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Privet bonsai


Ligustrum bonsai (Chinese privet) grow fast with good care. A very bright location in winter is important for this tree. The best is right in front of a window.


In the growing season, you should fertilize this Bonsai abundantly. If it gets too little fertilizer, the leaves often look yellowish. With good nutrition, the leaves are almost dark green. Both the bonsai fertilizer imported from Japan (like Biogold or Hanagokoro bonsai fertilizer) like all the liquid fertilizer offered in the shop are well suited and easy to use. In case of liquid fertilizers, you can also give twice as much you can read on the bottle during the growing season.


As an indoor bonsai, the Chinese privet does not need much more water than other bonsai. Especially in winter. In the summer, however, especially when it is maintained in the garden, ligustrum bonsai needs a lot of water, mostly in the morning and early evening.

In our experience, a ball shower is well suited for watering privet as an indoor bonsai. Dipping the entire root ball also works very well. Unfortunately, water then drips through the water drainage holes onto the window sill and makes it dirty. This can be easily avoided using a saucer (which is often included with indoor bonsai).


If the temperatures are permanently higher, it can easily be placed outdoors. However, the tree should slowly get adopted to the higher level of light (compared to being kept in the room). It is best to place it in partial shade for the first 2 weeks. When temperatures are high in midsummer, it needs a lot of water. Then a place in partial shade is also an advantage. Lots of sunlight promotes growth. If it is kept as an indoor bonsai in the apartment in winter, a very bright location directly by the window is important.


The Chinese Privet is not hardy. It should not be kept colder than 6°C. Below 4°C first damage is caused by cold temperatures.


With good care these bonsai grow fast and root through the bonsai soil completely after 2-3 years. Then it should be repotted. Best at the end of February in a well-permeable substrate such as Akadama or a mixture of Akadama with substrates such as Volcanic rock grit (ratio 1:1). Then keep light and warm and do not fertilize for 4 weeks.

Diseases, Pests

With proper bonsai care this tree species is infested only little by pests. During overwintering, fungal attack is occasionally detected, which can be treated with commercially available agents against rust fungi. But much more important is the prevention by a very bright and cool location in the room.



For styling you can wire a privet bonsai. The best is wiring before the shoots are more woody. Since the shoots become thicker and thicker you should check at 4-week intervals that the bonsai wire will not be pressing into the shoots.


This type of privet grows very quickly in summer with good fertilization outdoors. After a vigorous pruning shoots coming out already after 2 weeks and one month later they are again 5-10cm longer.

With such a stormy growth, they can and should drastically cut back your Ligustrum bonsai 2-3 times a year. The more and more they are cut, the finer the branches are and the leaves remain nicely small.


Most of the Chinese privet bonsai are imported from Asia. There are usually designed free upright in the Moyogi style. Other styles are possible. For that a finished bonsai (usually free upright) must completely reshaped. Or completely styled from young Ligustrum plants. Without a greenhouse that would take a long time.

Matching bonsai pots

Glazed bonsai pots are best suited for a Chinese privet bonsai. Since a privet does not belong to the hardy outdoor bonsai, you do not necessarily need to take a frost-proof, handmade bonsai pot. The cheap pots for indoor bonsai are often suitable. Here it must be pointed out that the quality of these inexpensive pots cannot keep up with the handmade bonsai pots.

Unglazed bonsai pots are less suitable. If an unglazed pot is being considered then it is best to choose one from the handmade pots. Here the range of different clay colors is much larger. Gray bonsai pots go very well with the gray trunk of a chinese ligustrum.

Chinese privet bonsai often have a rounded crown. In this case an oval bonsai pot fits quite well. Rectangular pots are also suitable. In this case we would choose a pot that has somewhat rounded corners.

Plastic bonsai pots are suitable for prebonsai in the cultivation phase. The dark brown color of the pots doesn't go very well with the gray trunk of a chinese privet. However, these plastic pots are impact-resistant, UV-stable and unbeatably cheap. For 2-3 year old young plants it is best to use plastic plant pots.

Flowers, Fruits

Chinese ligustrum bonsai form terminal inflorescences with many small, white flowers, followed by small, berry-like, black fruits. Privet bonsai with flowers are hardly see. The reason is: When pruning, which should take place with a Ligustrum bonsai about 2-3 times a year, the terminal flowers are usually cut with.

Bark, Roots

Since the bark is very smooth a wired bonsai must be checked regularly otherwise the bonsai wire leaves ugly traces. The roots of the Ligustrum bonsai available in the trade are rather inconspicuous.


The genus Privet (Ligustrum) contains more than 50 species. A number of Ligustrum species are known as hedge plants. Since Privet trees are fast growing and well tolerated a vigorous pruning, Ligustrum are well-suited for shaping than bonsai. Three species (Ligustrum sinensis - Chinese privet, Ligustrum vulgaris - Common privet, Ligustrum ovalifolium - Oval-leaved privet) are most frequently shaped as a bonsai tree. In bonsai shops the Chinese privet is mostly offered. It is very popular and is imported from China as a bonsai in large numbers. The following information is mainly about the bonsai of the Chinese Ligusters.

The Chinese privet (also small-leaved privet, botanically Ligustrum sinensis) occurs in Asia, above all in China and Vietnam. It grows in mixed forests as a small tree with 3-4m height, but normally not much more. The Chinese privet is often planted as a hedge. In China, its wood (known as white waxwood) is used for arrows because the shoots are very straight, stable but flexible at the same time. In southern North America, the Chinese privet grows on more than 1 million hectares since its introduction due to its vigor growth. In China, the chinese privet is often cultivated as bonsai. In southern China you can see Ligustrum bonsai standing in front of the houses in almost every street. Its uncomplicated care and robustness make it a good tree for bonsai beginners.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

What can I do if my ligustrum bonsai loosing leaves ?

  • Choose the brightest place (south side, right by the window) in the apartment and place it there.
  • When a Ligustrum bonsai loses leaves it is almost always due to lack of light.
  • Lack of light occurs mainly after purchase (Bright greenhouse -> much darker room) and in winter.
  • Sometimes it can take a few weeks to get new leaves. Don't worry about that.
  • Simply place it bright, water moderately (without let it dry out), do not fertilize or repot.

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