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PlantFiles: Chinese Privet
Ligustrum sinense

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Family: Oleaceae (oh-lee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Ligustrum (lig-GUS-trum) (Info)
Species: sinense (sy-NEN-see) (Info)

Synonym:Ligustrum villosum

4 members have or want this plant for trade.

Category:
Shrubs

Height:
4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)
6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)
8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)
10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)

Spacing:
6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)
8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

Hardiness:
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade

Danger:
Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested
Pollen may cause allergic reaction

Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring

Foliage:
Grown for foliage
Evergreen
Shiny/Glossy-Textured

Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:
Non-patented

Propagation Methods:
From semi-hardwood cuttings
By simple layering
By air layering

Seed Collecting:
Remove fleshy coating on seeds before storing
Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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There are a total of 13 photos.
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Profile:

5 positives
7 neutrals
21 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

RatingAuthorContent
Negative Ezeiza On Aug 14, 2011, Ezeiza from Buenos Aires
Argentina wrote:

Here around Buenos Aires, Argentina and north it is a very invasive plant. Something unusual has happened in the past 10 or so years: birds find the fruits palatable and eat large quantities of them spreading the seeds with their droppings.
In the past birds were indiferen t to the fruits so this occurrence is dreadful.

Seedlings have tenacious roots and unlike many other plants can not be dug easily at this stage and requires the use of a tool, making the process labor and time consuming.

The plant is fine and the scent wonderful but the environmental threat such as to make its introduction to gardens in mild to warm climates an imprudence.

Positive Intheswamp On Aug 14, 2011, Intheswamp from Luverne, AL wrote:

For years we've battled chinese privet here in south Alabama. My father despised it and I've grown weary of pulling trees up with my jeeps. It grows relentlessly and is spread ridiculously easy .

But, I've finally found an excellent aspect of it. Honey bees LOVE it and make some of the tastiest, whitest, very nice honey from it's nectar (unlike the northern variety of privet that makes a terrible honey). It would be interesting if people who were allergic to the blooms tried some of this honey for a while...might take care of those allergies. ??

I guess if we look long enough and hard enough we can find a silver lining to most dark clouds. :)

Positive gingerkid88 On May 7, 2011, gingerkid88 from Norfolk, VA wrote:

Yes, this plant is a pain in the rear in keeping under control in your garden. They cause severe allergic reactions, overtake any native plant in a matter of months and is a the most time consuming foliage ever when it come to pulling new seedlings from your yard. But yes people, there actually is a plus side!! One of the few (if not only) things this plants is great for is having as a bonsai tree. If you take the time to cultivate it the way you desire, it can turn into one of the most beautiful home decoration plants ever, especially when its in bloom. Also, because of it's "miniature" mature state, pollen and seed control are as easy as a hand broom and dustpan and take less time than tying your shoes does. So, my advice, burn this plant if its even casting a shade in you yard/garden, but dont forsake it completely. Take it for what its worth....

Negative 8grands On May 13, 2010, 8grands from Travelers Rest, SC wrote:

The Chinese Privets have added beauty and interest to our gardens. We grow a variety of fruits, and have many plants and trees. Our objective was to also make this a bird sanctuary. However, this year I have had the worse allergic reaction to the Chinese Privet blossoms, ever. I am ready to have them all cut down. We have a total of 8 mature trees and it will be hard to convince my husband to destroy them. But for four days now, I have been cooped up in my home and still feeling awful! It was suggested to remove the blossoms, but in our case who would have the time to do the pruning?

Positive iris28 On Nov 5, 2009, iris28 from (dana)Owensboro, KY (Zone 6a) wrote:

i actually love this i think im the only one.lol we have a hedge of it with wisteria, early honeysuckle, trumpet vines.. and who knows what else. we prune the branches that come into the yard. it has not taken over anything and hundreds of birds live in there. i have roses planted about 4 ft from it and all are happy. of course wed have 3 extra feet of yard if it were gone but the cardinals and robins and other birds make it worth it.

Negative Hamby On Jul 22, 2009, Hamby from Santa Clara, CA wrote:

Looks pretty from afar... Smells somewhat sweet and floral. Nothing else good to say.

