Japanese Pittosporum, or Pittosporum tobira, is a native plant of Japan and is grown around the world as a flowering bush or for other ornamental purposes.
The plant producing sweet-smelling white blooms can grow to become a 10m tall tree in nature. Japanese Pittosporum can be grown as a houseplant, a bush, or a small tree.
Along with having unique and showy foliage, this plant is incredibly resilient. It can withstand everything from drought spells to salt sprays.
Japanese Pittosporum Care
Japanese Pittosporum can do well in any kind of soil as long as it’s well-draining. It can do well in full sun as well as shade. It will require frequent watering, but the soil needs to drain well too. Water when the top layer of soil dries. Ideal growing temperatures are 55-85°F (12-30°C).
The Japanese Pittosporum plant does not have any specific soil requirements and is highly resilient as it can grow in a wide variety of different soil types. It can tolerate salty, clayey, or sandy soils. Regardless of the soil type, good drainage is a must. Soil pH levels 6-7 are recommended.
The ability of this seemingly delicate flowering plant to grow in the most challenging soils is genuinely remarkable.
Not only can it tolerate acidic to basic soil types, but it can also even grow in coastal areas where the soil is predominantly salty and sandy.
However, good soil drainage is a must for Japanese Pittosporum as they are very susceptible to root rot in heavy, waterlogged soils.
You can use regular houseplant potting mix combined with sand or other organic material such as pine bark or organic compost to enhance drainage and aeration.
Good water retention ability is also an important trait the soil should have for growing healthy Pittosporum plants. Adding organic ingredients and water soaking material such as pot break will do the job perfectly.
Mulching the soil with organic material is an excellent option. Not only does the mulch prevent moisture from escaping from the soil, but it also supplies the plant with much-needed nutrients.
Japanese Pittosporum is a very dynamic plant when it comes to light requirements. It can do well in full sun as well as shade. They like direct sunlight for more than 6 hours a day and can do equally well in bright indirect light. This plant can be grown indoors, given lighting conditions are met.
When planting in the ground, give the Japanese Pittosporum a place where they can enjoy the sunlight for the most part of the day. They will do very well if grown under the dappled shade of a tree.
This plant will not mind even if you plant it somewhere that gets unobstructed sunlight all day long.
However, if you live in a hot climate where the summer sun can get really harsh, it is better to plant near a wall, so they are shaded from the intense afternoon sun.
When growing in containers, putting this plant in direct sunlight is not advised as the soil can quickly dry out and leave the plant thirsty.
If direct sunlight enters through the window, keep the plant out of the sunrays as they can get intensified after crossing the glass window and cause sunburn on the plant’s foliage.
Japanese Pittosporum requires regular amounts of water. It will require frequent watering, but the soil needs to drain well too. Water when the top layer of soil dries. When grown in the ground, this plant will rarely need water and will grow well on its own, even without irrigation.
You might notice the difference in the Japanese Pittosporum plant’s watering requirements when grown in the ground and in pots.
The fact that it needs regular watering in pots and can do well without irrigation in the ground will confuse you, but here’s an explanation.
The Japanese Pittosporum is drought-resistant, not because it does not need a lot of water. But it boasts this quality because of its ability to find water in the ground when not irrigated.
When this plant is grown in a pot, the roots cannot grow down deep in search of water and will need to make do with whatever water you provide the plant.
When growing in pots, avoid overwatering by checking the soil for moisture before you water. The plant will lose all its leaves when overwatered and slowly die if not treated.
Avoid watering over the foliage, and always water this plant directly on the soil or at the trunk base. Water sitting too long on the leaves can lead to fungal diseases on the foliage.
Japanese Pittosporum is a really cold-hardy plant and can tolerate temperatures as low as 5°F (-15°C). This means they can be grown outdoors year-round in USDA Hardiness zones 8-11. The ideal growing temperatures for this plant are 55-85°F (12-30°C).
You can grow this plant outdoor year-round if the minimum winter temperatures do not fall below the 5°F (-15°C) mark.
However, pot-grown plants are recommended to be placed in a protected environment to avoid frost damage.
You also need to protect the Pittosporum plant from intense heat in the summer.
This plant does not have any particular humidity requirements and will do well just about in any humidity conditions. It naturally grows in coastal areas where humidity levels can fluctuate to extreme highs or lows.
You will not have to worry about the humidity requirements for a Japanese Pittosporum plant. However, you still need to provide this plant with adequate ventilation.
Inadequate ventilation can result in numerous fungal foliar diseases.
You can feed your Japanese Pittosporum with monthly or fortnightly doses of fertilizer in the growing season, from March to September. As your Pittosporum plant grows older, you can increase the fertilizer doses. Using 12-12-17 or all-organic fertilizer is recommended.
