Plant Library

Variegated False Holly

Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Variegatus'

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Variegated False Holly (Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Variegatus') at Green Thumb Nursery

Variegated False Holly

Variegated False Holly

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Variegated False Holly (Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Variegatus') at Green Thumb Nursery

Variegated False Holly foliage

Variegated False Holly foliage

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Height:  8 feet

Spread:  6 feet

Sunlight:  full sun  partial shade 

Hardiness Zone:  6b

Other Names:  Tea Olive, Olive Holly, Holly-Leaf Osmanthus


Spiny, lustrous leaves are holly-like, but it's related to lilac and privet; the main attraction is its white variegated leaves; covered with fragrant, white trumpet flowers; more adaptable than holly

Ornamental Features

Variegated False Holly is covered in stunning fragrant white tubular flowers along the branches in early fall. It has attractive white-variegated dark green foliage. The spiny oval leaves are highly ornamental and remain dark green throughout the winter. The smooth dark gray bark is extremely showy and adds significant winter interest.

Landscape Attributes

Variegated False Holly is a dense multi-stemmed evergreen shrub with an upright spreading habit of growth. Its average texture blends into the landscape, but can be balanced by one or two finer or coarser trees or shrubs for an effective composition.

This is a relatively low maintenance shrub, and is best pruned in late winter once the threat of extreme cold has passed. Deer don't particularly care for this plant and will usually leave it alone in favor of tastier treats. Gardeners should be aware of the following characteristic(s) that may warrant special consideration;

  • Spiny

Variegated False Holly is recommended for the following landscape applications;

  • Accent
  • Mass Planting
  • Hedges/Screening
  • General Garden Use
  • Topiary

Planting & Growing

Variegated False Holly will grow to be about 8 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 6 feet. It tends to fill out right to the ground and therefore doesn't necessarily require facer plants in front, and is suitable for planting under power lines. It grows at a slow rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for 40 years or more.

This shrub does best in full sun to partial shade. It does best in average to evenly moist conditions, but will not tolerate standing water. It may require supplemental watering during periods of drought or extended heat. It is not particular as to soil pH, but grows best in rich soils. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments. This is a selected variety of a species not originally from North America.

Hardiness Zone Plant Height Minimum Sunlight
Accent  Massing  Screening  Garden  Topiary 
Flowers  Foliage Color  Plant Form  Bark  Winter Value 
Ornamental Features