Pittosporum: all about this hardy and fragrant evergreen

These plants are perfect for sheltered, sunny locations and are easy to grow and care for

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By Alex

Pittosporum is a genus of more than 150 tree and shrub plants belonging to the Pittosporaceae family. These plants can be recognized by flowers and leaves gathered in clusters and small, inedible berries. Let’s see how to care for them.

Originating from Africa, Asia, Australia and the Pacific Islands, Pittosporum is also found in Europe, mainly on Mediterranean coasts. Being an evergreen plant, it is indeed very suitable for adorning balconies, gardens, driveways and terraces with dense and compact hedges. With the exception of P. tenuifolium varieties silver queen and nevato, which are also used to make bouquets.

Overall, these plants have excellent decorative potential. The smaller leaved types of Pittosporum are also used for topiary.

What does the name Pittosporum mean?

The name derives from the berries, which conceal fertile seeds protected by a resinous film: in fact pittosporum comes from ancient Greek and means precisely “sticky seed”.

Pittosporum classifications

There are 150 species but the most cultivated are 6. The most popular species are probably Pittosporum tobira, P. tenuifolium, and P. heterophyllus. The first is a shrub from China, the second is a tree from New Zealand found in as many as 7 varieties. The third has, like the other two, the characteristic of spring flowering.

These shrubs can reach up to several meters in height. They need frequent pruning, but, since the foliage is dense, it will be easy to give them the desired shape. The leaves are fleshy, glossy, small, oblong, and dark green on the upper page, made evident by a vein running through them.

Pittosporum have peculiar small and very fragrant yellow-white flowers, also gathered in clusters. Their woody berries are green or orange.

Pittosporum tenuifolium

What distinguishes P. tenuifolium are mainly the flowers, which bloom in April. The color is indeed dark, tending to purple-brown, with a slight hint of vanilla. Compared with other varieties, it does not require frequent pruning.

Pittosporum tenuifolium variegatum

Pittosporum tenuifolium variegatum is recognized by its columnar stem and very light green tapered leaves.The branches are dense, thin and dark, the leaves more delicate and pendulous. It is cold-hardy and poorly tolerates drought.

The 7 varieties of the species are distinguished by the stripes on the leaves:

  • Augyrophillum, with white-striped leaves
  • Aureo-variegatum, with leaves speckled with yellow
  • Garnettii, the margins of its leaves are creamy-white
  • Irene Patterson, with creamy-white spots on its leaves and therefore also known by the name snowy pittosporum
  • Purpureum, whose leaves are tending to bronze
  • Silver queen, with silver-gray veins is the least cold-resistant variety (maximum – 5 °C)
  • Variegatum, with tapered light green leaves, white edges and columnar stem.

Pittosporum tobira Nanum

P. tobira Nanum is a type of shrubby pittosporum with a rounded shape, also know as Dwarf Japanese Mock Orange. Since its width does not exceed 80 cm in diameter, it is mainly used to decorate balconies and gardens.

Dwarf Japanese Mock Orange - Latin name - Pittosporum tobira Nanum
Pittosporum tobira Nanum is also known as Dwarf Japanese Mock Orange.

Pittosporum tobira Nanum have bright green leaves with gray streaks and white-yellow edges (depending on the variety), with small white-yellow flowers.

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Pittosporum cultivation

Since it is a particularly drought-resistant plant, it loves sunny places. To protect Pittosporum from freezing winds, it will be essential to place it in a sheltered area of the garden. The soil must be soft, rich and well-drained, and watering not too frequent.

Blooming occurs between April and July, but you can wait as long as 1 year to see the first flowers. At this time that pruning should be done, which will allow the plant to grow lushly and according to the desired shape.

The ‘topping’, that is, the removal of the upper parts, will allow more and faster growth of the lower part of the plant, which will then naturally assume a typical geometric shape. Should the pittosporum become too tall, further pruning will suffice between late summer and early autumn. Maintenance pruning will have to be done in February instead. Pruning should be done with specific, well-sharpened and disinfected tools to prevent the wood from fraying and the plant from being affected by fungi and bacteria.

For planting, all that will be needed is to dig a hole or furrow that is deep and about 1 meter wide (whether you want a shrubby pittosporum or a hedge). Winter, on the other hand, is the right time to fertilize the soil with mineral salts, and to mulch with organic fertilizer. In places where temperatures can go below zero Celsius, it will be necessary to cover the foot with nonwoven fabric.

Can I grow Pittosporum in pots?

Yes, it is also possible to grow these plants in pots. Pittosporum may be potted or buried in late fall, except in colder climates, which should prefer February-March. Potted specimens, will need more watering than those in the ground; also, every 2-3 years, the soil will need to be changed.

Pittosporum reproduction

This plant can be easily reproduced by cuttings. In fact, for hedgerows, several layers of different species and varieties are often used to give a pleasing look. It is better to favor the period between the end of May and the beginning of June and take cuttings of about 10 cm from the semi-mature lateral branches.

Remove the leaves and plant in a mixture of peat and fine sand divided into equal parts, which must always be kept moist and in a shaded area. To facilitate rooting, the cuttings can be soaked in a hormonal treatment, before burying them.

Pittosporum pests and diseases

Despite being a particularly resilient plant, pittosporum also has its enemies, especially cochineal, aphids and weevil.

  • Aphids suck the sap from leaves and flowers, replacing it with a sticky substance.
  • Mealybugs, brown or cottony, cover the leaves with dark or white spots and a sticky film.
  • Weevils eat the leaves of the pittosporum by jagging the edges.

More on this topic

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