My neighbor has one next to the fence. It must be about 35 feet tall. The FLOWERS litter our backyard most of July and August. In one day the falling flowers will cover everything under the tree. The yellow-cream pollen stains and gets everywhere. Makes much of our backyard useless (because I get tired of cleaning it).

It gets worse... In the fall the BERRIES or FRUIT start falling. They are dark purplish, about 5mm. They get everywhere and stain worse than the pollen. They stained the concrete. I could not pressure wash some of the stains off. And they are Poisonous? Is that what killed my dog a few years ago?

I have cut along the fence line. It grows back fast. The sprouts, volunteers, or whatever grow fast and everywhere. Easy to pull out, just hundreds of them.

Allergies caused by this tree have kicked my butt this year. If I did not have an anti-histamine, I think I would be dead. The anti-histamine helps, I can breath, but still feeling worn out.

Obnoxious, yes the best way to describe it. My neighbor likes the tree... But now he is renting the house to others and does not live there. We have asked him a couple times to replace it, we said we would pay for it. He wavers. Don't plant this tree nothing good will come from it. Sorry for ranting. I will try to add pictures.

A couple weeks after my first post, we talked to him and he agreed it makes a mess and gave us permission to cut it down. It is being cut down right now. :)

Neutral WaterCan2 On Nov 16, 2008, WaterCan2 from Eastern Long Island, NY (Zone 7a) wrote:

Bought 5 of these little 'twigs' at 12" tall to make an informal border against a fence, now 3 yrs later they are 6' tall and 3' wide each. Seemingly indifferent to soil type they love full sun. I found their growth dramatically hindered in partial shade as the 5th one I planted in PS has only grown to 2' tall. A very strong shrub regardless.

So far I have been able to contain them in my yard for my purposes, although the wild birds do love the berries, which contain the seeds...

Positive wendymadre On Jul 25, 2008, wendymadre from Petersburg, VA wrote:

Petersburg, Virgina, Zone 7. Our house turns sixty-one this year, but I don't know how old the ligustrum are. Some have attractive trunks when limbed up, and I will keep them. Others will have to go to make room for other trees that need space. I haven't noticed runners but seedlings come up all over the yard. When tiny, they are easy to pull up. I think the blossoms did make me sneeze this year.

Negative deang On May 3, 2008, deang from Austin, TX wrote:

The very qualities that have made ligustrums desirable in suburban landscaping - glossy evergreen leaves, rapid growth, attractive blooms, hardiness, adaptability to shaping - have made it a nuisance in wild areas. Its persistent foliage means that it blocks the sun all year from native plants, and its rapid growth means that it outcompetes them. I'm sure it's perfectly lovely in eastern Asia, its native region (in fact, I'd love to see it among its natural plant associations), but here in Texas it usurps living space from native plants that have been here for millennia, often completely dominating woodlands so that little else can grow.

Neutral dee_cee On Apr 26, 2008, dee_cee from Birmingham, AL (Zone 7b) wrote:

I know it's almost impossible to get rid of this plant once established. I cut several down when I bought my house & dug up 2 large stumps with a pick ax; the rest I keep trimmed. I usually trim it back severely before it flowers so I don't have to worry about the seeds. Some people enjoy the fragrance but I HATE the way it smells!

Negative Louannie On Mar 20, 2008, Louannie wrote:

I have this in a couple of "wild" places along my fence, and I let it grow because it's already there and it provides privacy, and I don't have the physical strength to get rid of it. It's mown around, and therefore contained. But I had to get rid of some of it up next to the house when I moved in. Cut them down and then apply Roundup or Brush-Be-Gone (this is a little stronger than Roundup) to the stump. It's easy to keep it from going anywhere else if you use the "foam" option on the sprayer. Let it soak in well and then apply another squirt. It won't come back. I know some people are concerned about using chemicals....but this is the only way to get rid of the stuff, and like I said, the "foam" thing keeps it right there on top of the stub and it doesn't even get on the ground or in the air. Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.

