By Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
Japanese Pittosporum is a useful ornamental plant for hedges, border plantings, as a specimen or in containers. Read this article to learn more about growing this shrub.
Pittosporums are evergreen shrubs that are available in many varieties. They are grown in warm climates (USDA hardiness zones 8 to 10). Since they are not cold resistant, pittosporums can be damaged if temperatures dip into the low 20s. They should be planted in full sun or partial shade, and can be used as an ornamental shrub or hedge. The most common is the Japanese pittosporum (Pittosporum tobira).
Dig a hole that is twice as wide and deep as the pittosporum’s container.
Prepare the soil. Mix in 4 to 6 inches of peat moss or compost to the soil that was just dug out. This will lighten it and make it more conducive to water drainage.
Backfill the amended soil so the hole is only as deep as the container or root ball.
Take the shrub out of the container (keep the soil). Alternatively, remove the netting or burlap around the root ball and loosen the roots with your hands.
Set the pittosporum in the hole. Be sure it is straight, and backfill the soil until the hole is filled. Pack the soil down firmly to get rid of any voids or air pockets.
Space multiple plants about 3 feet apart. If you are planting pittosporum as a hedge or screen, you can plant them as close together as 1-1/2 feet.
Water your newly planted shrub well after planting. Pittosporums are drought resistant, so you do not need to water them very often. For them to thrive, they should be watered about an inch a week if rainfall is lacking.
Add mulch for water retention, if desired. A couple inches of mulch, such as bark, will suffice.
Leaves: Evergreen leaves are long and oval in shape and 1½ to 3½ inches long. New growth is bronzy-red.
Flowers/Fruit: Small white clusters of flowers with an unpleasant smell appear in mid to late spring and are followed by red, berrylike fruits that later turn black. Flowers are smaller and appear later than those of red tip photinia.
Size & Growth Rate: Japanese photinia grows 10 to 12 feet tall and wide and is a moderate to fast growing plant.
Culture: See Red Tip Photinia.
Landscape Use: See Red Tip Photinia.
Diseases: Japanese photinia is highly susceptible to Entomosporium leaf spot, and as such its use for hedging is not recommended.