Ligustrum is a small, evergreen shrub that is used for making hedges that are popularly known as privet hedges. It is native to Japan, Korea and China, though now it is common in the Southern and Western parts of the United States. It has white flowers in the summer and small blue-black berries in the fall, some of which have medicinal qualities.
Different species of this plant make good landscape plants. They look especially good when clusters of sweet-smelling white flowers bloom in late spring. There are several varieties of Ligustrum that grow under different soil and weather conditions. The more popular ones are:
1. Japanese Privet (Ligustrum japonicum) can grow to a height of 10 feet high and spread across 5 or 6 feet. The oval leathery leaves are glossy green on top and almost white underneath. It has white flowers that appear in May and have a very strong odor that many people find offensive.
The blue-black berries are almost a quarter inch in diameter. It has a very fast growth rate of 25 inches or more a year, and can adapt to adverse conditions like heat, cold, drought, salt spray and different types of soil, though it is not able to withstand soils that are always wet.
2. Glossy Privet (Ligustrum lucidum) can grow to 35 or 40 feet, though it can be kept as a big shrub. Its spread is 5 to 10 feet and its glossy leaves are 4 to 6 inches long. It grows rapidly and can make a good lawn tree, though falling berries can stain cars and pavement.
3. California Privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium) grows rapidly to 15 feet, has dull white, scented flowers and dark green 2 ½- inch leaves. It makes a good hedge but needs frequent shearing especially in hot, wet weather.
4. Variegated Chinese Privet (Ligustrum sinense ‘Variegata’) grows quickly to a height of 4 to 6 feet, with a similar spread. It has gray-green leaves with white margins and is popular for brightening dull areas of the garden.
5. Vicary Golden Privet (Ligustrum vicaryi) grows to a height of 6 to 12 feet. Its leaves are golden yellow. Their color is the brightest in plants that are exposed to the full sun but not so bright in plants that are sheared.