A Gardening Journal

Quihoui Privet

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Frothy, foamy, pure-white flowers.  And it's a privet.  No, really.  This Chinese species has at least three fantastic charms.  First, those airy, lacy flowers.  One-foot panicles at the height of Summer, too. 

 

Next, small glossy narrow leaves that make you wonder if olive trees are hardier than you thought.

 

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With folliage this fine, you could also prune this privet into a dense hedge, or even into topiary. 

 

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But for my money, this privet's most memorable charm is its name:  Quihoui privet.  Ligustrum quihoui.  Don't just say "kwee-WHO-ee" in plain voice.  Yodel the "WHO," like you've just started to practice your hog-calling.  No one will forget the bush, and everyone will say its name with a smile.

 

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The pure-white flowers certainly look sensational with purple foliage in the background.  It's just a Japanese maple in the picture, but how 'bout a purple smoke bush? 

 

Or if you've a huge garden, plant a purple beech tree in the middle of an acre of meadow.  And then, fifty feet away, plant a huge colony of Ligustrum quihoui:  a dozen bushes or more.  They grow fifteen feet tall and wide, so go for a thirty-foot festival of them.  In thirty years the beech will be lapping at their shore, and Quihoui's white flowers and narrow foliage will be in gleeful contrast to the dark and round beech leaves.

 

 

 

Here's how to grow this fun-to-pronounce ornamental privet:

 

Latin Name

Ligustrum quihoui

Common Name

Quihoui Privet

Family

Oleaceae, the Olive family.

What kind of plant is it?

Hardy flowering shrub.

Hardiness

Zones 6 - 10.

Habit

Broadly upright.

Rate of Growth

Fast.

Size in ten years

A bush to fifteen feet tall and wide, but can be pruned to be much smaller.

Texture

Delicate despite the bush's large size, thanks to its unusually narrow leaves as well as the airy foot-long panicles of bright-white flowers.

Grown for

its rarity: privets are ubiquitous as hedge plants, with bland leaves and flowers that might be thought ornamental if they didn't, instead, indicate that it's time to prune the darn hedge yet again.  Ligustrum quihoui is unique in that it's a privet that should be grown for both its delicate leaves and its showy flowers.  Plus, it's almost unknown at the northern end of its range.

 

its distinctive foliage: small and narrow green leaves look more like those of willows or even olives (a distant relative).  The bush is ornamental even without its flowers.  In milder climates the bush is evergreen, too.  

 

its unique foot-long panicles of delicate white flowers, much more open as well as bright-white than for the typical privets used for hedges.  They bring a frothy high-Summer peak to the bush's yearly cycle.

 

its amenability to pruning.  It's a privet. 

Flowering season

Summer: July into August.

Culture

Sun and any soil.

How to handle it

Quihoui privet is nothing if not tolerant.  Unlike the usual privets, it's handsome growing entirely free-range.  But you can also prune it as much, and often, as you like.  If you want to enjoy the Summer flowers, too, prune any time in Spring and then let the bush grow out and flower during the Summer.  You can prune again after flowering—say, in September—and the bush will keep its just-pruned shape, more or less, all Winter.  Such after-flowering "pruning" could also be the same as dead-heading, which would prevent self-seeding in Zone 7 and warmer; see "Downsides" below.

 

If you do grow Quihoui where it's known to self-seed, dead-head after flowering is through but before berries form.  Free-range bushes are too large and too floriferous for this to be practical, so grow Quihoui only with some sort of pruning strategy—as a coppice, a pollard, or a hedge—to limit its size as well as the amount of deadheading needed.

 

To coppice your Quihoui, cut it all down to a foot each Spring; you'll have a mounding bush, frothed with flowers, of three to six feet high and wide by August.  I'm training my Quihoui up into a standard, to get that same rounded display of leaves and flowers, but starting six feet above ground.   You could also espalier a Quihoui, for a lacy wall of foliage as well as flowers.

Downsides

Birds eat the little berries of privets, Ligustrum quihoui included, and so cause self-seeding into native vegetation.  (In my experience, Quihoui isn't successful at self-seeding in Zone 6.)  In Texas, Quihoui is classified as invasive, and is probably invasive throughout the Southeast.  Growing this bush in Zone 6, then, is probably the best strategy if you don't want to dead-head before berries form.

Variants

Ligustrums of one sort or another are inescapable.  In Zone 6 and below, they're most prevalent as boring but successful hedge plants.  The usual yellow-variegated privet, Ligustrum vicaryii, can be hard on the eyes  when planted to the same extent as its hedge-forming all-green cousins.  It also reverts to green, so hedges of it are difficult to keep free of too-vigorous green splotches. 

 

Cream- and even white-variegated cultivars of Ligustrum sinense, though, are elegant and even exciting, and deserve prime placement as unpruned specimens.  Look for 'Variegatum', 'Swift Creek', or 'Quackin' Happy Moondrops'.   

 

In Zone 7 and warmer, evergreen L. japonicum and its brighty-variegated cultivars are as overplanted as the deciduous hedge privets are farther north.  They tolerate and even thrive with frequent pruning, so can be trained (or, depending on the inspiration and the context, tortured) into standards and even topiary.  Up north, though, L. japonicum standards are a thrill as a container specimen overwintered in a greenhouse.  Here's a pair of them, happy as can be, outside a restaurant in Manhattan.

Availability

On-line.

Propagation

By cuttings or by seed.

Native habitat

Ligustrum quihoui is native of China.

 
 
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