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Pittosporum tobira 'Variegata' Variegated Pittosporum

Edward F. Gilman, Ryan W. Klein, and Gail Hansen


Glossy, creamy white and green variegated leaves, easy care, and an open, round canopy make pittosporum a popular landscape shrub. However, rapid growth when young makes this a fairly high maintenance shrub, requiring frequent pruning. Growth does slow with age as the plant reaches about 10 feet tall. Clusters of creamy white flowers with a fragrance similar to orange blossoms appear in spring, but they are rarely seen on shrubs because they are frequently pruned off with the regular trimming required to keep the plant in check. Flowers also get lost in the green and white foliage. It is really better suited as a small tree with lower branches removed to reveal the multi-stemmed trunk, and branches should be left unpruned to allow the flowers to show in the spring. Prune after the flower display. Careful training and pruning can create an ornamental small tree form.

Full Form - Pittosporum tobira 'Variegata': Variegated Pittosporum
Figure 1. Full Form - Pittosporum tobira 'Variegata': Variegated pittosporum.
Credit: Edward F. Gilman, UF/IFAS


Leaf - Pittosporum tobira 'Variegata': Variegated Pittosporum
Figure 2. Leaf - Pittosporum tobira 'Variegata': Variegated pittosporum
Credit: Edward F. Gilman, UF/IFAS

General Information

Scientific name: Pittosporum tobira 'Variegata'

Pronunciation: pit-tuss-SPOR-rum toe-BYE-ruh

Common name(s): variegated pittosporum

Family: Pittosporaceae

Plant type: shrub

USDA hardiness zones: 8 through 11 (Figure 3)

Planting month for zone 8: year-round

Planting month for zone 9: year-round

Planting month for zone 10 and 11: year-round

Origin: not native to North America

Invasive potential: not known to be invasive

Uses: screen; hedge; border; mass planting; container or aboveground planter; trained as a standard

Availability: generally available in many areas within its hardiness range

Shaded area represents potential planting range.
Figure 3. Shaded area represents potential planting range.


Height: 8 to 12 feet

Spread: 12 to 18 feet

Plant habit: vase shape

Plant density: dense

Growth rate: moderate

Texture: medium


Leaf arrangement: alternate

Leaf type: simple

Leaf margin: entire

Leaf shape: obovate

Leaf venation: pinnate

Leaf type and persistence: evergreen

Leaf blade length: 2 to 4 inches

Leaf color: variegated

Fall color: no fall color change

Fall characteristic: not showy


Flower color: white

Flower characteristic: spring flowering; pleasant fragrance


Fruit shape: irregular

Fruit length: less than 0.5 inch

Fruit cover: dry or hard

Fruit color: red

Fruit characteristic: inconspicuous and not showy

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: not particularly showy; typically multi-trunked or clumping stems

Current year stem/twig color: gray/silver

Current year stem/twig thickness: medium


Light requirement: plant grows in part shade/part sun

Soil tolerances: alkaline; sand; acidic; loam

Drought tolerance: high

Soil salt tolerances: moderate

Plant spacing: 36 to 60 inches


Roots: usually not a problem

Winter interest: no special winter interest

Outstanding plant: not particularly outstanding

Pest resistance: very sensitive to one or more pests or diseases which can affect plant health or aesthetics

Use and Management

Excellent when used as a specimen or informal shrubbery border, pittosporum can be maintained at any desired height by selective hand pruning. The stiff branches with dense foliage can be sheared if this is begun when they are young. Plant on 4 to 5 foot centers for mass planting.

Pittosporum is highly salt-tolerant, growing right up onto the sand dunes along the ocean, and it grows well on a variety of soils in full sun to partial shade. Growth rate is rapid on well-drained, acid soil of average fertility, although pittosporum can tolerate occasional drought. It does not tolerate poorly drained or wet soil since root rot quickly infects and kills the root system. This often occurs along foundations where drainage is poor or rainwater accumulates from the roof or gutters. Unfortunately, many pittosporum plants meet their demise in this manner.

Pests and Diseases

Problems include cottony cushion scale and aphids. Micronutrient deficiencies become obvious on soils with a high pH. Leaf spot and root rot diseases can be problems for pittosporum. To prevent root rot diseases, avoid planting in areas where water accumulates.

Publication #FPS484

Release Date:January 16, 2024

Related Collections

Part of Shrubs Fact Sheets

Related Topics

  • Critical Issue: 1. Agricultural and Horticultural Enterprises
Organism ID

About this Publication

This document is FPS484, one of a series of the Department of Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date September 1999. Revised October 2023. Visit the EDIS website at for the currently supported version of this publication.

About the Authors

Edward F. Gilman, professor emeritus; Ryan W. Klein, assistant professor, arboriculture; and Gail Hansen, professor, sustainable landscape design; Department of Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


  • Gail Hansen de Chapman
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