My Privet hedge has become too tall and leggy. I would like to cut it back and allow it to start over. How and when should this be done?
Late winter is the best time to prune, especially with major renovations like this. The plants will soon start growing and quickly close the pruning wounds and start producing new stems and a fuller plant. Privets will tolerate severe pruning, back to several inches above ground level. Be aware that plants often produce overly long stems after this type of severe pruning.
Consider renewal pruning now and in the future. It is less stressful on the plant, encourages thicker growth at the base of the plant and eliminates the need for a total overhaul. Remove one third of the older stems to ground level. Then reduce the height of the remaining stems, as needed, by as much as one third to one half. Repeat for the next few years and your hedge will be shorter and fuller.
Prune your hedge so the top is narrower than the bottom. This allows light to reach all the stems encouraging full growth from top to bottom. In the future remove a few older canes to ground level each winter. This spreads out the workload while keeping your hedge looking good.