Privets (genus Ligustrum), often called hedges, are a family of around 50 species of deciduous or evergreen trees and shrubs native to North Africa, Australia, Asia and Europe. Several of these species have naturalised in the United States. Homeowners value them for their attractive foliage and showy blossoms, and plant them as hedges, shrubs and specimens. They propagate by grafting, cuttings and seeds.
Types of Privet
European and Chinese privet hedges grow widely throughout the United States. These plants reach heights of 15 to 20 feet and have oval-shaped leaves. Glossy privet grows between 35 and 40 feet high with a 5-to-10-foot spread, while Japanese privet, a compact variety, reaches heights of 10 feet. California privet usually grows between 10 and 15 feet tall with an equal spread. All five varieties produce white flowers, followed by bluish-black berrylike fruits. Each fruit contains between one and four small, hard seeds.
Most privet species produce fruits and seeds every year. You can collect privet seeds from ripened fruits between September and November, or even later in the winter. Pick them from the trees or shrubs by hand. Remove moist pulp by running them under water and allow them to air-dry, taking care not to damage the seed coat. You can also extract the seeds from dried fruits and store them in a cool location until you are ready to plant. Privet seeds vary in size depending on the species.
Germination and Planting
Seeds that are extracted from dried fruits need a period of cold stratification before they will germinate. Leave them in a freezer at temperatures between 0 and 5 degrees Celsius for between 30 and 60 days. Fresh seeds that were extracted from moist fruits will usually germinate in about 60 days without requiring a stratification period. Plant the seeds approximately 3/8 of an inch in the soil. They are most likely to sprout in temperatures ranging from 59 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit depending on the variety. Privets tolerate a wide range of soil types and light levels.
Problems and Pests
Some privet species, such as the European, glossy and Chinese privet, are aggressive, invasive plants that easily escape cultivation. They produce large numbers of seeds each year and readily self-seed, forming dense thickets that crowd out native species. Insect pests such as whiteflies, scales and aphids attack privets, draining sap from the plants and causing leaf distortion. Japanese beetles occasionally feed on the foliage. Root rot organisms infect the roots, causing wilting and death, while leaf spot fungi cause defoliation.
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- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Ligustrum or Privet; James T. Midcap et al; October 2003
- United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service National Seed Laboratory: Ligustrum; Daniel A. Mikowski and William I. Stein
- Clemson Cooperative Extension: Ligustrum; Marjan Kluepfel and Bob Polomski; May 1999
- Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition, Inc.: Chinese Privet, European Privet
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Ligustrum ovalifolium
- New South Wales Department of Primary Industries: Privet; Elissa van Oosterhout et al; March 2010