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 8 to 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. 

    Japanese privet (Ligustrum japonicum)
    Japanese privet (Ligustrum japonicum)
    Ligustrum japonicum

    From Northern China, Korea, Japan. Grows 10 to 12 ft. tall, 8 ft. wide, with dense, compact habit. Roundish oval leaves are 2 to 4 in. long, with a thick, slightly spongy feel; they are glossy medium to dark green above, distinctly paler to almost whitish beneath. Excellent plant for hedges or screens and for pruning into globes, pyramids, and other shapes. With lower limbs pruned off, 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.

    Ligustrum lucidum
    Ligustrum lucidum
    Ligustrum lucidum

    Native to China, Korea, Japan. Round-headed tree 20 to 40 ft. high and wide, with one or several trunks. Glossy, 4- to 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 Ligustrum 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 lawn tree or planted 10 ft. apart for tall privacy screen or windbreak. Performs well in large containers.

    Before planting this tree, carefully consider its disadvantages. 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 ground covers and will need pulling. Many people dislike the flowers’ odor, and fruiting clusters are bare and unattractive after fruit drop.

    Ligustrum ovalifolium

    From Japan. Dark green, oval, 2 1/2-in. leaves cover this 8 to 15 ft. tall, 6 to 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 to 12 in. apart. Clip early and frequently to encourage low, dense branching. Greedy roots. Well-fed, well watered plants hold their foliage longest. Tolerates heat.

    Ligustrum vulgare

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

    'Suwannee River'

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

    'Vicaryi'

    This is a hybrid between the Japanese Ligustrum ovalifolium 'Aureum' and the European Ligustrum vulgare. Grows 8 to 10 ft. high 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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