Negative ScrappyCassy On Mar 15, 2008, ScrappyCassy from Somerville, AL wrote:

AMEN you are preaching to the choir. My grandpa planted it as a property border at the fence. What a mistake. we had it back hoed off up to the fence. Now every spring and all season we have to chop!! Hack!!. Chain Saw!! and pull up every stump off shoot and spread seed for more than 200ft from the main fence line. Nothing works and Heaven help you if you only trim any growths to the ground thinking that'll do it.. it grows enormous trunk under ground and just spreads further from there. We even use the lawn mower with a chain to pull these things up it is a never ending battle.

Negative niquma On Mar 12, 2008, niquma from Havelock, NC wrote:

I would not advise anyone to plant this in the yard. We moved into our house a year ago and I am still fighting to eliminate this plant/bush. I have researched and have found nothing effective at removing the seedlings outside of plucking the seedlings out of the ground and chopping down full grown plants. Once the seedlings have taken root, they become hard woody stems in the yard when, if stepped on barefoot will be painful. We almost can't use our backyard because of this obnoxious invasive plant!!!!

Negative DaddyNature On Jun 3, 2007, DaddyNature from Atlanta, GA wrote:

It seems that I'm always pulling-up these invasive bushes. Uhhhg! I wouldn't deliberately add them to your yard unless you trim them religiously to avoid their seeds reaching the ground after they bloom. This is considered a pest in Georgia, like kudzu....both are from China and will do their best to take over the world. ;) There's actually a group that volunteers time time in some Georgia parks to eradicate this plant. It will take over a forest. DO NOT PLANT THIS BUSH/TREE.

Neutral LawDoggy On Apr 20, 2007, LawDoggy from San Antonio, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

I agree 100% with most of you that this is a horrible, invasive and nearly-impossible-to-get-rid-of nuisance. However...I have managed to hack and chop and drill and saw them out of my small, townhouse flowerbed. (These things make roots the size of a normal person's thigh...) The only reason I gave them a neutral rating is that where the seeds have sprouted outside of my wall they are a really lovely groundcover. I keep them sheared about 18 inches to two feet tall on a steep, rocky hillside under some large Live Oak trees. Hardly anything else will grow well in the shade, but this ligustrum provides a tough, completely drought tolerant cover which is lush and dark green year round. I mow the lawn area that it surrounds and just keep mowing down any stray seedlings. They've not been a problem and with water restrictions in San Antonio during the hottest months, I'm actually kind of glad to find something that looks healthy, even when I can't water it.

I include the caveat that this stuff seeds itself freely and if left unchecked, it will grow huge and ugly. But if you keep it sheared low, it doesn't make seed and is a very satisfactory ground cover for difficult areas.

Positive Archena On Mar 12, 2007, Archena from Thomaston, AL wrote:

We had one of these in our yard when I was a child and it was very well behaved. No problem with invasion at all, but I'm not sure that wasn't because it was isolated with nothing else beside it. The blooms are incredibly fragrant and attract all sorts of bees and butterflies. Actually, the bees were the biggest problem it caused - ow!

We also had glossy privet which was more problematic. It grew to over 30' and ran the length of the property. But the blooms and berry clusters were different from the Chinese Privet.

For the fragrance it's wonderful, but given all the negative comments it might best be contained.

Neutral frostweed On Dec 20, 2006, frostweed from Josephine, Arlington, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

Chinese Privet Ligustrum sinense is naturalized in Texas and other States and is considered an invasive plant in Texas.

Negative 1cros3nails4gvn On Dec 8, 2006, 1cros3nails4gvn from Bluffton, SC (Zone 9a) wrote:

AMEN i feel yall's pain! i just spent my whole thanksgivin break clearin this weed out of my grandpa's yard and thanks to this "wonderful" plant i got a nice batch of redbugs (chiggers) because of it on my arms and legs.

Negative verbena8 On Oct 14, 2006, verbena8 from Richmond, VA wrote:

I would rather be fighting poison ivy!! Cutting, digging, spraying does no good, and the runners seem to go forever and only stop when they find an established shrub to come up in the middle of. It's like it is hiding and once it gets in your hedges it is almost impossible to get out without removing your bushes. It has taken over a number of yards in our neighborhood.

