Prunus laurocerasus, a shrub with leathery evergreen foliage

Flowers and leaves of prunus laurocerasus

A favored hedge shrubs around many of our gardens, Prunus laurocerasus is an easy shrub to grow and care for, perfect for beginner gardeners.

Key facts :

Botanical namePrunus laurocerasus
SynonymsCerasus laurocerasus
Common names
– cherry laurel, common laurel, caucasian laurel
Family – Rosaceae
Type – Shrub
Foliage – evergreen

Height – 16 to 26 feet (5 to 8 meters)
Breadth – 26 to 32 feet (8 to 10 meters)
Exposure – Full sun, part sun
Soil – any type, well drained
Hardiness – very hardy (5°F/-15 °C)

Growth  – fast
Flowering
: spring
Fruit formation: fall

Short presentation of Prunus laurocerasus

Flowers of the prunus laurocerasus plantPrunus laurocerasus is a vigorous shrub with a dense, bushy bearing that, over time, spreads outwards slowly.
The evergreen leaves are large (up to 6 inches/15 cm), with a fabulous shiny dark green color.

In spring, small white clusters of flowers appear. Within days, shiny red berries follow suit, somewhat similar in appearance to cherries (but they’re not edible). As time passes, the red berries turn black.

There are a great many Prunus laurocerasus varieties, but three in particular really stand out from the rest: ‘Caucasica’, ‘Rotundifolia’ and ‘Otto Luyken’. The main differences between these are the size of the leaves and the overall size of the shrub.

Planting common laurel

Prunus laurocerasus is the ideal shrub for a beginner gardener: apart from soil drainage, there’s nothing specific about the soil type to worry about. Finding the proper exposure isn’t an issue either. Moreover, its vigor and hardiness mean it can be planted nearly anywhere.

Note that to avoid possible chlorosis, it’s best to avoid excessively limestone-filled soils.

When to plant it?

As for many plants, it’s recommended to plant your Prunus laurocerasus in fall, so that it has the time it needs to settle in before summer comes, with its probable bouts of drought. Planting in spring isn’t prohibited, but it means you have to water more often during the summertime.

How to plant Prunus laurocerasus ?

No particular issues when planting common laurel: no need to prepare the soil in any manner. Simply dig a hole large enough for the root ball to fit, and set your shrub down inside. Before positioning the shrub, break the root clump up a bit to tease out a few roots.

If your soil tends to retain lots of water, feel free to spread a layer of gravel or clay marbles at the bottom of the hole before placing the shrub.

Also, but it again isn’t mandatory, you can add soil mix or ripe compost to bolster growth during the first years of your Prunus laurocerasus.

Last of all, at the end of the planting, remember to water abundantly the very first time.

Caring for cherry laurel

Once it’s survived for a couple years, Prunus laurocerasus won’t require any specific care.

Prunus laurocerasus well cared-for with hand-pruningIf planted as a standalone, you won’t need to prune it. Conversely, if part of a hedge, you’ll have to prune it regularly. Though in most cases a hedge trimmer is best suited to pruning hedges, in this particular case it has a disadvantage: it chops the large leaves and wounds them. This doesn’t look very nice, and if bad comes to worse the wounds might even let diseases enter the shrub. That’s why the best way to prune Prunus laurocerasus is to use a secateur (a hand pruner) if you’ve got the time (and the patience).

Propagating Prunus laurocerasus

It’s possible to propagate Caucasian laurel through cuttings:

  • on semi-hard wood at the end of summer or in fall;
  • on hard wood from the end of fall to the end of winter.

Fall is also a good season to start new plants from seeds.

Propagation for prunus laurocerasus through seed

Diseases and pests

We’ve said it was a vigorous, but Prunus laurocerasus still is vulnerable to certain diseases such as Xylella fastidiosa (the olive-tree-killing bacteria), powdery mildew and shothole blight (Coryneum beijerinckii). Note that in rare cases, armillaria root rot might be the reason your common laurel is dying off.

As for insects, you’ll most certainly discover red spider mites and black vine weevils that attack leaves.

Uses of Prunus laurocerasus

Pruning laurocerasus hedges for landscapingWith the dense foliage and rapid growth, the most common landscaping use of cherry laurel is in trimmed hedges. However, this particular use doesn’t highlight the shrub itself, which would occasionally deserve to be grown as a standalone in a garden, or let loose among other shrubs in a large shrub bed.

Finally, thanks to the ease of its care and to how simple it is to grow, Prunus laurocerasus is the ideal candidate for setting up a garden with no needed maintenance.


Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
Pixabay: Jaqueline Henning, Hans Braxmeier, Manfred Richter, Mona El Falaky