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Failing pittosporum - can it be saved and, if so, what should we do?

We have a pittosporum which has been in the garden for about 4 years. It had been growing fast and doing really well until this spring - however, since the winter ended the leaves have been increasingly turning brown and dropping off, from the top of the shrub downwards. At the moment, it is only the lower section of the shrub which is green and producing new growth.

We are in the Lothians area of Scotland, and had some heavy snow over the winter followed by a cold and wet spring. When the browning of the leaves and leaf loss only affected the very top shoots on the shrub, we initially thought that this was damage from the snow and pruned them away. However, the problem has continued to spread.

It looked for a while as if there were new buds forming where the leaves had turned brown and we were hopeful that the shrub might just be turning over new leaves where it has grown a lot in recent years, but these new buds don't seem to have come to anything.

So, we're looking for advice on whether our pittosporum can be saved or is going to fail completely - if it can be saved, what should we do?


  • Papi JoPapi Jo Posts: 3,875
    Pittosporums are not very hardy shrubs. I'm afraid yours is dying and there is no hope of saving it.
    You are invited to a virtual visit of my garden (in English or in French).
    I can see green growth at the bottom of the plant - is that also dying or does it look fairly strong ?  Might be worth cutting back down to the green part, water well and watch.  unless of course those leaves are tumbling too, in which case you might decide to just hoick it out.  Shame, they are nice ‘fillers’.
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Posts: 11,200
    I would just wait and see what happens. Keep it well watered in the meantime. If it hasn't recovered by the autumn then you may have to prune it down to the green shoots. They aren't totally hardy in the northern half of UK.
    Good luck, I hope it survives.
    North East Somerset - Clay soil over limestone
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 52,260
    Yes - many of them aren't fully hardy here, so a 'more normal' winter like the one we've had is enough to see them off. The previous two or three winters were milder than usual so many borderline plants were ok.
    You can certainly prune it back and see if it comes away though  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Tanty2Tanty2 Posts: 219
    Hi - I'm also in Scotland - on the east coast - and I have multiple Pitto in my garden - Atropurpureum, Midget, Variegatum Tenuifolium, Golden King and Trim's Hedger.  The weather has been truly awful and lots of plants are struggling with it.  My Pitto have all been in the garden through five years of frost and snow and wind and hail and all have proved really resilient and have recovered well from any weather-related fright.  I agree with Eric's Mum and Lizzie - maybe cut it back to the green growth, feed it with some Maxicrop seaweed feed (it's basically magic), mulch well and wait.  Pitto are generally hardy to about minus ten but what's made mine really unhappy is the cold, drying winds which may be what's bothering yours.
  • Jane453Jane453 Posts: 7
    Thanks so much for the input and advice, everyone, this is really helpful. I'd be really sad to see the shrub go as it is beautiful when in full leaf, and also gives us some welcome privacy along our boundary fence. It looks like the lower section which was more alive might also be fading, but we'll do some pruning and feeding as suggested and sit it out for a while in case there is a reprieve! If it comes to the autumn and the shrub is lost, then I think we'll try something like a photinia in its place - having a look around the local area, they seem to do really well in the gardens around where we are.
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 52,260
    Wet cold is what does for them here. Dry cold is generally easier for lots of plants, but severe winds and frosts can just tip them over the edge. 
    It can sometimes just be a cumulative effect on them. Sharp winds coming through the gaps in your fence could have been enough to affect them @Jane453.
    My fences are all double sided to help alleviate wind ingress. It can often be enough to make a difference if plants otherwise have a bit too much exposure.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
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