Negative Haydee On Oct 6, 2006, Haydee from Jacksonville, NC (Zone 8a) wrote:

In zone 8, east coast, N.C. this plant is considered a noxious plant. It spreads like bamboo. Both my neighbors on each side of me, have them as hedges they planted them) and the roots extend into my yard. Parts of my St. Augustine grass has b een killed by it. both my son and I are slaves to keeping the pesky plants out of your grass. A big job\

Do not plant, unless you want horrible results.

Neutral pollencounter On Sep 2, 2006, pollencounter from San Diego, CA wrote:

This plant is indeed allergenic and can cause episodes for asthmatics when blooming. It is in the same family as Olive and Ash. If you have allergy tested positive to either, then you ARE allergic to this plant too by cross reactivity (the same allergens are produced). This fact (cross reactivity) is not well explained to us by our beloved allergists. I used to think it smelled good too, but I now know the smell is BAD NEWS! When it's blooming, RUN... and hire someone to whack it for you. Good news... it only causes A&A when it's blooming and you can have the flowers trimmed off and it won't cause (allergy) problems.

Neutral BamaBelle On Apr 23, 2006, BamaBelle from Headland, AL (Zone 8a) wrote:

This plant is growing on the other side of my back fence, which is a sort of no-man's land. I did not realize it was so noxious and have not had any problems with it, surprisingly enough, but maybe the lack of water has kept it at bay. The house sat empty for over a year before we moved in, so the yard went was really neglected...you should see the popcorn trees, dandelions and blackberry brambles! Oy!

Anyway, I only have a few problems with this plant since it does not seem to be invasive in my yard yet.... (1) Like any other ligustrum it draws bees like crazy. (2) It also seems to draw some sort of biting fly similar to yellow fly, but white and black instead of butter yellow. (3) It has a root system that is a booger...I was trying to plant a corkscrew willow on my side of the fence and had a heck of a time getting through the roots this thing had sent out my way. (4) It seems to evoke major allergic reactions similar to hayfever in my household.

Neutral saltcedar On Mar 2, 2006, saltcedar from Austin, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

Capt Midnight a few others are confusing this plant with
Ligustrum lucidum (Glossy privet) which is also invasive and will grow 15 to 40 ft. tall. Sinensis generally is under 15 feet tall and has small semi-evergreen leaves while L. lucidum has 2 to 5 in. long and 1 to 3 wide evergreen leaves. Both species produce glossy blue-black berries eaten by birds.

Negative RobD_SC On Nov 27, 2005, RobD_SC from Columbia, SC (Zone 8a) wrote:

Getting rid of an established ligustrum is a lot of work. The only successful strategy I know of is to cut it as close to the ground as possible and then spend the next 2-3 years removing the new growth that the stump and root system send up. This is just one of those out-of-control plants that you wish had never been introduced to N America.

Negative CaptainMidnight On Nov 24, 2005, CaptainMidnight from Austin, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

I was surprised to see the maximum height as only 12'. My neighbor has one at my fenceline almost 40' tall, and I have been trying to kill 3 others in various locations on my property. One of mine was 20' plus. While it has pleasant smelling flowers and pretty foliage, and seems to be popular with butterflies, it's abundant growth makes it a nuisance. I cannot find a use for this plant other than a high maintenance ornamental, and since none of the wildlife EXCEPT butterflies seem to use it for anything, I cannot justify its presence in my yard.
I tried burning the dried wood, but it's nasty. I advise against planting it without containment, if at all.

Negative Terry On Oct 21, 2005, Terry from Murfreesboro, TN (Zone 7a) wrote:

A pesky shrub that creates thickets all around our property. A stray seedling can quickly become a vigorously-growing shrub, and a real nuisance to extricate from garden beds.

Negative Crimson On Jul 26, 2005, Crimson from Clarksville, TN (Zone 6b) wrote:

I've identified my invasive bushes on my property as this bush.... as the roots come near the surface it produces another bush and another... and another.... invasive is a understatement. The roots run just under the surface of the ground for amazing lengths, springing up more bushes quite a distance from it's parent plant or in rows running off from the parent. You could actually chop off a section of the root, partly bury it and it would produce a new bush, too bad it's not a attractive bush... tiny flowers/short bloom time/ prone to insect damage & disease and it's INVASIVE. Who thought planting this was a good idea?

