Japanese mock orange (Pittosporum tobira) is an evergreen member of the Pittosporum family that may grow as a small tree or large shrub. The plant is characterised by waxy, fragrant white flowers and whorls of leathery, glossy leaves that may grow up to 5 inches long. Flowers have a sweet fragrance that is reminiscent of an orange tree.
Japanese mock orange may grow to be up to 15 feet tall, with a similar spread. Shrubs grown in the shade tend to be taller and narrower than those grown in full sunlight. The plant produces glossy green leaves that are dull olive green on the undersides. The fragrant blooms give way to brown seed pods, which split to reveal sticky, reddish brown seeds. Flowers appear in mid-spring, from April to May.
Cultivars include Wheeler's Dwarf and Variegata. Wheeler's dwarf grows to a mature height of about 2 feet, producing a compact, densely branched habit. The plant is often used as a ground cover. Variegata grows to be about 5 feet tall, producing 2- to 5-inch-long, spoon-shaped leaves that are greyish green and marked with irregular white streaks.
Japanese mock orange hails from China and Japan. The plant is a popular landscape ornamental across the globe, and is particularly prominent in Florida, the Gulf Coast and the Pacific Northwest. Japanese mock orange is hardy to U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zones 8 to 10, where it will grow in full sunlight or partial shade. The plant works well as a naturalising hedge or screen, though it may also be pruned to give it a more formal appearance.
Japanese mock orange isn't picky about soil, although it will not survive in soils that are consistently waterlogged or flooded. Once established, the plant is quite drought-tolerant. Water regularly to keep the plant looking fresh, especially during the summer. Japanese mock orange is susceptible to scale and aphids. Wash off aphids with a steady stream of water and control scale with horticultural oil. Japanese mock orange may be propagated by cuttings or by seed.
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