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butterfly4U, questions on Sweet Olive

Posted by kaihui Z7 VA (My Page) on
Tue, Oct 30, 07 at 22:42

Hi, butterfly4U and other gurus,
I want sweet Olive really bad, but my place maybe too cold for them grow outdoors (well, some mild years are OK, but some others are not). I bought two this spring and planted them in 5 gal pots, but they all died. My guess is that I overwatered them, but I meant not to do so.

I notice you are in zone 5 and you mentioned that you winter them indoor. So what is the trick?

Many thanks in advance,


Follow-Up Postings:

RE: butterfly4U, questions on Sweet Olive

There really isn't a trick to keeping them alive indoors over the winter, they love sun, so they need a nice bright window and they love misting with a spray bottle once a day to keep them moist, humidity is good for them.
Wait til they are dry before you water them, stick your finger in the pot to make sure they are dry.
I use a light in the middle of January and February because somedays we don't get enough sunlight up here in PA, it can be snowing or real cloudy for days at a time in the winter here.
My sweet olive was a little stick when I got it. That was ini 2005.
Last summer it really put on some growth. I keep it in a tera cota pot. It likes tera cota, it can receive more iar that way.
I just brought it in recently,
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It will bloom around Christmas, and the entire room will smell of sweet olive, it is too strong in the house.
In May, when I put it outdoors, it will really grow and bloom strong. That is when you can smell it on a warm day for blocks.

RE: butterfly4U, questions on Sweet Olive

Hi, Butterfly4u,
Thank you so much for the info. Your plant looks so healthy. I am jealous!!!

Oh, I believe every word you wrote about sweet olive. In my hometown in China, they grow like forest. The fragrance is not just strong, it is heavanly.

Couple of more questions if you don't mind.
1. What kind of soil do you use? Is Miracle grow potting soil OK?

2. How big is your pot? Is 5 Gal big enough?

3. What kind of cultivar you have? I bought one from Lowes the past Spring, and planted it outside. It is doing very well now, and I did have some flowers, but the fragrance is not strong. (definitely a sweat olive though).

Here are the butterflies for you.

Thanks again,


My Sweet Olive

I planted 2 Sweet Olives outside. So far they are doing great. One gives me flowers since spring, but the fragrance is not very strong. It is still blooming now.

RE: butterfly4U, questions on Sweet Olive

  • Posted by bboy z8 WA USA (My Page) on
    Sun, Nov 4, 07 at 13:25

Notice the late, tender new growth? Sign of a plant that is not cold climate adapted. Doesn't shut down when days get shorter in fall. Expect that you may have tips freeze during winter, have to snip these off later. Rest of plant will probably be fine, make new growth from below damaged tips - as long as minimum temperature for this species is not fallen below.

Foliage of broadleaf evergreen shrubs can be protected from cold winds with screening or insulation, should threatening weather occur. You might also want to add a coarser mulch to the old bark visible in the photo, to increase insulation of root zone. Just be sure stems are not buried, in fact it looks like you may need to pull the existing bark mulch back away from the plants a bit. You want to have soil around the roots, with mulch on top of the soil but well away from the stems. You don't want to have mulch mixed with soil, you want to have distinctly separate layers. If bark got mixed with soil when you planted, next time rake the mulch to the side to make a bare soil area to work in while planting, and do not place the excavated soil on top of the mulch.

RE: butterfly4U, questions on Sweet Olive

Thank you so much for the help.

Those tender leaves got burned already. We had two days below freezing (30-30F). Should I prune the tender leaves now?

I hope I got your ideas right:
1. Pull the existing mulch away from the trees a little bit. (It wasn't like what the photos showed. Somehow, some critters dug my mulch. My neighbors have the same problem. One said it is squirrel burying nuts there, and another neighbor said it was skunks digging for bugs to eat).

2. Put some coarse mulch (like pine nuggets) around the roots to provide insulation.



RE: butterfly4U, questions on Sweet Olive

Your sweet olive plants look healthy and fine.
Are they hearty to your zone of 7?
I thought they were only hearty down to zone 9.
I hope I am wrong.
I loved the butterflies! Thank you!
My sweet olive just started with little blooms today!
The flowers are real small, but they smell soooo good.
I don't know what cultivar my sweet olive is.
I bought it as a twig off of someone on Ebay.
It sure is a potent smell though when it blooms.
It is a slow grower also. Just this past summer it really started to put on substantial growth and fill out.
The flowers are pure white and very small, and smell really strong. I love this plant, I look forward to smelling it every dreary winter when it is lousy outside.
Early in May I put it outside and it really blooms and smells for blocks around. It has a distinct smell that can't be put into words.
Now, if I could only bottle it.....
Good Luck Kai!!!

RE: butterfly4U, questions on Sweet Olive

Hi, Buttefly,
Thanks for the response.

Sweet Olive is cold hardy at least to zone 8 for sure. My home town is more like Atlanta, and sweet olive grow like forest there. That's the reason why I miss them so bad.

If you go to the website of Nursery of Caroliniana, you will find one cultivar is cold hardy to zone 6b, and it happens to have orange color flowers (Orange is considered the best cultivar of winter sweet in China). That's the one I planted outside.

I just ordered 2 again couple of days ago, I was encouraged by your success to grow them indoors. I will winter them indoor.

A little strange though, in my home town, Sweet olives only bloom in fall.

Thanks again.


RE: butterfly4U, questions on Sweet Olive

I'm at zone7/8, east coast virginia. All our original 10 fragrant olives live outdoors and they are doing great except for one. We've had them since 2003 and moved half of them when we moved to our new house. They recovered OK.Homedepot in my place carry 3 or 5 gallons plants for about $15.
By the way, I might come from the same place as you. My home town is Guilin.

RE: butterfly4U, questions on Sweet Olive

Nice to hear from you. Are you in Newport News, Norfolk or Williamsburg?

Yes, I bought few from Home Depot last Spring, and planted one outside. This is its first winer here. I am getting my fingers crossed. I am in Charlottesville. The coastal VA has much milder winter than here.

My hometown is Wuhan. I will make a trip to Guilin some day.

RE: butterfly4U, questions on Sweet Olive

Hi Kaihui: I graduated from Hust. Spent 7 years in Wuhan. I still remember it was fairly cold in the winter there so I have always wondered why the same plants would not behave the same in the states.

Anyway you can put a good layer of mulch for better protection. Hopefully it could be sheltered from the winter wind. Best of luck.


nice to hear from you

Hi, Changsong,
Nice to hear back from you. I was born in Wuhan and graduated from Wuda. My parents taught there until they retired years ago.

The coldest winter in Wuhan I can remember was -10C, which is about 14F. For most winters, the coldest is always above 20F (-5 C). Now Wuhan is getting warmer and warmer each year, partly because of global warming, I guess, and partly because of severe air polution.

Wuhan is definitely warmer than Charlottesville. It is more like Atlanta in Georgia.

Yes, I will put mulch on, but that only protects the roots.

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