What is Pittosporum?

Pittosporum belongs to a genus that is made up of 200 species of plants. Collectively, they belong to a family botanically referred to as Pittosporaceae. The genus to which Pittosporum belongs is said to have their origin in Gondwana.

You’ll find this particular plant in places such as Australasia, Oceania, some parts of Africa, and Eastern Asia. In some quarters, pittosporum is known as cheesewoods.

Pittosporum tenuifolium

Pittosporum tenuifolium

The leaves of a typical Pittosporum are usually leathery with either a smooth or slightly wavy edge. Their flowers can either be bell- or tubular-shaped. You’ll also notice that their flowers are solitary or grouped in inflorescence, or apical.

The fruit of Pittosporum consists of a leathery or ribbed capsule that contains a seed enveloped by a resinous substance. These resinous Pittosporums are detested by many herbivores due to the fact that their seeds are capable of sticking anywhere.

However in New Zealand certain animals like Kea consumes Pittosporum without any hassle. The most common pest that plague Pittosporum is Icerya purchasi, commonly called cottony cushion scale. The New Zealand species are usually the most affected. 

What is the most popular Pittosporum?

The most popular of the Pittosporum species is the Pittosporum tobira, or seeded tobira. This particular species has its roots in China and Japan. Characteristically, Pittosporum tobira is made up of leathery, oval, and glossy leaves which are intense green in colour. You’ll notice yellowish-white coloured flowers starting to grow from April to July in their apical panicles. The scent of its flowers resembles those of orange bloom and its leaves are variegated with silvery stains. 

Another common variety is the tenuifolium. This one is a semi-hardy species with oblong-ovate leaves that are green in colour with very dark branches and stems. Small flowers bloom in the axis of the leaves during spring. Round berries appear in place of the flowers at the end of summer. 

Pittosporum undulatum is another species with leaves that are dark green in colour with wavy edges. Its flowers are fragrant and creamy white in colour. Other species includes Pittosporum resiniferum, which produces petroleum oil that is sometimes used as biofuel. 

The thick-leaved Pittosporum crassifolium, Pittosporum heterophyllum, variegated tar-seed are other examples. 

Pittosporum prefer cold temperate, tropical regions, warm temperate, as well as sub tropical regions. However, there are certain varieties of Pittosporum that are able to tolerate frosts to about -5 degrees Celsius.

Is Pittosporum A Tree or Shrub?

Pittosporum can either exist in form of a shrub or a small tree. Species of Pittosporum are either shrubs or small trees that are capable of growing to between 2-30m. They mostly exist as shrubs and are native to Asia. 

Many plant lovers confuse Pittosporum with the plant in the genus Philadelphus because both genus of plants smell like orange blooms when they are in bloom. 

Do Pittosporums Flower?

Members of the genus Pittosporum do produce flowers. Most of them flower between spring and early summer. Their flowers are generally small in appearance, usually scented, and have different colours: from purple to cream and to yellow.

A few Pittosporum however produce highly scented, and showy flowers. Example of those in this category includes Pittosporum tobira, Pittosporum adaphiphylloides, and Pittosporum heterophyllum

Extra care should be taken when you want to buy a Pittosporum because they only flower to certain degrees. 

Which Pittosporum Is The Best? 

There are numerous varieties of Pittosporum. They also have varying leave appearance, colour, and size. There are dwarf varieties of Pittosporum that are smaller than the ones that are over 2m tall.

You can decide to choose a variety on the basis of its height, colour, leave size and appearance. Whichever criterion you base your decision on, you’ll be adding a wonderful plant to your collection.

Also, no matter the species you opt for, Pittosporums are generally durable and hardy. They are also easy to grow and maintenance. You’ll certainly get value for your money as they always give a facelift to any environment you find them.

The common varieties of Pittosporum available includes Variegatum, Tarata, Silver sheen, Golden star, Silver ball, Garnettii, Irene Patterson, Tom thumb, Tibia, Tenuifolium, Golf ball, Silver queen, etc. 

Pittosporum are generally fast-growing and dense hedging plants. This feature means that you can use one or more of them as an alternative to fences. They are drought resistant, and are popular plants in coastal and hot areas because they are able to tolerate air that contains sea salt.

Pittosporum affords you the freedom to create an entire boundary line with the plant. Ensure you keep the plant in shape with a light clipping. 


What to consider when choosing a Pittosporum plant

Pittosporum Size and Shape

If you allow a Pittosporum plant to grow without pruning, some are capable of forming medium to large shrub with a height of between 2-6m. The smaller ones are usually between 1-2m. 

Ensure you check the final height of the species you want before buying in order to determine if it is suitable for your location. 

