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How to prune overgrown pittosporum

Updated February 21, 2017

Pittosporum is a versatile shrub that rarely needs pruning. It is an evergreen plant native to southern Japan and China and has a rapid growth rate until it reaches around 3 metres (10 feet). The variegated form has attractively mottled white and green leaves with creamy-white flowers. Pittosporum may reach 3.6 metres (12 feet) in height, but it is easily kept smaller with consistent trimming and can even be used as a hedge. The plant has multiple stems and may be trained as a small tree by removing the lower limbs to expose the stems. Pittosporum should be pruned right after flowering to give the new growth time to harden off before winter.

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  1. Step back and look at the shrub. You want to prune it as close to its natural habit as possible. Create a plan of attack so you make the correct cuts.

  2. Use loppers to remove one-third of the heaviest wood in the centre. Cut them out as close to the ground as you can. This brings light and air into the centre of the shrub so it can form healthy new growth.

  3. Prune off the height of the remaining stems to the level where you want them. Take the stems back individually, making the cut 6.5 mm (1/4 inch) above a healthy growth bud, which is visible as a swelling under the wood.

  4. Cut the side shoots back at least 5 cm (2 inches) after you have removed the height. Cut out any suckers at the base of the plant.

  5. Fertilise the plant two weeks after pruning, using an all-purpose fertiliser to stimulate growth. Do not fertilise any later than six to eight weeks before the date of the first frost, or new growth might get damaged. Apply 125 ml (1/2 cup) of fertiliser for each 2.5 cm (1 inch) of trunk diameter.

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Things You'll Need

  • Secateurs
  • Long-handled loppers
  • Fertiliser

About the Author

Bonnie Grant began writing professionally in 1990. She has been published on various websites, specializing in garden-related instructional articles. Grant recently earned a Bachelor of Arts in business management with a hospitality focus from South Seattle Community College.

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