How To Grow And Care For Privet

If you want privacy, plant privet. With regular pruning, this quick growing shrub can be shaped into an ideal landscape feature.


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Although one species makes a fine landscape tree, privets are first and foremost hedge plants. They take well to shearing and can be clipped into almost any shape. In spring or early summer, all bear abundant clusters of showy, white to creamy white flowers that are highly fragrant. Some people don’t care for the cloyingly sweet scent—and the pollen may cause allergic reactions. Bees and wasps also swarm to the flowers. Clipped hedges produce fewer flowers, as shearing removes most of the flower buds. Blossoms are followed by small, berrylike, blue-black fruit. Birds eat them and distribute the seeds everywhere—with the result that seedlings come up everywhere, too. Since most privets will grow well in any kind of soil, vigilance is required to keep them from taking over. Most make good container subjects. Privet is resistant to browsing deer and toxic to pets.

Plant Attributes

Common Name Privet
Botanical Name Ligustrum spp.
Family Oleaceae
Plant Type Shrub
Mature Size 4-15 ft. tall, 4-10 ft wide  
Sun Exposure  Full, partial
Soil Type Well-drained
Soil pH Acidic, neutral, alkaline 
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color White
Hardiness Zones Zones 3-8 (USDA)
Native Area  Europe, Asia, Africa
Toxicity  Toxic to dogs and pets

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Privet Care

When we consider privet, many gardeners immediately think of Chinese privet, the invasive weed that covers the South and regions beyond. But there are many varieties of this plant that are easy to care for and grow well. And best of all, they will behave.

There’s no denying privet makes a wonderful hedge row, so dig a 2-foot trench that’s 2 feet wide, and plant the privet about a foot apart. Cover with soil that drains well and water regularly to establish. Then clip them into shape whenever you like. They are not picky.


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Plant privet in full sun where it will get at least six hours of direct sunlight. It will tolerate partial shade, but it is the sun that brings out the color in the leaves.


Soil that drains well is more important than the type of soil you plant privet in since it can grow in most types of soil. 


Established privet shrubs are relatively drought tolerant, but young plants will need a good watering every week.

Temperature and Humidity

Privet survives temperatures below freezing in the winter and hot temperatures in the summer (if it has water). In colder climates, privets lose their leaves.


Apply a fertilizer for broadleaf shrubs in the spring (15-5-10) and add a second application in the fall. Follow instructions on the package.


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Types of Privet

Japanese Privet Ligustrum Japonicum. Grows in Zones 7-11 (USDA), in MS, LS, CS, and TS. Native to northern China, Korea, and Japan, privet’s dense, compact growth reaches 10-12 ft. tall and 8 ft. wide, but it can be kept smaller with regular pruning. This is an excellent plant for hedges or screens, or even shaping into small trees. Where Texas root rot prevails or in caliche soil, grow it in containers. Howardi has a garish, two-tone shrub: leaves are yellow when new, aging to green. Both colors are usually present at once. Jack Frost has dark green leaves edged with creamy white. Recurvifolium leaves are wavy edged, twisted at the tip, and slightly smaller than those of the species.

Roundleaf Japanese Privet Rotundifolium grows 4-5 feet high; has nearly round leaves to 2 in. long. Grow in partial shade. Silver Star grows 6-8 feet high with deep green leaves with gray-green mottling and white edges. Texanum is a similar species but grows a little smaller (to 8-10 ft. tall and 4-6 feet wide), with somewhat denser, lusher foliage. Useful as windbreak. Often sold as Ligustrum texanum. Variegatum leaves have creamy white margins and blotches.

Glossy Privet Ligustrum Lucidum grows in Zone 8-11 (USDA), in LS, CS, TS. This evergreen tree is native to China, Korea, Japan. This variety grows into a round-headed tree that eventually reaches 35-40 ft. high and wide. It can be kept lower as a big shrub or may form a multi trunked tree. A glossy, 4- to 6 inch long leaves are tapered and pointed, dark to medium green on both sides. Flowers in especially large, feathery clusters are followed by a profusion of fruit. Fine lawn tree that grows well in narrow areas, or set 10 feet apart for tall privacy screen. Before planting this tree, carefully weigh the advantages against the disadvantages. Eventual fruit crop is immense; never plant where fruit will fall on cars, walks, or other paved areas (they stain). Fallen seeds (and those dropped by birds) sprout profusely in ground cover and will need pulling. Fruiting clusters are bare and unattractive after fruit drop.

California Privet Ligustrum Ovalifolium grows as a semi evergreen shrub in Zones 6-8 (USDA), in US, MS, and LS. Native to Japan, this privet grows rapidly to 15 feet but can be kept to any height with pruning. For use as a hedge, set plants 9-12 inches apart; clip early and often for low-dense branching. Be prepared for regular maintenance; you might need to shear every 3 weeks in hot, wet weather. This species is a good choice for a fast-growing hedge or screen, but be aware of disadvantages: The plant has greedy roots, its seedlings come up everywhere; and once established, it is hard to eradicate.

Yellow-Edge California Privet, Golden Privet Aureum leaves have broad yellow edges. It’s often sold as 'Variegatum'.

Chinese Privet Ligustrum Sinense, an evergreen shrub, grows in Zones 7-11 (USDA) in MS, LS, CS, and TS. A native Chinese plant, this privet grows 10-15 feet tall and wide. This species has become a weed in the Southeast, conquering woodlands and stream banks. It is hard to kill but worth the effort required to do so. Try one of the three selections, below, for a better behaved plant.

Weeping Chinese Privet Pendulum grows to 10 feet high and wide, with billowing, cascading branches that create a soft, cloudlike appearance. Branches occasionally revert to upright form; cut these out to maintain pleasing shape. Sunshine is a sterile selection with golden foliage, growing 3-4 feet tall and wide. This is a good choice for a low hedge or a container plant.

Variegated Chinese Privet Variegatum grows quickly to 6 feet tall and wide. It’s one of the better looking variegated plants with handsome matte green leaves and creamy white margins. Use it to brighten dull areas of the garden. Cut away any branches with solid green leaves.

Ligustrum 'Suwannee River, an evergreen shrub, grows in Zones 7-11 (USDA) in MS, LS, CS, and TS and is reported to be a hybrid between Ligustrum japonicum 'Rotundifolium' and Ligustrum lucidum. The slow-growing, compact plant reaches 1 foot tall in 3 years, eventually grows 4-5 feet high and wide. Leathery, somewhat twisted dark green leaves; no fruit. Use as low hedge, as foundation planting, in containers.

Vicary Golden Privet Ligustrum 'Vicaryi grows in Zones 6-11 (USDA) in US, MS, LS, and CS. This deciduous shrub has yellow leaves. (Color will be strongest on plants in full sun.) This privet is best planted as a single plant because the color doesn’t develop well when sheared in a hedgerow. Grows 4-6 feet (and possibly up to 12 feet) and 8-10 feet wide.


Be diligent with your pruning and shaping efforts to maintain privet’s size. It can easily grow up to 15 feet tall, so it’s a good thing this plant can be pruned at any time. Shear the top to control height and sides to create a hedge.


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Privet will withstand outdoor temperatures in all seasons. (It’s hardy to Zone 3, USDA.) 

Common Problems With Privet

This plant is a little too easy-going, which makes one of its defining traits—its quick growth—also one of its problems. Prune privet as needed to keep it in check.

Shear from the top of the hedge to encourage the sides to grow. This will help bare spots fill. 


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