Variegated Japanese Pittosporum, Plant, Care & Use

Βicolored Leaves of Variegated Japanese Pittosporum & the Flowers
Βicolored Leaves of Variegated Japanese Pittosporum & the Flowers

The Variegated Japanese Pittosporum (Pittosporum tobira ‘Variegatum’), one of the oldest and most historic varieties of Pittosporum tobira, has played and will continue to play a major role in gardening and landscape architecture.

It is a very tolerant, adaptable and multiple ornamental plant, which is utilized in almost every possible gardening way.

During the period of its flowering, it captures not only the eyes but also the smell, thanks to the aroma that diffuses from its extremely fragrant flowers.

The leaves of Pittosporum tobira ‘Variegatum’ are an important decorative element for the plant, as well as its fragrant flowers.

Pittosporum Tobira 'Variegatum' Mature Flowers
Pittosporum Tobira 'Variegatum' Mature Flowers
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Variegated Japanese Pittosporum - General Information

The basic characteristics of Variegated Japanese Pittosporum, together with some concise identifications, are given immediately below.

Facts in Short

Family: Pittosporaceae

Genus: Pittosporum

Scientific Name: Pittosporum tobira ‘Variegatum’

Common Names: Variegated Japanese Pittosporum, Variegated Pittosporum, Variegated Japanese Mock Orange, Variegated Mock Orange

Βραβεία: Award of Garden Merit by the British Royal Horticultural Society, 1993


Variegated Japanese Pittosporum is an evergreen perennial shrub of moderate growth rate and medium sized, smaller than the typical species, as is it is lower tolerance to low temperatures. Greyish-green leaves with creamy margins are the strong ornamental element of the plant. But it is not the only one:

  • It has an interesting physical shape of a flattened sphere
  • Its flowers are as fragrant as those of the Japanese cheesewood (Pittosporum tobira)
  • The fruits bear eye-catching orange-red colored seeds.

Variegated Japanese Pittosporum, from a gardening point of view, is one of the so-called ‘skeleton‘ plants. The skeleton plants are what the word says: they are the backbone of every garden or created landscape, resting on them all the green and non-green edifice.

In relation to size, the height of the plant varies between 2.5 and 3.8 m (8-12 ft) and its diameter is between 3.8 and 5.5 m (12-18 ft). It has a dense and symmetrical canopy with a rather irregular outline, it is of medium folliage texture and its appearance is extremely compact.

Pittosporum tobira ‘Variegatum’

This variety of Pittosporum is suitable for:

  • Specimen
  • Mass plantings
  • Informal hedges
  • Formal hedges
  • Urban plantings
  • Seaside plantings
  • Pots & containers
Variegated Japanese Pittosporum at Growing Stage
Variegated Japanese Pittosporum at Growing Stage

Variegated Japanese Pittosporum - Description

The plant develops from the base many well-branched shoots in all possible directions.

The twigs are silver-gray green, while the branches silver gray.

The bark is of gray color and smooth in texture. Due to the way the plant grows, it is not visible, but at those times formed by pruning in a small tree, the created visual impression is that of the floating canopy, precisely because of the color of the bark.

The leaves are leathery, ellipsoid – obovate, and gray – green color with peripheral creamy spots that sometimes extend to almost all the surface of the leaf.

Flowers, which do not differ in anything from those of Pittosporum tobira, are small, plentiful, white and full of aroma. After pollination, they gradually become brownish and brown in color.

Flowering is continuous and the flowering period lasts 60 to 90 days, starting in April and ending in late June. Pollination takes place with insects.

The fruit is a capsule, initially green and then brown in color. When open, the orange – red seeds of the plant appear.

Pittosporum tobira ‘Variegatum’

The Young Leaves of Pittosporum Tobira 'Variegatum'
The Young Leaves of Pittosporum Tobira 'Variegatum'

Variegated Japanese Pittosporum - Environment of Establishment

The Variegated Japanese Pittosporum is less tolerant to cold than the typical species. Its low temperature tolerance values range from -6 to -9 °C (20 to 15 °F – USDA hardiness zone 8b).

As for the soil, it does not have special preferences as long as it drains well, but thrives in medium textured, fertile, sandy clay soils that retain the necessary moisture and, of course, have excellent drainage, while in terms of soil pH those ranging between 6 and 7.

