Indoor privet – an elegant classic

Among evergreen shrubs, privet has always been considered a special plant. Easy to form, distinguished by its special beauty and dense greenery, it is primarily known as a garden plant. But even in the rooms privet knows no competitors. It is most often grown in the form of a bonsai, revealing in all its splendor a unique bark, wonderful flowering and original berries. And although privet is not easy to care for, it adapts quite well as a room culture.

Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense). Farmer Cephas

Ligustrum Chinese – a bonsai with many talents

Among bonsai suitable for cultivation in residential areas, few species can boast of attractive foliage, beautiful flowering, and original berries, and even an interesting silhouette. And all these talents are fully characteristic of ligustrum, or privet. As a houseplant, only one species from the extensive genus Ligustrum is grown, but on the other hand Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense) is the most ornamental subtropical shrub of this genus. The fact that Chinese ligustrum is found mainly in China, Japan and Korea can also be indicated by its appearance – the color of the plant is pronouncedly Asian, the origin is felt both in flowering and in lines.

Indoor privet – evergreen, but easily shedding leaves under unfavorable conditions, shrubs, which are most often formed in the form of trees. Despite the fact that the height of bonsai usually ranges from 15 to 50 cm, there are more and more prizes on sale that are formed not with the help of bonsai art, but with simple topiary craftsmanship – strict, large shrubs and trees, the contours of which were set by simple pruning. The height of such a ligustrum can reach up to one and a half meters. The bark is dark, showy, strikingly smooth, with a slight sheen, it looks old even on the youngest branches. One of the main advantages of privet is very good branching, creating a dense, massive-looking crown and providing strict silhouettes, provided it is formed. The leaves are small, oval, very delicate. The color of the greens is deep green with a coldish emerald tone. The surface of the leaves is glossy.

The flowering period of indoor privet always falls in the summer, as if anticipating autumn. The main flowering wave is usually observed in August. Even if they are not large, but on miniature trees, charming white four-petal flowers in graceful brushes seem very attractive anyway, but their pleasant aroma further enhances this impression. After flowering, the black berries of the fruit are tied at the ligustrum, which in room form seem much more catchy than in the garden. True, fruiting for ligustrum is considered rather an exception, evidence of the optimal conditions for its maintenance.

Growing room privet at home

The status of one of the easiest bonsai to grow should not be misleading. Ease of care and selection of conditions for a room ligustrum is a relative concept. The plant is demanding for both lighting and temperature indicators – it is sensitive to heat and needs a cool winter. Drying of the substrate can result in shedding of leaves, and insufficient moisture can result in a rapid loss of decorativeness. Ligustrum is a bonsai for experienced flower growers and fans of this special art, who are ready to provide the plant with both scrupulous care and a sufficient amount of fresh air.

Lighting for indoor ligustrum

Since even in indoor culture the privet does not lose its gardening “habits”, the plant will not tolerate any shading. But even from direct sunlight at the height of the day, it is better to protect the dark-leafed beauty. Diffused, bright lighting, equally intense throughout the year, is the main guarantee of the attractive greenery of this shrub. For the winter, it is advisable to move the plant to more illuminated places or organize additional lighting. But artificial light for ligustrum is always worse than natural, albeit more poor, lighting.

Only window sills are considered the best place for ligustrum. The plant can be placed on the southern and partially south-oriented windows, on the eastern and western windowsills – with moving to the southern ones in winter.

Chinese privet bonsaiBonsai from Chinese privet. Farmer L’arbre Jaune

Comfortable temperature

Privet tolerates temperatures familiar to living rooms quite well, but only during warm months. If possible, it is best to provide the plant with cool, moderate temperatures. Privet achieves the greatest decorativeness at temperatures from 15 to 21 degrees. In the heat, the plant becomes extremely demanding on air humidity. Ligustrum prefers to hibernate at a stable cool temperature. The closer the indicators are to 10-12 degrees, the better. The minimum allowable value is 5 degrees, the maximum temperature is 15 degrees. It should be borne in mind that a warmer wintering will not cause the privet to die, but the plant will shed its leaves and may no longer regain its beauty.

Ligustrum loves fresh air and can be easily lost without regular ventilation. But the main key to preserving privet in the form of a bonsai is to take it out into the fresh air. Privet is not as afraid of the cold as other flowering bonsai species, so it is better to move the plant to fresh air in April and leave it on the balcony or in the garden until October. The main thing is not to leave it overnight on days when the temperature drops below 5 degrees Celsius. Without a long period in the open air, the plant loses both its attractive color and the dense texture of the leaves, and gradually withers away. Even summer in the fresh air is not enough for this bonsai: the minimum duration of “open” maintenance is 4-5 months.