Pittosporum as Hedging

Hedging is another important factor you should consider when choosing a Pittosporum plant. They exist in compact to large sizes. They can serve as hedging. You can choose to clip them into simple shapes such as balls. 

Hardiness of Pittosporum

Majority of Pittosporum are hardy in a sunny spot when they are sheltered from strong winds. A couple of them aren’t built to survive outdoors in winter except they are cultivated in coastal, mild areas. 

Pittosporum Leaf Type And Colour

The leaves of Pittosporum are usually shiny and are often variegated and brightly coloured. In the case of Pittosporum tenuifolium, its leaves are contrasted against dark stems. 

Plant lovers and garden owners have varying needs and desires when they cultivate plants. Hence, there isn’t a best Pittosporum species. Factor in these criteria and you won’t go wrong when selecting the ideal plant. Also, have it in mind that whatever your planting needs are, there are enough Pittosporum to choose from. 

What Does A Pittosporum Plant Look Like? 

Your typical Pittosporum plant is shrub or small tree that can vary in appearance between a round ball to a dense upright screen. Its pale green or silvery leaves usually stay on the plant all year long. That means garden owners are afforded the aesthetics it brings throughout the year.

The flowers of Pittosporum are well hidden among the foliage and are usually small in size. However, it should be noted that Pittosporum are not grown for their flowers. 

What Is Pittosporum Used For?

There are several uses of Pittosporum. One of them is its use as a hedge. 

Pittosporum Hedges

Cultivating this plant as a hedge is a good way of creating privacy within your property. That means neighbours and passers-by will not be able to see through your garden or home. 

The fact that they are fast-growing and require little amount of maintenance ensure that they are suitable for different climates. Below are some tips that you can deploy in growing Pittosporum as a hedge.

  • The ideal sunlight position for Pittosporum plants are full sun or partial shade.
  • Ensure you grow the plant in well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. Although it is important to state that Pittosporum plants can survive in most soil types. It is advisable to dig some broken down compost or manure into the soil before planting. 
  • They are capable of growing up to 4m in height. Hence regular pruning is needed to maintain a reasonable height. 
  • Pittosporum plants are known to require little amount of maintenance. However, make sure you water the young plants when they are becoming established. Also, ensure you water them if the weather is hot or dry in the summer. 
  • Slow release fertiliser should be used on the plant once or twice per year. Liquid fertiliser is recommended in early spring. It should be applied just before the new growth appears. 
  • Pruning should be done regularly to help create a thick dense hedge.

Whichever variety you opt for, these tips will help you make a hedge out of your Pittosporum. 

Pittosporum Screens for privacy in the garden

They have an amazing ability to grow into a screen that is dense to create some form of privacy. The benefit is that, the screen will be light as well as airy. Below are some tips to grow your Pittosporum plant into a screen.

  • Pittosporum plants can tolerate many types of soil including clay. 
  • It is advisable that you choose a variety that will grow to become as big as the type of screen you desire. If you wish to have a big screen, then you should go for Pittosporum tenuifolium. More: How big do pittosporum grow?
  • Taller varieties of the Pittosporum plants have the tendency to grow faster compared to shorter ones. 
  • You should cultivate your Pittosporum under full sun, although they can thrive in partial shade as well. Expose the plants to six hours or more of sunlight in order to get a nice full screen. If you do not expose them to a minimum of four hours of sunlight, your plants may lose their density. 
  • It is important that your space your Pittosporum plant. The minimum spacing should be 0.9m.
  • Ensure that you add planting mix during cultivation. It should be a 50:50 ratio with a native soil.
  • Mulching the surface around new Pittosporum plants so as to help them retain moisture as they become established. It is advisable to also keep the mulch a few inches from the trunks of the plants.
  • Although they are not often in need of water, you need to provide a regular source of irrigation so that they can become full. 
  • Continuous fertiliser application during spring through to fall is crucial to getting good initial growth early on. Application of fertiliser is also important if you intend to maintain a full lush green screen. 
  • Trim selectively with pruners to create an open screen that permits the entry of light and one that is not completely solid.
  • In order to create a denser, thicker hedge, ensure you prune with a hedge trimmer. Start shearing the plants back six inches before they reach full size. Then allow them to grow 0.3m before shearing them six inches again. 
  • It is important you do not allow a screen to grow more than six inches beyond the size you desire. If this happens, it will become patchy and take time to fill back when you prune it.

The following are Pittosporum varieties you can consider to cultivate for screens. 

  • Pittosporum tenuifolium “Silver Magic”, which has small variegated leaves that are grey and lime green in colour with pink hints.
  • Pittosporum tenuifolium “Silver Sheen” with leaves that are small and pewter blue in colour and has a metallic sheen.
  • Pittosporum tenuifolium “Harley Botanica”, which has small, bright lemon coloured leaves.
  • Pittosporum tenuifolium “Wrinkled Blue”, with small, ice blue coloured leaves with wrinkled edges. 
  • Pittosporum tenuifolium “Marjorie Channon”, which has a medium sized leaves that are olive green in colour with white margin.

