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What is a California Privet?

By N. Swensson
Updated May 16, 2024
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The California privet is a popular plant for gardens and hedges in many parts of the United States. It is a perennial evergreen shrub that can be short or very tall, and it has small, oval-shaped leaves that are dark green on the top and yellow on the bottom. It is most often used as a border hedge in a variety of settings.

In early to midsummer, the California privet blooms with small, strongly scented white flowers that mature into small black berries. The plant is hardy in USDA zones 5 through 8 and will grow well in most light conditions. It can also tolerate a variety of soils and temperatures, is resistant to deer and other pests, and requires a minimum amount of maintenance and care.

Although somewhat widely used in gardening in the United States, the California privet is not a native species. It originated in Japan. In some parts of the country, the plant may be classified as weedy or invasive because it can quickly become thick and unmanageable. This means the California privet has the potential to spread and crowd out other plants growing near it. The shrub can grow to as high as 16 feet when it is mature and can live for 20 years in many cases.

The California privet is most often used as a border hedge but may also grow as a tree. The plant is a perennial, which means it continues to live through numerous growing seasons once it is planted. It is most often an evergreen, meaning the leaves last during all seasons of the year.

Light conditions ranging from full sun to shade can be favorable for growing the California privet. It can be a bit difficult to grow from seeds, but it can be propagated from bare root, container plants or cuttings. The privet is widely available for purchase from garden centers and other stores that sell plants.

Once a California privet is established, it generally requires a minimal amount of care and maintenance. It only needs to be watered during long periods without rain. To complement its tolerance of rather dry conditions, the California privet can grow well in dry and sandy soils, as well as in clay. The plant can be pruned twice a year. This serves to help maintain its growth and to mold the shrub into the desired shape and height.

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