Portugal laurel, a nice hedge shrub

Portugal laurel is a beautiful evergreen shrub with deep dark green leaves.

Key Portugal laurel facts

NamePrunus lusitanica
Family – Rosaceae
Type – shrub, bay

 – 6½ to 20 feet (2 to 6 meters)
Exposure – full sun

 – evergreen
Flowering – spring
Fruits – fall (inedible)

It bears nice blooms in summer and colored berries in fall and winter.

Ideal for hedges, it is also particularly well-suited to growing in pots or as as a standalone.

Planting Portugal laurel

Portugal laurel, Prunus lusitanica , is planted in fall or in spring as long as it doesn’t freeze.

  • Portugal laurel appreciates full sun exposure but still tolerates part shade.
  • A blend of soil mix and garden soil is perfectly appropriate.
  • In a hedge, provide for enough space between specimens, about 3 feet (1 meter), so that your Prunus lusitanica can grow without suffocating.
  • Regularly water over the 1st year after planting.
  • Follow our guidelines on planting trees here at Nature-and-Health.

Cuttings in summer are well-suited and usually successful with Portugal laurel, select softwood stems for the cuttings.

Pruning Portugal laurel

It isn’t really necessary to prune, if only to balance the tree if needed after the blooming or at the end of winter.

However, Portugal laurel seems to have been created for the art of topiary and it is very easy to have it grow in any shape you wish.

  • Prune in May or June depending on the climate, just before flowering
  • Pruning once a year is enough to keep a nice silhouette.

Learn more about Portugal laurel

As its name shows, this laurel is native to Portugal, and is sometimes called the Portugal plum tree.

Prunus lusitanica is part of Prunus genus, section Laurocerasus (like cherry laurel) which itself is part of the Rosaceae family.

It grows in the wild along the Atlantic coast of Portugal and also in the north-west of Africa.

It carries evergreen leaves that are a beautiful dark green, and are wavy around the edges which makes for a very ornamental impact.

Its white-colored blooming appears in summer, during the months of May or June depending on the climate and can extend over many long weeks.

Finally, Portugal laurel will bear cute berries which our bird friends will find delectable. They start out looking like little red cherries that afterwards turn to black.

Smart tip about Portugal laurel

To avoid weed growth and retain water needed for its growth, spread mulch at the base of the tree in spring and repeat this every year.

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  • Robin Thompson wrote on 29 March 2019 at 7 h 48 min

    Hello. I have a question about trimming our Portugal laurel. We live in Southern Oregon and Spring has just arrived. The Portugal laurel bushes that grow alongside our bungalow have reached well above roof level (20 ft.) and we want to trim them back to a more manageable size. Is this a good time to trim them? (Before they start growing again.) And how far down can we trim them? Can we take them down to about 6 – 10 ft. without damaging them. We also want to trim them back a bit from our neighbor’s walkway, narrowing their width. What do you think?

    • Gaspard Lorthiois wrote on 30 March 2019 at 13 h 12 min

      Hello Robin. I’m afraid it still gets a bit cold with last frost dates in Oregon still a way off. Wait until May to trim them. It might freeze a bit then, but not as much and it won’t jeopardize the plant.

      Portugal laurel is a very vigorous plant, and you can trim it back quite a lot.

      Since this tree tends to grow tall, and you’re never sure how it will be maintained in the future, I advise against hat racking.

      Best is to prune it carefully, over the course of two or three years. Each year, remove one in three of the branches you want to get rid of, just at a joint where it splits with a smaller branch. Then, also cut back the remaining tallest branches by about a third. You’ll gradually be reducing the size of the tree. It’s possible to “shrink” your Portugal laurel down to 6 feet in this manner, reaching that size at year three. What’s important is to find ways to leave a “leader” branch, a smaller one that will take up growth, as you cut the larger, taller branch off.

      It’s also fine to reduce width to give your neighbors more space, that’s very thoughtful of you.

  • Samantha wrote on 20 September 2018 at 15 h 19 min


    I have 4 pleached Portuguese Laurel, 3 are dark green and growing, the fourth was but over 2 months all the leaves have turned brown. I have watered and fed the tree exactly the same as the others. Is there anything I can do to save the tree? Many thanks.

    • Gaspard Lorthiois wrote on 24 September 2018 at 10 h 22 min

      Dear Samantha, it seems that your pleached Portugal laurel is in dire shape! But it doesn’t necessarily mean that all is done for, since the laurel bunch is a resilient family. Next spring is when we’ll know for sure.
      If the leaves all turned brown at once, with no spotting or sign of disease, I guess the pleaching took a toll and when stressed somewhat, the plant decided to shed its leaves and hibernate. If you’ve transplanted/purchased them earlier this summer or late spring, it may be that this particular tree suffered more than the other three, or that is was weaker as a specimen. Sometimes simply being laid at the top of the trailer during transportation is enough to shock and kill off roots, for example, or perhaps it was the last to be set in the ground on that (hot?) day. It may be that the end and last place in the row is slightly more exposed to either sun or wind, too.
      Your best course of action now is to protect it best you can for the winter: mulch around the base, wrap the trunk up with a layer of bubble-wrap or horticultural fleece (loose fit to enable air circulation within the sleeve). Fingers crossed now!

  • Mrs Margaret Smith wrote on 27 August 2018 at 16 h 27 min

    Hello Gaspard—thank you so much for your considered and very helpful reply to my query re our Portugal Laurel. In answer to your questions:

    1. We think the shrub is about 8 years old, so maybe it is, as you say, waiting to be 10 years old !
    2.It is planted on the semi-shade side but will be moved soon to nearer the fence, because it is growing very tall !—so maybe more restriction on its area may help.
    3. The soil is good—I’ve dug it many times over the years and it is quite friable.

    So-we’ll move it soon and see what happens.

    Thanks again, you’ve been very helpful.

  • Mrs Margaret Smith wrote on 26 August 2018 at 13 h 34 min

    We’ve had a Prunus Lusitanica for several years-it’s very healthy looking, glossy leaves good growth each year, BUT-it has never had flowers/berries–why is this happening please ?

    • Gaspard Lorthiois wrote on 27 August 2018 at 7 h 05 min

      Dear Mrs Smith, there may be several possible explanations:

      • > Young age: some species of the prunus family only bear fruit after 10 years of age, even though others are faster. For Portugal laurel, I would love to be able to give you a confirmed number, I’ve contacted experts who may be more specific. How old is your prunus lusitanica?
      • > Insufficient soil moisture: while Prunus lusitanica loves well-draining soils, it does need considerable amounts of water to feel comfortable enough to bloom. What is your soil like and how do you water?
      • > Pruning and topiary: Portugal laurel will only bloom when “left alone”. Any trimming will induce stress (not lethal at all for this plant) and it will always prioritize leaves over fruits when it can. Do you trim it?
      • > Climate: in some places, spring and summer are too short, since Portugal laurel is a summer-blooming plant, it never quite reaches proper conditions for blooming. Where are you from?

      A last possibility is something I’ve observed in several other cases: when the growing conditions are particularly rich and ideal, a shrub or plant will tend to make the most of it and produce wood and leaves. It would only start flowering once it hits some kind of “obstacle” like neighboring trees or other space limitation, or some form of stress (mild heat wave, drought, pruning) – kind of as if the shock signals it to also think of not putting all its “eggs” in the same basket/location… In this case, the only way to proceed is to let it grow until it reaches some kind of trigger…

      I hope this clarifies the options and helps! Tell me what you think!

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