#TeachingTuesday: Ligustrum, AKA Japanese Privet

#TeachingTuesday: Ligustrum, AKA Japanese Privet

By Myatt Landscaping, Posted in
May 12, 2020

 Ligustrum japonicum, AKA Japanese Privet

Japanese privet is a tough evergreen shrub tolerant of a variety of conditions making a great choice for many North and South Carolina landscapes. It is drought tolerant, salt tolerant (important for those on the coast!), deer resistant, and will accept a range of sun to partial shade, and most soil conditions except constantly wet/boggy. Some organizations list Japanese privet as an invasive species, but it is really the other species of privet such as L. lucidum, L. vulgare, and L. sinense that self-seed profusely into the environment. If you are still concerned, substitute a native species such as Illicium or a native holly. Take care that children do not eat any part of this plant--both the berries and leaves are toxic. 

Ligustrum berries in the fall.

ID Tips and Maintenance

  • Compared to other privets, Japanese privet has thicker, more leathery leaves, and wavier edges. Several cultivars have enhanced this feature to develop quite curly leaves.
  • The flowers in the spring are in large, showy, white "panicles," or groups of tiny flowers growing in a multi-stemmed bunch, like a crape myrtle.
  • The flowers develop into small, dull blue-black berries, similar in appearance to blueberries or elderberries. The berries are hard and may persist through the winter.
  • Privets look best when they are hand-pruned. Shearing causes a ragged appearance due to the large leaf size. It blooms most profusely if pruned right after flowering in late spring/early summer.

Japanese privet is on the far left; the other two are privets you should watch out for, as they have invasive tendencies and can damage the environment.