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Planting privet in autumn: grow the evergreen shrub in the garden or in containers and care for it properly!

Privet shrubs tolerate a wide range of conditions and are among the easiest shrubs and small trees to grow. Because of their versatility and undemanding nature, they are often used in the home landscape. Plant them as hedges, foundation plants, balcony trees or in shrub borders. Here’s how to plant privet and what care they need.

Species suitable for cultivation

Several species of this evergreen shrub are suitable for the home landscape

The seeds of privet are spread by birds that eat the berries. As a result, it has spread into the wild, where it displaces native plants. Species suitable for the native landscape include the following:

  • Japanese privet (L. japonicum) grows up to 3 m tall and 1.5 to 2 m wide. It is often used as a hedge or privacy plant and can be shaped into a small tree.
  • California privet (L. ovalifolium) is a shrub up to 4.5 m tall that forms a handsome hedge when planted closely. It requires frequent shearing and forms numerous seedlings that must be removed before they become established.
  • Golden privet (L. vicaryi) grows at least 2 m tall and has golden yellow leaves. It gets the best color when planted in full sun and in a place where it does not need frequent pruning.
  • Glossy privet (L. lucidum) is an evergreen tree that grows 13.5 m or taller, but it can also be planted as a large shrub with frequent pruning. It produces large, showy clusters of flowers and a huge crop of purple-blue berries.

Plant privet in the garden

Privets tolerate drought, but grow best if you water them during prolonged dry spells

  • Step 1: First, dig a planting hole that is at least two to three times as wide and no deeper than the root ball of your plant. The wider the hole, the better. Spread the native soil removed from the planting hole around the hole.
  • Step 2: Depending on the type, fertility and porosity of the soil in the planting area, you may need to add a soil amendment to the native soil removed from the planting hole. When planting privet in dense loam or poor quality soil, it is beneficial to mix good organic material such as composted cow manure, mushroom compost, sand and/or a good planting mix in a 50:50 ratio with the soil removed from the planting hole. When planting in very sandy or fast draining soils, it may be helpful to mix in some topsoil, peat moss and/or compost for moisture retention. If you plant privet in fertile, loamy, well-drained and moist soil, adding a soil conditioner is not necessary.

You can plant the low-maintenance privet in the garden

  • Step 3: To remove your plant from the container it was grown in, grasp the plant firmly at the base and gently try to lift and remove it from the container. If the root ball is stuck in the container, either cut the container off or lay the plant on its side and gently tap against the edge of the container to loosen the root ball. After removing the plant from the container, loosen some roots on the surface of the root ball. If the roots are stuck, you can spray the sides and bottom of the root ball with a stream of water from a garden hose. This usually washes away some soil from the outside of the root ball, making it easier to loosen the roots.

To avoid cutting off the young buds, cut the plants back immediately after blooming


  • Step 4: If you are planting in well-drained soil, place the shrub in the planting hole so that the top of the root ball is at or slightly above soil level (about 3 cm). If your soil is moderately drained, meaning it drains slowly after rain, the top of the root ball should be 5 to 8 inches above ground level. If necessary, fill in the bottom of the hole with a soil mix to achieve the proper planting height.

Grow the plant in containers

Planting privet in the fall - Grow the evergreen shrub in the garden or in containers and care for it properly

Privets in pots need the same care as in the ground. Use well-drained soil in the pot. Privet is adapted to a variety of soils, but does not tolerate waterlogging. Place the pot in full to partial sun. Variegated species develop their best color in full sun . Do not allow the roots in the pots to dry out, so water whenever the top of the soil begins to dry out.

How to fertilize privet ? Fertilize the plants in the spring, before new growth begins, with an all-purpose fertilizer for shrubs. Cut the plants back to control their shape and size. Do not allow the plants to outgrow their containers. Privet dwarf varieties do not need to be cut back as much as mature varieties.

Care for the evergreen shrub

You can plant privet in full sun or partial shade


Privets tolerate drought, but grow best if you water them during prolonged dry spells. Fertilize them in early spring and again in late summer or fall. You can also fertilize in the summer if the plants grow quickly or if further feeding seems necessary. Privets begin forming buds for next year’s flowers shortly after the current season’s flowers have faded.

To avoid cutting off the young buds, prune the plants right after they bloom. Prune to control height and prevent the plant from growing beyond its limits. Privets can tolerate heavy pruning. Privets are very fast growing shrubs. Japanese privets can gain up to 63.5 inches per year, but other varieties also grow quickly. This rapid growth rate means that the shrubs need to be pruned frequently to keep them under control.

What kind of soil does the plant need

The shrubs are not picky about soil conditions, but they prefer well-drained soil

Privets are not very picky about soil conditions, but they prefer well-drained soil with medium fertility. As with so many other ornamental plant species, constantly soggy or wet soil can lead to root rot and other harmful plant diseases. So be sure to plant them in a well-drained location!

If you’re not sure if the soil is well drained where you plan to plant privet, take the time to test the drainage before planting. To test the soil’s drainage, dig a hole 30 inches wide and 30 inches deep at the planting site. Fill the hole with water and allow it to drain. After draining, fill the hole with water again, but this time pay attention to how long it takes to drain.

In a well-drained soil, the water level will drop at a rate of about 3 inches per hour. A faster rate, such as in loose, sandy soil, may indicate potentially dry site conditions. A slower rate indicates poorly draining soil and is an indication that you should improve drainage, create a raised mound or bed, or look for plants that tolerate wet or marshy conditions better.

Soil pH required

Privets do best in a moderately acidic to slightly alkaline soil

Privets do best in a moderately acidic to slightly alkaline soil that ranges from 6.0 to 8.0 on the pH scale. Most average garden soils fall within a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0. Here’s how to test soil pH:

Soil pH is a measure of the alkalinity or acidity of the soil and is measured on a scale of 1 to 14, with 7 being the neutral value. A value below 7 indicates an acidic soil, and a value above 7 indicates an alkaline soil. If you are unsure of the pH of your soil and whether you can plant privet in your garden, you should test the soil pH in the planting area. You can test it quickly with an inexpensive pH tester.

To raise the pH (make it more alkaline), you can add pelletized limestone to the soil. To lower the pH (make it more acidic), you can use soil sulfur, aluminum sulfate or chelated iron. Adding organic compost to the soil or using compost as a mulch can also help increase acidity and maintain acidic soil conditions.

What light requirements to consider

At least 4 to 5 hours of direct sunlight are recommended for optimal foliage density and flowering

You can plant privet in full sun or partial shade . At least 4 to 5 hours of direct sunlight is recommended for optimal leaf density and flowering.