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Privet

Folkert Siemens Folkert Siemens

There is hardly a hedge plant that is as robust and adaptable as the privet. Here, we introduce the hedge plants and give tips on planting and caring for privet hedges.

General

The genus Privet (Ligustrum) includes several wild species, one of which, the Common Privet(Ligustrum vulgare), is also native to our latitudes. In the garden, the privet variety “Atrovirens” is particularly important as a hedge plant. Privet hedges from the “Atrovirens” variety stay green longer in winter, as the variety keeps the foliage better than the wild species. The slow-growing dwarf privet”Lodense” is the first choice for lower borders.

Another type of privet that is often used as an ornamental plant in the garden is the oval-leaved privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium), which comes from Japan. It has slightly larger leaves, grows upright and, with a height of 9.84 feet, remains more compact than the common privet. Like this one, it keeps its leaves well in mild winters, but also sheds them as soon as it freezes for a long time. A popular container plant we sell is the Chinese privet (Ligustrum delavayanum). It is not winter hardy and grows up to 6.56 feet. It is evergreen, very small-leaved and looks very similar to boxwood at first glance, especially since it is usually offered as a topiary plant.

Privet belongs to the olive family (Oleaceae) and, unlike boxwood, have leaves arranged opposite to each other. The bark of the shoots is strikingly light gray, the small yellowish-white flowers appear in June and are usually arranged in terminal panicles. They spread an intense scent and some species are especially popular with bees and other insects. The fruits are mostly black berries that birds like to eat, but are slightly poisonous for us humans. The height of the different privet species and varieties varies from 3.28 to 16.40 feet.

Like most olive trees, all privet species are very robust and tolerate drought well. In the wild, they usually grow in hot and dry locations and can also endure periods of drought lasting several weeks. All types have extremely low soil demands: It can be dry to moderately moist and sandy to loamy, although all privet are very pH-tolerant, but rather lime-loving. Sunny locations are ideal, but a shaded location will also do. Privet hedges, however, tend to shed in extreme shade.

Privet hedge (Ligustrum vulgare) ‘Atrovirens’

A privet hedge (Ligustrum vulgare) from the evergreen variety ‘Atrovirens’ as a space divider in the garden

Where to plant

All privet species have been popular as garden plants because of their robustness and their ability to sprout well. Privet hedges had their place alongside beeches, boxwoods and yew hedges in historic baroque gardens and are still one of the most popular stockades today. No wonder, because a privet hedge is almost unbeatable when you need a stockade that does not take up the root area, which a competitive shallow-rooted species such as birch and pointed maplewould do. Privet are usually seen as individual topiary trees, as they can also be shaped into complex figures with their dense growth and relatively small leaves.

The native wild species is also popular as a free-growing shrub for wild wood hedges and afforestation measures in the open countryside. It is an important tree for bird protection, as it offers both good nesting sites and nutritious berries. The tall trunks of the Chinese privet with spherical crowns kept in the container are ideal for greening the terrace or as green gatekeepers at the house entrance.

Planting privet

Privet hedges are very inexpensive because of their rapid growth and the ease with which the shrubs multiply (see below). In fall and spring, the plants are often sold in bundles in the garden center as bare-root plants. For one bush, place four to five individual shrubs every 3.28 running feet and after planting, cut all the shoots back vigorously so that they branch out well. Then the new privet hedge is thoroughly watered, fertilized with horn shavings and mulched with bark compost so that weeds do not form between the hedge plants.

Chinese privet as container plant

Chinese privet (Ligustrum delavayanum) as a high stem in container

Care tips

There is hardly a garden plant that is as easy to care for as the privet. In addition to regular pruning of privet hedges and topiary trees as well as compost fertilization in spring, the plants do not need any additional care. Chinese privet in the container has to be watered regularly because of the limited root space and fed with a liquid greening plant fertilizer every two weeks, so that the crowns are beautifully lush green and dense.

Pruning

Privet hedges show quite a vigorous growth and should therefore be trimmed into shape twice a year: the first time at the end of June and again at the end of August. As an alternative to the late summer pruning, it is also possible to prune the privet in early spring. If the privet hedge is out of shape, you can also make a radical tapering cut close to the ground to rebuild the hedge. When making regular shape cuts, make sure that the green dividing wall is not wide at the top and narrow at the bottom - such "top-heavy" privet hedges quickly bald at the bottom and then have to be completely rejuvenated.

Pruning privet hedges

Privet hedges should be cut into shape twice a year

Overwintering and Winter Protection

The Chinese privet can tolerate light frost, but in Germany, it is not reliably winter-hardy. Best to overwinter it in a bright, unheated, shaded greenhouse or alternatively in a conservatory. A dark wintering is also possible if the temperatures are constantly around 41 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Overwintering in the outdoors with appropriate winter protection is only possible in very mild wine-growing regions.

Propagating privet

Propagation of the species and varieties is quite easy with cuttings and hardwood cuttings. The taller hedge plants are usually propagated by hardwood cuttings in winter. If you want to wait a few years, you can even grow a privet hedge yourself from cuttings by sticking pencil-length shoots in the ground at the correct planting distance to just below the upper pair of buds. To be on the safe side, you should plant a few replacement plants elsewhere so that you can replace individual cuttings that have not grown on the new privet hedge next fall.

Since the Chinese privet does not form a long straight stems, tall stems for the container are usually grafted at crown height on the stems of the native common privet.

Diseases and Pests

Privet can be attacked by various diseases and pests, but they do not pose a serious threat to the plants. The most common fungal diseases include powdery mildew various leaf spot pathogens. Occasionally you will encounter pests such as aphids and plant bugs. In all cases, control is only necessary if the infestation is very severe.

Frequently asked questions

When can privets be planted?

Privet is usually planted in the fall or spring.

At what distance can privet be planted?

If you plant around four to five plants every 3.28 feet for a and cut back the shoots vigorously, the hedge will branch out well and become nice and dense.

How tall do privets grow?

Depending on the species and variety, the heights can vary between 3.28 to 16.4 feet.

When does the privet bloom?

Privet usually blooms in June and July.

When can privets be pruned?

If you have a privet hedge, you should use trimmers twice a year: End of June and End of August. Alternatively, privet can be pruned in early spring.

Which privet is evergreen?

The Chinese privet is evergreen, but unfortunately not hardy and can therefore only be kept in a container. In the garden, people like to use the ”Atrovirens” variety (Ligustrum vulgare ‘Atrovirens’) because it stays green longer in winter than, for example, the common privet (Ligustrum vulgare). The oval-leaved privet, hedge-leaved privet, oval-leaved privet oval leaved privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium) also retains its leaves into winter. A popular wintergreen variety is the golden privet.

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