90925A surplus of common names seems to be a common theme for many plants that we thought we knew the names of. The simple Pittosporum tobira, which might be known here by its Latin name, might instead be known as mock orange, Australian laurel, Japanese pittosporum, and Japanese cheesewood. Its native range is about as diverse, including Greece, Japan, Korea and China.

Back in the 1990s, the compact cultivar known as ‘Wheeler’s Dwarf’ was common enough to be as cliché as tam junipers were in the 1950s. There are actually a few other dwarf and variegated cultivars that do not share that reputation. Most are low, dense and mounding. ‘Variegata’, although not a compact dwarf, grows slower and stays smaller than the unvariegated straight species.

Otherwise, Pittosporum tobira gets about ten feet tall and wide. It can eventually get significantly taller, especially if lower growth is pruned away to expose the sculptural trunks within. If shorn as a hedge, it should not be shorn so frequently that the dense foliage is always tattered. Leaves are delightfully glossy and convex. Small trusses of modest pale white flowers are sometimes fragrant.


6 thoughts on “Pittosporum tobira

  1. Oddly enough, I keep a variegated pittosporum as a house plant. It’s almost 20 years old and reminds me of a dinner in Italy (where I first fell in love with the plant). I was seated next to the blooming hedge. Were it not for botanical names, I might never have known what it was.


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    1. In our mild climate, it can be pruned any time. However, I would prefer to not prune it now because it would either continue to look pruned for a long time, or if it tries to regenerate foliage this late in the season, it would get slightly weathered through winter. Where winters are colder, the new foliage could actually get damaged through winter. If possible, I would therefore prefer to wait until the end of winter, when it will regenerate quickly and freshly. Furthermore, because other species of pittosporum are susceptible to diseases that are transmitted during rainy weather, I would prefer to prune it after the rain, or at least when there is a forecast of dry weather for a few days. (That may not be an option in some climates, but the diseases are not likely such a problem in such climates anyway.) It will likely need to be pruned more than once annually, so I would recommend pruning it for the last time a bit earlier in summer for the new growth to mature a bit before autumn. I would have no problem pruning it about a month ago (because it still has some time to grow into October here), but that might be too late in summer in some climates.

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