Ligustrum – privet

These hardy, mostly evergreen shrubs are well-known as neatly-cut front garden hedges. They respond well to hard pruning and can be clipped into fanciful topiary shapes. Their flowers have a heavy, unpleasant scent.

Suitable site and soil. Privet thrives in any soil and in sun or shade, although sun is best for variegated forms.

Cultivation and care. Plant young shrubs between autumn and spring. Prune hedges in hard spring and autumn.

Propagation. Take semi-ripe cuttings in summer and overwinter them in a cold frame; plant out the following autumn.

Recommended varieties. Ligustrum vulgare (common privet), a traditional hedge plant, is semi-evergreen. ‘Aureum’ has golden-yellow leaves. Both have while {lowers with heavy perfume. For glossy green leaves, L. japonicum (Japanese privet) is best. It grows to 3m – 10ft. Often grown as a specimen shrub, L. lucidum ‘Excelsum Superbum’ has creamy-yellow leaf markings, but should not be cut back. L. ovalifolium suits hedging best as it has larger leaves and a good branching structure. There are two variegated forms: ‘Aureum’ with green centre and yellow edges and ‘Argenteum’ with creamy-white edges. Both varieties may lose their leaves in very severe weather conditions.

Pests and diseases. Leaf miner causes dark marks on leaves and premature leaf fall is caused by thrip damage. It is important to note that an entire hedge can be killed by a quick spread of honey fungus.


Birds, aeroplanes and formal shapes are popular subjects for topiary work. Allow long leading shoots to develop in your chosen shape. Reduce those that do not fit the scheme and clip often.

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