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How I Pruned My Sweet Olive

How I Pruned My Sweet Olive

I love to prune!  When I moved into this house and saw  an Osmanthus fragrans in the front yard … my first thought was “shall I keep it?”   In my days as a professional gardener I had dealt with quite a few and was familiar with their tendency to grow into a big blob.  I did get rid of a lot of plants (the majority given away to new homes) but decided to keep the Osmanthus.  Here’s how it looks today.

An Osmanthus fragrans or sweet olive in the front yard.

Its common name is Sweet Olive due to the pungent fragrance of the clusters of small white flowers – like a  mixture of citrus flowers and ripe apricots.  It is best used as a background plant unless you keep it tamed.  Most resemble the plant below – as I said … a big blob!

Sweet Olive with clusters of small white flowers.

I pruned mine way down and really thinned it out.  I’ll keep it about 7-8′ tall and 5-6′ wide with pruning twice a year.   Nice and airy … letting light into the Succulents below.  Because the water requirements for the Osmanthus are low, it’s a great plant to cohabit with all those fleshy floras.

My standard way of pruning an Sweet Olive and maintaining an ideal height and width of a plant.

A feat of Horticultural Engineering … all you need are your favorite pruners well sharpened

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  1. Any time of year?

  2. Hi Carolyn – Osmanthus fragrans flowers on the new growth of the current season. The best times to prune in spring after it flowers or in fall well before a frost. I would prune mine to shape throughout the year in Santa Barbara, CA. Nell

  3. Danielle Warnock

    Hi! My sweet olive pretty much looks like the one in your first photo- the blob- 🙂 I really want to prune it way back. Should I do this early this fall? I’m worried I may damage it by pruning too much. Is that possible? I would like to thin mine out as well. Were you able to do all that in one pruning or over time? Any help is very appreciated! Thanks!

  4. Danielle –
    Pruning in fall after flowering is fine. Early spring is good too. I never pruned my Osmanthus too hard but I did prune my clients’ 13′ shrub back to 9′. I’d do it in 2 or 3 prunings if it’s older & overgrown. Nell

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