Tea Olive (Osmanthus fragrans)
This is the most fragrant species of a group known as a whole for their superb scent. Fragrant tea olives can grow as tall as 20 to 30 feet near the coast, although they are usually smaller, particularly in the Piedmont.
Height is more often in the 10 to 12 foot range with an 8-foot width. Plants are upright when young, but can spread into a small vase-shaped tree at maturity. Fragrant tea olives will grow throughout South Carolina, but can suffer cold damage in the upper Piedmont or Mountains if temperatures in a very cold winter approach 0 °F or if during a warm winter the temperature drops rapidly to 20 °F.
Fragrant tea olive has an exceptionally long bloom period, often for 2 months during the fall, with scattered blooming through winter and into the spring. The flowers are showy, held in clusters along the stems. There are several cultivars, mostly chosen for flower color. While some are still uncommon, they are well worth the search.
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