Watering and air humidity

Indoor privet does not tolerate complete drying out of the soil. Drying out of the substrate results in a very rapid shedding of foliage. Watering in the summer for the plant is carried out every other day or daily, making sure that the soil is always moderately moist. Many growers agree that the best watering strategy for privet is to immerse the pot in water. Full saturation of the earthen coma allows you to carry out procedures less often and ensure optimal humidity. Watering is carried out, focusing on the drying out of the substrate and letting it dry out in the upper layer. In winter, when kept cool, the plant is watered only in the classical way and very carefully, avoiding dampness and using a small amount of water. But the complete drying of the soil, even in winter, is very dangerous.

For ligustrum, you need to control the temperature of the water, avoiding hypothermia during watering.

Despite the fact that ligustrum does not require very high humidity, it is better to protect it from dry conditions. Average performance is the best option. To maintain a stable environment, you can either install a container with bonsai on pallets with wet expanded clay or moss, or carry out regular spraying. But during flowering, the latter cannot be used.

Top dressing for indoor privet

Fertilizers for bonsai are applied according to the standard method, but all year round (to preserve foliage). In winter, feeding is enough once a month, but during the period of active growth, feeding is carried out once every 1 weeks.

For privet, either special fertilizers for bonsai or universal preparations are used, reducing the dosage recommended by the manufacturer by half.

Chinese privet bonsaiChinese privet bonsai

Pruning ligustrum

Despite its status as both flowering and fruiting bonsai, Chinese privet tolerates pruning and formation well, grows quickly and is easily restored. Bonsai are cut as often as required by the growth rate. Typically, young twigs grow and develop surprisingly quickly, so pruning is carried out on the ligustrum several times a year.

You can control the shape of the stem of ligustrum all year round by wrapping old shoots and trunk with wire even in winter. Young twigs cannot be pulled together until lignification.

Transplant of Chinese privet and substrate

Like any bonsai, ligustrum prefers on-demand transplants over annual procedures. Young plants are transplanted once every 1 years, adult specimens – when the substrate is fully developed. It all depends on the state of the plant and how the root system was cut; since it is the roots that ligustrum grows very quickly, it is better to do this in the spring: at a time favorable for transplanting, an annual assessment is made whether the plant needs a transplant or can be postponed.

Ligustrum is grown in small bowls – low decorative containers, the diameter of which is at least twice the height. The choice of containers can be made based on their decorative qualities, but ligustrum prefer natural materials, and containers must have wide drainage holes.

For ligustrum, you can use not only special earth mixes for bonsai. The optimal composition of the soil is a mixture of Akadama with zeolite, lava or pumis, taken in half the amount. It is better to clarify the composition of the soil to which the plant is accustomed to when buying: sometimes privet is grown in more common substrates – loose, light, permeable and neutral in reaction. If you form bonsai yourself, use special or universal substrates – combine peat, turf soil, humus and sand in a ratio of 1: 2: 1: 0,5.

When transplanting, the ligustrum root system is pruned, maintaining its compact state and not allowing the plant to grow too much, leaving the capacity of the same size or slightly increasing for young plants. Drainage of the coarse fraction must be laid at the bottom.

Diseases and pests

Indoor privet under the slightest adverse conditions can seriously suffer from pests. On this bonsai, spider mites, and thrips, and aphids, and whitefly, and mealybugs are not uncommon. Root rot during waterlogging can destroy the plant, so it is so important to find a balance between abundant watering and optimal drying of the soil.

Common problems in growing Chinese privet:

  • brown spots on the leaves when watered with too cold water;
  • yellowing of foliage with excessive feeding, under direct sun and in dry air;
  • drying of the tips of the leaves in dry air;
  • twisting, wilting and shedding of leaves when the substrate dries out, in heat, dry air, with a warm winter.

Unformed seedling of Chinese privetUnformed seedling of Chinese privet

Reproduction of Chinese privet

Indoor ligustrum is most often propagated by cuttings. In spring, the plant can cut standard cuttings up to 7-10 cm long from young twigs. Rooting of Chinese privet in an ordinary sandy-peat substrate under a hood or film, subject to stable humidity and temperature (from 16 to 20 degrees), allows you to get a large number of seedlings. Plants are planted either one at a time or 2-3 branches (it all depends on the desired shape of the tree or bush) in the minimum individual containers. It is advisable to start the formation from the very beginning, because the plant develops amazingly quickly and reaches its optimal size in less than a year after rooting.

You can get Chinese privet and seeds. Sowing is carried out immediately in individual containers, 2-3 seeds each, in a peat-sandy substrate. Under glass or film, the crops are placed in conditions similar to cuttings. If you want to grow single trees, the plants are planted after the appearance of the second or third true leaf. The transplant is carried out with the complete preservation of the whole earthen coma and only after the roots have mastered all the available substrate.


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Anna Evans

Author ✓ Farmer

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