Few hedge plants are as stubborn and invasive as the common, Chinese and European privets. Though they make a fine, dense screen and provide food for birds and deer, they can get out of control and have become rampant over most regions in the United States. Privet spreads through copious root systems and berries that birds disperse in their droppings. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends a three-pronged attack on these vigorous shrubs if you want to remove them.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Protective clothing
- Safety glasses
- Canvas gloves
- Long-handled pruning shears
- Yard waste bags
Put on long sleeves, long trousers, safety glasses and canvas gloves to protect your skin and eyes from privet's spiky branches. They aren't thorny, but they're tough.
Take the privet down by thirds with long-handled pruning shears, working from the top down. Bag the cuttings and discard them. Once foliage is cut away from the trunk, you'll be able to see and deal with the root system.
Start digging about 2 feet from the trunk of the privet. You're going to hit a lot of side roots, but you have to start somewhere. When you hit a root you can't break with the shovel point, cut it with a hatchet, being careful to keep your fingers and feet out of the way of the blade.
Go for the tap root when you've dug in a full circle around the privet. Tap roots can go several feet down, so dig deep enough to get all of it you can, prying up gently as you go. Pull the stump out of the soil and discard it.
Move out another 2 feet and dig out the shallow side roots. Get as many of them as possible to prevent privet from re-sprouting. Watch for privet sprouts. Repeated mowing will control them but not kill them. If you want to eradicate privet completely, target spray them with glyphosphate herbicide, being careful not to spray surrounding foliage.
Tips and warnings
- Check with your state's Department of Natural Resources to learn if privet is considered an invasive species in your area. You may be able to get further valuable advice or even help to eradicate them.
- According to the USDA, privet has no known natural enemies other than crown rot and a few insect pests. It is a very tough plant.
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