Pittosporo - Pittosporum

Pittosporo - Pittosporum

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The pittosporum belongs to the pittosporaceae family.
It is a plant native to eastern Asia, Africa and Australia, from which most of the species come, which number around 150.
These are small shrubs and trees, evergreen, semi-rustic and with very ornamental foliage.
They are particularly suitable for growing in greenhouses, in tanks, but also as bushes in gardens in areas with mild climate; in coastal areas they are used to form hedges.
Pitosforo is a very popular and widespread shrub in our country, particularly in the central-northern regions and along the coasts. It grows very well indeed in areas characterized by mild winters and on the other hand it is very appreciated for its beautiful glossy persistent foliage and the very fragrant flowering which reminds, in its sweetness, that of orange trees.

Characteristics of Pitosforo

As we have said, the genus is extremely broad and varied, so making a fitting description for all species is really difficult. The most common pitosfori are characterized by oval or round foliage, coriaceous, dark green, with very shiny lamina. The individual leaves are crowned around the branch. The flowers, in shades of white and lilac, are produced from the beginning to the end of spring, depending on the variety and our climate. They are collected in abundant corymbs and, thanks to the sweet scent they release in the air, they attract many pollinating insects (bees, butterflies, bumblebees). Once faded they evolve, with the arrival of autumn in capsules which then, opening up, reveal abundant seeds, also ornamental due to their bright red color.


Family, genus, species

Pittosporaceae, gen. Pittosporo, more than 200 species
Type of plant Tree or shrub
dimensions 1 to 10 meters (in cultivation)
Foliage persistent
Maintenance low

Ground Not demanding, possibly not clayey or too poor
Rusticitа Moderately resistant (some -12 ° C, others -5 ° C), it fears cold winds
irrigations Resistant to drought, it benefits from frequent irrigation in the summer
Propagation Sowing, cutting
Use Isolated shrub, hedge, vase

Among the main species we recall:Pittosporum tobira

The pittosporo tobira comes from Japan and China, but lives easily in all areas with a mild climate. Generally, it reaches a height that varies between 2-5 meters.
The leaves are obovate, shiny and dark green.
The flowers of this shrub are creamy-yellow; they are delicately scented and bloom from April to September.

Pittosporum crassifolium

The pittosporo crassifolium is a shrub species native to New Zealand.
The maximum height is 5 meters. The leaves are obovate, dark green on the upper side, white or reddish on the lower side.
The flowers are born from April to May, are brown and are followed by white and ovoid fruits.

Pittosporum tenuifolium

The Pittosporo tenuifolio is also a species originating from New Zealand. It differs from the other varieties of this shrub due to the shape of the leaves, which are elongated and have wavy edges of light green color.
The flowers are brown and give off an odor similar to that of vanilla.

Cultivation techniques

Planting should be done at the end of April or in May. The soil must be fertile and well drained.
The position must be in the sun, even full, but sheltered from the winds.
If the pittosporum It is used to form hedges, it is good to respect the distance of about 50/70 cm between one plant and another.
Pruning is carried out in April and has the purpose of restoring form, thinning and strengthening the plant; the branches to be cut will therefore be the most "disordered" ones. The hedges blend every year, from April to June.


Planting in the South

Planting in the North spring
repotting spring
Pruning After the end of flowering
Composting Stallatic in autumn, granular in spring

Autumn, with vernalization
Talea Summer end

Reproduction can take place by seed or cuttings. Sowing must be carried out in March, after the seeds have been separated from the sticky substance that covers them inside the fruit. The seeds must be placed in small pots, and repotting will take place every year. The vases, before being placed as a permanent dwelling, should be placed in cold boxes for a period of 2-3 years. The cuttings are taken from the side semi-mature branches, from May to June; their length must be about 10 cm. After their rooting it is possible to proceed with repotting, always gradually, until, in May of the following year, they can be planted outdoors.

Parasites and Diseases

Particularly dangerous for the pittosporum they are late frosts, which in the most serious cases can also cause the death of the plant.
The pittosforum is subject to attacks by scale insects, which however can be easily eradicated thanks to the use of special products. To notice their presence it is necessary to check the leaves and verify that there are no spots that could be traced back to these unmistakable-looking parasites. If the plant is possible to wash it with water and neutral soap to eliminate the scale insects, otherwise it will be possible to use specific anti-parasite products.

Origins and uses of pitosforo

The pittosporums are trees or shrubs originating in Southeast Asia, particularly in the temperate areas of China and Japan. The genus, which is part of the large Pittosporaceae family, includes about 200 species, very varied in size, appearance and growth habit. In the spontaneous state some species can become really bulky, but those in cultivation are much more manageable and some adapt to grow in a container to decorate, with beautiful persistent leaves, balconies and terraces.
However, they find many uses even in the open ground: they are among the most loved essences for the creation of beautiful and compact hedges, as well as flowers. Their slow growth allows at the same time a good adaptability to the spaces and a low maintenance.

