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How to Grow: Privet
full sun, part sun
Bloom Period and Seasonal Color
Spring with white flowers
Mature Height x Spread
5 to 15 feet x 5 to 15 feet
attracts beneficials, drought tolerance, deer resistance
Privet is a popular, small leaved hedge plant that grows quickly. Privet can be evergreen in warmer climates, but is mostly a deciduous plant in New England. The individual plant is non-descript, but when grown together it makes a good hedgerow plant. Because of its fast growth, it can be sheared frequently to create a formal-looking, dense hedge that can grow tall and be used to block views or define garden rooms in your landscape. Privet has small fragrant flowers. However, some people don’t like the strong scent and avoid the plant for this reason. Privet also produced black berries and these berries are eaten by birds and spread throughout the landscape, making this an invasive plant in some areas.
When, Where and How to Plant
Privet is hardy to zone 4. It may need some winter protection in colder parts of New England. Purchase plants from a local garden center. Plant from spring to summer in a full to part sun location on well-drained, compost amended soil. Privet tolerates different types of soils, but grows best if the soil is kept moist. Space plants 4 to 6 feet apart.
Water young privet plants regularly. Once established, it is drought tolerant. Mulch to preserve soil moisture and prevent weed growth. Fertilize in spring with a layer of compost and an organic plant food.
Regional Advice and Care
Privet should be pruned regularly to remove dead, diseased and broken branches and to maintain its shape. Shear the plants 3 to 4 times a year starting after flowering and continuing whenever the new growth gets long. Prune tall hedges so that the top of the hedge is slightly narrower than the bottom. This will allow light to reach the bottom of the hedge and prevent the lower branches from dying off due to shading. Privet plants are attacked by a number of diseases such as blight and powdery mildew. Look for disease resistant varieties. Aphids, spider mites and whiteflies can also attack these shrubs. Spray plants with insecticidal soap to control these pests.
Companion Planting and Design
Privet is mostly used grouped together as a hedge plant to define a neighbor’s boundary, block an unsightly view or provide structure to a garden. Low growing privet hedges can be used as borders for formal rose, perennial or tea gardens. Privet hedges are traditionally used in knot gardens as well. Individual plants can be shaped into almost any form such as a mound or box, making them useful as formal plants in a foundation planting.
‘Cheyenne’ is a common privet variety with multiple stems and dark green leaves. ‘Amur River North’ is a tall privet variety that produces 2-inch long panicles of white flowers. ‘Pyramidal’ has a natural upright shape making it easier to prune.
Excerpted from my book, New England Getting Started Garden Guide.