Osmanthus heterophyllus: main characteristics and care

When Christmas arrives, it is common to buy a typical plant of that time, such as holly. However, for some time now we have found the so-called ‘false holly’ in stores. Do you know that this could be the Osmanthus heterophyllus?

Do you want to know more about this plant and the care it needs? Well, here we have prepared a guide so that you have all the information you need about it.

How is the Osmanthus heterophyllus


As we have told you, Osmanthus heterophyllus is better known as ‘false holly’ or ‘Chinese holly’. Its name, Osmanthus, comes from two Greek words: osme, which means fragrance; and anthos, which means flower. Hence, another of the names by which you could call it is fragrant flower. Now, heterophyllus is also from Latin, and this in turn from Greek, which gives us hetero, as diverse; and phyllys as a leaf.

This can already help you because it is a shrub (although some are classified as a tree) with varied leaves. Can easily reach 6 meters in height if well cared for and perhaps the most characteristic of this are its leaves, which are opposite, gable and oblong. They can each measure between 3 and 6 centimeters and the edge of these will be jagged. In fact, it is common for them to have little teeth that, if you don’t pay attention, they can scratch you. They are dark green in front, and lighter behind.

As for the flowers, they are white. and, as their name indicated, they are very fragrant. They are composed of about 4 petals each. They don’t measure much, just about 6 mm. The fruits will come out of them, which will be rounded and blue, not black (not red as you might expect).

Although it is commonly called ‘Chinese holly’, the truth is that its origin is not China, but Japan. And although it wasn’t easy to get before, now it can be found practically anywhere in the world.

Osmanthus heterophyllus care


Do you have an Osmanthus heterophyllus at home? Have you bought it believing that it was a holly and have you found that it is not? Don’t worry. In general, Chinese holly is also very easy to care for. Here we leave you a summary of everything you have to take into account.

location and temperature

We start with the best place on this floor. In its natural habitat it is in semi-shade or full sun areas (depends on the climate). And in your house you will have to do the same. If you live in a very hot area, it will be better in semi-shade so that it does not dry it out too much; while if it is warm or cold, being in full sun will help it grow. Yes indeed, give it space because, if you have it in the planted garden it will grow (maybe not up to 6 meters). In a pot you will be able to control its growth more.

As for the temperature, its ideal is between 10 and 20ºC. But in general it will resist heat, as well as frost (as long as they are not intense or last long).


Osmanthus heterophyllus likes soil rich in humus, that it remains somewhat humid and, in addition, light, that is, with drainage. For this reason, we recommend that you make a mixture with pumice stone (for drainage), earthworm humus and some more good quality soil.

If possible, try to keep the pH of the soil between 5 and 7.5. In the event that it falls outside of these values, you can add a chemical or natural product to rectify it.


When Osmanthus heterophyllus is a young specimen, which is what we usually buy in stores, the need for irrigation is much greater than when it is an adult. That implies that, during the first year at least, you should water it regularlyespecially from spring to fall. In general, you should water between 2-3 times a week (as long as it is there to water, if it is wet, skip it).

It is true that the earth must be humid, but not the roots, and if you go too far with watering you will contribute to their rotting. Therefore, only water when you notice that it needs it.

After that year, and the following ones, you will see that the Osmanthus heterophyllus is tolerating periods of drought.


detail of its leaves

This plant does needs a little compost, especially when planting (manure or similar) and then in early spring (which won’t hurt).

You can choose a liquid fertilizer to apply with the irrigation water or fertilize annually with manure and a single intake of mineral fertilizer when winter ends.


Although it is normal that throughout the months, especially when it grows, you prune the Osmanthus heterophyllus to control its formation, every two years it is advisable to prun it a little harder to encourage it.

Plagues and diseases

You should know that Osmanthus heterophyllus is quite resistant to the most common pests and diseases (red spider, mealybugs, aphids…) so you should not worry about it.

As for diseases, the same thing happens. Unless you do something to weaken it, it shouldn’t get sick. Even so, it shouldn’t hurt to keep an eye on it from time to time, especially if you have more plants since they can infect each other and that would be problematic if the pest increases or is very strong.


Finally, if what you want is to propagate Osmanthus heterophyllus, you can do it through cuttings. Of course, the new ones are not worth it, but those that are already a year old or so (those with semi-hard wood). In this way you will have a better chance of success (although we warn you that it is not easy). It must be at least 10 centimeters long and with at least one or two leaves.

In this case, After cutting them and the cut heals, you can pass it to water until it takes out roots Or what you can do is directly plant it in a pot and leave it alone until you see that it begins to sprout.

Now all you have to do is have an Osmanthus heterophyllus and give it the care it needs to grow up. Do you dare to it?

Osmanthus heterophyllus: main characteristics and care

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