Where to place the pitosforo

The cultivation in the open ground is surely the one that can give greater satisfactions: the plant will in fact grow faster and over time will become almost autonomous.
Pitosforo loves the sun and the heat. We will therefore have to choose, if possible, a position facing South or West or where the plant will be reached by light for most of the day or, if it is not possible, at least in the central hours, the hottest ones.
This of course if we live in an area with mild winters; elsewhere it is important, especially in the coldest months, that the plant is illuminated directly from the first hours of the day and in any case as long as possible. In any case, but especially if we live in the North or on high ground, we must remember that the pitosforo suffers particularly if exposed to rigid winds: we therefore choose to place it near a wall or cover it with non-woven fabric.
On the other hand, it is very resistant to drought and brackish air, typical of coastal areas: it is therefore the right choice to decorate the garden or to create hedges near the sea.


From this point of view it is quite tolerant: it adapts to almost all soils with the exception of those that are excessively clayey and compact. These could cause excessive water stagnation and therefore a deterioration of the root system. If this were our case we will have to work by removing the substrate, at least at a depth of 50 cm. Later, after creating a drainage layer with gravel, we can replace it with a specially prepared mixture: the ideal one is obtained by mixing 1/3 of field soil, 1/3 of soil for green plants and 1/3 of river sand . If desired we can also add a few handfuls of well-seasoned manure.


The well-fringed pitosfori are certainly very resistant to drought and therefore adapt very well to the Mediterranean garden or those areas far from water sources. However, it is true that to obtain good growth and flowering it would be necessary, at least during the hottest months of summer, to supply water quite frequently. If possible, in the absence of rain, we irrigate abundantly at least every 7-15 days, also depending on the texture of our soil.


To have a (relatively) fast growth it is not possible to do without a good fertilization. A good method is to cover the foot of the plants with abundant flour manure in autumn. In addition to improving the texture of the soil it will protect the root system from any unexpected frosts. In spring we will add a few handfuls of slow-release granular fertilizer and then we will incorporate it all to the ground with a light hoe.

Protection from the cold

Cultivation in the open ground should be carried out only where the temperatures never drop below -5 / -10 ° C, especially if prolonged. It should be noted that there are more resistant varieties (even at -12 ° C), but before planting a specimen, if we live in the North, it is good to inquire carefully about these characteristics.
To reduce the impact of cold on the roots it is always a good idea to prepare a thick mulch based on vegetable, straw or healthy leaves. The aerial part benefits from the coverage with special materials, especially if there is the danger of cold winds.

Pitosforo in vase

For the cultivation in container it is advisable to choose specially selected varieties, of moderate size and slow growing. The volume of the pot will still have to be considerable: we will thus avoid operating often on the roots and it will be less likely that the earth bread can freeze completely.
We distribute water when the substrate is dry even at about 10 cm depth. In spring and autumn the administrations may be quite rare, but in summer we pay the utmost attention, especially if we live in the southernmost areas of our peninsula.
In spring it is useful to distribute a little granular slow release fertilizer, with balanced macronutrients or at most a slight preponderance of potassium.
It is advisable to treat the pitosforo, during the summer, as an outdoor plant. We will therefore choose an area reached every day for at least 6 hours of sunshine.
In winter
In northern regions it is strongly recommended to remove the pots during the winter months: very long low temperatures can seriously damage the aerial part and the roots can suffer serious damage if the earth were to freeze completely. It is ideal to place them in a cold or even tempered greenhouse (where the thermometer is at 7 ° C at night). Lighting should be at least good.
If we do not have this possibility, we cover the crown with transparent plastic or multiple layers of non-woven fabric. The vase instead should be isolated with special material (rock wool, polystyrene).
We drastically reduce irrigation to avoid rotting.


Specimens that grow freely do not need pruning, unless you want to force their renewal.
On the other hand, hedges, especially if they are formal, should be kept in the best possible shape. We always intervene in spring, at the end of flowering. In this way we will have a regrowth that will allow new buds the following year.
The pitosfori in pot grow very slowly and generally do not require interventions, if not minimal.

Pittosporo - Pittosporum: Pitosforo variety

The tobira, tenuifolium and heterophyllus species are easily found on the market, also available in many cultivars.
The pitosforo tobira it has a nice rounded habit, suitable for hedges. It can grow up to 10 meters and is rather rustic (up to -10 ° C). The leaves are elongated and shiny, while the abundant white and yellow flowers are sweetly scented. There are dwarf cultivars (at most one meter in height), others with variegated leaves,
The pitosforo heterophyllum It is of medium size (up to 3 meters high). It has beautiful tender green leaves or very fragrant yellow flowers. Among the most rustic of all (bears even - 12 ° C). Also suitable for slightly shaded locations.
The pitosforo tenuifolium it grows up to 5 meters and produces beautiful fragrant flowers, generally in bright purple. Medium rustic (up to -10 ° C). There are many interesting cultivars: Irìne Paterson ”with cream leaves with pink shades; "Tom Thumb", up to 1 meter and bronze foliage; "Purpureum" up to 2 meters, intense purple leaves; "Silver Magic" silver leaves with light green and cream streaks, not very rustic. Up to 3 meters. "Silver Queen" up to 4 meters, green leaves with cream margin.
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