About privet (Ligustrum sp.)
Life cycle and background
Border privet (Ligustrum obtusifolium), is a perennial, woody, semi-deciduous shrub that is invasive in Maryland. There are several other species of privets that have escaped cultivation -- Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense) and European privet (Ligustrum vulgare) to name two. These species are difficult to tell apart because their characteristics are very similar. None are native to the United States. Privets were introduced from Europe, Asia, and northern Africa for use in landscape hedges.
The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) has named privet (Ligustrum obtusifolium) a Tier 2 invasive plant. This classification means retail stores that offer this plant for sale must display a required sign indicating that it is an invasive plant. Landscapers may not supply border privet unless they provide the customer with a list of Tier 2 invasive plants. See the MDA website for additional details.
Grows 10-15 feet high and 12-15 feet high. Leaves are simple with entire margins, 1-3’ in length and arranged oppositely along the stem. Leaf shape varies from oval to oblong to elliptical. Foliage is medium dark green. May develop a russet or purplish color in the fall. Creamy-white, four-petaled flowers in 1-2” pyramid-shaped panicles. Blooms in June-July. Border privet forms dense thickets in natural areas and impedes the growth of native plants.
Produces 1/4” blue-black drupes (berries) in September-October. Birds aid in seed dispersal.
Conditions that favor growth
Full sun, tolerates some shade and occasional drought. Grows well along woodland edges and in fields and floodplains.
What to plant instead
Holly (Ilex sp.), Cotoneaster, Viburnum
Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States, Border Privet.
Kaufman, Sylvan Ramsey & Wallace Kaufman. 2007. Invasive Plants: Guide to Identification and the Impacts and Control of Common North American Species.
Swearingen J., K. Reshetiloff, B. Slattery, and S. Zwicker. 2002. Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas. National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Washington, DC.
Compiled by Christa Carignan, reviewed by Debra Ricigliano, University of Maryland Extension,10/2018.