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Ligustrum japonicum 'Variegatum': 'Variegatum' Japanese Privet

Edward F. Gilman, Dennis G. Watson, Ryan W. Klein, and Deborah R. Hilbert


Although often used as a shrub or hedge, Japanese privet works well when allowed to grow into a small tree, its curved multiple trunks and variegated canopy creating an interesting architectural focus, 8 to 12 feet tall and often considerably wider, for the landscape. Old specimens often grow to 25 feet across. The glossy evergreen leaves are abundantly produced on the upright, spreading branches. The small, white, malodorous flowers appear in terminal panicles during spring in the south and in the summer in northern climes. The blooms are followed by abundant blue-black berries which persist most of the year. The berries are popular with birds and the dispersed seeds occasionally germinate where they fall. The species was assessed by UF/IFAS and found to be highly invasive, and is therefore no longer recommended for use in Florida.

Figure 1. Mature Ligustrum japonicum 'Variegatum': 'Variegatum' Japanese Privet
Figure 1.  Mature Ligustrum japonicum 'Variegatum': 'Variegatum' Japanese privet.


General Information

Scientific name: Ligustrum japonicum

Pronunciation: lih-GUS-trum juh-PAWN-ih-kum

Common name(s): 'Variegatum' Japanese privet

Family: Oleaceae

USDA hardiness zones: 7B through 10A (Figure 2)

Origin: not native to North America

Invasive potential: high invasion risk, predicted to be invasive and not recommended by UF/IFAS (North, Central, South)

Uses: Bonsai; deck or patio; screen; specimen; hedge; container or planter; trained as a standard; parking lot island < 100 sq ft; parking lot island 100–200 sq ft; parking lot island > 200 sq ft; tree lawn 3–4 feet wide; tree lawn 4–6 feet wide; tree lawn > 6 ft wide; street without sidewalk; sidewalk cutout (tree pit); highway median

Figure 2. Range
Figure 2.  Range



Height: 8 to 12 feet

Spread: 15 to 25 feet

Crown uniformity: symmetrical

Crown shape: vase, round, spreading

Crown density: dense

Growth rate: moderate

Texture: medium


Leaf arrangement: opposite/subopposite (Figure 3)

Leaf type: simple

Leaf margin: entire, undulate

Leaf shape: ovate, oblong

Leaf venation: pinnate

Leaf type and persistence: evergreen, broadleaf evergreen

Leaf blade length: less than 2 inches, 2 to 4 inches

Leaf color: variegated

Fall color: no color change

Fall characteristic: not showy

Figure 3. Foliage
Figure 3.  Foliage



Flower color: white/cream/gray

Flower characteristics: showy


Fruit shape: oval, round

Fruit length: less than .5 inch

Fruit covering: fleshy

Fruit color: blue, black, purple

Fruit characteristics: attracts birds; not showy; fruit/leaves not a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches droop; showy; typically multi-trunked; thorns

Pruning requirement: needed for strong structure

Breakage: resistant

Current year twig color: green, gray

Current year twig thickness: medium

Wood specific gravity: unknown


Light requirement: full sun, partial sun or partial shade

Soil tolerances: sand; loam; clay; acidic; slightly alkaline; well-drained

Drought tolerance: moderate

Aerosol salt tolerance: high


Roots: not a problem

Winter interest: no

Outstanding tree: no

Ozone sensitivity: unknown

Verticillium wilt susceptibility: susceptible

Pest resistance: resistant to pests/diseases

Use and Management

Although tolerant of tight clipping, Japanese privet is quite attractive when allowed to retain its natural multi-stemmed form, making it ideal for use in shrubbery borders and other informal settings. It makes a nice specimen in any landscape where a small dark tree is needed. Planted close together on about 10 to 15-foot centers, ligustrum will form a canopy over a pedestrian walkway but will not grow tall or wide enough for canopy closure over a street or parking lot. The tree looks best in a landscape setting with a low groundcover planted around its base.

Japanese privet grows in full sun or partial shade and is tolerant of a wide range of soil types, including calcarious clay as long as water is not allowed to stand in the root zone. Plants grow quickly while young but slow with age. Although it can withstand drought, Japanese privet is not especially salt-tolerant and will require protection from direct salt spray. If you decide to use this plant as a clipped hedge, be sure that the top is kept narrower than the bottom to provide light to the lower branches. This will help ensure the plant will remain full to the ground.

Many other cultivars are available and plants grafted onto L. quihoui for protection against nematodes are preferred, when available. 'Silver Star' has deep green leaves mottled with grey and edged in creamy white; 'Texanum' is very similar to the species but is lower-growing and has denser growth; 'Fraseri' has yellow to yellow-green new growth; 'Jack Frost' has glossy green leaves with a thin edge of creamy white; 'Lake Tresca' has small leaves and the lower branches droop to form a mound; 'Lusterleaf' has large, thick leaves; 'Suwanee River' has compact erect branches. Ligustrum x vicaryi has golden variegated leaves, with bright yellow new growth.

Propagation is by cuttings or grafting.

Pests and Diseases

None usually serious, although thrips and mites can occasionally discolor foliage. Soil nematodes can cause serious plant decline and they can be prevalent, particularly in sandy soil.

Publication #ENH-512

Release Date:April 11, 2024

Related Collections

Part of Southern Trees Fact Sheets

Related Topics

  • Critical Issue: 1. Agricultural and Horticultural Enterprises
Organism ID

About this Publication

This document is ENH-512, one of a series of the Department of Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised March 2007 and March 2024. Visit the EDIS website at for the currently supported version of this publication.

About the Authors

Edward F. Gilman, professor emeritus; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering; Ryan W. Klein, assistant professor, arboriculture; and Deborah R. Hilbert, UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center; Department of Environmental Horticulture; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


  • Michael Andreu
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