What's so bad about Japanese privet (aka waxleaf ligustrum)?

rebeccaindfwMay 17, 2007

I have quite a few of the Ligustrum japonicum around my house, which I bought 2 years ago. I have read that they are highly invasive, send out hardy volunteers, need to be pruned constantly, etc. etc.

Yet I have only had to prune one of them once in the last 2 years, and I've never seen any volunteers. I've also never had to water them or tend to them in any other way. The flower smell is a little sickly in my opinion, but that seems to be the only negative so far.

So why are these so evil?

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You said "around [your] house." That doesn't tell us much. Are they 1 foot from the foundation, or 15 feet? I think most people on this forum would agree that they are WONDERFUL shrub/trees if planted in a spot where they can reach their potential size w/out encroaching on a driveway, a sidewalk, the house itself, a flower bed, etc. They are genetically programmed to be very large when mature, and many "landscapers" put them in tight places where they soon become too large for the location.
If you have them in the right location, why are you having to prune them? That sounds like they are constricted where they are.
Occasionally a fungus will attack them, but it is rarely fatal and a fungicide is usually very effective.
I agree with you- once established, they can go through droughts and not suffer. They may be overused a bit, but that doesn't mean they aren't fine plants for the right spot.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2007 at 12:14PM
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I've always liked waxleaf ligustrum.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2007 at 12:53PM
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debndal(8a DFW, TX)

I like them too, though I will admit for many years they were overused - and not necessarily planted in the appropriate situation for them - kind of like red tips have been overused and planted in the wrong places too. Another overused, but lovely plant is indian hawthorn. But, I guess that's why they are overused - they are attractive and easy care. I never noticed ligustrum being particularly invasive - any more than other shrubs that berry. I wouldn't consider them evil - just boring when they were used as the long foundation hedge many years ago.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2007 at 1:51PM
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They are too cookie-cutter. Think back a few years ago, every other house looked the same in the subdivision and EVERY house had the exact same plantings. Well, now that I think about it not much has changed, every other house in the new subdivision looks the same and they all have the same landscaping, nothing native, drought tolerant... They even plant these things around those awful giant things they are building on the beach. YUCK! They really don't seem to care for salt air & get awful looking here.
Tally HO!

    Bookmark   May 17, 2007 at 3:57PM
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debndal(8a DFW, TX)

beachplant - yep the latest cookie cutter shrub in my neighborhood is the dwarf yaupon holly trimmed like little puffballs in front of a row of some taller other mundane looking shrub trimed in larger puffballs. No imagination, but I guess OK for those who are not interested in gardening but want something out front that's green.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2007 at 4:40PM
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We have several along our fence line. With annual pruning they are pretty bulletproof. The problem I have is with the flowers. My wife is allergic and I have to remove any bushes that are close to the house or areas she frequents.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2007 at 5:09PM
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rick_mcdaniel(Lewisville, TX)

Nothing too bad. They do get quite large though, and they can get killed down to the roots, by north TX cold weather, in some years.

Suwannee River Privet, is a better choice for a similar look.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2007 at 5:23PM
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Oh, I just thought privets were supposed to invasive (mine have been very polite) and you had to constantly prune them. I've only pruned one of mine--sheared it, really--because it was trained into a formal shape over the course of its lifetime.

But sure, they are a bit boring, and I think the smell is unpleasant.

So... to that end... what are some plants/shrubs that you would long to see in your neighbors' landscaping?

    Bookmark   May 17, 2007 at 5:52PM
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I believe Neil Sperry said that almost all of them in the North Texas area died in the 83 freeze and thus they are sensitive to very cold weather.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2007 at 6:53PM
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pjtexgirl(7b DFW)

Mine didn't die in the freeze.They've been here forever.(1950's) They are volunteering all over. The black berries are a carpet. They also choke out native plants if they are planted by or carried by birds to a natural area. PJ

    Bookmark   May 17, 2007 at 8:03PM
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Maybe Neil Sperry did say that about ligustrums, but it was pittosporums that were hardest hit, even going back to the legendary freeze at Christmas 1983. You see a few in Central Texas nowdays, but mostly they are grown in South Texas.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2007 at 12:17AM
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hitexplanter(8 a)

I would add the purple fruit which birds love is a real pain to clean from where ever the birds defacate. Cars, decks, sidewalks turn to purple goo. The ones in the neighborhood I rented in years ago have matured to 10-15' breaking limbed nuisances. I can say I have no love for them and the birds will plant them all over in areas not maintained by man and choke out native vegatation. Count me as one that feels this is a plant that creates more problems for the average homeowner and to nature than it is worth. Muliple other choices would be more befitting to use.
Happy Growing David

    Bookmark   May 18, 2007 at 8:09AM
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Yes, as David said the birds spread the seed to wild areas and the plants then choke out all the native vegetation.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2007 at 2:54PM
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I have a ligustrum that I wan to remove and plant something else. How can I kill it

    Bookmark   June 10, 2007 at 10:52PM
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lynne_melb(z9b Melb FL)

Greg, I had four bushes that my nephew helped me remove. For all of their vigor, there weren't many roots. We didn't put weed killer down, he just dug a shovel in and they came up. We have sandy soil, which makes things easier.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2007 at 11:09PM
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I'm with gregnga, how do we get rid of them? They were here before us and I completely dislike them, I have 2 that are huge and right up against the foundation/house and 1 smallish (8 feet) along the fence.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2007 at 11:14PM
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I would kill them with a systemic herbicide before digging them up. If you leave live roots, they might make a re-appearance.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2007 at 11:41PM
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pjtexgirl(7b DFW)

I killed off one really easily. I cut it to the stump,covered the stump with sugar(filling and creating small holes) and covered the whole stump with black plastic using duct tape to seal it off good(in summer) and whaaaa Laaa! Baked tree stump gone forever!!! I have one I can't cut down until another tree takes it's place! I hate the dern thing! It smells funny!!! PJ

    Bookmark   June 11, 2007 at 5:33PM
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pj, I can do sugar in holes without feeling guilty! What did you duct tape the plastic to? Did you just wrap the plastic around the stump and tape it up or did you also cover an area around the ground?

