and took it outside after Mother's Day every year.
it grew real nice for me, and bloomed so good in the spring.
I would buy one if I were you and just keep it in a sunny spot inside in the winter.
They aren't hard to grow, love sun or part sun, and you can prune it if it gets too big to bring inside in the fall.
Everyone would wonder what that wonderful smell was, LOL, because they didn't know what it was.

RE: Sweet olive in philadelphia region?

Thanks butterfly! I think I'll try that. Do sweet olives need lots of water?

RE: Sweet olive in philadelphia region?

No, not really. Just water so it comes out the bottom of plant and when the top is dry as far down as 1 inch, just rewater.
In the winter it usually doesn't need too much water unless it is right by a heating vent.

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