My privet hedge is dying

Val Bourne / 26 March 2019

A reader's privet hedge is dying off. Gardening expert Val Bourne suggests what could be causing it and recommends what to replace it with.



Question

I have a long privet hedge but a large section has died. Is there a disease that affects privet hedges, and are there any remedies? If the soil is infected what fast-growing shrub could I replace it with?

Answer

Privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium) is highly susceptible to honey fungus, Armillaria mellea, and this is almost certainly the cause of death. There is no cure. Remove the infected hedge as soon as you can, but don’t compost any material. You will almost certainly find the tell-tale, black bootlaces, or rhizomorphs, on the woody trunks and these are bioluminescent. They glow in the dark, once exposed to oxygen.

The obvious replacement is the round-leaved laurel, Prunus laurocerasus 'Rotundifolia'. This fast-growing flossy evergreen is rarely affected, by honey fungus, but may need three trims a year. The slower-growing variegated Highclere holly, Ilex x altaclerensis ‘Golden King’, or the prickly evergreen Berberis x stenophylla. Both make good hedges and a yearly trim usually suffices.

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