Growth Habits And Progress Of Six Pittosporum Tenuifolium Selections

Above, P. 'Tasman Ruffles' begins to obscure the neighbor's roof

Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Silver Sheen' is the most common tall Pittosporum currently sold in Southern California.   This neighborhood example was planted as a 15 gallon about 2005.  I'm guessing it's about 20 feet (6 meters) tall in the photo: 
Update 12/2017:  It declined rapidly this year and died.  Drought?  Borers?
 A pair of Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Silver Sheen' also in the neighborhood, but topped and sheared.  The airy, graceful, natural appearance of 'Silver Sheen' is lost in favor of denser growth via regular light shearing:
Update 12/2017:  these look about the same as they did in 2013. 

The distinctive black stems and reflective foliage:
 A variegated form of Pittosporum 'Silver Sheen' is 'Ivory Sheen'.  It has a more dainty quality.  Because of the variegation it is a somewhat smaller and slower grower than 'Silver Sheen'.  Planted May 2012, my example is now (December 2013) about seven feet tall.


'Ivory Sheen' at purchase in May 2012:
'Ivory Sheen' Update July 2016  I had to move 'Ivory Sheen' for a reason I don't now remember.  It survived the move.  Slowed down for a time, it survived and is now about 10' tall.  Backlit by morning light, this plant really sparkles, and in this light it is easier to see its structure.  Backlit, it also provides more privacy.  Placing these tenuifolium selections where they will be backlit by either morning or late afternoon sun creates a beautiful effect in the garden. 

 'Emerald Wave' ( aka 'Silver Star'), smaller than 'Silver Sheen'.  Planted 2008.  The stems have graceful S curves.  About 3' tall at planting, it's about 14' tall now.
 Update August 2016: Over time, 'Emerald Wave' has developed denser foliage as it matured.  It now makes an acceptably dense screen though it has not grown much taller in the past few years probably due to our five year drought.

Update 2017:  Denser still after the rainy winter of 2016-17, and providing the exact screen I'd hoped for--obscuring the neighbor's house from this window.  'Emerald Wave' is on the left;  'Wrinkled Blue' on the right:

In 2015, 'Emerald Wave' is in the middle of this photo.  'Wrinkled Blue' is to the right and has grown airier over time.
 Two 'Wrinkled Blue' planted 5' apart from each other are getting more water and look better:

Pittosporum 'Wrinkled Blue', was planted December 2011 as a two foot tall plant,  is about ten feet tall in 2015.  Eight feet of growth in two years on a single one GPH dripper for thirty minutes per week and no fertilizer--not bad!  The stems have a more vertical habit than 'Emerald Wave' and as a result, the plant is more narrow.  The leaves are larger than that of the variegated Silver Sheen, but the plant will likely be smaller at maturity. Faster growing than 'Ivory Sheen'. 
Fairly dense...though the past two years it has been airier--perhaps due to our long drought.  I plan to tip-prune the very top of the shrub and see if that and more water will improve foliage quantity.
Update 2017:  still airy.  I think the drought set it back.  All of these selections also drop foliage during extreme (100F, 38C) heat.
  'Wrinkled Blue' at planting in May, 2012:


'Tasman Ruffles' is supposed to be as vertical as 'Wrinkled Blue' but more dense.  'Tasman Ruffles' at planting, September 2012, about 18" (45 cm) tall:
 Here's the same plant in the foreground this week (December 2013).  It's now five feet six inches tall (167 cm).
 It is not clear in the photograph, but there is a single strong vertical leader (main stem) from which all the other growth branches off.

Update 12/2017:  I moved the 'Tasman Ruffles, which set them back.  The drought and my effort to reduce water use didn't help.  They have grown but not a lot.  The natural habit of this selection is vertical, but wider at the base than at the top (like a pyramid).  Good amounts of water and light regular shearing make the foliage quite dense.  

P. tenuifolium 'Marjorie Channon', planted in early 2007, is now 12' tall (3.6 meters) and 8' (2.4 meters) wide.  They would look far better if the neighbors in the back would trim their trees.  Euc and trash-palm crap rains down upon the Marjories, unfortunately.  Oh well.

Why the search for a narrow-growing, dense P. tenuifolium?  The Eugenia psyllid?  Syzygium paniculatum (formerly named Eugenia paniculatum) once was the iconic narrow hedge for Southern California, until the Eugenia psyllid arrived.  
See what Syzygium can do as a sheared screen?  Visual privacy assured:
 Since the release of a psyllid predator, the psyllids have been in decline, and a Eugenia screen is once again viable, if the predators have established themselves in the area, and a mild-to-moderate amount of psyllid damage can be tolerated.


  1. Pretty tree but it is not dense enough for privacy. I had to plant something else to block my neighbors 2 story balcony from my yard.

    1. I agree!

      Where I want a privacy screen I want DENSE. Metrosideros 'Spring Fire' is (so far) developing the density I prefer at a still fairly compact height (15'-20'). As time has passed, the 'Wrinkled Blue' selection is working out fairly well, though-especially in the morning when it is backlit and sparkling in the sun.

    2. I never heard of this tree, it's beautiful. Not sure it could handle zone 9 climate. I ended up planting afrocarpus graciliors in the back ground, the a.graciliors are moderate growers, clean, very dense, and I planted a cleveland pear in the foreground to get FAST growth and quick privacy until the graciliors eventually take over as my primary screen trees, which could be 5-8 yrs. Cleveland pears are neat, low maintenance and can grow up to 5 feet a yr. But they are dicideous, but I am not sitting outside in the winter so it'll be a good screen from spring thru late fall. I just needed to strategically plant something that will grow fast in one spot in particular to give me privacy asap. I figure in the future if I no longer need the pear tree, I can remove it. The a.graciliors will eventually reach a height of 20 feet + and will block out neighbors all along my fence line. I kept the pittosporum as an ornamental.

    3. The A. graciliors are beautiful trees, I love them. There are several tall screens of them in the neighborhood and they are nice and dense. The roots do eventually become an issue, though it takes quite a few years.

  2. This was helpful to decide between two varieties you mentioned. Thank you for doing this!!

    1. Best wishes for success! They have all struggled in our drought and in extreme heat waves, so be aware of that if you are in SoCal.

  3. I'm a landscape architectural designer up in Portland, OR. Different climate obviously, but I really appreciate the detail about growth habitat, fine vs dense texture, suggestions for backlighting, etc. Thank you from up north!

    1. Happy you found something of use in the post. Not sure if they are cold-hardy enough for your area, but they will be happier up there with more rain and less heat than they have get here.

      Best wishes!

    2. than they get here, not "than they have get here".


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