Image by Maja Dumat
By Jackie Carroll
Ligustrum plants, also known as privets, tolerate a wide range of conditions and are among the easiest shrubs and small trees to grow. Because of their versatility and undemanding nature, they are used extensively in home landscapes. Plant them as hedges, foundation plants, patio trees or in shrub borders. Let’s learn more about planting ligustrum shrubs and their care.
How to Grow Ligustrum Shrubs
Privets are very adaptable trees and shrubs. In fact, ligustrum plants thrive in full sun or partial shade.
They tolerate most soil types, and with the exception of Chinese privets (Ligustrum sinense), they tolerate moderate amounts of salt in the soil. Don’t plant them near roadways that are treated with salt in the winter or on ocean-front property where the foliage is likely to be sprayed with salt. Privets also tolerate a moderate amount of urban pollution. You should also avoid planting ligustrum in poorly drained soil or areas where water accumulates.
Avoid planting common privet (L. vulgare) because of its invasive nature. Common privet seeds are spread by birds that eat the berries. As a result, it has spread into wild areas where it crowds out native plants.
Suitable species for home landscapes include the following:
- Japanese privet (L. japonicum) grows 10 feet tall and 5 or 6 feet wide. It is commonly used as a hedge or screen plant, and can be shaped into a small tree.
- California privet (L. ovalifolium) is a 15-foot shrub that forms a nice hedge when closely planted. It requires frequent shearing and produces numerous seedlings that must be removed before they become established.
- Golden privet (L. vicaryi) grows 6 six feet tall or taller and has golden yellow leaves. For best color, plant it in full sun and in a situation where it won’t need frequent shearing.
- Glossy privet (L. lucidum) is an evergreen tree that grows 45 feet tall or more, but you can grow it as a large shrub with frequent pruning. It produces large, showy flower clusters and a huge crop of purple-blue berries.
Privets withstand drought, but they grow best if irrigated during prolonged dry spells.
Fertilize ligustrum plants in early spring and again in late summer or fall. You can also fertilize in summer if the plants are growing rapidly or appear to need another feeding. Use 0.7 pounds of 15-5-10 or 15-5-15 fertilizer for each 100 square feet.
Privets begin forming the buds for next year’s flowers soon after the current season’s blossoms fade. To avoid shearing off the young buds, prune the plants right after they flower. Prune to control the height and prevent the plant from overreaching its bounds. Privets tolerate severe pruning.
Are Ligustrums Fast or Slow Growing Shrubs?
Ligustrums are very fast-growing shrubs. Japanese privets can add as much as 25 inches of growth per year, and other varieties grow quickly as well. This rapid growth rate means that ligustrum shrubs need frequent pruning to keep them under control.