Privet hedge

barryrJune 19, 2005

I have a privet hedge, about six feet tall and about 15 years old, which in now mostly bare wood except for a little green at the top. Can it be revived by cutting it down very short, or should it simply be removed and start over new? If it can be cut short, about how high should it be cut down to?


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Oh no!!! I thought I was the ONLY one! I looked everywhere for answers. Not only were mine bare and a little green at the top, it was leggy looking.

After much investaigating, I came up with why I think ours needed help. It wasn't being pruned right. Apparently, privets like to be more of an A shape, NOT a square shape. This, from what I read allows more light to get to the bottom. Along from not pruning correctly, it was rather dry. So, I ran soaker hoses under them. That way I can leave them there and water as needed. They don't like to be fed from overhead. Who knew? I'm watering an hour in the morning every 3rd or 4th day, but I started with an all night soak right after I pruned them. I know you're not suppose to water at night, but at that point I figured what the heck!

Hmm...Oh, and, this is the back breaker. Privets like to be clean up underneath. That means, getting on all fours and checking each stem. If it breaks, it's dead. Remove it, so pests don't take up residence. In fact, clean up all dead leaves and brances too. That way fresh air can circulate well under them. And a little fresh mulch will keep the roots cool.

I pruned off the top third of our long, long privet row. It was the hardest thing. The pitiful thing looked completely dead. That was two weeks ago and you know what... it's starting to produce lil' buds.

I've read that the best time to prune is after the worst of winter, but before spring. Privet's can take a hard pruning then, even back to 6 - 12" from the ground! I don't know if I could do that, but if you had to...

Anyway, the best of luck to you and your privets!

    Bookmark   June 22, 2005 at 11:05AM
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Thank you Dawn522 for your excellent follow up.

I will try cutting two feet off the top of the six-seven foot hedge and tapering its entire height almost to a point at the top. I am assuming that this probably should not be too severe a cut back even in hot early summer weather. Anyway I would certainly prefer not to wait until early next spring before doing anything. It too will look completely dead when I am done. I will clean, mulch and then water the bottom well a couple times a week and hope for the best. I would imagine something like a starter fertilizer might also help. Please correct me if I am wrong on any of this. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2005 at 2:14PM
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schenley(WMA z5)

Barry: Several years ago I moved an entire privet line from one side of the house to another. Several weeks (early Spring) before I did this, I cut the entire line down to about a foot high. By the end of the summer, the privet's were not only back to normal height, but much thicker; I think it actually revived them because mine had become quite leggy also.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2005 at 4:53PM
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transient(Zone 7)

I have a 90 foot hedge on each side of my driveway,about 6 foot tall.Has anyone noticed that when you cut them down,as you should about every 10 years,that they will fill up the rest of your entire yard. I'm getting ready to trim mine down to about a foot tall.I've got a neighbor who has goats.I'm gonna feed them the hedge.I read that in china they make tea from privet, so I'm thinking it should be o.k. for the goats.Has anyone heard anything different?

    Bookmark   May 15, 2006 at 7:52PM
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I have a new home with 280' of 5' Privet hedge that was planted in 1940. I doubt it has ever been trimmed to 2 feet. Right now it is full of maple saplings so I am wondering if I should give it a hard pruning and if I pull out the saplings all at once is it going to hurt the hedge?

    Bookmark   May 29, 2007 at 12:38PM
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Hi Nancy, I had the same thing when we moved in last summer -- old 1940's privet about 4' that had never been pruned properly. It was all straight bare upright sticks for about 3 1/2 feet, then 6 inches of green thicket stuff at the top where the owner had just kept shaving it off. It was full of maples vines and all kinds of other vines. And I could see right through it! After reading a lot online, the advice I took was to take a chainsaw to it, chopping the whole thing to about 10" high earlier this spring (2nd week in May)! My neighbors thought I was nuts and it looked very sparse and scary for a few weeks, but within 2 weeks or so there were green leaves all over those sticks, and now it's starting to fill in. It's short still, but full and green and it will be great by the end of the summer. I plan to follow a 3-year training plan I read online, trimming it to a rounded top shape each year, with no more than 12" or so new growth, to keep it branching and dense and allowing lots of light to reach those bottom branches. I'd definitely recommend the hard prune to start, though! I think you'd be fine to do it now, from what I've read nothing can kill these plants. That's my experience, hope yours goes as well!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 11:09PM
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I found the answer to my leggy privet hedge problem here, thank you. But I have a further question. I am new to this planting zone, moved here in May of 08, so this is my first spring and I am anxious to get chopping on these plants. Is March too soon? When do I know when its safe to cut them back? Thank you.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 3:20PM
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