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Privet Dropping Green Leaves

My 3 year old privet hedge has been slowly dying, plant after plant, for the last year. Green leaves just fall off. A nursery employee came by and couldn't figure it out. Said water was adequate, no sign of disease. Today I noticed brown spots on some leaves of one of the plants... but it had started shedding green leaves long before the spots came along. So maybe now it's got some disease from all the stress?

Some clues:

--Los Angeles, San Fernando Valley.

--It started in one area and has now spread 8 feet into either direction of the hedge... so perhaps it IS some kind of disease?

--Soil is more clay than loam.

--Watering with (2) 2gph drippers per plant, for 15 minutes, 3 times a week, during winter. Longer in summer.

--Initial planting was too deep. Since then 3 or 4 plants that died were replaced at correct height, and then 2 of those died.

--Fearing the rest of the plants were still planted to deep and have been sitting in wet clay soil I turned down the watering, but leaffall continues. (side note: Leaffall, new Bond movie?)

Any insights would be appreciated.


Problem area in the middle of hedge:

Problem area:

Brown/white spots on the tree above:

I dug out a privet last summer that lost all it's leaves, here are the roots:


  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 34,855
    privet is hugely prone to honey fungus. 
  • Hi Hostfan,

    I dug up one of the barren plants. Didn't see any signs of honeyfungus, like black "bootlaces" although some research tells me those aren't always prevalent. 

    I was gonna take the rest of the infected plants out and treat the soil. 

    If any other ideas come up, I'd love to know. Thanks!

    one grub
    a bit of mycelium
  • Cottage CompostCottage Compost Posts: 495
    edited February 2020
    I'm no expert but for the last two summers we've had in the UK (dry and hot) my privet hedges stopped growing by mid July.  Then came the wet weather before the winter got started and the hedges started growing like mad (trying to catchup before the cold weather)  The new growth never matured as the days shortened and the tender growth has been removed by a number of frosts.

    My privet hedges have now been more or less stripped bare.  It'll recover soon and regrow.
  • I would do as @Cottage Compost suggests
    and wait for spring, then I would feed with Fish, Blood & Bone as directed on the pack, water in well and mulch with organic matter (compost, soil conditioner, composted bark etc). 

    But first I would remove all those green plastic ties to the trunks aren’t being strangled.  

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • Thank you for your replies.

    I never thought about privets being semi-evergreen or deciduous. Probably because I live in Los Angeles. But we are having erratic weather the last few years. I will wait till warmer weather and feed them. Hoping it works, cause boy is this problem annoying... and expensive!

    Thanks again!
  • Hello. I am curious if you were able to discover what was happening with your privet. I am having a similar problem and am also in the San Fernando Valley. I had 40 privet planted and I have lost about 12. We cannot find the problem even after consulting with multiple professionals. Once the green leaves fall off, the plant is dead. Not deciduous. It is very frustrating and expensive! 
  • arkofmarkofm Posts: 4
    Unfortunately I did not find a solution. We ended up pulling most and building a fence. We left 6 plants on the end that were healthy. One started losing leaves, but I left it and it seemed to have rebounded. Some that we took were transferred to my father-in-law. The ones he planted in the ground died. The ones he planted in big barrel pots are thriving. So it's something with the soil in the ground I gather-- either an infestation or ... I dunno. Losing 12 out of 40 is a huge loss. I'm sorry you're going through this.
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