Ligustrum help needed. Pruning and health

traunt53March 21, 2014

I moved in to a NC home a year ago to the day. The first thing I wanted to do was plant some privacy shrubs. The local farmers market told me that ligustrums were a great shrub for privacy and they grow fast. He told me about 3 feet a year. Well its been one year and a couple of them have grown a few feet but only branches. They don't seem to be thickening up much. Some of the leaves are also looking diseased. Is this normal?

I have read pruning is essential and I have also read not to do this. I attached a photo of my best looking one. Soil is clay here and we had a lot of rain this past year. With that said, I have only fertilized one time, about 7 months ago (besides the initial fertilizer used when planting them). I rarely water them due to the rain. How often should I water?

So in short, my questions are about (1) pruning (when and how much) (2) should I clip off any diseased looking leafs? (3) do I continue fertilizing and watering?

Also, am I expecting too much from these guys for privacy? I hope I wasn't duped. I planted 16 of these (8 are hollies) and it took some effort and they look pretty but I really want a screen.

Thank you

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

it takes a transplant.. 1 to 3 years to get RE-ESTABLISHED .. and you will now when its such.. shen it grows to expectation ...

i dony understand the need for privacy ... with what i presume is a 6 foot wood fence behind ...

i am not surprised you farmer market expert recommended that which he had a truck full of.. lol ...

they are invasive in some areas ... i have no idea if NC is one of those places ...

i have never fert'd a shrub in my life.. and i would never fertilize a stressed plant.. and a recent transplant is stressed...

i suggest you have a soil test performed.. and use such to determine if any soil amendments.. such as fert.. is needed ...

i would let them be for the rest of the year.. to complete getting established before i started cutting on it ...

i would not waste my time clipping off leafs ...

if you have any question of disease ... then post pics.. and lets decide such ... with this winter.. and subject to the transplant stress.. we can not rule out leaf damage from such ... as compared to disease ...

you are going to have a hard time painting that fence.. since you planted them so close to such ... depending on the size of your yard.. if you have the space.. you might consider moving them further from the fence ...

on some level.. i think the only failure here.. is that your expectations were a bit high .. all i hope for.. the first year.. is that they live.. and yours sure look good .. well this one does ... and you will have a screen in 3 to 5 years ... not one year ....

good luck


    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 12:25PM
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I have about 200' of ligustrum ibolium planted in my back yard. Planted in 2012, and they were literally little sticks. Not the nice, fuller one I see here.

The first year, they just stayed green. As Ken said. They're sending the roots below.

The second year, most of them grew quite a bit. I would say that yes, a few grew almost 3 feet. However, my are thin because they haven't had their first pruning. My garden center said not to prune until at least two full growing seasons had passed. So, mine are up for pruning.

Except I don't need to. Because the rabbits ate every one of them down to about 6 inches due to the horrific winter.

At any rate, they told me that once I prune, I could do it twice a season. Once in early spring, and once in mid-late summer. Pruning will help them bush out more.

For fertilizer (which I plan to do this year, thanks to the rabbits), I was advised to use a balanced 13-13-13, since you're looking to set off a lot of new growth.

I don't see any disease. Did you get any pics of that? The shrub looks nice to me.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 7:23PM
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idlovealocha, thank you for the post. The disease look is just on some leafs. I attached a closer picture. Maybe it is nothing to worry about but I thought I would check since I am a beginner.

Could you please share info or a link on pruning? I have never done this before and do not want to ruin these guys. Mine have been planted for a year but are surely past 2 full years old at this point, so would that make them ready for pruning or is it two years after transplant?

Ken, thank you as well. I planted them about 3 feet from the fence and 5 feet from each other. I certainly do not want to transplant them all out further after they have been established for a year now. Did I really mess up by planting them that close?

Again, thanks for all the help. Just trying to learn as I go.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 8:39PM
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traunt53, I was told that they needed to be planted in the ground for at least 2 seasons before pruning--so last year yours were establishing their roots, and that would be season 1. You'll probably see a lot of growth this year, season 2. I found this info handy:

The pic you show...I've seen that on a few of my privet leaves. It has never led to anything, so I wouldn't worry unless it spreads. Privet is quite hardy.

As far as the spread, that can be controlled. Even if it starts hitting the fence, you can always trim it back.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 8:50PM
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That is a healthy ligustrum. Old leaves will discolor and fall off as they die. This plant should be half again as big by this time next year. It requires little water, but you can speed growth by watering it weekly. You might pick up some fertilizer for evergreen shrubs at Home Depot. If you want a solid mass of foliage extending above the fence, why prune? You will eventually need to prune the lower branches to encourage new growth, but you don't need to worry about that now. You should keep it cut back sufficiently to avoid contact with the fence, so it can dry properly. You have made an excellent choice for a tall, screening shrub. You can maintain it at 6 ft. or 12 ft., according to your pleasure.

