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OSMANTHUS

A GREAT SHRUB FOR THE SUNNY GARDEN

Osmanthus buddingAttractive foliage, uniform growth habit, showy flowers and delicate fragrance of some varieties make the Osmanthus nice shrubs to use in the garden. This is one plant that does especially well in a bright sunny spot, making it an ideal shrub to use on the south or west side of the home. As a bonus, this is a very easy plant to grow, requiring minimal maintenance.

A hot southern or western exposure is one of the most challenging spots for growing plants, because of the heat and bright sun exposure. But, the Osmanthus is one of those plants you can depend upon to flourish in such exposures. In fact, this is one plant that can even be planted up against the foundation of the home, where it will get reflected sunlight.

The flowers tend to be small, but prolific and quite fragrant. So this is an ideal shrub to plant near the entry area, patio or sidewalks where the intense fragrance can be fully enjoyed.

Osmanthus foliage varies by variety from rather small , up to some varieties with leaves up to 2 ½ inches long. Foliage color varies by varieties, from deep green to variegated. Growing height also varies by variety, making the plants ideal for use in mid-bed to background planting areas.

This is one plant that is not really very fussy about soil, however, it is a good idea to take time to properly prepare the soil at planting time. The addition of organic humus in the form of peat moss, compost or processed manure is beneficial in getting the plants off to a good start. Mix about one third organic-humus with two-third of your existing soil. Always prepare the planting hole about twice the depth and width of the size of the root ball, of the plant you are planting.

The best time to fertilize Osmanthus is in late winter or late spring. Use a Rhododendron or Evergreen type of fertilizer. Of course, apply according to label instructions. If you use a dry, granular type of fertilizer, be sure to water-in thoroughly after application so there is no chance it burning the new tender feeder roots. These plants grow very well in Northwest soils, so it generally is not necessary to feed them each year.

Most varieties tend to have a fairly uniform growth habit, so pruning is seldom required, unless you are trimming the plants for hedging or special shapes. Simple pruning will also help reduce the height of some varieties , if desired. The best times to prune or shape is in springtime just as the new growth starts. However, the new growth can be pinched or pruned in early summer to encourage bushiness.

Osmanthus are not really prone to many insect or disease problems, however, should tip leaves become misshapen check for the presence of aphid or spider-mites.

New plants are started from cuttings. July and August are the best times to take summer tip cuttings or winter cuttings can be taken during the months of November through February.

Osmanthus delavayi is one of my favorite varieties. The deep dark green foliage and clusters of white fragrant flowers are a nice addition to any garden. Although fairly slow in its growth habit, the plants will eventually attain a height of 3 to 5 feet or more. My neighbor uses this variety as a 4 feet high low hedge and screen at the top of his rockery. He trims it yearly, and the March to May flowers provide a pleasant fragrance as you enter his front garden.

The Holly-leaf variety, Osmanthus heterophyllus (aquifolium) is another choice variety to use in the sunny garden. I have the variety ‘Goshiki’ and it is outstanding with its combination of bright yellow variegation on the dark green leaves. The leaves are more holly-like and the plant grows only about 3 to 5 feet high.

Ilicifolius is another variety with large leaves. The fragrant white flowers appear in the fall and early winter. Larger growing, it may eventually reach a height of up to 18 feet or so. Excellent for screening, hedges or as a background shrub.

Osmanthus burkwoodii is a slow growing variety that may eventually grow up to 4 to 6 feet tall. The Mid-spring flowers are small, and intensely fragrant. Leaves are 1 to 2 inches long . Often used for low hedging or as free standing shrubs.

Needless to say, these are only a few of the most popular varieties of Osmanthus. Next time you're in a nursery or garden center take a look at these interesting, sun loving shrubs.

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