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Fragrant Olive

Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Purpureus'

Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Purpureus’ in April 2011 showing reddish new growth. Photo: SK Reid.
Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Purpureus’ in April 2011 showing reddish new growth. Photo: SK Reid.


This variety of tea olive, also called purple-leaf false holly and holly olive, is a slow-growing evergreen shrub. It had maximum height of 35” and an average height of 28” after two years in the ground in the trials field.

It is pest and disease free, and its new foliage is an attractive burgundy color which contrasts beautifully with its dark green, glossy foliage. There were no statistically significant differences in growth indexes or quality ratings between treatments making this a truly versatile landscape plant. It did not bloom during the course of these trials, so we cannot speak to the effect of irrigation level on flowering. This species may require a certain level of maturity before flowering.

In conjunction with the trials, fragrant olive was also grown in several UCCE Master Gardener demonstration gardens throughout California. The few demonstration gardens that could accommodate this plant found its foliage clean and attractive. All commented that it was slow to establish and begin to grow. The only failures or low ratings came from poor site conditions, not the plants themselves. The quality of this evaluation would have been improved with a longer trial period. This is something to consider in the future when evaluating large shrubs.

Basic Info

Submitted by: UC Davis Arboretum
Trial Exposure: 50% Shade
Year evaluated: 2011
Height & Width
(after 2 years):
29" x 30" - UC Davis
Reported Height & Width
(at maturity):
8-15' x 6-10'
WUCOLS plant type: S
Water Needs & WUCOLS Region:
Medium - Region 2 
Mean Overall 
Appearance rating:
(1-5 Scale, 5 is highest)
4.4 - UC Davis 
Flowering Months
N/A - UC Davis

Growth and Quality Data

Click Here for Complete Data Set