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Japanese Privet

Updated: Mar 26, 2020

Ligustrum japonicum

The Japanese Privet or Waxy-leaf Privet is native to China, Korea and Japan and is an evergreen shrub that grows to 5 meters tall, with smooth, pale grey-brown bark, dark green waxy leaves and white flowers. It is grown in Europe and America as a tall hedge or border trees or an individual small city trees. It has naturalised in many parts of the US and in some Southern states is considered an invasive species.

Ligustrum Forest, Gary Jones Collection
Ligustrum Forest, Gary Jones Collection

Styles and Sizes: It is most commonly grown in the informal upright, and occasional cascade styles. It makes medium to large bonsai.

Position: The Japanese Privet is not hardy in most of temperate Europe and is best protected in a heated environment indoor or a heated greenhouse, before the first frosts between October and May. In summer they benefit from being outdoors as they love the sun and indeed need a lot of sunlight to flower profusely.

Watering: When the plant has been moved outdoors, in spring water thoroughly early in the morning to ensure that the bonsai has the water when it needs during the day and it and is not sitting in water overnight. Do not water the crown as this will damage the flowers. Water moderately over the rest of the year.

Feeding: Feed with an organic fertiliser. If using a liquid nutrient feed every two weeks, if using a pelletised version feed every two months. It can deal with most Ph conditions, lime can be used to balance out any excessive acidity of the organic feed.

Ligustrum ol ol Urban Yamadori
Ligustrum ol ol Urban Yamadori

Repotting: Repotting every year helps keep your clumps in control. Best repot in Autumn after flowering. Use a free-draining soil, of loam, sharp sand and well-mulched bark in equal parts. Alternatively, you can use Akadama and pumice in a ratio of 2:1 by volume.

Pruning: The Ligustrum flowers on current years growth so prune only after flowering. Prune back current year’s growth to leave 3 lateral shoots or three active nodes. Structural pruning and pruning of thick branches to be left until late winter early spring. To maintain a healthy trunk system, you will need to remove any suckers as they appear.

Wiring: Best styled with the clip and grow method. If wiring is needed, do so in Autumn when plants go dormant and do not leave the wire on beyond April or May as it may result in scaring the branches.

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