The Pitosforo (Pittosporum ssp.) Is a shrub or a small tree, in nature there are various species, originating in Africa, Asia and Australia; in the garden in Italy only a couple of species are used, and certainly the most common is Pittosporum tobira, native to Japan and China. It is a large shrub, fairly slow growing, evergreen, with spatulate leaves, often gathered in bunches, especially at the apex of the branches; they are dark green, shiny and are characterized by a showy light vein that crosses the leaf in the center. In the spring i pitosfori they produce small, fleshy white flowers that become cream with each passing day; they are very fragrant and bloom together in racemes or panicles; the shrub with time tends to assume a roundish habit, but is often pruned to take on the most varied forms; the pitosfori they are widely used to compose compact and dense hedges. After flowering, the pitosfori produce semi-woody berries, inside which there are fertile seeds, covered with a resinous pulp; the name of the plants derives from this characteristic, in fact Pittosporum in Greek means resinous seeds.
General characteristics of Pitosforo
The genus Pitosforo belongs to the Pittosporaceae family. This genus is composed of about 200 species, mostly originating from New Zealand, from Australia. Some very widespread in our country (such as the tenuifolium or the tobira) are instead endemic to China and Japan.
In nature, especially in places of origin, they have arboreal growth and can even reach 20 meters in height. Cultivated by man, on the other hand, they rarely exceed 10 meters, even in regions with rather mild winters.
In any case they have found a great diffusion in the gardens because they are very suitable for the creation of hedges and barriers. They also live very well in a container and therefore can be used to delimit open spaces, making it easy to maintain (given also the rather slow growth, great longevity and extreme simplicity of pruning). Precisely for these purposes, dwarf varieties or variegated foliage with particular colors have been selected.
If we add their great resistance to the widespread conditions along the coasts (soils and brackish air) and the good rusticity of the most widespread varieties, we can only count them among the best flowering shrubs ever.
In Italy, Pittosporum tobira is particularly successful as it is a hardy and vigorous shrub; these plants tolerate drought and cold well, and can remain outdoors even with minimum temperatures close to -10 ° C; occasionally they can be ruined by the very intense and prolonged cold, and therefore in the regions placed near the mountains they are often cultivated in pots, so that they can be placed in the shelter of a terrace in case of very intense cold.
The pitosfori love to be positioned in a very sunny place, or even in partial shade, but they certainly develop badly if placed in a shaded area of the garden. They are rustic plants, which in most of our peninsula are placed in the garden, in the ground, without needing any protection; in areas with very cold winters it is advisable to find a location in the pitosforo sheltered from the winter wind. However, they are rustic shrubs, which generally are not ruined by the climate nor by the salty wind; they are in fact widely used for street furniture in seaside areas.
The plants which have just settled down may need watering, during the late spring and summer, to favor engraftment; a pitosforo plant for some years can easily settle for the water supplied by the weather, in order to favor its correct establishment.
At the end of winter it spreads at the foot of the shrub of a slow release granular fertilizer, to periodically enrich the soil with mineral salts.
The specimens grown in pots need some more watering, but in any case these shrubs bear drought quite well; every 2-3 years it is advisable to change the soil contained in the pots, using good universal soil. They prefer a well-drained soil, so both in pots and in the ground we avoid keeping our pitosforo always wet, or placing it in an area of the garden characterized by water stagnations.
The tobira pitosfori tend to become large shrubs, if we are forced to contain their size, it is advisable to intervene with pruning after flowering, so as to be able to enjoy the flowers.
General description of the pitosforo
The foliage is very shiny and ornamental. Describing it for the whole genre is difficult because the differences between one species and another can also be marked. Generally they are rather leathery, small, from round to oval. The color in nature is dark green, but purpura, glaucous or forms with streaks or cream spots can also be found. They are usually arranged so as to create rosettes or spirals around the stems.
The most widespread in cultivation are the pittosporum tobira, the tenuifolium and the heterophyllus. They are characterized by a beautiful and abundant spring flowering. Corollas are collected in rounded, white or purplish corymbs. Their pleasantness is also enhanced by the powerful scent emanated, similar to that of orange trees in bloom. In the autumn, capsule-shaped fruits are then produced. Inside are the seeds, of a beautiful bright red, which are released on the ground when they reach maturity.
These shrubs prefer the sunny and warm position. In these conditions they grow with a good rhythm and, above all, they manage to bloom abundantly.
If we live in a place with severe winters it will be extremely important, to reduce the impact of frost, to place the plants in sheltered positions. The ideal is to place them against a wall exposed to the South. In this way they will not be lashed by the icy wind and will be able to enjoy the heat accumulated by the bricks during the day.
If we live in coastal areas or in the central south (and therefore with a milder climate) we will be able to insert the specimens even in partial shade. Some cultivars (especially the variegated ones) are better suited to this position.
