Fairly young golden privet hedge leaves turning spotted and brown


I live in South Etobicoke, about 1km from the Lakeshore in 6b I think. We planted a 50ft golden privet hedge 2 years ago in full sun, except for the ends which are more in part sun.

This spring, they took a while to leaf out and while the majority of them did, some did have some dead branches that I cut back. I also hammered in some MiracleGro bush and tree fertilizer stakes into the ground between the bushes.

After a week of nearly daily rain, the bushes looked bright green and full and after a week of not consistently watering, some of the bushes have leaves that are turning shades of darker green, brown and yellow – very different from their original bright almost neon colour. These leaves also appear to be shriveling and drying up. Not all of a single bush is affected, some of the same branch has a mix of good and “bad leaves” and branches. Out of 20, only a handful a fully green. I’ve attached a photo of a bush that has both healthy and affected branches to show the difference.

What’s happening to them? Was it the inconsistency in watering or do they have some sort of disease? Please help! Thank you in advance.


Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners.

There are several reasons your privet (Ligustrum spp.) hedges could turn brown. It may be caused by pests, diseases, cold/wet weather and inconsistent watering.

Privet hedges are susceptible to anthracnose. The disease attacks new shoots causing dieback and leaves, first appearing in brownish spots and eventually spreading across entire leaves. Leaf spot is another fungal disease that may also affect privet hedges. Removing and destroying all affected leaves, including leaves that fall on the ground, and thinning shrubs to improve air circulation will help.

Privet hedges can be vulnerable to  insect pests  such as aphids and they cause browning and death of foliage. You can control aphids  by spraying plants with a stream of water to dislodge aphids.

Watering deeply and thoroughly is key to promoting healthy growth of your hedges. Soil quality is important, of course, and adding organic material really helps.