In relation to exposure, it can grow equally well in both full sunshine and half-shade.

Of course, the leaves tend to get more green in the half-shade, so perhaps it is preferable, if possible, not to plan Variegated Japanese Pittosporum in such half-shade positions.

Pittosporum tobira ‘Variegatum’

Young Bush of Pittosporum Tobira 'Variegatum'
Young Bush of Pittosporum Tobira 'Variegatum'

Variegated Japanese Pittosporum - Care

Without being particularly demanding, but in order to give the maximum and be healthy, Variegated Japanese Pittosporum also needs some care, such as proper and timely irrigation and fertilization, proper pruning whenever necessary, and of course adequate plant protection.

All this are discussed immediately below.


In order to irrigate the plant, we must bear in mind that the above-mentioned high resistance of the plant to drought is not due to its ability to cope with the lack of water itself, but to its ability to find water.

Therefore, until the Variegated Japanese Pittosporum plants develop a capable root system, regular irrigation is necessary.


Fertilization takes place from mid-March to mid-September. A complete fertilizer of type 12-12-17 is used once every 20 to 30 days and in an amount commensurate with the age and plant growth conditions.

An indicative dosage for a 5-year-old Variegated Japanese Pittosporum planted in the soil is 50-70 gr per month. Also, the monthly folliage application or root irrigation of trace minerals is beneficial to plants.


Variegated Japanese Pittosporum tolerates the pruning – even if it is heavy. However, if it is not planted as a formalistic type hedge plant that requires 2 to 4 prunings during the growing period to maintain the shape, there is no need for such a work.

In modern gardens, permanent pursuit must be the planting of the appropriate plant in the right place – that is, those plants that require the least care to provide the maximum aesthetic and environmental effect.

And Variegated Japanese Pittosporum’s care for pruning can easily be depleted in a light type of operation, only to remove the top of the shoots after the flowering. Wherever this intervention, as is usually said and written to encourage flowering next year, is by no means necessary.

Plant Protection

Variegated Japanese Pittosporum generally does not face serious problems with parasites. But also those times when an entomological or fungicidal problem will occur, are usually more aesthetic than a question of an indirect or immediate risk for the at least well-established plants.

Of course, as for almost all the things of this futile, as it said, world, so here are some exceptions. For example, roots infest by nematodes of the genus Meloidogyne or Belonolaimus and Paratrichodorus can lead even to the necrosis of the entire plant, since their treatment is difficult or impossible.

But let’s not bear in mind the worst. Let us just suffice here to note the usual parasitic attacks of insects such as aphids and scales as well as of mites, that can easily and effectively treated with the appropriate plant protection products.

That applies to pests is also true for diseases. Alternaria Leaf Spot (Alternaria tenuissima) and Angular Leaf Spot (Cercospora pittospori), when they have nothing more to do, attack the plant. But these diseases are also treated with the use of appropriate formulations.

Variegated Japanese Pittosporum - Use in Garden and Landscape

Variegated Japanese Pittosporum is used in the garden and the landscape in a number of ways:

  • To create a medium sized hedge height, either by pruning or of free growth.
  • Plantingin mass at the penultimate or last row where it creates interesting contrasts with plants that have red foliage or flower.
  • Plantingin mass at the penultimate or last row, where it can contribute to the creation of so-called ‘white‘ or ‘silver gardens‘. Plants with similar foliage shades can be flowered (Pelargonium zonale ‘Madame Salleron’), perennial herbaceous and grasses (Festuca glauca), shrubs (Teucrium fruticans, Artemisia absinthium) and trees (Acer negundo ‘Variegatum’, Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’).
  • Due to its light hueof foliage it is planted in places where it is desirable to ‘illuminate’.
  • Due to its extremely high resistance to aerosol salt and strong winds, it can be planted in coastal areas.
  • Due to its high tolerance to drought it can be planted in areas and gardens where irrigation water is scarceand of poor quality.
  • Because of the minimum requirements it is a plant suitable for planting in privateor public low maintenance gardens.

But in any case, it should be taken into account that the recommended minimum planting distance from fences and buildings is 3.5 m (11.5 ft).



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