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Privet – the Good, the Bad and the Beautiful

January 19, 2017

Written by Dave G.

Let’s face it – Privet has a bad reputation. Mention it to the average gardener and they picture a big, boring plant with green leaves that must be constantly battled with to stop it taking over, and which seeds wildly in every direction, invades the surrounding countryside, and ends up getting itself banned in multiple jurisdictions. But like the five-year-old who gets on a no-fly list because he shares a first name with a wanted terrorist, all privets don’t deserve this reputation, which springs from a few black-sheep who have sullied the reputation of the whole family.

The truth is that many privets are well-mannered garden subjects, flowering prettily, making great background plants, offering us trouble-free leaf-colors and generally getting on well with everyone else in the garden. We must just know who to invite over and who to have the bouncer throw out.

The Good

Wax Leaf Privet (Ligustrum japonicum ‘Texanum’)

The Japanese privet (Ligustrum japonicum) is top of the good guys. Although sometimes given a bad rap, this is usually a result of misidentification, since all privets are generally similar in appearance, and it takes a little knowledge and experience to identify them accurately. Japanese privet is a small tree, but if planted with enough space allowed for their growth, it is an attractive and very tough plant and a great choice for a difficult area. Even more desirable are the smaller forms, and two in particular stand out.

The form called ‘Texanum’, which originated in that state but is widely grown today in California, reaches just a modest 6 to 8 feet tall. Known as the Waxleaf Privet, it is garlanded with large, 8-inch-long clusters of pure-white flowers in spring. This plant is small enough to grow in large pots and planter boxes, where, with its arching shoots, it makes an attractive terrace and patio plant. Similar in size is the curved-leaf privet, a variety of Japanese privet called ‘Recurvifolium’. It has twisted leaves that give an elegant air to this very easily grown evergreen, that can also be planted as an easily-maintained hedge.

Equally useful and relatively compact is the California privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium) which even if left untrimmed will never exceed 15 feet in height and more often stay around 10 feet tall. For low-maintenance, this plant stand out. It ignores drought and heat and it is easily trimmed into a hedge anything from 4 to 12 feet tall. It makes a great screen, and the honey-scented blossoms attract butterflies and are a valuable food source for them.

The Bad

Now let’s see who to cross off the invitation list. There are two species of privet that we can easily garden without, and be happier for the experience. If you live in the north-east, then European privet (Ligustrum vulgare) also called common privet, is the main bad-guy. This is a plant that will grow rapidly and crowd out your garden, as well as producing some dull flowers that never the less seed profusely, and have already spread into many north-eastern forests.

Further south the Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense) is the playground bully. This plant is not especially cold-hardy, but it thrives in the warmth and humidity of the south-east, again seeding and spreading into natural forests and crowding out native species. The variegated from of Chinese privet is much tamer, and has attractive leaves edged in white. It grows more slowly and also flowers much less, so it doesn’t present the same environmental hazards.

Also sometimes called Chinese privet, but better called glossy privet, Ligustrum lucidum does indeed have attractive glossy foliage, but in areas like Texas it too is invasive. These plants spread outside the garden because birds eat the berries and then spread the seeds as they move about and do what birds do. . .

The Beautiful

It may seem that calling something as everyday as privet ‘beautiful’ is going too far, but well-tended privet, as a tree or a hedge, is a handsome plant that can earn a place in any garden. A tree in bloom is almost as attractive as a Japanese tree lilac, which everyone agrees is garden worthy, and privet has the added merit of being evergreen.

What makes privet beautiful is a little care from its owner. Regular trimming of a hedge turns it into an outstanding garden feature, and if the variegated Japanese privet is used, you have a hedge that sparkles with color all year round. Trimming shortly after flowering also removes the potential for seeding and spreading, so any possibility of becoming a weed is eliminated, while also keeping your plants tidy and attractive.

The final way to make privet beautiful is to allow enough room for it to fully develop. Far too often plants are put in places that are too small for them. Then they need constant trimming, cannot develop their mature attractive forms, and become a nuisance in the garden, ending up being removed after a few years. All plants need room to develop properly – measure your spot and compare it to the expected final size of the plant!

Comments 112 comments

  1. July 5, 2017 by Marilyn

    Thanks so much this helpful information. I am not sure which one we have growing next to our house, but I do find shoots of it everywhere starting to grow. I live in Northern California, and it’s in full bloom right now. There are tiny little seeds everywhere. I am talking probably thousands! It does very much resemble a Japanese lilac tree.

    1. July 16, 2018 by Car

      I spoke to an arborist about these privets like yours that are all over Northern California (I have one in my backyard, and my neighbor has one in his front yard. Her reaction was, “CUT IT DOWN”. She said it was a non-native invasive species, and doesn’t understand why they are still being sold in this state. I strongly dislike mine, and as soon as I can, I’m having it removed. I prefer more native trees. These are nothing but a headache and a mess in my opinion!

  2. I live in the Nashville, TN area and am in the process of doing some re-landscaping at our 23 year old home of the past 8 years. Plants have grown completely out of control here.
    I saw online in a Proven Winners posting a picture of Ligustrum-Golden Ticket. This is a beautiful plant. My online search for ‘privet’ tonight brought me to your article – it is EXACTLY what I needed! I am looking for something evergreen as a backdrop for hydrangea on either side of a large window on the front of our house. This has a different style of foliage from most other evergreens I have been looking at. I have found one called Curlyleaf Privet – Ligustrum japonicum ‘Rotundifolium’ on Monrovia website which seems to be closer to the size I need. Your article set me on the right path. Thank you so much for making it available and giving more information that I have found before.

  3. September 27, 2017 by lynetta

    how fast do they grow?

    1. July 16, 2018 by Carl

      Way too fast! If you don’t stay on top of them, they will be a mess all over your yard!

  4. what is privet tree –very tall– flammability?

    1. February 16, 2018 by David Goodfellow

      Privet will burn, but not as much as, for example, eucalyptus. If you live in an area prone to fire you should have no large trees within 50 feet of your property, or 100 foot if the land slopes upwards away from the property.

  5. March 5, 2018 by Mary

    Wondering if the seedlings are safe to eat. Out of curiosity I nibbled the top of a two leaf seedling and thought it was OK. I am going through a hard time financially and am eating a lot of greens in the form of weeds. If they are good to eat or at least not toxic, it would be a good thing.

    1. March 5, 2018 by David Goodfellow

      I would not eat them. If you are seriously interested in eating wild plants, or plants not grown for food in your garden, I suggest you visit a local library and learn about edible wild plants. It is much safer to eat only what is known to be safe and edible, rather than experiment with this or that. People have died that way – really, they have. I am sorry you are having financial problems, but keep safe!

      1. April 28, 2019 by Mark T

        The one sometimes referred to as Chinese “ligustrum lucidum” is actually used in Chinese herbal medicine
        from Mountain Rose Herbs site:
        ” The glossy fruit of the privet bush is one of the oldest Chinese herbal remedies, used for over 2,000 years, at least from the time of the writing of the Divine Husbandman’s Classic of the Materia Medica in 190 BCE. It has cooling properties that are known to help the yin, and support the liver and kidneys. It has often been combined with chrysanthemum and wolfberries, and then used as a tonic.”

        I have these things proliferating in central California–the fastest-growing thing I have ever seen. A big problem if one starts growing next to your house or concrete work, the roots will undermine them. But if you need a quick hedge–WOW–plus the birds are nuts about the glossy black berries. I just wish I could figure out if the ones I have are the medicinal ones.

        1. February 5, 2020 by jim bernard

          We have a privet tree that is about 15 years old and is about 20 ft tall. We have a large number of berries, many more than ever before hanging like grape clusters. The birds do NOT eat them and they have been there since late fall. They were full and shiny but are dull and dried out now. We live in southern Arizona and we would like to know if the berries will ever fall off. Some have fallen but we have lots on the tree and would like to see them gone. We really enjoy our tree but would just like the berries to disappear! THank you

          1. February 6, 2020 by Dave G

            I guess those Arizona birds haven’t read the Good Food Guide! The only way to stop berries would be to stop flowering, which means regular trimming. Left untrimmed privet will flower profusely, while trimmed trees don’t flower much at all. They will eventually fall off, probably when the new growth comes, or at least they will be hidden by new leaves. The amount of flowering/berries can differ from year to year. After a heavy crop last year there is a good chance it will be much lighter this year, and rainfall and temperatures play a part too.

  6. April 8, 2018 by Amber

    Thank you for this article. A google search led me to this article. There are many of these growing on the wooded part of our property and I didn’t know what they were but they are beautiful in bloom.

  7. May 16, 2018 by Dee

    This is probably the best article I’ve read about privet online; thank you so much!

  8. May 18, 2018 by Laura

    Are the California Privet deer resistant?

    1. May 19, 2018 by David Goodfellow

      All privet are considered deer resistant, but deer are hard to predict, and will eat most anything if they get hungry enough! So yes, it’s a recommended shrub for deer resistance, but no guarantees!

  9. May 24, 2018 by Sonny

    How can I tell the difference between a Japanese privet, a white lilac bush or a Hawaiian Mockorange; or whatever it is. The issue is half of it has “helmet top” and I want to fix it before it chokes itself out but depending on what it is, cutting it down to half the size (for rejuvenation) might kill it. Just some info to help you figure it out or for you to direct me to where I might find help. The hedge/shrub was planted by my Gramps back in the 40’s. As of today when I trimmed it, it is 5′ 6″ tall and about 3′ wide on average. The stalks range from .75″ to 1.25″ in dia. Most of the foliage is in the upper 6′ to 12″ area. Also, that area looks like The River Selenga Delta; 2 split to 4 then 8 then 16 etc… The leaves are supple, not waxy and are teardrop shaped. When it blooms it is Very fragrant and last for nearly 3 weeks but there are no types of berries/seeds. The blooms are white and are shaped like a bloom from a chestnut tree; a skinny triangle shape. It’s only about an inch in size/bloom but it’s not totally covered like most that I’ve looked at; and the flowers have 5 to 7 petals each. I have, over the last few years, noticed that it seems to die from the top down since I’ve cut what I thought were dead branches off at the bottom only to find the bottom very healthy. All the other hedges in the neighborhood are totally different. BTW, this one is the one one in the area that bees regularly come to when it’s in bloom; if that helps any.

    1. May 25, 2018 by David Goodfellow

      This is an interesting one! From the description it doesn’t sound like any of the plants you mention – they all have regular flowers, not at all like the irregular, ‘chestnut’ flower you describe. 5 petals is almost universal, so that doesn’t help much either. . . That splitting of the branches into many stems is a natural result of continued pruning over many years – again, pretty universal for shrubs. My best suggestion is to take a piece in bloom to a local garden center and ask them – they will usually know plants grown locally.
      Whatever it is, if it has been repeated pruned since the 40s you won’t kill it by cutting it down hard – I would suggest removing the biggest branches right at the bottom, and leaving the thinner branches about 2/3 of the height you actually want this plant to be. Do it soon, or if it hasn’t flowered yet, do it straight after flowering. Put some compost or rotted manure over the roots, water well, and I bet it will come back like you wouldn’t believe!

  10. June 4, 2018 by JClev

    I live in Québec Canada. have privet hedge since 2005. The zone 4 vulgaris is the only one I can have in our winter (-30 to +30 celcius) As a bonsaist, I use privets as bonsai and love it to be a very good trainer for beginners in the atr. As hedge some winters are too cold and I have to start all over every 5 years or so. Glad that it grows fast.

  11. July 3, 2018 by Jerry

    I am in El Paso, Texas where various types of privet (I have 6 different varieties) do quite well. Haven’t had any die of freezing or high temps and also do well in part shade. Wax leaf not fond of too much water. A light-colored type (not variegated) needs more water. Small plants may suffer rabbit damage. Good for this area as it is hardy and no pests. Not invasive regardless of type as few berries produced and climate is severe. We are happy to have any ornamental like these.

  12. July 9, 2018 by Susan

    What would I have central Virginia? I have 2 taking over my fence line.

    1. July 10, 2018 by David Goodfellow

      You could have any of the ones described here – sorry, can’t be more specific. If they are ‘taking over’, perhaps you want to replace them with something less aggressive?

  13. July 29, 2018 by Stacy Tirman

    I searched for an hour for a truly informative piece on the various types of privet and not just garden center specifics. I found it with you, thank you. I am originally from the US south but now live in Europe ( for 18 years). I’m looking for a screen hedge other than the overused laurel and thuja we have here. I’m tired of laurel and the thujas around here seem afflicted with something, so am wary of adding more. So I remembered my wild privet hedge in Arkansas. I always loved the way it smelled and scented the entire garden when in bloom. I never understood the privet hatred amongst gardeners. I’m also a master gardener and have been seriously gardening for 25 years. My privet, whatever it was, did not stink and I did not mind the new seedlings as it added to the privacy screen between us and our neighbor. I had a lot of space though and I diligently pruned and cleaned it up once a year after flowering, so that may have helped matters, but there were a lot of dead flower heads I could never reach. C’est la vie…let them be!
    I now want something that will scent the garden again when in bloom, provide a screen as a new building is going up next door, attract bees and birds with low Maitenance, on a slight slope and near a water sucking birch tree. I think I’m going with the one you mentioned above, the ovalifolium. My garden center has this and the vulgare. I’m so glad I came home to research before purchase! Thank you again.

    1. July 29, 2018 by David Goodfellow

      Glad to be of help! Good luck with your planting, and you are right, pruning and cleaning is the key with privet.

      1. March 21, 2019 by DeAnna DeLeon

        I love the amazingly sweet scent of privet as well, but struggle to know which is the correct variety to get that juicy sweet fragrance from? Also wondering what time.e of year is it that they bloom? I remember the scent in The California Bay area in late summer to early Autumn mostly.

        1. March 21, 2019 by Dave G

          Japanese privet has a good fragrance, but of course fragrance is subjective. Usually bloom in early to mid summer, but it can depend on trimming, since trimmed plants will bloom later, or not at all.

  14. August 4, 2018 by nate

    PLEASE do not plant ANY species of privet, and when removing it, be thorough in either removing the root or spraying it with herbicide to ensure that it will not return. It is a horrendously invasive species. I do work in National Parks and Forests, and privet is running rampant and is destroying all of the native trees that feed the animals. Along with many other invasive plant species like wisteria and kudzu, it is fast growing and can be very destructive to an entire ecosystem. I have spent so much time removing this awful plant to try and restore our beautiful public lands, and it kills me every time i see it planted as a shrub. There are alternatives! I hope this helps educate and spread knowledge. The forests will thank you to avoid privet at all costs.

    1. August 5, 2018 by David Goodfellow

      As this article makes clear, there are certainly privet species that are invasive. But it depends where you live – some species are not invasive at all in some areas, and pose only a very low threat in others. Some are invasive almost everywhere. Part of the problem is poor identification, and the use of blanket terms like ‘privet’. There are, after all, 50 species, and only two or three are invasive anywhere. I assume you know that when you see wisteria in a forest, that there are native species of this genus? Did you carefully identify the ones you saw as non-native? Agree entirely about kudzu! The other issue is this – once a plant is established in the wild, what impact does the garden population have on increasing its spread, compared to the acres and acres of it growing wild? Studies done on this subject suggest it is minimal, once a plant has established wild populations. Not disagreeing with you in principle – and thanks for all your hard work in clearing land – but these issues are more nuanced than you are suggesting.

  15. August 25, 2018 by Poppy

    I have a screen of privets along my back fence. They grow all over in my town in NorCal. Nothing else would grow back there—but privets do really well anywhere and they keep my yard from crumbling down into the neighbor’s. They might not be native, but when they make flowers, the bees love them, and the berries attract hundreds of Robins and Cedar Waxings that feed off of them for weeks.

  16. September 3, 2018 by STAR L TAYLOR

    In February this year, we moved to Arlington, Texas (suburb of Dallas). I’m not very knowledgeable on plant names and have been utilizing a plant identification Facebook site. It led me to your page. I have about 3 ft tall shrub that was identified as being a privet. Do you have any suggestions on pruning? I have another tree in the backyard that looks like it may be the Texas strain. It stands about 12 to 15 feet tall and has little white flowers on it in the spring. Many butterflies and small bees really enjoy the flowers in the spring. I trimmed the smaller shoots at the bottom in order to walk under it. The tree seemed to appreciate it. I plan on keeping both so any suggestions are greatly appreciated.

    1. September 3, 2018 by G Dave

      Remember that pruning is only needed for many shrubs if there are space issues – and if you have to prune a lot then you probably have ‘wrong plant, wrong place’ syndrome. Privet are tough, and can be cut back freely, especially in a warmer place like Dallas. The only bad time would be at the height of summer, especially during a drought. But if you don’t need to reduce the size, leaving a plant alone will usually result in more flowers, and a more natural form. Removing lower branches to make space beneath it, and removing any dead or very weak branches during early growth, is about all you need to do.

  17. October 13, 2018 by Cynthia

    I have been going through some pretty miserable allergy problems. My allergist ran some tests and right at the top is Privet. Apparently spring and fall are “robust” times for their pollens. I’m not sure which type Privet I have but they sure can make you feel miserable.

  18. I planted a privet in a 10 by 14 ft area. It has grown into a very low maintenance beautiful small tree. It does get clusters of berries once or twice a year. These berries can be messy but they are contained in the area I planted it and the birds love them. A few years ago a flock of cedar waxwings completly stripped the tree of its berries in 2 days! I placed weed barrier cloth in the planted area with wood chips on top which has made it all low maintenance over the last ten years.

  19. February 7, 2019 by Karen Lubbehusen

    We have a lingustrum it is about 6 yrs old, it has never bloomed. Any reason why?

    1. February 8, 2019 by G Dave

      Perhaps it is growing in a lot of shade? Flowering is much greater in sun. Also, some varieties hardly ever bloom, others do it a lot – perhaps you have a ‘non-blooming’ one?

  20. March 27, 2019 by Mary H

    I have it in Oklahoma. I assume it is the European version. it is not waxy leaved. I think the flowers smell lovely. Yes the birds love it and I had traveling cedar waxwings once very grateful on their migration.
    It is messy and parking the car under it is not wise.
    However for a quick growing screen-I’m in the center city and our yards are small-it is reliable and manageable. It appears to be evergreen and we get down to 10 below.
    I have allergies in general but don’t find it to be worse than the cedars and the oak pollen-you can’t escape.
    I grow it for the privacy and for the birds and am shocked that so many people hate it.
    Right now I’ve transferred a bunch of the baby ones which sprout reliably each year. I am making a serpentine shaped hedge to back up my roses and to hide the neighbors’ very ugly wood fence. It grew to 3 feet over the winter but I’ve cut it down to about 20 inches this first year and I’m filling in with new plants.

  21. March 30, 2019 by Daniel

    In Texas, we also have the invasive Quihoui Privet (Ligustrum quihoui) which should be included in the Bad list. It has overgrown many wild areas and is very difficult to keep clear.

  22. April 3, 2019 by Marilyn Klevar

    Thank you SO much for your website. I googled thinking the invasive suckers were ligustrum, but in reality they are Chinese privet. I have variegated privet, and I love it (needs to be trimmed). Last summer, I had the yard crew whack the towering Chinese privet hedge to four feet high, and I now have privets everywhere in my 20×12 ft bed. Can I apply brush-strength herbicide without hurting other plants in that bed (huge sago palm, crepes, the variegated privet)? Al;so, I made the mistake of planting two 4″ pots of Katie Ruelila 10 years ago in this backyard bed, and the rhizomes have spread 100 feet in all directions no matter how much I tried to dig them up before they escaped! Round-Up doesn’t seem to phase them. Why do local nurseries offer such invasive plants?! I live in Houston. Thanks much for any remedy!

    1. April 4, 2019 by Dave G

      Thank you! The best way to apply Round-Up in a selective way is by putting it in a bucket, putting on rubber gloves, and using a sponge to spread it on the leaves. The risk of drift is too great if you use a sprayer. Ruellia is very invasive in zones 9 and 10, but it sounds like it is just as bad in zone 8! I think that persistent digging is your only answer, unless you can remove all the plants you want from the bed, and then cover it in black plastic for a summer. That usually kills all plants in the ground, but it’s pretty unsightly, and it doesn’t sound like that would be practical for you. Are you sure Round-up isn’t working – the new plants could be from seed. . .

    2. June 30, 2019 by Kevin C Earls

      I have a waxed leaf privet in tree form. Used to be in a large pot, then 2 years ago I planted it in a garden next to our front porch. It thrives there, has the most intoxicating fragrance when blooming, and is easily maintained with occasional pruning. Easily one of the most enjoyable items in our.yard.

  23. May 11, 2019 by Lloyd Dent

    Apparently the Monarch butterfly loves the privet blossoms. Hundreds have stopped for a feast on their way to the Monterrey peninsula in a fifty foot hedge in my yard in the San Fernando Valley. May 11, 2019.

  24. May 16, 2019 by Ken

    What a great, helpful article! Thank you!
    How do you feel about the Loense Privet?

    1. May 16, 2019 by Dave G

      Thanks for the compliment – we try to be informative and helpful, and stay away from ‘fluff’.

      The Lodense Privet is a form of common privet – Ligustrum vulgare. As a garden plant it seems great for smaller hedge. or even as an unclipped flowering shrub in a small garden. When it comes to privet, ‘small’ is almost always a virtue!

  25. May 17, 2019 by Joan

    Thank you for the great information on your site. I am wondering about the First Editions Straight Talk Privet. Does it truly stay within the size range of 2ft wide by 12ft tall? Is this an invasive plant in Iowa? I would like to plant this in the vicinity of an underground perforated drainage tile.Does the root system get aggressive and grow into a perforated drain tile if the plant is close to the tile? Thanks for your help!

    1. May 18, 2019 by Dave G

      I’m not personally familiar with this relatively new variety, but I would take a guess and suggest that over time it will become broader, but it is easily trimmed. It does flower, so it will be just as invasive as Ligustrum vulgare is, if you allow seeds to develop. If you plan to use it as a hedge, and trim once or twice a year, it should have few flowers and even fewer seeds.
      Perforated drain tile is easily invaded by roots, so the answer is probably ‘yes’. 50 feet is the recommended distance for large trees, but for a small plant like this 10 feet is probably sufficient. Alternatively you can replace a section of the pipe with solid pipe, where it runs near trees.

  26. May 22, 2019 by Kelly

    I just bought 2 of the Straight Talk “Swift”
    Ligustrum Vulgare privets to add to my 10’ft long hedge line. The other type that I have has never had berries! I don’t want berries! I do trim it once or twice a year. Very minimal flowering- thinking because I trim. Do you suppose that’s why I’ve never seen berries? Also it has never sprouted anywhere in my yard.
    Not sure I bought the right kind of privet. Any suggestions on one that doesn’t have berries?

    1. May 22, 2019 by Dave G

      Regular trimming is the best way to reduce or eliminate flowering in any privet. No flowers = no berries, and no sprouting plants in your yard, or anywhere else. If you want flowers and no berries, just trim as the flowers fade. As far as I know there has been no work on producing varieties that don’t set seed, which would be a good thing for some plant breeder to take on. So I think the two you have bought will be fine in your hedge.

  27. May 31, 2019 by Lisa Côté

    This is so interesting! Thank you for the detailed information. I found this yesterday in an undeveloped lot within a nice neighborhood. I thought it was so beautiful, I snapped a piece for ID. I’m in Louisiana. I’m wondering if this is Japanese or perhaps Chinese Privet? May I send a picture please?

    Thank you so much!
    Lisa Côté

    1. May 31, 2019 by Dave G

      Thank’s Lisa! It nice to be able to get solid information out, and even better when it’s appreciated. I am afraid we don’t have facility to upload pictures, and anyway, telling them apart is tricky, and needs fresh material, including flowers and seeds. Typical plant to find in a neglected lot – probably escaped from a surrounding garden at some time.

  28. June 5, 2019 by Scott

    We have 4 trellised privet growing against our back fence. Very hearty bright green and visually appealing, however our Golden Retriever pup loves to chew sticks, bark, and leaves. Our vet informed us that privet can cause a variety of problems if ingested by dogs.

    1. June 10, 2019 by Dave G

      If your pup has a good selection of rawhide bones and toys, it probably will ignore plants in your garden – besides crashing into them when running around! It takes a pretty large dose to make a dog sick, so the odd leaf or two isn’t likely to hurt.

  29. June 16, 2019 by Nicole R.

    We just were searching for the ID of a bush in our front yard which the bees adore so we could figure out what to do and found it is a Japanese privet. It has been blossoming since may, but many of the blossoms are dying. Should we dead head them for the bees? Or are they just done?… Bees need all the help they can get. It is ironic that in the back our neighbors’ privets have destroyed the fence and we have two of them now growing in our yard…impossible to get rid of easily. Obviously invasive privets. We have privets and junipers both of which I am horribly allergic to but the flowering one is just lovely and we love honeybees.

    1. June 16, 2019 by Dave G

      Unfortunately dead-heading won’t cause re-blooming to any degree, but you might want to deadhead to reduce seed production. On the other hand, many birds use the seed as a food source, while also distributing the plant around, so it’s a judgement call on what is more important.

  30. June 22, 2019 by Patrick

    Is there anywhere I can send a picture of my privet growing in Michigan for identification? It is about 10 feet tall, has white flowers in June which smell very nice, the flowers attract bees and butterflies. Unfortunately, it is planted too close to my houe so I have to frequently trim it as it grows fast.

    1. June 22, 2019 by Dave G

      Unfortunately proper identification of privet needs someone with botanical knowledge, and actual specimens in both flower and fruit. The problem with having to trim frequently is it just makes them grow even faster! Maybe you can cut it down in fall and move it? They are pretty tough and easy to move around.

  31. June 22, 2019 by Phil

    I live in Northern California. My neighbor has about 10 privet trees in her very small backyard that are in excess of 20 feet tall. They spread over the party fence line. They are a nuisance! Every spring thousands of tiny, smelly, white/yellow flowers. Pollen everywhere which causes sinus infections. Then come the tiny pure berries that stain surrounding walkways. Tiny seedlings sprout up everywhere, including on my lawn. Have to hand pick each and every one!
    Don’t plant them is my advice!

  32. I, like several others, deplore privet. My neighbor has the identical setup as Phil’s neighbor. Only she has more than 10 privet trees that line her property. It’s pollen season in Northern California and I am reacting like no previous year. Horrific! Add to this literally thousands of seedlings all over my property. Who is supposed to pull those all up? Outrageous! The flowers have to be cleared off my walkways every single morning. Do yourself and your neighbors a favor. So NOT plant this plant in your yard.

  33. July 17, 2019 by Ellen Heitz

    Privet-Ugh, such a nuisance!! It has taken over the yard next door, though was never planted there. It continues to attempt to do the same in my own yard. It is way too hardy here in Northern California! Other than pulling out the thousands of tiny seedlings, it is very difficult to get rid of. I have tried killing one by cutting it to ground level. It still came back!!

    1. July 17, 2019 by Dave G

      It does depend on variety, but California is probably not a good state to plant it, and anyway, you have a lot of other choices. Don’t be surprised that almost any established broad-leaf tree will re-sprout from the stump – it is certainly not something unique to privet.

  34. September 29, 2019 by Missy MacIsaac

    Is the chinese pivot shrub good shrub for zones 8-9… in northern Arizona?

    1. September 30, 2019 by Dave G

      Well it certainly grows there, but perhaps too well – it is already established as an invasive plant there. I would suggest using something more suitable, and native, like creosote bush or desert hackberry, perhaps?

  35. I live in Sacramento, CA and would love to site a couple of Taxum privets 3 ball topiaries ( approx 5 Ft) against a two story house with Northern exposure. Bright light reflection against the white house but still full shade. Given the price of these little gems I am reluctant . . . . . . As everything I read says full sun, partial shade.

    I need something structured, architectural as the house and formal plantings call for it. But am at a loss as to what else I could use. Thoughts?

  36. October 25, 2019 by Heather Hill

    Chinese Privet is EXTREMELY invasive in Southern Mississippi !!! It has RUINED the landscape in the Southeastern U.S. !!! It should have been contained in the jungles of Southeast Asia from where it came…I am in the process of trying to eliminate it from my 483 acre forest…almost IMPOSSIBLE !!! It is UGLY !!! The shrub from HELL !!!

  37. October 31, 2019 by Suellen

    A tree guy was hired by neighbors to cut down a diseased tree close to our property line. But in their yard. It proved easier for him to remove it by hauling thru our yard. In the process he actually cut down three 25 foot privets! Ours! They provided total privacy from three sets of neighbors. He never asked permission. Did it even when tenants were out.

    Being that tall I’m thinking they were Japanese privets. They worked very well. I’m dying to get them replaced. But totally gone so I can only go by the height. Thoughts?

    1. October 31, 2019 by Dave G

      Impossible to know, of course, but that big, they seem more likely to be Chinese privet (Ligustrum chinense). The ordinary version of that can be 30 feet tall.

  38. Texanum variety!!. Does very well in the pacific northwest. Green all year. The honey bees like the flowers. So plant one and save the bees! Granted the flowers are a little hard on my allergies, so I never plant too close to my entry or window. They seem to max out around 8’tall by 6’wide . Got a rental property and need some low maintenance green? This is it. Doesn’t mind the direct sun. Even a klutz like me can grow one. 🙂 …. My other fav btw is the Fatsia japonica (prefers semi shade), kinda reminds me of a papaya tree because of the leaves.

  39. P.S. Not sure what people are talking about with comments “invasive” and “seedlings everywhere”. I’ve been planting and growing the Texanum variety for about 15 years and have not had this problem in the Northwest. The Texanum does drop a few leaves and flowers, but I’ve yet to have another one grow nearby from seedlings.

  40. March 8, 2020 by nick

    i’m looking to plant the japanese privet for a privacy fence. the issue i have is my neighbors do not want to remove the existing 6’ tall fence until i plant the privet on my side, along the fence, and it has grown dense. how concerned should i be about it getting enough sun with it planted along the current fence? the privet will be planted east to west along my property. thanks in advance!

    1. March 8, 2020 by Dave G

      You mention planting east to west, so which side of the fence will the privet be? North side? I am guessing ‘yes’, but either way it is pretty shade resistant, and with overhead direct light it should grow fine until you can take down the fence. If you are on the north side, you will find your neighbor gets the best side of the privet hedge, and your side will be relatively thin, since it is the shady side.

  41. March 8, 2020 by nick

    thanks for the response dave! good point. the fence is actually north east to south west with the privet being planted on my side which is the more north western side.

    1. March 13, 2020 by Dave G

      Sounds like the perfect orientation for a hedge that will be thick on both sides.

  42. I planted 750 bareroot privet plants around my garden a couple of years ago. Looking forward to cutting them back and watching the flourish.

    1. March 13, 2020 by Dave G

      Wow, you must have a large property! Did you plant them as a screen?

  43. March 19, 2020 by Bridgette Vermette

    The common privet is band in Maine as it is labeled as invasive. I want to create a hedge for privacy around my patio. Will the Amur privet or Japanese privet suffice? Will it survive in our hardy winters?
    Thank you in advance,
    Bridgette

    1. March 19, 2020 by Dave G

      No. You are in zone 4 or 5, and privet is not hardy enough for you. What about using Emerald Green Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis)? It is easy to clip and control, evergreen, and very hardy with you.

  44. April 12, 2020 by Celeste65

    I live in Michigan. I loved my privet shrubs and now that they’re gone I miss them. I plan on buying some more and planting them this year. My neighbor cut them down until they were a foot high and then pulled them out by the roots without my permission.

  45. April 14, 2020 by K Evans

    We planted a series of Japanese privets for a privacy hedge. One of the ones that was flourishing, dense, full and green, produced a tremendous amount of blooms. Now the blooms are dying but it appears the fullness of the leaves on the bush has diminished significantly. If I trim off the blooms will the leaves begin to grow again so that the bush is back to being dense?

    1. April 14, 2020 by Dave G

      Yes, trimming after blooming is always a good idea, and it will stimulate lots of fresh new leaves, keep it dense, and control the size.

  46. April 15, 2020 by Glenda

    Has anyone ever heard of Cheyenne Privet? I was told that it has the longest lasting leaves. I live in zone 6a so none of the Privet is evergreen here. I also have deer and concerned that they will be eaten.

    1. April 16, 2020 by Dave G

      It’s a form of European privet, Ligustrum vulgare ‘Cheyenne’. Very hardy where you are, but it’s not evergreen.

  47. April 16, 2020 by Ibis Nunez

    Can you provide info on the Howardii ligustrum privet? I am looking to create a privacy screen on both sides of my backyard but want it to be shrub (since I have little space) that grows at least 8-10 ft tall, sweet scented, deer resistant, insect resistant (love birds, butterflies but no beetles, stingbugs, etc). Does this type of shrub exist? Would the Howardii ligustrum privet fulfill those qualities? Thank you in advance.

    1. April 16, 2020 by Dave G

      ‘Howardii’ is a golden form of the Japanese Privet, Ligustrum japonicum. It has young golden leaves, turning light green as they mature. It probably fits your needs fairly well, if you are at least in zone 6. If you only have a small space, you will probably need to trim it at least annually after a few years, but it will take a while to reach 10 feet, unless you can find some large plants, which is probably unlikely. I am also no sure how much it flowers, as many golden plants like this don’t flower the way the parent version does. But, yes, it’s likely a good fit for you. It should be deer resistant, but that doesn’t mean deer proof – if they are hungry enough. . .

