Quick facts and care essentials

Sunset  –  September 14, 2004

• Evergreen
• Climate zones 8-31
• Full sun or partial shade
• Regular to moderate watering

Tobira is a dependable background or low foreground shrub that requires little attention and is widely planted in warm-winter zones. It grows at a moderate rate, attaining full size in just a few years. The species reaches 10 to 15 feet high with a spread of 8 to 10 feet; equally popular is ‘Wheeler’s Dwarf’ (to 2 to 3 feet high, 1 ½ feet wide). Both have thick, elliptical, glossy green leaves. Another favorite is ‘Variegata’ (to 4 to 5 feet tall, 3 to 4 feet wide), with leaves marbled in pale green and white. Foliage of all tobiras grows in whorls; leaves reach 5 inches long. All bear clusters of small, intensely fragrant white spring flowers that are followed by chick pea-size green berries that ripen to brownish orange.

This tough shrub grows well in sun or partial shade and thrives in all soils, including unamended clay; it also tolerates ocean spray. It has a naturally rounded form and needs little pruning, but if growth becomes too dense, cut entire branches to the ground or take branches back to a main trunk. If you want to shape tobira as a hedge, make heading cuts with hand-held pruners rather than hedge shears (they make jagged, ugly tears in the thick leaves). Do any pruning in spring, after bloom is over.