Negative melody On May 22, 2005, melody from Benton, KY (Zone 7a) wrote:

I checked the zip code box because this plant grows in my area...but I do not grow it on my property.

Terribly invasive and nearly impossible to get rid of.

Although it is very pretty in mid spring when it blooms...it only means that it is preparing to unleash gazillions of little berries (which are poisionous, by the way) upon the fields and fencerows of this area.

Avoid it at all costs.

Negative nick89 On Apr 8, 2005, nick89 from Tallahassee, FL (Zone 8b) wrote:

This small evergreen tree is second in my opinion only to kudzu as the worst southern weed. It forms a dense understory in wodlands, sometimes so thick that it chokes out native understory vegatation. A real nuisance that should be avoided at all costs!!! The variegated form is not invasive and so if you must have a Chinese Privet, grow it. However, any green shoots it produces need to be pruned off.

Negative Maudie On Feb 8, 2005, Maudie from Harvest, AL wrote:

I voice a loud "Amen" to all the others who have said how invasive this plant is!
If it ever gets on your soil you can
never get rid of it and believe me YOU
DO NOT WANT IT. I have tried every way known to me to get rid of this pest and
it only encourages it's growth. I causes
hay fever or allergies to some unfortunate people in addition to all the other "headaches" it produces also. So if a little bird brings you a seed--remove
the little plant while you can.

Negative escambiaguy On Feb 6, 2005, escambiaguy from Atmore, AL (Zone 8b) wrote:

This plant is a disaster. It has almost taken over the woods behind my house. I cant cut it down fast enough. Foliar herbicides sprays do not work. The cut stump treatment is the only way to get rid of it. Small seedlings can be pulled up by hand after the ground is wet.

Negative MotherNature4 On Apr 14, 2004, MotherNature4 from Bartow, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

Ligustrum sinense is listed as a Category I Exotic Pest Plant in all sections of Florida. It is very invasive. Though I have listed it for my area, I DO NOT GROW IT!

There is a variegated form which is much more attractive than the solid green, BUT I still would never grow it.

Negative timageous On Apr 13, 2004, timageous from Austin, TX wrote:

This ligustrum can become a pain. While this fast growing import has beautiful glossy evergreen (in Texas) leaves, sweet smelling flowers, and a nice bark, it is invasive at best. The trees in front of my house spent no less than four months developing hundreds of thousands of small purple drupes which have thoroughly covered my and my neighbor's yards, as well as clogging my gutters. To make it worse, nearly every one of those drupes has gone to seed, providing never ending sprouts even in the most dense portions of my yard.Pre-emergents seem to have little affect. These trees have invaded creek drainages throughout central Texas and do not appear to provide much to the habitat in exchange. If it was not for their height (30+ft) and ample shade they provide, I would have cut them down long ago. Avoid these plants at all costs.

Regional...

This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

,
Atmore, Alabama
Headland, Alabama
Huntsville, Alabama
Luverne, Alabama
Montgomery, Alabama
New Market, Alabama
Vincent, Alabama
Lompoc, California
Napa, California
San Francisco, California
Auburndale, Florida
Bartow, Florida
Atlanta, Georgia
Canton, Georgia
Macon, Georgia
Rome, Georgia
Benton, Kentucky
Hi Hat, Kentucky
Louisville, Kentucky
Mc Dowell, Kentucky
Owensboro, Kentucky
Pikeville, Kentucky
Pippa Passes, Kentucky
Taylorsville, Kentucky
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Saucier, Mississippi
Havelock, North Carolina
Jacksonville, North Carolina
Raleigh, North Carolina
Elk City, Oklahoma
Healdton, Oklahoma
Hulbert, Oklahoma
Jay, Oklahoma
Emmaus, Pennsylvania
Columbia, South Carolina
Lexington, South Carolina
Moncks Corner, South Carolina
Summerville, South Carolina
Travelers Rest, South Carolina
Arlington, Tennessee
Clarksville, Tennessee
Knoxville, Tennessee
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Austin, Texas
Lumberton, Texas
San Antonio, Texas (2 reports)
Norfolk, Virginia
Richmond, Virginia
Seattle, Washington



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