Pittosporum for Privacy Hedge
If you are looking for a fuss-free shrub that will provide lots of privacy, then check out pittosporum. Since our backyard patio is completely exposed to our neighbor’s view, I wanted something that would grow tall enough to provide a sense of privacy. Fortunately, there are lots of examples around our neighborhood showing the various ways pittosporum can be used in landscaping, so this post will give you lots of photos and some good advice for growing P.Eugenoides.
What is Pittosporum?
Pittosporum are evergreen trees or shrubs that consist of a number of varieties, from low-growing shrubs to really tall trees. They are hardy to zones 8-10. This article discusses Pittosporum Eugenoides, which originates in New Zealand and is also known as Tarata or Lemonwood tree. The NZ Plant Pics website gives a nice overview of the various types of pittosporum, along with some good pics. At first, I thought it was called Lemonwood tree because its spring flowers smell like lemons, but after an initial pruning, I learned that the leaves and branches emit a wonderful lemony smell when cut. That’s a nice bonus when you are using them as a hedge.
How do you plant Pittosporum?
That depends on how you want to use it, so let’s look at some photos first to give you a sense of the variety of uses it’s been put to in my area, which is just north of Half Moon Bay, California. Below is a perfect shot that shows how nicely this works as a hedge.
Here’s one more shot, and you can see how the hedge is getting a little “hump” in the center, probably where the hedge trimmer can’t reach.
This next shot shows just how low you can go with this “small tree” if you want. Earlier this spring, the home owner simply chopped the pittosporum back, leaving what looked like pretty ugly trunks and side branches exposed. The trunks of these shrubs were easily 2″ in diameter. I drive by here every day, so I watched with interest as, a few months later, the shrubs filled in nicely. Frankly, though, if I wanted to have shrubs from 2-5′ tall along the perimeter of my property, I wouldn’t go with Pittosporum Eugenoides, since there are so many other worthy choices for lower shrubs, including other kinds of pittosporum.
At the other extreme, these two shots show Pittosporum Eugenoides as a tree. They are actually pretty nice that way, since they are evergreen and their leaves offer a bright, almost lime-green backdrop.
Pittosporum as a privacy screen
Ok, so now that you’ve seen the spectrum of sizes for this shrub, here are some photos that show just how effective P.Eugenoides can be as a privacy screen. First, check out this side-ways view that shows how Pittosporum screens the house from the street. Notice the cars on the right, which give you a sense of the overall height. Also, the total width of this hedge is probably about 5′ (measured by the spread of my arms, so not super precise).
Since the owners of the house probably don’t want to walk all the way around the hedge to get to their front door, they cut out this cute “arbor.” (Note: Technically these hedges are not P.Eugenoides, but probably a variety of P.Tenufolium, which doesn’t have the pale green variegation of Eugenoides.)
This shot shows how dense this shrub is and how effective it is for privacy as a perimeter hedge.
Backing up a bit from this hedge, you get a sense of how completely it hides the house from the street. You can also see how high the extension on the trimmer was able to reach.
Don’t believe me that there is a house in there? I walked up the hill to get this shot. My guess is that the hedge is at least 30′ high, since this is a 2-story house.
If you want to use these guys as an effective screen, youi’ll need to space them closely enough so that they’ll grow together from the sides. Most nurseries will tell you to space them any where from 1.5′ to 3′ apart. This shot shows some very large pittosporum that were either spaced too far apart, or not intended to be used as a hedge.
Since I bought pretty mature plants and wanted to save a little, I planted mine on 4-foot centers. You can see here how they are planted in a row at the back of my patio, where they’ll grow up to screen my yard from the neighboring house and lot up the slope.
Trimming and care
In general, pittosporum won’t need lots of spraying or fertilizing. However, I planted mine in large holes where I put in some Jobe’s tree stakes, so that the roots would have something to feed on. In addition, I’ll be spraying on some liquid fertlizer this spring to give everything a nice start. A general all purpose fertlizer really does help your plants grow more quickly.
As for watering and general exposure, Pittosporums need regular water, according to Sunset Publications Western Garden. One more thing: I live on the coast where the temps do not get blistering hot in the summer. If you are planting this shrub in an area where it gets full sun and lots of heat in the summer, you should make sure that you give your shrub adequate water. If you live in a climate where the temps get extremely hot, like in the 100s regularly, you’ll need to provide some shade for this shrub, which will be pretty hard, given how tall it grows.
As the shrubs start to grow in height, I’ll be shearing the tops off probably 3 times next year, despite my desire to have them be an effective screen. By doing this, I’ll be encouraging the plants to grow more lateral side branches and to be more “shrubby” rather than tree like. From what I have seen around my neighborhood, I’ll only need to follow this initial regimen for the first year or so, and after that it’ll be more like an annual process. I’ll post an update to this in a new post next year as a status check.