Genus Series: Podocarpus
In The Garden – By Stephen and Kristin Pategas
The Genus Series selects a genus of plants and explores a selection of its species, varieties, and/or cultivars that will grow successfully in Central Florida.
Botanical name(s)*: Podocarpus macrophyllus, P. macrophyllus ‘Maki’, P. macrophyllus ‘Pringles’
*Genus with species and variety or cultivar
Common Name(s): Podocarpus, Yew podocarpus, Japanese yew
Growing Zones(s) (we are in 9b): 7-11
Light requirements: sun to moderate shade
Soil requirements: well-draining
Water use: low after establishment which takes at least 12-18 months.
Podocarpus, along with a handful of other plants, shares the same common and botanical name. It is also called Japanese yew since the foliage is like the yew (Taxus) grown in colder climates. It is one of the most useful plants since Podocarpus macrophyllus can reach a height of 35 feet as a medium-sized tree and can also be trimmed as hedge of varying heights. There may still be a few remnant tree form podocarpus that were used as street trees on Colonial Drive in downtown Orlando. Weeping podocarpus (Afrocarpus gracilior) with similar foliage is no longer considered a podocarpus.
If a hedge with a maximum height of six feet is desired, try the cultivar Maki which typically grows to only a six-foot height. This would reduce maintenance. If a lower hedge is desired use Pringles which should reach no more than four feet in height.
If you can select male plants, they will be less maintenance since the berries from the females sprout in the landscape. A 7-gallon size container is a good choice although smaller and larger sizes are readily available. When the container is removed, reject it if it is root bound with little soil visible. Typical plant spacing (center to center) for a hedge is 30 to 36-inches.
Podocarpus MUST have frequent watering to get established and a soaker hose from a hose bibb with a battery timer should be used in addition to regular irrigation. This eliminates the need to operate a whole zone of irrigation more frequently which would waste water and overwater other plants. Trim the podocarpus regularly so shoots branch to fill in on the sides as they slowly gain height. Keep the top narrower than the bottom so light can reach the base and continue to stimulate growth. Think pyramidal.
Fertilize regularly, Osmocote is a good slow-release that feeds the plant for months when it is moist and warm out and plants are growing. Aphids are a typical insect pest with the resulting sooty mold (black substance on leaves), but lady beetles and their larvae normally keep the aphids in check if the landscape is not treated with chemicals.
*Credit: All photography by Stephen G. Pategas/Hortus Oasis unless otherwise noted
Hortus Oasis (FL26000315) in Winter Park is a boutique garden design company specializing in residential, commercial and specialty gardens. Stephen is a registered landscape architect and Kristin is a certified landscape designer. Contact them at 407-622-4886/ firstname.lastname@example.org and visit www.houzz.com/pro/hortusoasis/__public.by