Ligustrum

Privet

Genus:
LIGUSTRUM
Species:
Ligustrum
Names:
Privet
Zones:
Zones vary by species.
Needs:
Full SunPartial SunFull, Partial Regular WaterModerate ToxicityLeaves and fruits cause gastric distress if ingested.
  • Description:

    Most widely used as hedges, though one type is a street tree; can also be clipped into formal shapes and featured in tubs or large pots. All bear abundant, showy clusters of white to creamy white flowers in late spring or early summer (some people find the scent unpleasant). Flowers attract bees. Clipped hedges bloom less heavily, since shearing removes most of the flower-bearing branches. Blossoms are followed by small blue-black berries; birds eat them, thus distributing seeds. Most privets grow well in any soil.

    Ligustrum amurense

    From Northern China. Grows to 8–15 ft. tall, two-thirds as wide. Deciduous in coldest areas, where it is widely used for hedge and screen planting. Partially evergreen in milder climates but seldom planted there. 

    Ligustrum japonicum
    Ligustrum japonicum
    Ligustrum japonicum

    From Northern China, Korea, and Japan. Grows to 10–12 ft. tall and 8 ft. wide, with a dense, compact habit. Roundish oval leaves are 2–4 in. long, with a thick, slightly spongy feel; they are glossy medium to dark green above, distinctly paler to almost whitish beneath. An excellent plant for hedges or screens and for pruning into globes, pyramids, and other shapes. With the lower limbs pruned off, it also makes an attractive small standard tree. Sunburns in hot spells. In areas where there is hardpan or where Texas root rot prevails, grow it in containers.

    ‘Recurvifolium’: Leaves are wavy-edged, twisted at the tip, and slightly smaller than those of the species. Somewhat open grower.

    ‘Texanum’: Very similar to the species, but lower growing (8–10 ft. tall and 4–6 ft. wide), with somewhat denser, lusher foliage. Useful as a windbreak. This plant is often sold as the species.

    ‘Variegatum’: Leaves have creamy white margins and blotches.

    Ligustrum lucidum
    Ligustrum lucidum
    Ligustrum lucidum

    Native to China, Korea, and Japan. Round-headed tree 20–40 ft. high and wide, with one or several trunks. Glossy, 4–6-in.-long leaves are tapered and pointed, medium to dark green on both sides. They feel leathery but lack the slightly spongy feel of L. japonicum leaves. Flowers bloom in especially large, feathery clusters in late spring and early summer; they are followed by a profuse crop of fruit. Can be used as a lawn tree or planted 10 ft. apart for a tall privacy screen or windbreak. Performs well in large containers.

    Before planting this tree, carefully consider its disadvantages. The eventual fruit crop is immense; never plant where fruit will fall on cars, walks, or other paved areas (it stains). Fallen seeds (and those dropped by birds) sprout profusely in groundcovers and will need pulling. Many people dislike the flowers’ odor, and fruiting clusters are bare and unattractive after fruit drop.

    Ligustrum ovalifolium (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)
    Ligustrum ovalifolium (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)
    Ligustrum ovalifolium

    From Japan. Dark green, oval, 2 1/2-in. leaves cover this 8–5-ft.-tall and 6–10-ft.-wide shrub. It grows rapidly, but can be kept sheared as a 4-ft. hedge. For use as a hedge, set plants 9–12 in. apart. Clip early and frequently to encourage low, dense branching. Greedy roots. Well-fed, well-watered plants hold their foliage the longest. Tolerates heat.

    Ligustrum vulgare ‘Cheyenne’ (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)
    Ligustrum vulgare ‘Cheyenne’ (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)
    Ligustrum vulgare

    From northern Europe, the Mediterranean, and Asia Minor. Grows to 15 ft. tall and 12 ft. wide. Dark green leaves are less glossy than those of L. ovalifolium, and the root system is not as greedy. Clusters of black fruit are conspicuous on unpruned or lightly pruned plants.

    Ligustrum ‘Suwannee River’

    This evergreen shrub is reported to be a hybrid between L. japonicum ‘Rotundifolium’ and L. lucidum. Slow-growing, compact plant reaches 1 1/2 ft. tall in 3 years, eventually grows to 3–4 ft. tall and wide. Leathery, somewhat twisted dark green leaves; no fruit. Use as a low hedge, as a foundation planting, or in containers.

    Ligustrum ‘Vicaryi’ (photo courtesy of Proven Winners)
    Ligustrum ‘Vicaryi’ (photo courtesy of Proven Winners)
    Ligustrum ‘Vicaryi’

    This is a hybrid between the Japanese L. ovalifolium ‘Aureum’ and the European L. vulgare. Grows to 8–10 ft. tall and wide. Yellow leaves; color is most pronounced on plants in full sun. Best planted alone; color does not develop well when the plant is regularly sheared.

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