When planted right and in the right spot Tea Olive Osmanthus, also called "sweet olive," are exceptionally easy to grow. That said, a little expert advice can go a long way.

Here's a breakdown of what you need to know regarding planting a Tea Olive...


Soil

Tea Olive aren't too picky about soil type, but they do prefer a well-drained soil of average fertility. As with so many other types of ornamental plants, constantly soggy or wet soil can cause root rot and other harmful plant diseases. So make sure to plant your tea olive in a well-drained site!


How To Test Soil Drainage  If you are uncertain about soil drainage in the area you intend to plant your Tea Olive, it's well worth taking the time to test the drainage before planting. To test soil drainage, dig a hole 12" wide by 12" deep in the planting area. Fill the hole with water and let it drain. Then, after it drains, fill it with water again, but this time clock how long it takes to drain. In well-drained soil the water level will go down at a rate of about 1 inch an hour. A faster rate, such as in loose, sandy soil, may signal potentially dry site conditions. A slower rate indicates poor draining soil and is a caution you need to improve drainage, plant in a raised mound or bed, or look for plants that are more tolerant of wet or boggy conditions.


Soil pH

Tea Olive grow best in an acid to slightly alkaline soil ranging between 5.5 to 7.5 on the pH scale. Most average garden soils fall between a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0. 


How To Test Soil pH  Soil pH is a measurement of the alkalinity or acidity of soil and is measured on a scale of 1-14, with 7 as the neutral mark. Any measurement below 7 indicates acid soil conditions, and anything above 7 indicates alkaline. If you're unsure about the pH of your soil, and whether or not it's suitable for growing Tea Olive, it's a good idea to test the soil pH in the planting area. You can quickly test soil pH with an inexpensive soil pH tester probe. To raise the pH (make more alkaline) you can add pelletized limestone to the soil. To lower the pH (make more acid) you can apply Soil SulfurAluminum Sulfate, or Chelated Iron. Adding organic compost to the soil or using compost as mulch can also help to increase acidity and maintain acid soil conditions.




Light Needs

Tea Olive can be grown in full sun or part shade. A minimum of 4 to 5 hours of direct sunlight is recommended for best foliage density and heaviest flowering.



Planting Tea Olive In The Landscape

(Scroll down to see planting instructions for containers and pots)


Step 1

Start by digging your planting hole at least two to three times as wide and no deeper than the rootball of your Tea Olive plant. The wider the hole the better. Place native soil removed from planting hole around the perimeter of the hole, in a wheel barrow, or on a tarp.


Step 2

Depending on the type, fertility and porosity of the soil in the planting area you might need to mix in a soil amendment to the native soil removed from the planting hole. When planting in dense clay or poor quality soil it is beneficial to thoroughly mix in some good organic matter such as composted cow manure, mushroom compost, sand, and/or a good planting mix at a 25% ratio with the soil removed from the planting hole. When planting in very sandy or quick-draining soil it can be helpful for moisture retention to mix in some top soil, peat moss and/or compost. When planting in fertile, loamy, well-drained moist soil there is no need for adding a soil amendment.


Step 3

To remove your Tea Olive from the container it was growing in, firmly grasp the base of the plant and gently try to lift and remove it from its container. If the rootball is stuck in the container either cut the container away or place the plant on it's side and gently pound on the side of the container to loosen the rootball. After having removed the plant from the container, loosen some feeder roots around the surface of the rootball. If root bound, you can spray the sides and bottom of the root ball with a stream of water from a garden hose. This usually helps to wash away some soil from the exterior of the root ball making it easier to loosen roots.


Step 4
If you are planting in well-drained soil set your Tea Olivein the planting hole so that the top edge of the rootball is at or slightly above ground level (1-inch or so) to allow for settling. If your soil is moderately drained, meaning it drains slowly after rain, the top of the root ball should be 2 to 3 inches above ground level, as shown in the diagram below. If necessary, add some backfill soil mixture to the bottom of the hole to achieve proper planting height. 


