How To Grow And Care For Privet Shrub (Ligustrum Spp.)

One of the most popular species of shrub to have in your garden is the privet shrub, also known as Ligustrum

They have a vigorous growth habit, and can produce white flowers, followed by black berries, making an interesting display in any garden. 

However, there are some drawbacks with this plant, and it’s worth being choosy about the variety you go for.

Not sure if the Privet shrub is for you? Let’s take a look at everything you should know.

At A Glance: What You Should Know About Privet Shrubs

Hailing from Southern and Eastern parts of Asia, Privets can be evergreen, or they may lose their leaves in winter, depending on the variety you go for.

They will withstand different soil types, and there are roughly 50 different species to choose from, some which stay as shrubs, others which mature into trees.

Not only is the foliage very striking, but the flowers are used regularly in bouquets, and some species are used in traditional medicine, too.

The flowers usually appear in the last few weeks of spring, and produce a strong perfume which can divide people into two categories: those that love it, and those who absolutely hate it. 

A single plant can produce thousands of fruit, so it’s worth planting it somewhere that this won’t become a nuisance when they start to drop, but most of it will get eaten by birds.

This plant does help to support other wildlife, too, mainly moths and butterflies, which use it as a host plant, including the privet hawk moth, and the common marbled carpet.

However, this is not a perfect plant by any means, and you will need to check with your local authority before you plant a privet shrub in your garden, as they are classed as invasive species in several areas.

How To Grow Privet Shrubs

Propagation

Privet shrubs are perfect for bare corners in your garden that could do with life and color. You can buy established plants, or even bare-root plants, which is the easiest option, take cuttings from an existing plant, or grow a Privet shrub from seed.

While it is cheaper to grow a Privet shrub from seed, you don’t need to do this, as it can take a while to get them to germinate, especially when you consider that they need to be stratified for the best part of two months to encourage the seeds to ‘wake up’.

The easiest and most inexpensive way to grow a Privet shrub is to trade cuttings with someone, or buy cuttings online. 

Never take cuttings from a Privet shrub that you’re not one-hundred percent sure what variety it is, as you may end up growing an invasive species!

If you do want to start off with cuttings, take softwood cuttings that are between 5cm and 10cm long, removing all but the top two pairs of leaves to encourage root growth.

You can also use rooting hormone powder before you pot up the cuttings in damp compost, keeping them somewhere bright and indirect. When you see new leaves or shoots, the cuttings have rooted!

Growing Conditions

Privet shrubs are beautiful plants that are easy to grow, and will tolerate full sunlight or partial shade.

You can plant them in the garden at any time of year except summer, watering them regularly for the first two years to establish the roots into the soil.

These robust plants will tolerate any kind of soil as long as it has good drainage, but it won’t stand soggy soil for long.

It’s also worth knowing that this plant can put up with sandy, dry soil, and cold, sea winds.

Should You Prune Ligustrum?

Yes. As Privet plants have such a vigorous growth habit, it is worth trimming them back once or twice a year, not only to keep the growth manageable, but also to keep the plant looking tidy.

Cut the plant back in the summer, using shears or even a hedge trimmer. If the plant’s growth has gotten out of control, or if it’s just too shapeless, you can cut back into the old growth, and it won’t damage the plant.

Landscaping With Ligustrum: Things To Consider

Where To Plant It

You can use a Privet shrub as a formal hedge, a small shrub, a privacy screen, or even as a potted shrub, depending on the species you go for. 

These plants help support wildlife, not only in providing food, but they also provide shelter for birds and other animals. 

This is something to be aware of when you start pruning your plant, so make sure you don’t disturb any nesting birds.

It’s worth noting that Ligustrum plants won’t tolerate wet soil that barely dries out, especially if you plant it deep. This will cause root rot, stunted growth and even the death of your plant, so avoid this!

Rate Of Growth

It’s worth knowing that a Privet shrub can grow more than 3 feet in a single year, though this is dictated by the growing conditions and the species.

This can be a blessing and a curse, in that they will fill a space quickly, but there is a real risk that they will outcompete neighboring plants, so be careful.

Potential Harm

Many species of Ligustrum are considered to be invasive, as they are known to be very adaptable plants that thrive in a range of conditions. 

Make sure that you choose a seedless variety if you do want to grow this plant, which goes a long way in stopping the plant from spreading across your garden and beyond into the larger landscape.

It’s also important to note that these plants can be toxic, so it may be worth considering a different shrub or tree species if you have pets or children in your garden, even as visitors.

Ligustrum Species To Consider Growing In Your Own Garden

Ligustrum x vicaryi ‘Golden Ticket’

The first Privet that is classified as non-invasive is ‘Golden Ticket’, which means that you don’t have to worry about causing harm by planting this shrub in your garden.

It is not an evergreen plant, however, so it won’t be a good option for a privacy screen or hedge.

However, it does make a lovely display when the panicles of white flowers appear in the later part of spring, forming along the tips of the stems. 

Ligustrum x ibolium ‘Ibolium Privet’

If hedging or a privacy screen is something you are hoping for in planting a Privet shrub, ‘Ibolium Privet’ is one of the best varieties to go for. 

It’s an evergreen, and can grow 3 feet per year, so make sure you have the shears handy if you want to keep it more compact.

Ligustrum japonicum ‘Japanese Privet’

Reaching a maximum of 12 feet high, the Japanese Privet does flower later than most varieties, blooming in summer rather than spring. 

It’s suitable for USDA zones 8 through 10, and makes a perfect hedge, screen, or even as a topiary plant.

It also grows marginally slower than other varieties, growing about 2 feet per year.

Ligustrum sinense ‘Chinese Privet’

Reaching about 4 meters high in the right conditions, the Chinese Privet is a striking plant, available in solid green and in variegated forms, too. 

However, the flowers can put some people off, as the fragrance can be too strong, so keep this in mind. This plant is also classified as invasive in some areas.

Final Thoughts

Privet shrubs are beautiful plants that make an instant impact on the landscape with their bold leaves and gorgeous white flowers. 

You will need to keep on top of the growth rate, however, and check that you are planting a non-invasive species in your garden.

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