Osmanthus x fortunei, commonly known as sweet olive, was first introduced to Holland in 1856 by German botanist, Philipp Franz von Siebold; it is named after Scottish plant hunter, Robert Fortune, who introduced it to England in 1862. It is a hybrid between Osmanthus fragrans and Osmanthus heterophyllus, and is Japanese in origin. The cultivar ‘San Jose’ was introduced in 1941 by W.B. Clarke & Co. Nursery of San Jose, CA. ‘San Jose’ has a slightly narrower leaf than the hybrid type with somewhat finer spines on the leaf margins.
This outstanding broadleaf evergreen large shrub is not fussy about its cultural conditions and, once established, is exceptionally drought tolerant growing in dry shade, though it flowers best in full-sun to partial-shade. And you will definitely want it to flower once you’ve experienced its wonderful apricot fragrance this time of year. One San Jose sweet olive in flower will permeate your entire garden’s atmosphere! It is a far better choice than boxwood for screening, especially now that boxwood blight is a problem in the Pacific Northwest. It is hardy to USDA zone b, 5-10 degrees F, thanks to its parent O. heterophyllus.
Common Name: San Jose Sweet Olive
Scientific Name: Osmanthus x fortunei ‘San Jose’
Location: Washington Park Arboretum: There are three 1948 specimens located curb side of Lake Washington Blvd E., across from Japanese Garden parking lot entrance, in map grid 1-1E. Also, same accession, 932-48, in Asian Maple collection, grid 25-B.
Height and Spread: 15’-25’ tall and half as wide at maturity. The largest of our 1948 accessions are within these size dimensions.
Bloom/Berry time: Fall bloom. Seldom produces fruit; the selection common in cultivation is male.
Care: Once established, San Jose sweet olive is maintenance-free and pest-free, including deer- and rabbit-resistant.