How to Grow and Care for 'Sunshine' Privet

You've never seen a shrub like this before.

Sunshine Ligustrum
Photo: Courtesy of the Southern Living Plant Collection

'Sunshine' privet ( Ligustrum sinense ) is more straightforward to confine than the common privet, which has a sprawling nature. Privet is infamous for growing like a weed. 'Sunshine' privet can be used as a hedge and is visually appealing thanks to its bright yellow foliage.

'Sunshine' privet is a hardy, evergreen shrub, according to the Southern Living Plant Collection , which states it is "ideal as a hedge in the landscape, 'Sunshine' Ligustrum offers year-round golden foliage that flourishes in full sun. This sterile, non-invasive cultivar will not re-seed into the landscape." It will reliably reach heights of three to six feet and widths of three to four feet, making it a versatile planting for both bigger and smaller garden spaces. This shrub is toxic to both people and pets , so be mindful of where you plant this species, which can be invasive in specific environments.

Plant Attributes

Plant Attributes
Common Name: Chinese Privet
Botanical Name: Ligustrum sinense 'Sunshine'
Family: Oleaceae
Plant Type: Shrub
Mature Size: 3-15 ft. tall, 3-10 ft. wide
Sun Exposure: Full, Partial
Soil Type: Well-drained, Loamy, Sandy
Soil pH: Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline (6.0 to 8.0)
Bloom Time: Spring, Summer
Flower Color: White
Hardiness Zones: Zones 5-10 (USDA)
Native Area: Asia
Toxicity: toxic to dogs, toxic to cats, toxic to pets , toxic to people

'Sunshine' Privet Care

'Sunshine' privet is a fast-growing evergreen shrub grown for its ornamental characteristics. This species, producing toxic berries and odorous flowers, reaches heights of 15 feet and has an extensive spreading nature. Depending on the cultivar, privets have unique foliage colors and variegation and grow well in most garden conditions as long as it has plenty of drainages.

Privet is ideal for growing as a hedge and is relatively easy to care for. Still, it requires regular maintenance throughout the growing season of spring to fall and additional pruning to prevent it from being invasive. When designing your landscape, give these plants ample spacing depending on their use. Plant privets three to four feet apart for shrubs and three feet apart for hedges. Plant four to six feet apart for a border or mass landscaping.


Like its name, this particular plant thrives in the sunshine. Make sure you plant it in a spot where it gets at least six hours of sun per day.


The golden hedge likes moist, well-draining soil. We suggest adding one to two inches of mulch around the base of the plant to ensure moisture. When doing so, avoid the area closest to the stem.


When first establishing the plant, water often, but ensure it has ample time to drain. After establishing the plant, it is drought and heat tolerant. However, make sure to water enough to keep its surrounding soil moist. Avoid overwatering, as its roots do not like soggy soil.

Temperature and Humidity

This plant thrives in warm, moist environments with temperatures around 68°F to 85°F. While relatively drought-tolerant, privet that does not retain enough moisture will grow slower and produce less foliage, flowers, and berries. Humidity is not as crucial to privet as other conditions.


We recommend fertilizing twice a year in the spring and fall. 'Sunshine' privet only requires a little fertilization, but adding a slow-release organic fertilizer rich in sulfur and iron can help produce lush and vibrant foliage. Do not fertilize plants when the temperatures are above 85°F because it leads to poor water absorption.

Types of Privet

'Sunshine' privet has several varieties and species with attractive foliage. Some are less aggressively invasive than others and have distinctive characteristics. Here are some selections to know:

  • Variegated Chinese Privet ( Ligustrum sinense 'Variegatum' ): Evergreen or semi-evergreen shrub highlighted by cream or white variegation.
  • Amur Privet ( Ligustrum amurense ): A deciduous shrub that attracts butterflies and reaches heights of 15 feet with an equal spread.
  • Golden Privet ( Ligustrum 'Vicaryi' ): Bright yellow leaves on a deciduous, fragrant shrub ideal for hedges.


