Privets are thick, stout evergreen shrubs that are often used as hedges in home landscaping. A member of the olive family, they range from 15 to 30 feet in height. Privets are a hardy, easy-to-maintain shrub; grow them in any soil condition and tolerate frequent trimming. Small white flowers grow at the end of the branches, and privets produce a tiny black-blue berry in later summer or early fall.
Amur privet (Lingustrum amurense) is a carefree shrub that reaches up to 12 feet in height and is equally wide. Regal privet (Obtusifolium regelianum) is the most common variety of privet and has dark green, glossy leaves. Japanese privet (Lingustrum aponicum) reaches heights of 10 feet. It has deep green leaves and produces a black fruit and white flowers. Glossy privet (Lingustrum lucidum) reaches heights of nearly 20 feet, prefers full sun to partial shade and produces a white or cream-colored flower in mid-spring. The California privet (Lingstrum ovalifolium) is large, about 10 to 15 feet tall, with glossy, bright green leaves that survive the harsh, winter months.
Privets are healthy, strong plants that are easy to maintain. They grow in very poor soil conditions and require normal watering but tolerate droughts for short periods of time. Privets like full sun to partial sun but grow in shady areas of forests and woods. Those in low-lit conditions will not produce flowers or fruit. Privets keep their leaves during winter months as long as temperatures remain above 10 degrees F.
Privets are a versatile shrub that have many uses. They are found along highways as sound barriers, in landscape designs, as fences between homes and in gardens worldwide. Privets may be cut and trimmed into rounded or square shapes and low fences. Trim privets into arches or other forms for a dramatic effect or let them grow untrimmed to create a wilder, more natural look.
Privets are relatively disease free but are prone to anthracnose, often called twig blight. Anthracnose is caused by fungi and infects the stems, leaves, fruits and branches of the privet. Infected leaves will show dark irregular dead blotches or lesions. Buds become infected and die. Twig lesions expand and may cause the death to parts of twigs that reach beyond the lesions. Cankers may form causing further death to buds and twigs. Spray fungicides used at proper intervals will control anthracnose.
The Japanese weevil will feed on leaves and new shoots. Prune and remove all diseased branches during dry weather and clean pruning tools between cuts. Privet rust mites are soft-bodied creatures with eight legs that suck sap from privet leaves until they turn yellow or dry out. Control these bugs by spraying the underside of leaves in late May, June and July. Pesticides can rid privets of these pests; contact your local Cooperative Extension office for recommended types and amounts to use.