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Common Pittosporum Hedge Problems and How to Fix Them

Pittosporum plants are commonly used for lovely tall screening hedges here in Australia.

The most common Pittosporum variety used is Silver Sheen (Pittosporum tenuifolium). This variety has lovely silver-green leaves and tiny red flowers that are fragrant. 

Although Pittosporum hedges are fairly easy to grow, there are some problems that you may encounter.

Some of the more common problems relate to under or overwatering, especially when the plants are young.

Additionally, root rot can cause a problem if the soil becomes waterlogged and doesn’t drain freely. 

Here’s how to identify problems with your Pittosporum hedge and how to fix them.

Quick Answer: Common Pittosporum Problems & Solutions

Here’s a summary of common problems, causes and solutions. For more detail on each, see the relevant section within the rest of the article.

ProblemCauseSolution
Leaves Turning YellowWaterlogging, root rotImprove drainage, use nitrogen-rich fertiliser
Leaves Wilting/BrowningUnderwatering, root rotCheck soil moisture, treat root rot, ensure watering
Yellow Spots on LeavesPittosporum bug, sap-sucking insectsUse oil-based pesticides like white oil or neem oil

Pittosporum leaves turning yellow

If the leaves of your Pittosporum hedge are turning yellow, there could be a variety of reasons.

Leaves turn yellow when the plant is unable to take up adequate nutrients from the soil. More often than not, this can be caused by waterlogging and fungal diseases such as root rot.

For a healthy root system, Pittosporums need well-drained soil that contains adequate nutrition. If the soil stays wet for too long, there will be a lack of oxygen in the soil and this will cause the roots to suffocate.

In addition, heavy soils that don’t drain well have the tendency to bind up nutrients, making them unavailable to the roots of the plant.

A secondary problem that can be associated with waterlogged soils is the fungal disease, root rot.

This infects the roots of the plant and slowly kills them. As a result, the entire plant will eventually die.

How to treat yellowing leaves

Check the moisture level in the soil. If the soil is too wet from unseasonal rains, you’ll need to improve the drainage. Consider adding some organic matter to the soil around the plants to help improve the structure of compacted and waterlogged soils.

Make sure your plants are getting enough nutrients. Use a nitrogen-rich organic fertiliser in spring and autumn to ensure that your plants are getting enough nutrients to sustain their growth.

Pittosporum leaves turning brown and wilting

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

If the leaves of your Pittosporum hedge plants are wilting and turning brown, then it’s either a case of underwatering or a problem with root rot.

Root rot is a fungal disease that is common in poor draining soils.

How to fix wilting leaves

1. Check the moisture level of the soil

When you start to notice the leaves wilting, the first thing you want to do is to check the moisture level in the soil around the base of your plants.

If the soil is dry, then it could be that your plants aren’t getting enough water.

While young and during periods of very dry weather, Pittosporums should be watered deeply twice a week.

2. Inspect for root rot

If the soil is not dry, then you may have a problem with root rot.

If the leaves are turning brown and branches are slowly dying back from their tips, root rot is likely the cause.

To remedy this, improve the drainage of the soil and cut back any branches that have been infected.

Yates has a product called Anti Rot that you might find effective.

It’s a systemic fungicide that is absorbed through the leaves and travels down to the roots.

Yellow spots on Pittosporum leaves 

If you notice yellow spots on the leaves, these could be an indication that you have an infestation of Pittosporum bug or other sap-sucking insects such as scale.

These pests suck the sap out of the leaves and stems of the plants and cause these areas to die.

Pittosporum bugs are a black beetle, usually around 0.6 to 1.4 cm long with a black, blue, or green body and an orange or red head.

Scale, on the other hand, are small white insects that look a little like cotton wool.

How to treat pest problems on Pittosporum hedges

Most sap-sucking insects can be controlled by spraying the plants with an oil-based pesticide such as white oil or neem oil. These products will suffocate the pests and they will die.

For larger infestations, you may need to apply a garden insecticide.

Once you have the pest problem under control, give your plants a feed with an organic liquid seaweed or fish emulsion.

These products work on the overall health and vitality of the plant and also help to promote a healthy soil structure.

FAQ

Why is my Pittosporum hedge dying?

Common Pittosporum problems relate to under or overwatering, root rot caused by waterlogged soil, or an infestation of Pittosporum bugs.

What causes brown leaves on Pittosporum?

Brown leaves usually indicate either underwatering or a problem with root rot, a fungal disease resulting from poor draining soils.

How do you get rid of Pittosporum bugs?

There isn’t a specific pesticide that targets the pittosporum bug. Sap-sucking insects can usually be controlled with an oil-based pesticide such as white oil or neem oil.

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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4 thoughts on “Common Pittosporum Hedge Problems and How to Fix Them”

  1. Hi there,
    I’ve just bought a load of pittosporums, which have been completely stripped bare my my local native creatures (probably pademelons or possums). I was very surprised, as pittosporums are very popular in my area. My question is will the plants normally survive being completely stripped of their leaves.

    Reply
    • It’s difficult to say whether your pittosporums will survive or not as I don’t know how large they are. I would cover them to stop whatever ate them in the first place and keep an eye on them for a few weeks to see if you notice any new growth.

      Reply
  2. Hi Annette
    Love your blog

    Had a question
    I have a pittosporum hedge silver sheen .
    Was healthy hedge now with all the rain over last few years it looks scorched leaves falling off .looks terrible.

    It is still growing on top as i need to trim again .

    It has been dry last few months i do not put any water .
    Black sandy soil ..

    Just wonder how to get it back to health .

    Thank u kindly

    Gerry

    Reply
    • Hi Gerry

      If your pittosporum is dropping leaves, it could be an indication that the roots are not finding any water. It could be a case of the plant getting used to having regular rainfall and then, suddenly, the soil is dry and so the plant gets stressed. Pittosporum can be cut back quite hard to rejuvenate them. If you want to do this, cut back around one third of the growth even into old wood. Make sure that you water deeply at least once a week as sandy soil doesn’t retain moisture all that well. You might also want to consider adding a thick layer of mulch on top of the soil to help retain moisture.

      Reply

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