Occasional pruning is required to bring out even more of its bright yellow foliage two to three times yearly. Regular shearing helps to prune this plant for its shape, especially if you want to grow it as a hedge or an ornamental shrub. Pruning should include removing diseased and damaged branches in the summer while cutting the shrub back even shorter in the winter. Too much pruning will slow the plant's growth and can cause damage.

Propagating 'Sunshine' Privet

Privets quickly propagate from softwood cuttings. Select branches before they harden between May and July for best results. Water privets the day before selecting cuttings to protect the roots. Here is how to propagate privets through cuttings:

  1. Select a six-inch softwood cutting with at least three leaves and use a sharp knife or pruning shears to cut below the leaf node. Remove excess flowers, buds, and fruit.
  2. Fill a plastic container with potting soil and make small holes with your finger or a pencil.
  3. Dip the cutting into a rooting hormone and place it in the potting mixture. Gently pack the soil around the cutting.
  4. Water the container so the soil is moist but well-draining, and cover it with a plastic bag to encourage heat. Place the cuttings in a warm location, but not in direct sunlight, and continue watering as roots establish.
  5. Wait for roots to establish. New leaf growth will emerge in two to eight weeks. To see if roots have established, gently tug on cuttings—you will feel a slight resistance.
  6. Transplant new growth to its final location and continue caring for cuttings.


The level of winter care depends on your climate. Warmer regions will require less maintenance than areas that experience fluctuating temperatures. While the 'Sunshine' privet does not necessarily mind the cold weather, it can experience a drop and color change in the foliage.

Throughout the winter, continue watering the plant every other week and add a layer of mulch to help the roots stay warm and retain moisture. Water when the temperatures are at their highest to allow moisture to reach the roots without freezing or leaving the soil soggy.

Avoid pruning throughout the winter, stopping about two months before the first frost—pruning prevents the plant from efficiently storing energy. Depending on your climate, privets might benefit from burlap or cloth covering overnight to avoid cold damage. Remove the covering in the mornings to allow sun exposure.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Privet is susceptible to whiteflies, Japanese weevils, scale, rust mites, aphids, mealybugs, and leaf miners. While many of these pests do not cause significant damage, removing pests with a water hose or spraying an insecticide can help prevent more serious diseases.

Brown spots, powdery mildew, root rot, and leaf deformities result from specific diseases that often occur from improper care conditions. Avoid overwatering plants to prevent rot. Avoid wet leaves and ensure plants get enough daily sun exposure.

Common Problems With 'Sunshine' Privet

'Sunshine' privet is relatively easy to grow, but there are still some conditions that can cause problems for this plant. Here is what you should know:

Leaf Drop

Several reasons why 'Sunshine' privet might experience leaf drop include inadequate sun exposure, temperature fluctuations, pests, lack of nutrients, and incorrect water levels. Spraying plants with water can help shake off some pests but planting privets in a sunny location with well-draining, nutrient-rich soil is the best way to care for these shrubs. Depending on your environmental conditions, privets need more or less humidity.

Leaves Turning Black/Brown

When leaves develop brown spots or start turning brown, this signifies too much heat or fertilizer and improper watering. Make sure to allow the soil to drain entirely before watering plants, and use fertilizer sparingly at the beginning of the growing season in the spring. Use a balanced, slow-release fertilizer or dilute it with water if the plants are still experiencing leaf browning. In areas that experience harsh summer heat, plant privets in an area that receives partial shade in the afternoons.

Leaves Turning Yellow

Leaf burn can also turn foliage yellow from inefficient watering. If poor drainage is not an issue, soil nutrient imbalance is likely the cause. Test the soil for a pH between 6.0 and 8.0 and enrich it with magnesium and sulfur. Adding citrus, coffee, or vegetables is also known to help improve soil content.

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