On this front the pitosforo is rather tolerant. Only soils that are too compact, calcareous or dry should be avoided. The ideal soil must be deep, rich in organic matter, well ventilated. However, we always prepare a good draining layer on the bottom of the hole in order to avoid water stagnation.
If we do not have a garden we can still opt for growing in containers, to which this shrub fits perfectly. In this case it will always be a good idea to use varieties from the contained development and to use vessels of a certain size.
Most pitosfori can grow quite well even in dry soil. However, to always have beautiful and vital plants it is important to irrigate with a certain regularity, especially in the case of prolonged drought and during the hottest months of summer.
To encourage growth and flowering, it is good in the autumn to mulch the foot of the shrubs with a good amount of flour or pelleted manure possibly assisted by a few handfuls of cornunghia.
In spring, instead, it will be good to distribute a few handfuls of granular slow release fertilizer for flowering plants.
In our country the most common pitosfori grow well in all coastal regions and in the Center-South.
If instead we live in the northern regions the advice is to carefully mulch the foot of the specimens and possibly cover them with one or two veils of non-woven fabric.
As with all shrubs, the best time for planting is late autumn, when the soil is neither frozen nor excessively wet. Proceeding in this period the plant will have the whole winter to stabilize and begin to take root. Consequently from the first year we will be able to have some more satisfaction, in particular greater growth and flowering.
The spring plantation (late February-early March) is instead to be preferred in those areas where winters are always rather harsh. In that case the plants may still be too fragile and damaged.
Pitosforo in full ground
First of all we must carefully evaluate the texture in our soil. If it is too heavy, you should mix a good amount of coarse sand and soil for flowering plants. If it turns out to be too light and sandy, we can process it by incorporating organic fertilizer as a very mature manure.
On the bottom of the hole (wide and about 1 meter deep) we will create a drainage layer with gravel or shards. After a few handfuls of manure we will insert our plant (making sure that the roots are free and there are no damaged, dead or rotting phenomena. In that case it will be good to eliminate them with well sharpened scissors). We add earth so that the collar is covered and we compress well and we irrigate.
If we want to make a hedge we can instead dig a furrow directly and insert the specimens at a distance of about 1 meter from each other.
In the container we prepare on the bottom an excellent draining layer composed of gravel, expanded clay or other material. The ideal substrate is composed of a part of soil, a part of coarse sand and a part of humus or manure.
For specimens that are part of a hedge (and therefore with the purpose of maintaining the shape) it will be necessary to intervene at the end of flowering.
If you want to do a maintenance and rejuvenation pruning instead we will have to intervene towards February eliminating all the dead, sick or crossing branches with others. The ideal is to preserve only the branches that go outwards, so that the specimen is well ventilated and orderly.
Generally the growth is very slow in pot. It is therefore unusual for our intervention to become necessary.
Pests and diseases
The pittosporum are quite resistant. They can, however, be attacked in the spring by the cochineal. This must be treated with mineral oil activated by insecticides (possibly systemic).
We intervene as soon as possible to prevent the leaves from being disfigured by the smoke.
We also pay attention to the possible presence of oziorrinco. If we see cut leaves we intervene as soon as possible with specific products.
The most common species of pitosforo are the tobira, tenuifolium and heterophyllus. Here is a small diagram with the most interesting cultivars and their peculiar characteristics.
|Species or variety||Color of flowers and leaves||Size and special features||Rusticitа|
Pale yellow flowers, very fragrant. Light green leaves
|Up to three meters||Very rustic, it bears the partial shade|
Scented purple flowers. Evergreen foliage with reddish twigs
|Up to 5 meters||Up to a maximum of -10 ° C|
|Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Irene Paterson'|
Dark purple flowers Cream colored leaves with pink shades during the winter
|Up to 1.5 meters||Short frosts, up to -10 ° C|
|Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Silver Magic'|
Small purple flowers and persistent silver leaves with white stripes
|Up to 3 meters, rounded||Up to -5 ° C|
|Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Silver Queen'|
Purple flowers and light green leaves with a cream margin
|Up to 4 meters, slow growth||Short frosts up to -10 °|
|Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Tom Thumb'|
Purple flowers and bronze leaves
|Up to 1 meter, very compact||Up to -10 ° C|
White and yellow flowers, bright and elongated leaves
|Rounded habit, up to 10 meters||Up to -10 ° C, but very wind resistant|
|Pittosporum tobira 'Nana'|
White flowers, very fragrant
|Very compact, up to 90 cm||Up to -10 ° C|
|Pittosporum tobira 'Variegata'|
White and yellow flowers and cream variegated leaves
|Up to 3 meters It supports calcareous soils||Up to -10 ° C. resists wind and salt|