Evergreens give a garden backbone. They give it form. And, in some cases, they give it a rainbow of colors. The leaves of ‘Goshiki’ false holly (also called holly tea olive), emerge reddish-pink, then become light orange with veins traced in pink, and finally mature into a glossy scatter of cream, gold, and green freckles. Beauty isn’t the only thing recommending this time-tested hybrid shrub, either. ‘Goshiki’ (which means “five colors” in Japanese) is notoriously tough and easy to grow in difficult spots. It also stays a moderate size and can tolerate urban conditions.
Common name: ‘Goshiki’ false holly, ‘Goshiki’ holly tea olive, variegated false holly, variegated holly olive
Botanical name: Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Goshiki’
Plant type: Broadleaf evergreen shrub
Zones: 6 to 9
Height: 5 to 10 feet
• Sun: Full sun to part shade
• Soil: Average
• Moisture: Medium to moist
• Mulch: Mulch to preserve moisture in the soil, but leave a few inches of space around the trunk.
• Pruning: Minimal pruning needed. Remove diseased, damaged, or crossing branches in spring.
• Fertilizer: Not needed.
• By seed or cuttings
Pests and diseases
• Vulnerable to root rot, black mildew, and olive knot.
• Scale insects may cause problems.
• Like other holly tea olives, ‘Goshiki’ works well as a hedge or screen. It is spiny, so don’t plant it right next to a path or sidewalk.
• The colors of ‘Goshiki’ stand out well against a dark background.
• You can grow ‘Goshiki’ in a large container if the climate permits.
• In full sun, ‘Goshiki’ will be more compact but the colors may bleach out. Partial shade, especially in its southern range, is best for maximum color.
All in the family
• There are only 15 to 20 species in the Osmanthus genus, and they’re found both in Asia and in the southeastern United States.
• False hollies (Osmanthus) and real hollies (Ilex) can look very much alike. False hollies and many real hollies are broadleaf evergreens, with glossy leaves (toothed or oval) and small berries. Some Ilex species are deciduous, however. Real hollies belong to a different family—Aquifoliaceae, which contains hundreds of species.
Where to buy
• Forestfarm, Williams, OR, 541-846-7269, www.forestfarm.com
• Rare Find Nursery, Jackson, NJ, 732-833-0613, www.rarefindnursery.com
• Wilkerson Mill Gardens, Palmetto, GA, 770-463-2400, www.hydrangea.com
(Photo of Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Goshiki’ by Tracy Walsh)