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Yet another privet hedge pruning question

Posted by lisa2004 NY Z5/6 (My Page) on
Sat, Apr 3, 10 at 1:52

Every post I've read talks about planting privet hedges in the spring and when they should be pruned the first time. I planted 40 of them last fall. Each is between 10 and 18" high. They are all one single stick. I want to make sure I grow very thick shrubs, so when should I cut them back for the first time? And by how much? They have leaf buds, but no leaves yet.

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RE: Yet another privet hedge pruning question

  • Posted by kimcoco Zone 5, Wisconsin (My Page) on
    Tue, Apr 6, 10 at 0:22

We're going on our third growing season. We planted staggered "sticks", 'Cheyenne' variety, next to our patio for a privacy hedge.

I'm assuming if you planted in the fall, they didn't put on much growth last year. The general rule is for every 12 inches of growth, cut them back by 6 inches, and do this throughout the growing season. By the third year, they should maintain their hedge shape, but will still require regular pruning.

Wait until they put on 12" of growth, then trim. They grow pretty fast. Ours will exceed our 4 1/2' fence this growing season.

RE: Yet another privet hedge pruning question

were those bare root or potted? And did you prune them when planting? If not I would shorten them for a third. This should persuade them to produce new strong basal shoots.
If they grow vigorously I would not cut them back too much. In my experience you can let them gain height rather quickly. For example hornbeam grows sometimes 1 1/2 feet per season. You could stake them to speed the process.
You want to grow a formal hedge I reckon.
And now for the sides: you would want them to grow very dense so, after you stopped the central/ vertical shoots at the the desired height, you prune the side shoots hard, allowing about 2-4 inches more width per year. And do watch the profile of the hedge, it should get slightly more narrow to the top. And sometimes some strong branches/ shoots grow too close to the surface of the side which makes it difficult to mantaine a dens growth of thin twigs.
Privet (Ligustrum vulgare) is pretty resilient but it is worth it to feed the young plants well in the first 2-3 years: watering if the spring is dry, some compost.

well, good luck with the hedge,

cheers, Lin

RE: Yet another privet hedge pruning question

  • Posted by kimcoco Zone 5, Wisconsin (My Page) on
    Tue, Apr 6, 10 at 12:54

"If they grow vigorously I would not cut them back too much. In my experience you can let them gain height rather quickly...You want to grow a formal hedge I reckon."

A privets natural growth habit is not a "hedge" shape.

If you are impatient and do not cut them back at regular intervals, you will attain height quickly, but you will end up with a leggy privet at maturity with gaps throughout, not the thick privacy hedge you are seeking. Once mature, there is no turning back to correct the gaps.

Privets respond well to pruning and are ideal for a hedge form. Pruning frequently encourages dense branching, and dense foliage, typically 3 or 4 times during the course of a summer, creating thickness all the way to the ground.

Upon planting ours stood 12 inches. We pruned regularly throughout each growing season for dense growth as stated previously. This year, the third growing season, they will exceed the height of our 4 1/2' fence. So, from 12" to 5-6 feet in three years is considerable growth with consistent pruning.

I agree, the final shape will be slightly tapered from top to bottom to ensure the base receives equal amounts of sunlight.

RE: Yet another privet hedge pruning question

Kimcoco, did your variety lose any leaves during the winter? The variety I want to get is 'Vulgare' from hybridpoplars. We have junipers and arborvitia(sp) planted between our neighbor and it takes up a lot of garden space. Literally, you can't walk through the sideyard. I'd like to pull everything out and plant privet.

Another question, is it thick enough to create a natural fence to keep pets in or out? I was thinking of planting Vulgare and placing those decorative wrought iron edgers along side of them to keep our dog from trying to get out. On the other side of our house we used that for a gap that our fence doesn't quite cover and it works.

Also, one more question; We don't mind shearing a couple times a season, but once it gets 10' or so, how do you plan on maintaining the top? We're not good on ladders, so maybe a landscaping company is in order a couple times in summer.

Hey, if you seen Alice In Wonderland, the Queen was standing against a wall of privet. I love it!

RE: Yet another privet hedge pruning question

OK, so then I am waiting until they grow approx 12 inches and then cutting them back by 6 inches... 3 times between now and fall. And I do this for the first 3 years? Just clarifying... really want this right.

