English Laurels make fantastic, dense privacy hedges in the Rogue Valley's Zone 8 climate. There's hardly a block in East Medford that doesn't have a laurel hedge, and with good reason. Here's the specs overview:

    • drought tolerant
    • grow in sun or partial shade
    • native to Eastern Europe and Asia Minor
    • can be pruned into trees
    • depending on the type, laurels can grow from three to twenty feet tall (or more, if not trimmed)
    • typically grow between six and eight feet wide
    • has white spikes of flowers in the spring
    • most varieties have berries in the fall
English Laurel Shrub
Rogue Valley Gardener

What are you interested in? Use this little navigation to jump around the article.

Plan Your Project

Growing Basics

How to Plant an English Laurel

How to Fertilize an English Laurel

How to Prune an English Laurel

English Laurel Pests, Diseases and Concerns

Plan Your Project
As we talk about a fair amount in other articles, it's super-important to plan out your landscaping projects before starting to dig. Go get your measuring tape!

When planting laurels, you need to space them about four feet apart. This means if you have a 20-foot gap, you'll need four to five plants. English Laurels can have significant horizontal spread (10 feet is no problem) so take that into account.

Ask the Nursery...

1. Do you have plants in X size containers?

2. How many plants do you have in stock?

3. Are your plants fertilized?

4. If so, how long is the fertilizer good for?

Growing Basics
The easiest way to grow the English Laurel is to buy the young shrubs at a nursery. They can also be grown from seeds or cuttings, but germination of the seeds and cuttings is not easy.

Small gallon-size shrubs are available at many nurseries around the Rogue Valley for about $5. Starting small means your hedge will take longer to grow, but it's a lot more economical than buying laurels that are already a few feet tall (which retail for $40 and up).

You can find laurels in sizes ranging from about a foot tall (in a gallon-size) to four or five feet tall at the nurseries. If you're looking for a specific size, it can be worthwhile to make a few calls. Sometimes nurseries have bigger plants in stock.

Overview:

    • It's easier to buy a small shrub than propagate your own
    • Call ahead to nurseries if you're looking for bigger plants.

Planting
This is how to plant your little shrublets:

1. When you plant one of the smaller laurels, dig a hole twice as deep and wide as the bucket the plant's in.
2. Fill the hole partially with compost and/or topsoil to make sure it's going into a "good home."
3. Place the plant in, and fill in around the root ball. Remember, "Plant 'em low, and they won't grow; plant 'em high, and they won't die."
4. Larger plants in 25-gallon buckets or larger may be planted easiest with a tree-planting machine, just so the hole is big enough.
Ask about when the plants need to be fertilized next when you buy. Many nurseries use a slow-release fertilizer that could be good for months, and you don't want to overdo the fertilizer on your young plants.

Here's a little before-and-after comparison of some tiny, one-gallon laurels planted in October of 2009, and what they looked like in April of 2011. Regular watering and one recent application of fertilizer has helped these guys triple in height. Click on the images to enlarge.

Don't disturb the roots!
Like most trees or shrubs, if the roots are damaged during the transplanting, the tree will put all of its energy into regenerating roots. This causes the leaves to shrivel and drop.

Don’t panic if your new plants are suffering from this type of “transplant shock.” They will recover when the root system is re-established.


English Laurels need to be planted about four feet apart, so a 20-foot-long hedge only requires five plants. If you are planting smaller shrubs, you can plant slightly closer together if you are impatient, but these fast-growing shrubs will grow up to three feet a year, so there is really no need for more plants.

Once the roots are established, the plants are resistant to droughts. Until then, water regularly. Don't drown them, but make sure they get plenty of deep regular drinks and don't let the roots go bone-dry.

Overview: If the roots get disturbed when planted, the shrub may look pathetic until the roots recover. Water regularly and deeply.

How to Fertilize an English Laurel
After the slow-release nursery fertilizer has worn off, keep fertilizing your laurels to encourage growth. Following the directions on the package, feed your laurels fertilizer for acid-loving plants:

    • