Privet is a robust, hardy hedging plant that grows virtually anywhere. Evergreen or semi-evergreen (plants will drop some leaves in a bad winter), privet bears masses of bee-friendly white flowers in summer, followed by black, poisonous berries.


Both garden privet, Ligustrum ovalifolium, and wild privet, Ligustrum vulgare, are common hedging plants, perfect for creating fast-growing privacy and shelter at garden boundaries. Only wild privet is native to Britain; garden privet is native to Japan and Korea. The latter is a more popular choice for hedging as it can be clipped well into a formal hedge and is very tolerant of pollution. This makes it suitable for growing in very urban areas. However, wild privet has more value as a wildlife plant – its flowers are adored by bees and its leaves are used by the larvae of several moth species.

Privet is a popular choice for city, country and coastal hedges. Fast-growing, it can create a dense, long-lasting hedge with a mature height and spread of about 4m.

How to grow a privet hedge

Grow privet in moist but well-drained soil in sun to shade. Keep plants well watered in the first two years and the area around the plants weed-free. Prune once or twice a year to maintain a traditional 'hedge' shape. Be careful to check for bird nests before pruning.

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Where to grow privet

How to grow a privet hedge - flowering wild privet
How to grow a privet hedge - flowering wild privet

Privet will grow almost anywhere. It's able to cope with sea winds, full sun, partial shade, light, dry and sandy soil. It will put up with almost anything but a very boggy soil.

How to plant privet

The cheapest way to create a privet hedge is to buy bare-root plants from November to March. However you can also buy potted privet plants all year round.

Prepare the soil by digging in plenty of well-rotted organic matter. Plants are fast-growing and do best in a good soil and a sprinkling of bonemeal to get them going. Dunk bare-root and potted plants in a bucket of water while working out the spacing. For a long hedge it's often quicker to dig out a planting trench than make individual holes. Plant each plant about 30cm apart and make sure you plant them at the same depth they were on the pot or look for a soil mark on bare root specimens. Firm plants in and water well.

For two years after planting, water your privet hedge in dry spells and keep the area around the plants free of weeds. Add an annual mulch of well-rotted compost, leafmould or manure each autumn.

How to prune a privet hedge

How to grow a privet hedge - how to prune privet
How to grow a privet hedge - how to prune privet

Once established, all you need to do it clip your privet hedge in summer using a hedge trimmer or shears. If plants are old or out of shape they can be cut back into old wood as they will regrow.

In this clip from Gardeners' World, Monty Don demonstrates how to make use of the view beyond your garden by cutting a window into a hedge. It's a great way to open up an enticing glimpse of borrowed landscape, such as a tree or an interesting building:

Video: Will privet cope with hard pruning?

How to take cuttings from privet

How to grow a privet hedge - taking privet cuttings
How to grow a privet hedge - taking privet cuttings

Privet is tough and easy to propagate. Simply cut healthy stems about 10cm long from the parent plant on a warm autumn day. In a position of dappled shade, loosen garden soil with a hand fork. Remove the lower leaves from the cuttings. Push about 4cm of the leafless cutting stem into the soil.

By mid-spring in the following year the cuttings should be showing signs of growth. Pot them on or plants them directly out in the garden.

Growing privet: problem solving

Privet is generally a trouble-free plant. However, wet root rot can be an issue if you plant too deep in wet soil. Plants will be stunted in growth, leaves turn yellow or they drop. Young hedges may need to be replanted and the soil drainage improved.

It's unlikely that a mature hedge will suffer if it has established itself in the soil.

Gap in your privet hedge? Emma Crawforth, BBC Gardeners' World Magazine, explains how to fill it, in our Quick Tips video:

Privet: poisonous to livestock

The leaves and berries of privet are poisonous. For this reason, never use privet as a hedge in a garden that runs alongside a livestock field.

Watering can

Privet varieties to grow

How to grow a privet hedge - topiary Chinese privet Ligustrum lucidum
How to grow a privet hedge - topiary Chinese privet Ligustrum lucidum
  • Ligustrum ovalifolium – dark green, shiny foliage. White flowers in July. Reaches a height of 4m
  • Ligustrum ovalifolium ‘Aureum’ – commonly known as the golden privet. All the same attributes as its plain green relative but lighter green and golden foliage. Reaches 4m
  • Ligustrum vulgare – a native plant. Semi-evergreen. Its berries are favoured by birds and it is often found in a mixed hedge
  • Ligustrum sinense – deciduous species with deep green, glossy leaves. Numerous panicles of sweetly-scented flowers in summer

Frequently asked questions

Help! parts of my privet hedge are dying and there are black blotches on the bark

Privet is susceptible to fungal infections, and can be particularly affected by honey fungus. Some types of honey fungus can kill privet hedges. Look for white threads (known as mycelium) around the base of the hedge or growing among the roots, or black 'bootlace' like strands in dead or dying branches. In autumn, yellow mushrooms may also be found around the base and along the branches of infected plants, but this isn't guaranteed. There is no cure for honey fungus so the best thing to do is remove and destroy affected plants to stop the fungus spreading. Consider replacing dead sections of the hedge with more resistant species, like yew (Taxus baccata).

Help! My privet hedge leaves are turning yellow in winter

This is nothing to worry about. While many gardeners consider privet to be fully evergreen, it's actually considered 'semi-evergreen', which means it can lose leaves in harsh winters. The yellowing leaves tend to be older leaves and, once the hedge has shed them, new green leaves will follow in spring. 

Help! My privet hedge has developed black spots!

Leaf spot, along with rust, commonly affects privets. Both are fungal infections, and can cause spots on the leaves or reddish/orange discolouration. They are usually nothing to worry about, and the hedge will not be any worse for them. However you can prevent the fungi taking hold by ensuring the soil the hedge is growing in remains moist but well-drained, and removing any leaves that fall to the ground, which could be harbouring fungal spores. If you can, improve ventilation around the hedge, so fungal spores have fewer opportunities to take hold on the leaves.

Help! My privet hedge is losing leaves in summer!

This is most likely caused by drought. Privet hedges need moist but well-drained soil, and can suffer in dry summers. If your privet hedge is losing leaves in summer, use grey water (saved from your shower or washing up bowl) to give it a good drink, and continue watering regularly until weather conditions become wetter. Then, in autumn, mulch with plenty or organic matter, such as home-made compost, which will help to lock in moisture ahead of the next growing year.