Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinsense) hedge

How to grow a privet hedge

All you need to know about growing, caring for and pruning privet hedges.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Plant
Plant

Do Plant in January

Do Plant in February

Do Plant in March

Do Plant in April

Do not Plant in May

Do not Plant in June

Do not Plant in July

Do not Plant in August

Do not Plant in September

Do Plant in October

Do Plant in November

Do Plant in December

Flowers
Flowers

Plant does not flower in January

Plant does not flower in February

Plant does not flower in March

Plant does not flower in April

Plant does not flower in May

Plant does not flower in June

Plant does flower in July

Plant does not flower in August

Plant does not flower in September

Plant does not flower in October

Plant does not flower in November

Plant does not flower in December

Prune
Prune

Do not Prune in January

Do not Prune in February

Do not Prune in March

Do not Prune in April

Do not Prune in May

Do not Prune in June

Do Prune in July

Do Prune in August

Do Prune in September

Do not Prune in October

Do not Prune in November

Do not Prune in December

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.

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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.

More on growing hedges:

Find out more about growing privet, below.


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
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  • 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