Um, we don't paint pressure treated lumber.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 3:59PM
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Whitecap, thank you so much! You made me feel much better about what I have here. Thanks! (and lol about the fence)

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 5:04PM
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Traunt, I have several of these, set out about 20 years ago. I'm keeping mine about 10 ft. tall, to screen off the view a neighbor would otherwise have, over the privacy fence, into my back yard. (Perhaps I'm more sensitive than some to "privacy issues.") These are tough plants, and I got into the habit, after several years, of not watering them. Then came the terrible drought of 2008, in Central Texas, and they almost died, despite getting only 6 hours or so of direct sun. You might keep this in mind. Also, that they will eventually try to turn into small trees, with all the foliage at the top, above bare, leggy trunks. You can keep them bushy at the bottom (concealing the fence) by pruning some of the lower branches, which encourages new growth. Don't ever trim branches flush with the main trunk, though.

For some reason, waxleaf ligustrums have been declared "invasive" in Texas. I wouldn't pay any attention to this sort of talk. I've never seen a single "volunteer."

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 5:58AM
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Whitecap, thank you so much for that info!.. I think the photo attached will show you all why I am wanting these to be screeners. I am a bit concerned now with a couple things. (1) When to prun. Reason being that you can see the one on the left is starting to lean to the right with a lot of growth. Also, the growth is like arms with leaves at the end but the arm is naked, if that makes any sense. Should I still be waiting for year two or three to do any pruning? (2) I appreciate all the info given, but I am still confused on exactly where to prun when it is time. What shape am I going for? Am I ever hurting the plant by cutting off growth? And, (3) I am starting to think these are too close together. I feel like transplanting at this point would be a disaster. Thoughts?

I am going to post a second post so I can show a photo of the other side of the yard with another good example of what I am going for in the screen category, but also, these ones seem to be growing differently. Slower, smaller and have flowers. Yet. the same plant...

    Bookmark   May 22, 2014 at 7:31AM
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Here is the other side where they have white flowers coming out on them. Very pretty. Just curious why the difference. Unfortunately, the big bush tot he right (and to the left on the previous photo) are dying now. They have been there for 8 years and I feel like I have done what I can to try and keep them full and alive so I will probably have to find a replacement for them or my screen will be done there.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2014 at 7:33AM
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cecily(7 VA)

They're definitely invasive in VA: I weed out handfuls of seedlings every year. I trim off the berries to avoid feeling guilty about owning one (its a really tough evergreen that deer don't eat and it does a great job screening the neighbor's ugly fence).

I'd pinch the tips out of that new growth to encourage more dense growth. Just use your fingernail and pinch out the last half inch of new growth.

I agree with Ken about fertilizer, they will get plenty of nutrients when you feed the lawn.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2014 at 9:20AM
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Dave in NoVA • 7a • Northern VA

Patience. Soon you will wonder how on earth to keep up with the pruning! They will likely outgrow your hollies in terms of speed....once they get established.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2014 at 9:44AM
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davids10 z7a nv.

a general observation=i have about 500 ft of 10 ft privet hedge about a century old. ive removed about the same amount. if there is a worse hedge material in the entire world id like to know what it is-its only positive is fast growth and that means near constant maintenance

    Bookmark   May 22, 2014 at 11:03AM
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Here is an update of whats going on now. This one guy is really growing (some aren't budging but this one is drinking his milk apparently) anyway, I am wondering if I should either (1) cut some growth or (2) buy something to straighten it out.

The problem is it is getting heavy and all leaning to one side and no growth is happening on the other side. There is a small slope but I didn't think it was enough to make it grow and lean so much one way. I think I need to take action soon or it's going to just flop over or break some day. I hate cutting it already, but if I need to, any advice or sites you all could share for pruning/trimming?

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 10:05AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i would cut out the leaner.. as close to the ground as i can ...

its part of the rejuvenation process ...

google: rejuvenation pruning of flowering shrubs

if you cut it at height... it will be leaning next year ...


    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 9:27AM
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Ken, thank you! When you say "If you cut it at height" do you mean if I cut it too far up?

When you say "close tot he ground" is that meaning the closest I can get to where the branch is coming out? It's the largest branch growth on the shrub, but it's going to make it lean more and more from what it looks like now. Should I cut right at the base where the branch is coming out?

We are in prime summer time so I feel like maybe I missed it?... Would a newer photo help?


    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 1:45PM
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