Some flowering trees bring an added benefit of sweet fragrance to a home garden. The Japanese orange blossom tree (Pittosporum tobira), also called Japanese mock orange, is a good example, with flowers whose scent is reminiscent of the sweet orange blossom. The Japanese orange blossom tree is native to subtropical parts of Japan and China and suitable for U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 10.
The Japanese orange blossom tree grows as a small tree or large shrub that can be 15 feet tall and equally wide at maturity. An evergreen plant, it has ornamental, glossy green leaves that can be up to 5 inches long and have light undersides. The tree's foliage is usually quite lush and dense, making it attractive even when not in bloom. In spring, small, five-petaled, fragrant white flowers open in clusters at the tips of the branches; over time, the flowers mature to a light yellow. After petals fall, green capsules appear and ripen to a brown color, and then split to reveal showy, bright red seeds.
In areas where winters are frost-free, the Japanese orange blossom tree can be sited in any garden location, but is especially useful near patios, porches or windows where its fragrance can be appreciated. In colder parts of USDA zone 8, the tree does best planted in a warm location, such as near the south- or west-facing wall of a building, or on a slope, where cold air can drain away to lower areas. The Japanese orange blossom tree does well planted in either full sun or partial shade, but the amount of light it receives may affect its growth habit. Although the tree has a generally rounded shape, one grown in shade tends to be taller that a tree grown in full sun.
The tree tolerates any type of soil but does best in one that is fertile and well drained. It also needs an average amount of moisture, and a newly planted tree may need supplemental watering during dry spells. Once established, however, the tree is quite tolerant of drought and has good resistance to salt, making it adaptable to coastal locations. The Japanese flowering orange doesn't require regular pruning, but you can cut branches back by about one-third each year to help control its size. The tree may be subject to some insect pests, including aphids, scale and mealy bugs. These can be controlled with insecticidal sprays as needed.
In addition to the common variety of Japanese flowering orange, several specialized cultivars are also available. One of these is a variegated form (P. tobira "Variegatum") that is slightly dwarfed, growing 5-to-10-feet tall, and has grayish-green leaves with white margins. It is more tender than other cultivars and is suitable for USDA plant zones 9 and 10. Another variety called "Wheeler's Dwarf" (P. tobira "Wheeler's Dwarf") has especially dark green, shiny leaves and is densely branched and more shrub-like, reaching a height of only 2 or 3 feet, while "Glen St. Mary" (P. tobira "Glen St. Mary") is a slower-growing variety that reaches a height of 6 or 8 feet at maturity.
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Image by: By Alexander Hardin - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24566650