NOTE: If the soil is poorly drained (constantly soggy or wet) take measures to improve drainage or select a different plant species tolerant of wet soils. 




Step 5

After setting your Tea Olive in the planting hole, use one hand to hold the plant straight and your other hand to begin back-filling your soil mixture around the root ball, tamping as you go to remove air pockets. When you have filled the hole to the halfway point you can soak the soil. Then continue back-filling to the top edge of the root ball. If you are planting the root ball higher than ground level taper your soil mixture gradually from the top edge of the root ball to the ground level, as shown in the diagram above. To avoid suffocating your plant, do not put any soil on top of the root ball.


Step 6 (Optional)
When planting your Tea Olive in a site far away from a water source you can use remaining soil mixture to build a water retaining berm (catch basin) that is several inches high around the outside perimeter of the planting hole. This basin will help to collect water from rainfall and irrigation often reducing the need for hand-watering. The berm can be removed after a growing season or two.


Step 7

Next, deeply water the planting area, including the root ball, to a depth equal to the height of the root ball. For an extra boost, you can water your newly planted Tea Olive with a solution of Root Stimulator, which stimulates early root formation and stronger root development. Root Stimulator reduces plant shock and promotes greener, more vigorous plants.


Step 8

To conserve moisture and to suppress weed growth, apply a 1 to 2" layer of aged, shredded or chipped wood mulch or pine straw around the planting area. Avoid using freshly chipped or shredded wood for mulch until it has cured in a pile for at least 6 months, a year is better. Avoid placing or piling mulch directly against the base of your plant as this could cause the bark to rot.




Planting Tea Olive In A Container


Tea Olive growing in pots appreciate a moist, but well-drained soil. Constantly soggy soil can and often will cause root rot or other harmful or deadly plant diseases. Therefore, we recommend a well-drained container with a drainage hole(s) and using a quality potting soil or potting mix, or a 50/50 combination thereof, for planting. Optionally, you can also add some pumice (maybe 20%) to the soil mixture to help with drainage, especially with shrubs that really need a well-drained soil.

Choose a container with drainage holes at the bottom and one that is large enough to allow for 2 to 3 years of growth before shifting up to a larger size container. This might mean your planting pot would be 8-12 inches or more in width than the root ball of your plant. 

Container color will matter as well. Not only will you want to pick a color of container that goes well with the flower and foliage colors of your Tea Olive, you'll also want to pick a container that matches the style of your home or other structures and other plants in the surrounding environment. 

Many nursery & garden centers offer a wide variety of containers to choose from. Before heading out to buy a container take pictures of your home and the surrounding environment. Doing so will help you to choose just the right color and style.


Container Planting Instructions


Step 1

Before filling your container with the soil mix, we recommend lining the bottom with shade cloth or a porous landscape fabric. This will keep the drain holes from becoming stopped up with soil. 


Step 2


To remove your Tea Olive from the container it was growing in, firmly grasp the base of the plant and gently try to lift and remove it from its container. If the rootball is stuck in the container either cut the container away or place the plant on it's side and gently pound on the side of the container to loosen the rootball. After having removed the plant from the container, loosen some feeder roots around the surface of the rootball. If root bound, you can spray the sides and bottom of the root ball with a stream of water from a garden hose. This usually helps to wash away some soil from the exterior of the root ball making it easier to loosen roots.


Step 3

Pour a small amount of your soil mixture in the bottom of the container. Set your plant in the container and make necessary adjustments by adding or removing some soil so that the top edge of the root ball will sit approximately 1" below the rim of the container.




Step 4
Backfill with your soil mixture around the root ball, tamping as you go, until the level of potting soil is even with the top edge of root ball.


Step 5
Water thoroughly until water starts to drain from the holes in the bottom of the container. Add more soil mixture if settling occurs during watering.


Step 6 (Optional)
Apply a 1/2" layer of wood chips or sphagnum moss to soil surface to help conserve moisture. Stone mulch can also be used.



Related Articles by Our Experts




Happy Planting!

Questions?  Contact Us >