Choosing any of these varieties for the screen will certainly give you the desired result. Ensure you follow all the tips we have provided.


How Much Space Does Pittosporum Need? 

Pittosporum plants are cultivated for several reasons. If you are cultivating them for screens or hedge, then the recommended spacing is around 1m. This is because majority of them are capable of growing up to 2m in height. 


Is Pittosporum An Evergreen?

Pittosporum are evergreen shrubs that are capable of retaining its leaves throughout the year. These evergreen shrubs are ideal for sheltered, or sunny locations. Their evergreen nature makes them one of the plants you should add to you collection. 

Caring For Your Pittosporum

Although Pittosporum requires little amount of maintenance, there are certain things you need to do in order to maximise its growth. It is a wonderful plant if proper and adequate care are considered. The following are some useful care tips. MORE: Mega Pittosporum GROW GUIDE here

  • It is important that you cultivate in a well-drained, fertile, and moist soil. This plant is capable of growing taller when planted in shades but it would will naturally assume its round shape.
  • Establishing deep and extensive root system is important for Pittosporum plants. Hence ensure you provide it with an inch of water every 5 to 7 days. If left without water for a long time, the plant begins to show some signs of wear, although it is moderately drought tolerant. 
  • Practice mulching in order to keep the plant’s roots cool and preserve moisture. Dried leaves, wood bark, and grass clippings are some organic mulch you can use.
  • You may have personal preference when it comes to fertilisers. However, it is advisable to use spread fertiliser granules or foliar spray on the soil above the drip line. Take care so you don’t overfeed the plant.
  • Do not forget to irrigate thoroughly. 
  • Make regular inspection of the lower sides of the plant’s foliage a habit. Pests like aphids, cotton cushion scale, and mealybug are usually attracted to the plant. You can deter pests with a gush of water from a hose. 
  • Plants that are infected with leaf spot can be treated using fungicide. It is also advisable to prune parts of the plant that is infected and discard. This will help prevent the spread of fungal disease. 
  • Sharp and sterilised pruning shears should be used to cut wayward, diseased, damaged, or dying branches from the shrub. Ensure you collect and discard plant clippings. 

How Do Your Propagate Pittosporum?

Propagation of Pittosporum can be done in several ways. READ More: Propagating Pittosporum

Propagating Pittosporum by Layering 

This is the easiest method of propagating Pittosporum plants. It is advisable to do this in spring. Layer its young shoots growing close to the ground. 

Propagating Pittosporum by Cuttings 

This method is propagation is done by taking semi-ripe cuttings from the current season’s growth. The ideal time to do this is in late summer and early autumn. Cuttings should be between 6-8cm.

Propagating Pittosporum by Sowing Seeds

Start by collecting the sticky seeds when you split open its capsules. Then clean away the sticky covering with soap. Plant the seeds in trays or pots containing seed compost. Then keep at a temperature of between 12-15 degree Celsius. 

It is important that you know that germination will be slow hence you need to be patient. The seeds will take two or more months to germinate. The plant that will result from the seed may not be exactly like parent plant, particularly the cultivars that are variegated and have coloured leaves. 


Wrapping It Up

We have provided adequate information to help you make informed decisions about Pittosporum. Whichever variety you go for, it is advisable that you follow the tips given in the article to get the best out of it. Pittosporum plants are wonderful addition to your garden or home. Their low maintenance property means you don’t have to go overboard to nurture them. 

  • Pittosporum is a genus of 200 species of plants that belong to the family Pittosporaceae. They are found in Australasia, Oceania, some parts of Africa, and Eastern Asia.
  • Pittosporum can exist as shrubs or small trees and are known for their leathery leaves and bell- or tubular-shaped flowers that can be solitary or grouped in inflorescence, or apical.
  • Pittosporum tobira is the most popular species with leathery, oval, and glossy leaves that are green in color and yellowish-white flowers that start to grow from April to July in their apical panicles. Other species include Pittosporum tenuifolium, Pittosporum undulatum, and Pittosporum resiniferum.
  • Pittosporum can be used as hedging or to create privacy screens due to their fast-growing and dense nature. They are drought-resistant and suitable for coastal and hot areas.
  • When choosing a Pittosporum plant, consider its size and shape, hardiness, and leaf type and color.
  • Pittosporum requires little maintenance but needs well-drained, fertile, and moist soil, as well as regular watering, fertilizing, and inspection for pests and fungal diseases.
  • Pittosporum can be propagated through layering, cuttings, or seeds.


Last Modified: May 6, 2023