Mostly originating from Southeast Asia and Japan, pittosporums are hardy, easy-to-grow evergreen shrubs or small trees commonly used as foundation plantings or hedges. The most popular variety is the Japanese pittosporum Pittosporum tobiara. Most varieties grow 8 to 12 feet tall and 12 to 18 feet wide, producing fragrant, five-petal blooms and deep green, thick, glossy foliage. Dwarf varieties that mature at 3 to 4 feet are also available, thus providing gardeners varied choice according to the available space. Provide pittosporums basic care so the plants thrive and remain healthy.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Organic mulch
- General-purpose fertiliser
- Insecticidal soap solution
- Spray bottle
- Pruning shears
Plant the desired variety of pittosporum in well-draining soil exposed to full sunlight or partial shade. Although the plant grows taller in shaded spots, it retains its naturally rounded shape. Space multiple pittosporum plants three to five feet apart.
Provide the pittosporum plant 1 inch of water every five to seven days so it establishes a deep and extensive root system. Although moderately drought tolerant, pittosporums begin to show signs of wear if the soil is left too dry. Mulching the soil around the plant helps preserve moisture and keeps roots cool. Use organic mulches such as dried leaves, grass clippings or wood bark.
Feed the plant a well-balanced, general-purpose fertiliser in spring, just before new growth occurs. Depending on personal preference, use a foliar spray or spread fertiliser granules on the soil above the drip line and irrigate thoroughly. Follow label directions for dosage rates to prevent overfeeding the plant.
Inspect the lower sides of the foliage for pests such as aphids, mealybugs and cottony cushion scale. Deter the pests with a fast gush of water from a hose, or spray insecticidal soap solution or horticultural oil over infestations. Treat leaf spots with a fungicide. Prune infected parts of the plant and discard to prevent the fungal disease from spreading.
Prune the pittosporum in winter to maintain shape, size and appearance. Use sharp, sterilised pruning shears to cut wayward, damaged, dying or diseased branches from the shrub. Collect plant clippings and discard.
Tips and warnings
- To prevent root rot, avoid planting pittosporums in spots where water accumulates after a rain. Left untreated, the damaging disease kills the entire plant.
- Pittosporum tolerates salt, making it a suitable choice for planting near a beach or a coastal area.
- Provide the pittosporum good air circulation and clean debris to reduce chances of leaf spot diseases.
- Avoid overhead watering since it increases the chances of fungal diseases.
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- Floridata; Pittosporum Tobira; Jack Scheper; April 2004
- University of Florida IFAS Extension; Japanese Pittosporum; Edward F. Gilman; 2009
- University of Florida IFAS Extension; Variegated Pittosporum; Edward F. Gilman; 2009
- Clemson Cooperative Extension; Pittosporum; Karen Russ; March 2007
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