Pittosporum tenuifolium

Plant of the month: March

Pittosporum tenuifolium

Also known as: Kōhūhū ‘County Park Dwarf’

Family: Pittosporaceae

Native to: Wild species are native New Zealand, this is a garden species hybrid.

Blooms: Late spring early summer

Habitats: Coastal and lower mountain forests of New Zealand up to an altitude of 900m

Where to find it at BBG: Cameron Path 

Pittosporum tenuifolium is a New Zealand native, where it is called “kohuhu” by the Maori. It is an evergreen tree with elliptic, glossy leaves and almost black branches. The flowers are small and dark coloured, but have a delicious honey scent in the evening. Such a morphology makes the plants ideal candidates for ornamental uses and breeding programmes.

P. tenuifolium and its cultivars and hybrids grow well in the milder areas and gardens of the British Isles and also in coastal areas. In colder climates they enjoy the advantage of a sheltered position or a south or west-facing wall. In an urban environment they make a good plants for planters and containers.

P. tenuifolium respond well to clipping and can be pruned back hard so it can be used in topiary and for the formation of hedges. The cut branches are very long lasting in water, making P. tenuifolium a useful plant for floristry.

‘County Park Dwarf’ is chance seedling from the well-known ‘Tom Thumb’ and was raised in 1998 at the famous County Park Nursery (Hampshire) which specialises in plants from New Zealand and Australia. It differs from the parent for the more undulate leaves and its smaller, neater and more compact habit. The young leaves are initially green, but soon turn into a purple colouration. ‘County Park Dwarf’ has also proved to be hardier that ‘Tom Thumb’ making it a good choice for the southern hemisphere rock garden.

Another similar choice is ‘Nutty’s Leprechaun’ (from Mr Nutty in Ireland), which proves to have a more open growth and a semi-prostrate habit.