Also called common privet, this semi-evergreen or deciduous shrub is native to central and southern Europe, north Africa, and southwestern Asia. It is a member of the olive family, Oleaceae, that also includes lilac, jasmine, and forsythia. Plants grow 5-15′ tall and have stiff, erect stems that carry opposite pairs of dark green, oblong to oval leaves 1.5-2.5″ long. In late spring to mid summer 3″ long panicles of creamy white flowers appear at the stem tips. The tubular flowers have a 4-lobed corolla, and are fragrant, although some people find the scent unpleasant. The fruit is a small berry that contains 1-4 seed, is black when ripe and is attractive to thrushes. European privet is drought and pollution tolerant and has been a very popular plant for a hedge or screen but can become invasive and is used less than in past times. It tends to be more evergreen in the southern part of its range and grows quickly so is usually pruned twice a year. All parts of the plant are considered poisonous. The genus name, Ligustrum, is the Latin name for the plant and may be related to Liguria, a region of Italy. The specific epithet, vulgare, is the Latin word meaning common. Photo Credit Meneerke bloem Wikimedia Commons
Type: Flowering deciduous or semi-evergreen shrub
Outstanding Feature: Fast growing and responds well to prunning
Growth Rate: Rapid
Bloom: Panicles of tubular creamy white flowers in late spring to mid- summer
Size: 5-15′ H x 8-15′ W
Light: Full sun; tolerates some shade
Soil: Average, dry to medium moist, well-drained
Hardiness: Zones 4-7
Care: Prune to shape and control size in spring or immediately after flowering, and again in summer.
Pests and Diseases: Generally healthy but susceptible to anthracnose twig blight, canker, crown gall, leaf spot, powdery mildew, root rot; aphids, Japanese beetles, leaf miners, mealybugs, mites, nematodes, scale, and weevils.
Propagation: Softwood cuttings, hardwood cuttings, seed
Outstanding Selections: Many cultivars available
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons