How to propagate a privet hedge

Updated November 21, 2016

Privet hedge is a very versatile plant. It can be grown as a shrub, trained as a living fence or grown as a beautiful purple-berry-covered tree. The berries hang down in clusters like tiny grapes. They add depth to a white winter landscape and offer dense shade in the summer. Their fast growth makes them especially useful as a hedge or specimen tree. When trained as topiaries they're unmatched for their ability to fill in fully in as little as a season.

Remove limbs from an overgrown privet. Take sections at least six inches long. Use clean, sharp cutters to remove the limbs. Cut the six-inch sections in half. Carefully remove the bottom sets of leaves from each section.

Using a knife or your fingernail, scratch away the outer bark on the bottom of each limb. You only need to remove a few areas from the cuttings for roots to form. Set the cuttings aside in a bowl of water to prevent them from drying out.

Fill each pot with a mixture of half sand and half compost. Pack it down well but not too hard. Water the pots until water pours from the drain holes. Allow them to drain before sticking the cuttings in them.

Shake the excess water from the cuttings and then dip their bottoms in rooting hormone. Use the chopstick to poke several evenly spaced holes in the soil. Carefully stick each cutting in its own hole and then lightly pack the soil around them. Be very careful not to brush the rooting hormone off the cuttings. Use a gentle spray of water to finish settling the soil.

Top the pots off with a sprinkle of slow-release fertiliser and a layer of compost. Mark each pot with a pen, including the date the cuttings were stuck, their sizes and what fertilisers you used. Place the pots in an area that receives dappled shade and do not allow them to dry out. Water whenever the soil begins to feel dry.

When the plants have more than doubled in size or roots begin to grow from the bottom of the pot, it is time to remove them. They can either be placed in larger pots or planted directly in the ground.

Before repotting, it's best to trim away any root-bound areas. This will make the plants grow better. Repot them now just as you did when you planted them as cuttings.

If planting in the ground, dig the hole a couple of feet deep and twice as wide as the plants roots. Use plenty of compost and slow-release fertiliser in the planting hole. Pack the soil down with your hands and water as you go.

When finished planting add a few inches of organic compost as a natural, nutrient-rich mulch. The compost will prevent weeds from taking over and will shade the soil, preventing it from drying out as fast as it would if left bare.


If there are no trees to shade the cuttings, a sheet or shade cloth can be fashioned over them to provide artificial shade.

Things You'll Need

  • Sand
  • Compost
  • Rooting hormone
  • Pots
  • Slow-release fertiliser
  • Chopstick
  • Privet cuttings
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