By Susan Morrison
As its name cheerfully announces, 'Sunshine' Ligustrum has bright yellow foliage that provides dramatic contrast to green, blue or burgundy-foliaged plants. For an evergreen garden bed that pops year-round, pair it with Beach Ball™ Pittosporum, and burgundy Design-A-Line™ Cordyline, whose red strappy leaves add exciting textural contrast as well.
Photographs of 'Sunshine' Ligustrum usually show a fairly uniform shade of neon yellow. Whereas this is accurate when planted in full sun, the plant exhibits a show-stealing, multi-colored appearance when planted in part shade. The branches that face the sun will maintain their bright golden hue, while those more shaded will exhibit a medium green color. Although the official description does not list this as a shade plant, I have found it can handle a fair amount, however, leaves will gradually fade to a soft green.
While its brightly colored, evergreen foliage is enough to make it a garden workhorse, its naturally tight, upright shape are what bump it up to superstar status. 'Sunshine' Ligustrum ultimately reaches a tidy 4- to 6-feet tall and 3- to 4-feet wide, maintaining its form with virtually no pruning. Three years after planting mine, I have yet to cut even one rogue branch. This makes it a fantastic alternative to more labor-intensive plants, such as container topiaries—it provides the same elegant structure, with the added bonus of stand-out foliage color and minimal maintenance. Planted in the garden it performs a similar function, as its delicate leaves and tight habit help balance the messier exuberance of nearby flowering shrubs and perennials.
'Sunshine' Ligustrum is hearty to Sunset zones 4-24 and USDA zones 6-10. While this easy-care plant requires moderate water in full sun, I have found that in part shade it thrives when deep-watered with drip once a week, making it an adaptable addition to a water-wise planting plan. As with many low-water plants, ensuring good drainage is key; if your garden is filled with the heavy clay soil so common in the west, amend to improve drainage when planting, and side dress with compost annually.