    Bookmark   June 11, 2007 at 10:06PM
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pjtexgirl(7b DFW)

Yep, I taped it up with no ground area.I popped the thick black bag(contractors bags work well)over the stump(didn't cut it flush),secured the tape around the bag at the bottome of the trunk flare(tight) and let the sun bake the whole mess. I actually did this with a 20' holly,nandina,privet and ligustrum. These giganto shrubs literally buried the front of the house. It looked like a giant hedge with a garage sticking out of it! Ug!!! PJ

    Bookmark   June 11, 2007 at 10:19PM
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Cool, I'll get some sugar, bags and the drill bit ready for this weekend. I have one that only gets morning sun at it's bottom, it's on the alley side, so that might take a bit longer.

I wonder if it'll work on ornamental pomegranates too? They're taking over the house.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2007 at 10:30PM
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pjtexgirl(7b DFW)

Haven't tried it on a Pom. I figure if it can take out Nandina.... Pom should be easy. Whoo hoo that stuff didn't wanna go! PJ

    Bookmark   June 12, 2007 at 8:32AM
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I know of the drawbacks on these privets but still I planted quite a few on an elevated semicircle which surrounds a small pergola with a standing fountain. I couldn't think of anything else as evergreen, inexpensive, dark-green leafed (for depth), screening and fast growing.....and easy to shape. I rather like the soapy fragrance. So........ If anyone has a replacement idea, I would like to hear! I can always sell these on CL. Thanks!

    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 8:09PM
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I can't stand them, but probably only because my builder foolishly planted 5 of them close together in our VERY small backyard. They were planted to hide a VERY small green box, which you would think was huge considering the monstrous ligustrum around them. They finally grew way up into the trees above, and we were afraid they were going to damage the trees. We contacted our neighborhood associated, and told them we were going to cut them down (a requirment in our hood). They had the nerve to ask why we would cut down perfectly good shrubs. My husband ran into the backyard with an axe, so I could say that the shrubs were "dying" LOL. Now there are some beautiful barbados cherry shrubs in their place.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 9:01PM
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6 weeks later, I finally have 1 cut down & I'm ready for the sugar method.
For those that tried it, how long does it take to work? I'm guessing it just softens everything up to make it easier to get the stump & roots out?

    Bookmark   July 28, 2007 at 11:53AM
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I know this is an old thread but if anyone searches and turns this up like I did:

Japanese privet is not called "invasive" because it invades your yard, it is invasive because it escapes cultivation and invades wild areas! You may not see ligustrum escape from your yard, but birds are eating the berries your tree puts out, and they deposit them in other areas. Once established in the wild, ligustrum crowds out native species. The canopy of the trees grow so thick that no grasses can grow underneath. Without vegetation holding the soil in with its roots, that can create a real problem for water quality, in addition to taking away a lot of the plants animals eat to survive.

Find out more on texasinvasives.org

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 1:45PM
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Well all I can say is that if you want or need a nice wall of green to screen out a neighbors unattractive yard or if you want privacy in your backyard these plants are the way to go. You will quickly have a beautiful high wall of green that stays beautiful and full all year round. I like having privacy when I am in my yard, and these plants give me plenty of it and with no care on my part. This plant is a winner to me. It is a classic too!

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 2:44PM
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megan_anne(TX U.S. z8a)

Sorry for the necro-post, but I came across this thread as I was Googling for something else. I just wanted to chime in with my observations...

I work with a tree guy and these Ligustrums are one of our top three removal trees. Hackberry and red cedar are the others. The main reason for removal is because they get way, way too large for the area in which they are planted. Other major reasons are a desire to 'go native' and the mess that they leave with the berries. The boss can't stand these things, and he's one who will go to great lengths to save an otherwise-healthy tree... even a hackberry.

People call hacks 'trash trees' and while they do have some bad habits, are weak, and are not very long-lived trees compared to other species-- they do provide good homes for wild birds, butterflies (hackberry emperors and tawny emperors especially) and other critters. Even for all of the negatives that we commonly associate with hacks, he would rather save a hackberry over a ligustrum.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 7:04PM
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mistiaggie(z9A Tx)

What Lindsay said....I've been in some remote areas and find this stuff...it is horrible.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 10:19AM
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So I just moved into a house with three decent sized Waxleaf Ligustrums I'm debating what to do with. I know L. Lucidum is the horribly invasive one here in the Austin area and would remove these if I had them on my property. It seems like L. Japonicum (Waxleaf Ligustrum), which I have is better behaved. While they're not something I'd ever plant myself, I'm debating if they're worth the effort of getting rid of or should just keep them and train them up into small trees.


    Bookmark   November 25, 2013 at 1:49PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Cherry laurels are a suitable replacement.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2013 at 10:50AM
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