Variegated Pittosporum: Old staple or forgotten classic?

Variegated pittosporum

Variegated Pittosporum received mixed reviews from ArtisTree’s panel of Plantopinions experts. Operations Manager Conan Michel put it best: “It’s an old staple that was used by a lot of people years ago. It still has some good appeal to it and it’s hardy. But you either love it or hate it.”

Which opened the door for our experts to discuss. The popularity of the all-green variety faded somewhat when homeowners discovered the variegated version featuring cream-fringed leaves that look like they’ve been frosted with a pastry bag. What’s not to like? Well, it depends on whom you ask.

Creamy Variegated Pittosporum fringing the left of this palm contrasts beautifully with evergreens, a Jatropha tree and podocarpus.

Joe Mantkowski, VP of Landscape Design

Variegated Pittosporum is a great mid-tier hedge plant. I have them in my own landscape and include them regularly in my designs. Have used to accentuate evergreens, colorful ornamentals, shrubs and groundcovers. It’s not a fast grower, so it requires less maintenance. The only drawback is that deer love them. You’ll need to apply repellent as needed.

Clinton Lak, ArtisTree Landscape Designer

This is a good durable hedge choice for our cooler areas since it can tolerate a freeze. Salt-tolerant, too. A common mistake people make is planting them in wet areas where they’re sure to fail.  I’ve paired Variegated Pittosporum with Stokes Holly and Podocarpus Maki since it contrasts well with dark green foliage. It does a great job softening both formal and natural-looking landscapes with variegated color throughout the year.

Chris Culp, Landscape Designer

Not a fan. This evergreen plant has been around a long time, but I don’t like the way it can look thin and hollow. And there’s a Catch 22. You can trim it to keep it thick, but over time it will send out tougher green leaves. If you don’t trim those back to the base, the entire plant will eventually turn green. I’ve seen properties where half are solid green and half are variegated, certainly not something the homeowner intended to have.

Leaves grow in a rosette pattern & produce orange-scented tiny flowers in the Spring.

Brian Clouser, Landscape Designer

First word that comes to mind is dated. I haven’t used Variegated Pittosporum before, although I know it’s easy to grow and can get big.  As a matter of fact, you shouldn’t use it as foundation shrub, especially under low windows. If you want it big, you can always grow it as a single plant or an accent — even as a small tree (it can reach 15 feet).  Will need partial to full sun. Seems to be resistant to most issues except for deer who like to graze on it.  

This Variegated Pittosporum snuggles in between a driveway and decorative boulders.

Elisabeth Owen, Landscape Designer

I don’t have many requests for this plant, although it has its merits. It’s easy care and tough — doesn’t succumb to much. Responds poorly to excessive soil moisture. Since it’s a slow grower, you can leave it untrimmed for a few months to enjoy its naturally mounded shape. But some homeowners prefer it hedge-sheared for a more manicured look. Honestly, I recommend other options such as Variegated Arboricola or Variegated Ligustrum. Both are used more often these days for more vibrant, colorful foliage.

ArtisTree “Plantopinions” is a roundtable debate between multiple ArtisTree experts on the virtues of various plant specimens. Sometimes there’s consensus and sometimes not. In the end, you are the judge!

ArtisTree Landscape Designers

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ArtisTree Landscape Maintenance & Design has proudly served Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties since 1990.


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