Fertilizing Japanese Pittosporum is a good practice to encourage healthy and bushy foliage growth as well as vivid blooms.
If you are already using a potting mix rich in organic material or if your garden soil is naturally fertile, you might never need to fertilize the plant.
But if you do want to go the distance to ensure your Japanese Pittosporum does well, using slow-release organic fertilizer is best. You can also use water-soluble fertilizer for indoor plants.
Make sure you water your plant well before fertilizing. An immediate dose of fertilizer without water can make the roots burn.
Japanese Pittosporum is a moderate to slow-growing plant with curled, glossy leaves. When allowed to grow freely, these plants can reach heights of 12 feet with a canopy spread of 18 feet. Clusters of fragrant white flowers are produced at the ends of stems in the growing season.
The leaves of this plant grow on the ends of stems, forming a sort of fan shape. When grown as a dense bush, the leaves completely enclose the inside of the bush with their fan-like arrangements.
The leaves have a curled-up shape, with the midrib of the tree on top and the sides curling under it.
The unique look of the leaves and their habit of forming close whorls at the ends of stems make this plant an excellent specimen for styled bushes and landscaping.
As the leaves tend to cover the bush completely, the Japanese Pittosporum is an excellent plant to cultivate for garden privacy.
Growth rate is moderate when the plant is young. As it grows, growth speed also slows down.
When planting in the ground, make sure the soil around the Japanese Pittosporum plant is light and rich in organic matter. If growing in a pot, you can grow the Pittosporum plant in pots made of ceramic or clay for ornamental purposes. However, clay is always recommended.
If your garden soil is heavy, you can’t just dig a hole and shove the Japanese Pittosporum in. This plant needs light soil, which is well-draining and high in organic matter for the plant to grow well.
Dig a large hole, at least one meter, on all sides of where you plan to plant the rootball. Fill it with a mixture of sand, organic compost, and slow-releasing fertilizer.
This will ensure the speedy and healthy growth of the Japanese Pittosporum bush and will make it established in the ground pretty fast.
You might soon not need to water it as it will be finding its water on its own.
If potting, it is recommended to use a relatively large and deep pot for this plant. The Pittosporum is not supposed to be a small plant and will look good only when it grows big.
And for a plant to grow big, it needs its roots to grow big to balance and sustain itself. A larger pot, at least 18cm in diameter and 3 feet in height, is recommended.
Pots made out of clay are always a better choice as it allows for soil aeration and keeps the plant protected from root rot.
Putting a layer of small pebbles or rocks to line the bottom of the pot provides an additional boost to soil drainage.
Pittosporum tobira reacts very well to pruning, and it is very much needed to keep the plant to the desired shape and size. It can tolerate very hard pruning. As it is not a rampant grower, you will not have to prune it as regularly.
When growing the Japanese Pittosporum in your home or garden, you can easily take care of the pruning requirements with a light pinching operation rather than a full-fledged pruning.
Just by removing the tips of growing stems, you can stop the branch from growing longer. This will encourage bushier growth while keeping the plant to size.
The benefits of pinching stems in this way are that it wastes minimal foliage and saves a lot of time.
Japanese Pittosporum Plant Propagation
Japanese Pittosporum propagation can be done easily through cuttings. Take cuttings from a healthy plant by making a slanting cut and plant them in a moist starting mix. Keep the cuttings in a shaded and warm place. Covering them with a plastic bag is a good practice to prevent moisture escape.
Propagation should be done in spring, as chances of success in hot weather are bleak.
Making the slant cut is an important part of Japanese Pittosporum propagation as it allows the cutting to absorb the maximum amount of water through the cut surface and keep the leaves alive.
There should be no more than two leaves on each cutting so that excess moisture is not lost through leaf transpiration.
Common Problems with Japanese Pittosporum
Although the Pittosporum tobira is a resilient species that can tolerate drought to salt sprays, it can contract some diseases when neglected and left in unfavorable conditions.
Pittosporum plants are particularly susceptible to root rot in heavy, poorly drained soils. To prevent the risk of root rot, you not only need to keep watering practice under check but also use well-draining soil.
Root rot can often be treated if caught in time. But most plant parents fail to diagnose the issue early on, and the root rot condition keeps getting severer until the plant crosses the point of no return.
Pittosporum suckers are insects that suck on the sap of the plant and infect the plant with pathogens that lead to distorted growth. These insects primarily infect the Pittosporum species.
The site where an insect bites into the plant becomes a blister or scar and remains on the leaf for the whole lifespan of the leaf.
Whether growing in the ground as a bush or in a pot for its ornamental features, the Japanese Pittosporum is a truly unique, exotic addition to your collection of houseplants.
Take care of its soil requirements and give the water it needs in the initial stages, and you’ll have a houseplant that can sustain itself a lifetime.
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.