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Expert Tips on Pruning Pittosporum in Australia 

Fast-growing pittosporum hedges should be trimmed at least two or three times a year to maintain their shape and stop them from growing too large.

Pittosporums are vigorous growers and they’re commonly used for privacy screens in both urban and country gardens.

Thanks to their dense growth habit, they make excellent hedging plants but do need to be pruned on a regular basis to maintain a nice shape.

When should you prune pittosporum in Australia?

Fast-growing pittosporum hedges should be trimmed at least two or three times a year to maintain their shape and stop them from growing too large.

Pittosporum 1 | Plant care

Ideally, you want to prune your pittosporum hedge in spring, summer and autumn with a heavier pruning session in autumn. This is because the plants will have put on a lot of growth during the warmer months.

It’s also perfectly fine to just lightly prune your pittosporum hedge during the warmer months to keep it well-trimmed. This can be done with a pair of hedging shears or a powered hedge trimmer.

hedge trimmer | Plant care

I have a battery-powered hedge trimmer that I use for this task. However, because my pittosporum hedge is quite tall, I usually need to get in a professional to give it a good haircut either in autumn or early spring.

How to prune pittosporum

There are no real secrets to pruning pittosporum because these plants will easily spring back with new growth even when pruned relatively hard.

To start off with, it’s best to prune young pittosporums fairly often to encourage a nice dense growth.

Pittosporum 2 | Plant care

Tip pruning is ideal for this and you can use a pair of hedge shears for this. Even lightly tipping the growing points with a sharp pair of secateurs is fine.

Once your pittosporum hedge is well-established, you do want to keep it trimmed on a fairly regular basis to help maintain its growth.

Pittosporum tenuifolium Silver Sheen hedge | Plant care
Pittosporum ‘Silver Sheen’ by Nadiatalent I Wikimedia I CC BY-SA 4.0

You can use a powered hedge trimmer for this as this will make the job much easier. By doing this, you’ll just be trimming back the green foliage so that it sits within the perimeter of the hedge.

Make sure that you prune back the foliage on all sides of the hedge as well as the top.

When cutting back the growth to maintain the shape of the plant, just trim back the foliage by around 10 to 15 cm. To keep a dense coverage, make sure that you cut back just enough so that each branch still has a few leaves on it.

However, if you do happen to get a little overzealous and cut back into bare wood, don’t worry because the plants will soon recover with fresh new foliage.

Pittosporum Hedge 2 | Plant care

Do try and avoid pruning your pittosporum during periods of very hot weather. Like most plants, pruning will cause a certain amount of stress and you want to avoid this during periods of hot, dry weather.

If you are pruning during summer, give your pittosporums a good soak after you’ve finished as this will help to reinvigorate the plants much faster after a good trim.

How to hard prune a pittosporum

Last year, I had to get in a professional to hard prune my pittosporum because it’s far too tall for me to manage myself.

The gardener used a raised platform to stand on while pruning and this is definitely recommended because it’s far safer than just using a ladder.

A powered hedge trimmer was used to trim back all the sides of the hedge. Then, the gardener used a chainsaw to trim back some of the heavier branches that had grown at the top.

While this looked a little unsightly at first, it wasn’t long before new growth started to appear at the top and this very quickly covered the bare and exposed branches.

This means that it’s perfectly fine to give an overgrown pittosporum a really hard prune, even back to bare wood and the plant will respond with lots of lush green growth.

Pittosporum tenuifolium | Plant care
Pittosporum tenuifolium I Krzysztof Golik I Wikimedia I CC BY-SA 4.0

So, if you’ve just moved into a new home and have inherited an overgrown pittosporum hedge or even specimen plant, don’t be afraid to cut it back fairly hard to get it back into shape.

It might look a little unsightly for a few weeks but after a month or two, your pittosporum will look fantastic again.

It’s also important to note that if the lower portion of the trunks are bare, while you might get a little growth from these bare trunks, it’s unlikely that this growth will be dense enough to totally fill in the space.

FAQ

How hard can you cut back Pittosporum?

Pittosporum can be cut back quite hard, even into old dead wood and it will regenerate with new growth. However, try to only cut back only around one-third of the plant’s overall growth in order to avoid creating too much stress for the plant at any one time.

What is the maximum height of Pittosporum?

Depending on the species or cultivar, a pittosporum can easily reach a height of 4 to 5 metres. However, this growth can be controlled with regular pruning and trimming.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.

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