      As for bugs, I am afraid you will get what you get, and plants aren’t ‘designed’ to satisfy our strictly human opinions on ‘good and bad’ in the insect world! “For every butterfly on a butterfly bush there is a wasp or hornet too”!

  48. Any thoughts on the Straight Talk Privet? I’m looking for a tall, narrow plant to put in front of an ugly meter on the outside of my house but am having a hard time finding one that ships. I’m zone 5a and it’s a light shade spot.

    1. April 21, 2020 by Dave G

      Sounds like a good choice, but it won’t be evergreen. Have you considered one of the narrow junipers, like ‘Skyrocket’ or ‘Blue Arrow’? If you mean light shade with no sun, then they won’t do, but maybe an upright yew tree would work?

  49. April 22, 2020 by Nikki

    I’m in south western KY. Zone 7a. Will any form of privet be evergreen here? I’d love a variety that doesn’t flower. I need a fast growing hedge to hide and take over my chain link fence. I’d love it to be super dense and reach at least 6ft tall. After reaching desired height, how often does it need trimming to remain in shape? I’m only familiar with boxwoods but I know none that get 6-7 feet tall.

    1. April 23, 2020 by Dave G

      Most will grow in zone 7. A very different beast from boxwood, needing lots of trimming, because they grow so fast. A variety listed as growing smaller will of course take longer to reach that height than a tall variety will, if you are willing to keep trimming it regularly.

  50. April 24, 2020 by ROGER J ROELLE

    Neighbors privet roots are invading my lawn. Can I cut them out without killing the privet

    1. April 24, 2020 by Dave G

      You can, but they will grow back fast. You would need to remove over 50% of the root system to have a significant impact on them.

  51. May 5, 2020 by Bobby sue

    Of course a nursery that sells privet will sign it’s praises 🙁 like any other snake oil sells man … when in reality the allowance of privet bradford pears and it’s many new cultivators, Nandinas, periwinkle just to list a few invasive that should be band years ago!!! We have soooo many native plants that evolved with our wildlife supports them and in so many ways that it’s crazy to me that people tend to buy mostly non native plants when we could help the eco system by buying natives and giving back habitat we have taken away with lawns and non native plants that supports only pest

    1. May 5, 2020 by Dave G

      We try to take a balanced attitude, and remember that this is a very large country, and plants that are invasive in some areas are not at all in others, depending on climate and ecology. If you look at our Nandina, Barberry, and Buddleja, for example, you will see we tend to sell sterile varieties, or make it very clear which ones are not suitable for some areas. There is actually no solid definition of what is ‘native’ – it depends when you start measuring it, as many plants that are today part of the ecology were brought over by early settlers, or before that, native peoples via Alaska. It sounds like gardening itself is what you object to, and I guess that is a legitimate position to take, but trees and gardens, no matter what plants they are made with, are vital lungs for our cities, and perhaps we should get rid of freeways and giant malls before gardens, no?

  52. May 8, 2020 by bob misiaszek

    What would be recommended for a privet that would be left untrimmed as a border. I would like 10 – 15 feet in height, non invasive, more bushy than tree-like. I’m located in the northeast corner of Ct. I hesitate to give a zone as it depends on whose chart you are looking at. Flowers would be a plus and deer resistant in a must.

  53. May 11, 2020 by Dee

    My bush/tree is 15’ tall and is covered in large fragrant white blossoms right now. I planted 2 many years ago in opposite corners of my fenced yard and have let them grow naturally. I don’t seem to have the sprout/seedling problem that many complain about. I live in northern Alabama. Do you think my privet is the invasive kind or a different variety?

  54. May 11, 2020 by Gilbert Gia

    Can you recommed a sented privet in zones 8 or 9 that would succeed in a patio container?

  55. May 17, 2020 by Connie Sissom

    Thanks for the Great info!! I live just East of Nashville Tn. I want to plant a Japanese Ligustrum !! I live on a farm so I have wooded area to plant, I want to smell those wonderful blooms!! Can I plant close to other trees? It’s ok with me if they mingle!! Thanks. Connie from a Tenn.

    1. May 17, 2020 by Dave G

      Thank you! Not sure about the invasive potential of Japanese Ligustrum in Tennessee, but I suggest you check. Remember it is not Ligustrum vulgare, which is pretty invasive just about everywhere. As for mingling’, trees generally mix only with their own kind, or those closely related, so no danger of getting an oak/privet hybrid springing up!

  56. May 27, 2020 by Mike F

    I have some wax leaf Ligustrums in our back yard & after the flowers turned brown most of the branches that had the blooms died as well. Also it looks like a lot of the leaves are wilting or curling up too . It did rain yesterday again & I thought they were looking better but today it looks like something is wrong with them . What do u think it is – we live in north central Texas

    1. May 28, 2020 by Dave G

      You don’t mention how long you have had them, but if they are established I doubt it is too serious. Sounds like you have had a lot of rain, and I suspect an opportunistic fungus has established in the dead wet flowers and spread down the branches. If you can trim them, do that. If not, I would think that when hot dry weather arrives they will be fine. Let’s hope so – but these are tough plants that take some killing.

  57. May 30, 2020 by Sue

    We have 2 of these beautiful trees in central Texas, as well as many throughout the neighborhood. They provide wonderful shade, the bees and butterflies are abundant when they bloom, they do grow fast which is great if you are looking for a small shade tree and they are easy to prune. They tend to shed some leaves which isn’t so bad. On occasion we have had a flock of beautiful waxring birds come through and eat ALL the berrie. The brilliant green is a treat in the winter. I am truly a fan.

  58. May 31, 2020 by Karen Boaz

    Wow! So much great information. Thank you. We have the wax leaf in our front yard and it is beautiful and serves that area very well. In the rest of our yard we have privet almost everywhere and are trying to make our yard not look just like weeds. What do you recommend to get rid of the privets that sprout up randomly and constantly all over the yard for the past 18 years? The roots are really tough to dig up.