RE: Yet another privet hedge pruning question

  • Posted by kimcoco Zone 5, Wisconsin (My Page) on
    Mon, Apr 12, 10 at 20:21

Lisa, you can trim them back to 12" now, depending on how low you want to start the branching, or you can wait until they grow another 12" and cut them back by 6". I don't know if you cut them back at planting time...the idea is where ever you cut them back, the branch will divide into two branches, then when you cut them back the next time, those two branches will now become four branches, etc.

I'd say if you want a really tight screen very close to the base, cut them back to 12" now. Typically, they will require three trimmings throughout the growing season, so the "three times" is an average, it really depends on growth rate for you. After three years, the hedge will maintain it's shape, but it will still require regular pruning three times annually to maintain the shape and height you desire. It is not a low maintenance hedge from that standpoint.

Kitty, mine are deciduous - at least in my zone, they lose all the leaves over the winter months, so it is not year round privacy.

As far as pets getting through the base of the shrub, I have chihuahuas and boston terriers, they can walk through the base right now if they wanted to, but I suspect they won't in future years due to dense branching. We also staggered ours at planting time, and they're planted maybe 16-18" apart from eachother, in staggered rows.

I'm sure wrought iron edgers would work well, but I'd start branching them at the 12" mark to ensure you have a full hedge top to bottom. As the shrubs mature, edgers might not be needed. I can't comment on the fullness at maturity as I'm only going on the third year with my privets.

As far as trimming, I HOPE mine top 10 feet (nothing against my neighbors) for privacy next to our patio (we live on small lots). I've read differing heights for this shrub. If they do grow that tall for me, I suppose we'd use a ladder. Otherwise, maybe 8 feet or less is a better height for you, still a nice height for privacy, and just a few steps up a ladder.

And yes! I did see Alice in Wonderland and I was drooling over those wonderful hedges...I am in love with formal English gardens and tall hedges alike. I can't wait for my privets to take off this year.

RE: Yet another privet hedge pruning question

I googled and the 'Cheyenne' is a Vulgare. Our lot is small; tiny front yard, extreme slope in the south facing back yard (but it slopes down to a creek so it's wonderful!). So the only way we can increase our real estate is through our side yards. Right now we're landscaping our east side yard which already has a fence. We need space for our dog to romp and not terrorize the neighborhood.

But this fall I want to pull out all the junipers on our west side to get ready for planting privet next spring. Sad! =( we have to wait til next spring! We have to save for a new heat pump. Don't you hate priorities? j/k

I really love privets. In the winter my violin keeps me happy, summer time it's all about my garden! And I don't mind having to shear privet 2 or 3 times a year. You'll have to post some pics on your privet progress.

RE: Yet another privet hedge pruning question

  • Posted by kimcoco Zone 5, Wisconsin (My Page) on
    Wed, Apr 14, 10 at 11:57

Here goes...the first pic shows the privets as they were planted in May 2008...

Privet hedge first year

Privets in September 2009...(fence height is 4 1/2 feet).

Privet hedge, second year

RE: Yet another privet hedge pruning question

Wow, that is beautiful. I can't believe that's one year's growth. Mine were not nearly the size of yours at planting. They were each a single stick and only about 12" tall. They are still about that size but look very healty. I was thinking maybe I should just take an inch or two off the top of each one. What do you think? I hope mine look like yours in a year or two!

RE: Yet another privet hedge pruning question

Thats very nice! By the end of this year it should be taller than your fence, right? And nice and thick.

Lisa, it wouldn't hurt them to take a couple of inches off now. It will only encourage them to branch out and become thicker. Where do you have yours planted? I want ours at our side yard west facing. We have a view of the neighbors garage and then their 2nd bathroom which they rarely use. So I can wait for them to fill out.

RE: Yet another privet hedge pruning question

OK, I did it. It was not easy (mentally) to take a few inches off plants that small. LOL.
So, while I was doing this I started wondering what would happen if I took all these 3" sticks (the part I just cut off) and stuck them in some potting soil. Now I have 40 sticks stuck in one little pot. I've got nothing to loose if they don't root, but that's the way I got my forsythia, so I figured I'd try it.

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