Scientific: Pittosporum tobira
Common: Japanese pittosporum
Family: Pittosporaceae
Origin: China and Japan

Pronounciation: Pit-to-SPOR-um to-BI-ra

Hardiness zones
USDA 8-11

Landscape Use: Japanese pittosporum is a common common old fashioned shrub for mesic landscape design themes in Phoenix that can be used in may ways: multiple trunk small tree, large informal hedge, foundation, mass plantings (the cultivar 'Wheeler's Dwarf'), large border edgings or entryways, large patio containers, even medium to high light interior landscapes. Note that many of these uses depend on cultivar. Here's a Japanese pittosporum growing indoors in a large container at airport in Seoul, South Korea.

Form & Character: Evergreen shrub, rounded to like, formal in appearance

Growth Habit: Slow to moderate growth rate ranging from 3 feet (dwarf cultivars) to 20 feet (massively mature and old) in height. As noted, the vigor and growth habit is cultivar dependent.

Foliage/texture: Japanese pittosporum has whorled, nearly sessile leaves that are spatulate to obovate in shape, 4 inches long with a prominent midvein, margins sometimes revolute; medium texture.

Flowers & fruits: Small lemon yellow, mock orange-scented flowers, in umbellate clusters, mostly axillary followed by multicarpulate fruit with orange to red sticky seeds.

Seasonal color: None, flowers are too small. Though the fruit seed (bright orange red) may be considered as an accent by some.

Temperature: Actually very hardy in Phoenix, except high heat/high irradiance west exposures of summer can cause damage.

Light: In Phoenix, partial shade is best, NO western exposures, northern exposures are difficult because of the sudden afternoon sun during May to July. Foliar sunscald is a huge problem in Phoenix even with plants located on a north exposure. Eastern exposures are far and away the best in Phoenix.

Soil: Iron chlorosis frequently occurs in Phoenix due to alkaline soil conditions.

Watering: Requires regular applications of water during the summer.

Pruning: Head back slightly to control size or use extensive renewal pruning to rejuvenate overgrown specimens. DO NOT SHEAR Japanese pittosporum.....EVER!!!

Propagation: Softwood cutting, seed

Disease and pests: Aphids, scale, occasional mites during Summer

Additional comments: P. tobira 'Wheelers Dwarf' is an all green, dwarf cultivar with a dome-like or mushroom cap form to 3-feet tall with a 5-feet wide when mature. It's a dwarf cultivar and looks oh-so cute in a nursery container, but don't underestimate it's eventual size. 'Creme de Mint' is a very dwarf and variegated cultivar with a strongly stunted, mounded appearance. It is great for use as an edging shrub especially in coastal southern California, but MUST have a protected eastern exposure in Phoenix to survive. P. tobira `Variegata' is a variegated form (gray-green leaves and cream white marginal patterns of variegation) with slightly less vigor than the regular species. Like the cultivar 'Creme de Mint', the cultivar 'Variegata' must have an eastern exposure in Phoenix to avoid chronic foliar leaf scorch.

Overall, P. tobira is a serviceable, old-fashioned shrub that is seen in landscapes across the southern United States from the Carolinas to California.