    1. June 1, 2020 by Dave G

      If you are not averse to chemicals, and can still buy it where you live, then Roundup will kill them without harming other plants, as long as you put it only on the privet leaves. Might take two applications, as they could re-sprout, but unlikely. You will still be left with all the dead twigs though. Maybe just digging is easier – no one said gardening didn’t involve some hard work! 🙂

  59. June 3, 2020 by Jenn

    Reading some of these comments has me a little nervous. For as long as I can remember, I have always loved the distinct scent of the privet flowers.
    Yesterday, I finally purchased 2 “Wavyleaf Ligustrum” /Ligustrum japonicum Recurvifolium (this is the name on the tag) with the idea to plant in front of my house, in front of a window, as bushes.
    I’m now wondering if there are meant to be able to keep as bushes and also am now worried about the possibility of seedlings that some people have mentioned.
    I really don’t want to return them, but also don’t want to worry about possible spreading.

    1. June 3, 2020 by Dave G

      Don’t worry, this variety is not a spreader – that is usually the European privet, Ligustrum vulgare. It does only grow to about 8 feet, as a bush, not a tall tree, so you won’t even need to trim much – an attractive plant and a good buy! If you are at all worried, spend a few minutes taking off the spent flowers once they fade, and trim it back a bit at the same time. That ways 0% chance of its seeding anywhere and it stays bushy as you want it to be.

  60. June 3, 2020 by Jenn

    Thank you so much for taking the time to answer! I am so relieved to read that! I am excited to plant them and am looking forward to that sweet, summer smell every time I walk out of my front door.

  61. June 9, 2020 by Chenni

    Thank you for such an insight about the plant. I found a bunch wild Privet flower on my bike trail in Germany. By any chance that the flower is also toxic? Because I mistake the sent as Holunder flower/elderflower and I tried to make a syrup out of it. But after reading all the comments I am rethinking about throwing it away. Could you shed some light on this? The syrup smells really fantastic.

    1. June 9, 2020 by Dave G

      Tut, tut! The foliage is very different (simple leaves versus divided ones in elderflower), and the first rule of foraging is to be 100% sure of your plants. I don’t know if your elderflower syrup is edible or not, but I certainly wouldn’t make myself the test subject to find out. There are plenty of very toxic things that smell and taste good. Many years ago I lived in England, and there was a case where 5 people (I think that was the number, but several, anyway) died from eating a forage salad. A high-school biology teacher in the group mistook water dropwort hemlock for wild parsley (they are indeed very similar looking). I have never forgotten that story.

  62. June 11, 2020 by Monica

    We have 2 giant evergreen privets on either side of our driveway that were planted by previous owners. One of them is probably 12 ft tall. Even though they flower, we have never had them pop up elsewhere on our property, so in my mind they’re very well-behaved. On the other hand, I don’t want to let nonnative invasives spread if I can help it. Are there any telltale characteristics to help us find out which species of privet these are? Are any species native to the US? Thanks!

    1. June 11, 2020 by Dave G

      Identification of Ligustrum is very tricky, which is part of the reason for the blanket, and unjustified, condemnation of them all. You need some botanical training, and examples, to be able to do it with reasonable accuracy. here is a place to start, if you are interested http://www.guynesom.com/LigustrumOverview.pdf

  63. July 1, 2020 by Veronica

    I have a Japanese variegated privet on my walking path and it produces the best smelling flowers! What scent is that? Is it made into an essential oil or anything! Smells heavenly! Please let me know.

  64. July 4, 2020 by Barbara

    I have 6 Japanese privet that were planted in the back of my property as a hedge about 6 years ago. We are on a barrier island in New Jersey.USA This year we had very sparse growth and two look almost dead. They were exposed to bay water tidal flooding for several days. With climate change and housing development I was wondering if there is a chance of them reviving? If not, I was considering planting cherry laurel in place. All of my ornamental grasses and flowers survived with no damage but my 50 year old hydrangea looks more than half dead. Thanks for any info.!

    1. July 4, 2020 by Dave G

      I would say its salt damage from the flooding. The salt will leach out of the soil with each rainfall, so they could recover – don’t give up yet. If this flooding looks likely to become more common with rising sea levels, maybe you want something salt resistant. Wax myrtle, Myrica cerifera, would be a good choice for a hedge if you are in the southern part of NJ, south of Atlantic City, because wax myrtle does need zone 7. The bay berry, Myrica pennsylvanica, is a lot hardier, and just as salt resistant, but shorter and probably slower growing too. Both of them are more interesting than cherry laurel.

  65. July 18, 2020 by Tim W Cox

    We bought an old farmhouse in Connecticut in 2015. There is an awesome Privet hedge that runs along the road in front of the house. It’s great because it shields the house from the road, which at the time the house was built was a dirt country lane, but has now become a busy state road. There is a photograph of the house, taken in 1934 , showing the hedge in trimmed state and looking much like it does today, 86 years later! My question is, how long will a privet hedge live? It would seem by the age of the house , that our hedge could likely be over 100 years old. Does it keep renewing itself from the cutting? Is there a definitive answer as to how old a privet can get. This is privet by the way. I’ve see , looking around that people suggest on the internet that maybe peoples long lived hedges are Boxwood, but I know what Boxwood looks and smells like, and this is not that. Thanks.

    1. July 18, 2020 by Dave G

      Sounds cool! That sort of thing is always interesting. Trimmed hedges do regenerate, especially something tough like Privet, even from the roots, so the parts you see today are not the ones in the 1934 picture – like those ancient Japanese temples that have been repaired so much that non of the original timbers remain – is it the same temple/hedge therefore?