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Pittosporum tobira 'Variegata' Variegated Pittosporum

Edward F. Gilman


Glossy, creamy white and green variegated leaves, easy care, and an open, round canopy make pittosporum a popular landscape shrub (Figure 1). 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.

Figure 1. Variegated pittosporum
Figure 1.  Variegated pittosporum


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 2)
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
Uses: screen; hedge; border; mass planting; container or aboveground planter; trained as a standard
Availability: generally available in many areas within its hardiness range
Figure 2. Shaded area represents potential planting range.
Figure 2.  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 .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
Invasive potential: not known to be invasive
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 rain water 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

Date: 9/10/2015

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Part of Shrubs Fact Sheets

  • Critical Issue: Agricultural and Food Systems
Organism ID

About this Publication

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

About the Authors

Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


  • Gail Hansen de Chapman