At first, glance, comparing Privet and Boxwood seems very strange because they are different plants with few similarities. However, if you compare them as hedge plants, much becomes clear.
Today we will look at these plants from different angles, but mainly as hedge plants.
Privet (Ligustrum) and Boxwood (Buxus) are two different genera with many species. They are common throughout the world, including the United States.
Among boxwoods, the most used species are Buxus sempervirens and Buxus microphylla. The most popular privet is Ligustrum ovalifolium.
|USDA Hardiness zone||5-9||4-9|
|Mature height||4-15′ (1.2-4.5m)||6-20′ (1.8-6 m)|
|Mature width||4-8′ (1.2-2.4m)||1-8′ (0.6-2.4 m)|
|Light exposure||partial shade, full sun||partial shade, full sun|
|Soil||moist, drained||moist, drained|
|Watering||1 time per week in a drought||1 time per week in a drought|
Privet has a higher growth rate
The privet is slightly smaller than boxwood. It rarely exceeds 15 feet in height. Like many other plants, privet grows quickly at first but slows down in maturity.
Boxwood reaches heights of 20 feet or more, depending on the species. This is the height the plant will have after many years of cultivation. Whereas the width usually does not exceed 8 feet.
The real difference is the growth rate of these plants. Boxwood grows an average of 6 to 8 inches a year. Sometimes it can produce two growths a year. With good conditions and proper care, a growth rate of 10 inches per year can be achieved.
Privet, on the other hand, grows much faster. Its annual growth rate is 1 to 2 feet. Some species grow slower, but the most popular Ligustrum ovalifolium can grow 2 feet a year.
If you need a quick result at all costs, Ligustrum ovalifolium is the best choice. It will grow quickly, creating a living screen from neighbors.
Boxwood is not capable of doing this quickly. You will have to wait several years to achieve privacy in your yard. A simple conclusion to draw from this is that boxwood is more suitable for low to medium hedges or patient people.
There is one drawback to the privet’s growth rate. You will have to prune more often, as its long branches will fall apart. You will need to trim the privet hedge at least twice a year or more to get it into shape.
Boxwood tolerates low temperatures better
Boxwood is suitable for growing from 4 to 9 USDA hardiness zones. It is a hardy plant that can be grown almost anywhere in the United States. Frost, snow, and ice can’t do any serious damage.
Privet, on the other hand, is recommended to grow in zones 5-9. This means that it will not be available for parts of the northern states. But more importantly, if the winter is harsh, it can lose some or all of its leaves no matter what zone you live in.
This is especially true for zones 5 or 6. If the winter frost was severe, the leaves will turn yellow and fall off.
Nothing like this ever happens to boxwood. The only time it can get damaged is in a late frost. It often happens that young shoots have already begun to grow, but in late spring, frosts occur. As a result, the plant may freeze a little, but it will recover quickly enough, and this happens very rarely.
From all this, it follows that privet is a semi-deciduous plant. It should only be chosen if you live in zones 8-9 or if you agree that your hedge will be partially transparent in winter.
Since privet can shed its leaves over the winter, you will have to clean up any fallen leaves. It will be a lot of work if the hedge is large.
The boxwood is far superior to the privet in this respect.
The privet has fragrant flowers
In fact, both boxwood and privet have flowers, but there is a very big difference between them.
Boxwood has tiny inconspicuous flowers of green-yellow color. They are challenging to see against the background of the young leaves. The boxwood blooms in April and May.
Boxwood flowers have no decorative value. Moreover, the smell is their negative side. It is weak and not very attractive.
Privet, on the other hand, has beautiful white flowers measuring about 1 inch across. They are clearly visible against the background of the leaves. The flowers grow in fairly large clusters, especially if the plant has been pruned regularly.
Also, privet flowers have a pleasant fragrance. Although it is not as strong as peonies, for example, you can still smell it. The flowering period is in summer. Ligustrum japonicum ‘Texanum’ has perhaps the largest clusters of fragrant flowers.
If you choose privet as a hedge, you will get one more benefit: beautiful and fragrant flowers. Nothing of this kind can, unfortunately, be offered by boxwood.
But you should also be aware that after the flowering, all the flowers will fall off, and you will get a lot of trash that you will have to clean up. This is especially inconvenient if the hedge is growing near a sidewalk or driveway.
Boxwood has smaller leaves
The size, color, and shape of the leaves of these two plants are quite different.
Boxwood has leaves that are 0.5 long and wide. Some varieties have slightly larger leaves, others even smaller. At the same time, privet leaves are 1 inch long or more. The width is 0.5 inches. The larger leaf area allows for slightly better hedge density, but only with regular pruning. Here the slight advantage is on privet’s side.
The shape of the foliage also varies. Most boxwoods have leaves that are oval or nearly round without a pointed tip. Some varieties have slightly elongated leaves, but there are not many of them.
Privet has elongated and sharpened leaves. Some cultivars have not very sharp leaves, but in general, the length of the leaves is twice as long as the width. There are even privet varieties with twisted leaves (Japanese privet ‘Recurvifolium’).
Here it isn’t easy to judge who has the more beautiful leaf shape. I like the round leaves of the dwarf boxwood varieties better.
And the last difference is the color. Boxwood has dark green glossy leaves, and some varieties are bright green.
On the other hand, Privet has less glossy foliage (except Waxleaf privet), but it has more different shades of green. There are varieties with bluish-green leaves and some with bright green.
Both of these plants have variegated varieties. You can find Variegated Boxwood that has a light yellow leaf edge and a dark green middle among the boxwoods.
But the highlight is the variety Ligustrum ovalifolium ‘Aureum’ also called Golden privet. It has leaves with a green middle and a bright yellow border. A hedge of such plants looks much better than a variegated boxwood.
Privet is an invasive plant
Unfortunately, one of today’s competitors is an invasive plant. This means that it is very aggressive and can displace other plants.
According to the National Invasive Species Information Center, Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense) is considered invasive. Once it enters the U.S., it spreads rapidly, taking over more and more land. In some countries, the cultivation of this plant is forbidden at all.
The main pathways of spreading are seeds and root suckers. The roots of this plant can propagate even if you remove the top. Removing the entire rhizome is very difficult, so think twice before planting Chinese privet in your yard.
The more common cultivated Ligustrum ovalifolium is not as aggressive and is not listed as invasive. But remember that a hedge will produce a large number of seeds each year, and you will have seedlings of this plant in your garden.
Boxwood or Privet Hedge?
Although both of these plants are very popular for creating hedges, they should still be used depending on what you want to get.
If you need a screen quickly and are willing to tolerate the fact that part of the year it will not be very dense, then you should choose privet.
But if you want a thick hedge that does not change throughout the year, and you have nowhere to hurry, then you choose boxwood.
Below I would like to present a hedge calculator to determine how many plants (boxwood or privet) you will need depending on the length of your hedge.