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How to Prune Ligustrum Recurve

By Bonnie Grant
Pruning is a necessary part of plant management.

Ligustrum is the genus of the common hedge shrub privet. There are numerous varieties found in household gardens and they are prodigious growers that respond well to pruning. Ligustrum is known for its glossy leaves and small puffs of flowers in spring. These plants require pruning and shearing to preserve their shape and to encourage good growth and flowering. Ligustrum recurve is a Japanese privet that grows upright with rounded leaves. It is slower-growing than many of the other cultivated varieties. Management can be done with hedge shears or hand pruning, depending on the size of the shrub.

Hone your pruners with a tool sharpener. Sharp tools make clean cuts that do less damage to the bush. Japanese Ligustrum is very tolerant of hard pruning and will need to be shaped at least once a year after it flowers.

Remove 1/3 of the growth in the first through third years of growth. Ligustrums tend to get leggy, so this will force them to become compact and full. The pruning may seem harsh, but it is part of training the hedge. Once they are trained, you will only need to do light pruning to retain the shape and size.

Use the hedge shears to make quick decisive cuts across the surfaces of the shrub. Hedge plants should be slightly heavier on the bottom than the top. This will make the Ligustrum sturdy and create an attractive silhouette. If you are maintaining a formal hedge cut across all five surfaces of the plant. Informal hedges need to be pruned to balance the plant.

Cut the top of the shrub across to the desired height. If the plant has not been maintained and needs to be cut down quite far, prune down to 12 inches lower that the height you want. Then, light pruning as the shrub grows will encourage it to leaf and branch out. It may take all season, but the result will be the size you want and the Ligustrum will be nice and full on top.

Use hand pruners for heavier branches and to cut out any damaged wood as you reveal it. Use the hand saw for really large secondary limbs that may have disease or have been mismanaged and grow crooked. If you need to remove large pieces of interior wood, cut at a slight angle just before a growth node. These can be seen and identified by touch as a slight bump at a joint in the wood.


Things You Will Need

  • Ligustrum recurve plant
  • Hedge shears
  • Hand pruners
  • Hand saw

About the Author


Bonnie Grant began writing professionally in 1990. She has been published on various websites, specializing in garden-related instructional articles. Grant recently earned a Bachelor of Arts in business management with a hospitality focus from South Seattle Community College.