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Osmanthus Flower Meaning and Symbolism

Osmanthus Flower Meaning and Symbolism

Although the name of the osmanthus plant may sound weird, the clusters of small flowers with the intoxicating scent and rich cultural history are as beautiful as they come. Otherwise known as the Sweet olive tree, osmanthus flower meanings include faithfulness, love, fertility, peace, good fortune, nobility, and prosperity. Keep reading to learn more about osmanthus tea olive. 

About the Osmanthus Flower

Osmanthus is a member of the Osmanthus genus in the Oleaceae family. This genus only has 15 known species.

Also known as the tea olive tree, this small species grows as an evergreen shrub, often confused with the infamous holiday favorite – the Holly bush. 

History and Origin

The Osmanthus tree came into existence during the 18th century when it was brought from Southeast Asia to Europe. It’s also native to parts of Mexico, North America, New Caledonia, and Hawaii.

Common Names

Osmanthus flowers have a few common names, including sweet osmanthus, sweet olive, the fragrant olive, Tea Olive, kinmokusei, and Devilwood.


Osmanthus plants can grow from 7 feet up to 39 feet, depending on the amount of space to develop, the shrub’s maturity, and the variety. 

This species produces small clusters of tiny four-petaled flowers in spring, summer, or fall. It also produces blue (or purple) fruits. In addition, these plants have leathery, glossy green foliage that stays green all year. 

Osmanthus Flower Care

In general, Osmanthus plants are easy to grow and maintain. They are not picky about the soil they need to grow in, tolerating acidic or neutral soils with good drainage. 

Osmanthus will need regular waterings until it settles into a well-established growing pattern. Then, you’ll only need to water it during extended dry spells after the first year. 

Plant your bushes four to six feet apart if you want to form a hedge or screen. Or clip them so that they become a dense canopy. 

Although the best time to plant these shrubs is in the fall, you can do it any time of year. Choose a site that offers full sun to partial shade – you get denser growth in full sun. However, variegated types can bleach out with full sun exposure. 

Fertilize every season in fall once the plants start to go dormant. Before watering, you can use a general-purpose fertilizer spread over the root zone. Or you can also use compost if you want to add slow-release fertilizer.

Uses Throughout History

In China, this plant is used for food and medicine. The Sweet Olive flower offers multiple health benefits, including: 

  • Stress reduction
  • Healthy digestion
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lessens menstrual cramps
  • Weight loss
  • Improved circulation
  • Natural mouthwash
  • Reduced arthritis pain
  • Eases insomnia
  • Fights allergies

Making Osmanthus tea and rice wine from the sweet flavor of the petals is also popular. And it’s used for a flavoring in cakes, sweets, and other treats in China. 

And since the flowers have such as sweet scent, tea olive is often used for perfumery and fragrances.

Osmanthus Flower Symbolism

There are multiple osmanthus meanings for different cultures, including in ancient Chinese and Feng Shui beliefs. For example, a tea olive shrub can mean status promotion, good luck, and literary success in Chinese culture. 

Other customs in China say that Sweet Olives are a symbolic meaning of preciousness and honor. It represents the wishful thinking of noble sons and nobility. Even further, it can mean life, sex, love, and death.

Etymological Meaning

The tea olive Osmanthus comes from some – (fragrant) and anthos – flower. The literal meaning breaks down to the fragrant flower. 


In China, the Osmanthus flower is the symbol of August. 


The intoxicating aroma and significance in Feng Shui make these flowers symbolic of tranquility and peace.


Tea olive also means faithfulness and commitment. 


Osmanthus is also a traditional symbol of romance and love. This reason is why you often see these small flowers used at weddings. 


The growing pattern of the Osmanthus flowers in an abundance of tiny blooms gives this plant the meaning of fertility. When presented with a pomegranate plant on a wedding day, it told the new family of many children and grandchildren or giving birth to noble children. 

Osmanthus Flower Color Meaning

The meaning of the osmanthus flower can change by culture, area of the world, and by color.


White Sweet Olive flowers represent bounty and prosperity. Spotting this shrub’s first flowers is a sign of positive outcomes and fortune. It can also mean grace, spirituality, noble character, and faithfulness.

It’s common to see white olive flowers used for traditional weddings. When the bride gifts these white flowers to her new family, it symbolizes her dedication, romance, intentions to be part of the family, and a new life chapter to be full of tranquility. 


A yellow sweet olive flower is symbolic of non-romantic affection. It can mean optimism, a period of contentment, meaningful feelings, and happiness. 


You can use an Orange osmanthus to symbolize bounty and glorious happiness. It is often happiness brought on from your good luck and incoming prosperity. 

It can also mean bravery, optimism for the future, new opportunities, and traits in someone that you admire that make them special and unique.


Red is a powerful color in Feng Shui and Chinese traditions. It’s believed that a red Sweet olive flower offers protection from darkness, evil, and bad luck. 

Osmanthus Flower FAQ

Don’t leave without taking a few moments to read these frequently asked questions about the Osmanthus plant.

When Should You Give Someone an Osmanthus Flower?

Sweet olive plants are an appropriate gift for celebrating life goals or achievements, particularly marrIage. It can also be a gift of encouragement and well-wishes during a difficult time.

When are Osmanthus Flowers in Season?

Depending on the cultivar, osmanthus flowers bloom in spring, summer, or fall.

Are Osmanthus Flowers Annuals or Perennials?

Osmanthus shrubs are evergreen perennials. 

What Does an Osmanthus Flower Tattoo Represent?

Osmanthus as a tattoo can mean romantic relationships, love, good luck, or family ties.

What Does an Osmanthus Flower Smell Like?

The osmanthus scent is similar to ripe peaches and apricots. 

Are Osmanthus Flowers Toxic?

There have never been any reports of illnesses or deaths occurring to pets, livestock, or people.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a richly fragrant flower with significant history and culture, try planting an Osmanthus – tea olive shrub. Or you can give this plant for special holidays or if you want to send an unspoken message of romance, commitment, fertility, or tranquility.