Privet is a genus of evergreen shrubs or small trees. A privet may be left to its natural, upright cup shape or sheared into various hedging forms. Tidying pruning should be done throughout the year to keep the plant healthy; but any significant pruning should be conducted in the winter at the end of the year or in early spring before new green growth sprouts.
Remove any cracked, broken or otherwise damaged branches throughout the growing season when you come across them during regular inspections of your privet. Cut away any dead foliage and branches back to a point of healthy wood and compost or discard the cuttings.
Create or maintain hedge, topiary or another formal shape in your privet. Shear the surface of the plant using long sweeping movements while holding the cutting blade roughly parallel to the plane of the plant surface. Conduct shaping in the spring and, if required, a second time at the end of summer or in early fall.
Restore and revitalize privet that has suffered significant damage from weather or simply from long term neglect by more severe pruning. Remove all of the dead wood and plant material in the center of the shrub. Cut back severely damaged wood to a healthy point, but minimize the amount removed to preserve some the the shrubs natural form. Remove no more than one-third of the bulk of the overall plant in order to prevent stress and the onset of shock.