Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 1224 Ligustrum vulgare

Common Names: common privet, European privet, ligustrum Family: Oleaceae (olive Family)
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Privet's small white flowers appear in early summer and are not very pleasantly fragrant.
By summer's end the blossoms have matured into small fruits that will darken to purple when ripe by the end of fall.


Common privet is a bushy, much branched shrub that is usually deciduous but often semi-evergreen in warm winters. Privets can get 10-15 ft (34.5 m) tall and just as wide. The glossy dark green leaves are opposite, lance shaped or narrowly oval, and about 2.5 in (6 cm) long. Terminal clusters of white flowers are produced in early summer. The individual flowers are funnel shaped with four lobes and quite small, but the panicles are up to 2 in (5 cm) long, and the whole inflorescence is quite showy. The flowers are strongly odiferous, but most people find the scent unpleasant. The fruits are small black berrylike drupes containing 1-4 seeds.

Common privet sends up suckers and seeds itself readily, often forming dense thickets where it has escaped cultivation.

A couple dozen cultivars have been selected. 'Aureum' has yellow foliage; 'Argenteo-variegatum' has leaves with white variegations; 'Aureo-variegatum' has yellow variegated foliage; 'Leucocarpum' has white fruit; 'Nanum' (='Lodense') is a low growing form that grows in a mound wider than it is tall; 'Pyramidale' has a somewhat cone shaped habit.


Ligustrum vulgare is native to the Mediterranean region, including SW Asia, North Africa and southern Europe. It has been cultivated in Europe and North America for centuries, and become an invasive weed in many areas.


Light: Common privet thrives in full sun and does well in partial shade. Moisture: Common privet has ordinary water needs. Water when the soil dries out. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 8. Common privet is vulnerable to freeze damage and dieback in exceptionally cold winters. Propagation: Semi-ripe stem cuttings can be rooted. Seed should be sown in autumn in a cold frame. Cultivars are grafted onto species stock. Unfortunately, the stock often sends up suckers which can overgrow the selected scion and hide it, so cultivars should be monitored and suckers cut out as they appear.

privet hedge
Common privet can be closely sheared making it useful for hedges and screens (but only where it is non-invasive!).


Common privet is often used in a screen or hedge since it responds so well to pruning. Formal hedges should be clipped twice each summer. This shrub is also used in mixed borders and as a specimen plant. The glossy foliage and the white flowers are attractive, and the shiny black berries last well into winter, providing seasonal interest.


Floridata has profiled three other species of Ligustrum. We like the hybrid species Ligustrum X vicaryi (golden vicary privet) which is not invasive. On the other hand, Japanese privet (Ligustrum japonicum) and glossy privet (L. lucidum) are considered highly invasive and should not be cultivated in the U.S. Chinese privet (L. sinense) is also on the do-not-use list.


Common privet (L. vulgare) is also invasive and has made a nuisance of itself throughout most of the U.S. It is officially considered an invasive pest plant in Australia, Canada and the U.S. Not only that, common privet is toxic to livestock and the fruits are mildly poisonous to humans.

Floridata recommends that these invasive exotic privets not be planted in the United States. There are better, native alternatives that are evergreen (or semi-evergreen) and just as suitable for home landscapes and for hedges. Among these are Walter’s viburnum (Viburnum obovatum), yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria), gallberry (Ilex glabra), fetterbush (Lyonia lucida), Mayberry (Vaccinium elliottii), wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera), northern baybarry (Myrica pennsylvanica), and yellow anise (Illicium parviflora), to name a few.

Steve Christman 9/14/14

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Ligustrum species profiled on Floridata:

Ligustrum japonicum

( Japanese privet )

Ligustrum lucidum

( glossy privet, wax-leaf ligustrum, tree privet, wax-leaf privet )

Ligustrum vulgare

( common privet, European privet, ligustrum )

Ligustrum x vicaryi

( golden vicary privet, golden ligustrum )

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