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Osmanthus, planting and care

Tender, evergreen shrubs of considerable decorative value, with thick leathery leaves and usually fragrant, white flowers. They are natives of eastern and southern Asia, and one is a native of the southern United States. Although they are useful for planting outdoors in mild climates, they are not hardy in the North. They are sometimes grown in greenhouses and window gardens. Some of them bear a striking resemblance to certain of the Hollies, but one difference is that the leaves are arranged in opposite pairs, whereas in the Hollies they are alternate.

Osmanthus belongs to the Olive family, Oleaceae, and the name is taken from the Greek osrne, fragrance, ;ind anthos, a flower, in allusion to the fragrant flowers.

Raising Plants from Cuttings. Cuttings of halfripe shoots, 3-4 in. long, may be taken in July and dibbled in a bed of sand in a propagating frame. Cuttings can also be rooted in fall in a greenhouse.

Planting and Pruning. The young plants should be planted or potted in spring. During summer the tips of the shoots should be removed now and then to induce a bushy habit of growth. They should be set in well-drained loamy soil, to which a little peat or compost has been added. Plants that have had care while young, and have formed a good foundation of branches, grow into shapely bushes with little or no subsequent pruning. However, if plants become straggling, they may be pruned as soon as the flowers fade.

In the Greenhouse. Osmanthus, when grown in pots, thrives in sun or light shade. A winter night temperature of 50 degrees suits these plants. They may be stood outdoors in summer. Water freely in summer, moderately in winter.

Evergreen Shrubs with Fragrant Flowers. A very useful kind for general cultivation is O. ilicifolius, sometimes called O. Aquifolium by reason of its holly-like leaves. It is a native of Japan, where it sometimes grows 20-30 ft. high. The glossy green leaves are  1 1/2 -2 1/2 long and 1-1 1/2 in. wide, with spiny margins on the lower parts of the bush, the spines giving place to smooth-margined leaves on the upper parts. The white, fragrant flowers are borne during summer and fall, when comparatively few other hardy shrubs are in full beauty.

A number of varieties have been given distinct names. Of these, specially desirable ones are purpureus, with dark-purple leaves; myrtifolius, a dwarf shrub with elliptical, often spineless leaves; rotundifolius, another dwarf kind with broadly elliptical leaves; and variegatus, with green and white, spine-margined leaves.

O. americanus, the Devilwood, is native from North Carolina to Florida and Mississippi. It grows to 45 ft. tall and has greenish, fragrant flowers.

O. armatus is a bush or small tree with very stiff branchlets bearing leaves up to 6 in. long and 1 1/2 in. wide; the margins are divided into spiny teeth. The flowers are borne in autumn. It does better with some shade from hot sun.

O. fragrans is more tender. It bears very fragrant white flowers which are used in China for scenting tea. In mild climates it attains a height of 20-30 ft. It is an old favorite for growing in pots in greenhouses and sun porches.

O. Fortunei, regarded as a hybrid between O. fragrans and O. ilicifolius, is an evergreen bush reaching a height of 15-20 ft. It bears white flowers in autumn.

For the plant grown in gardens as Osmanthus Delavayi, see Siphonosmanthus Delavayi.


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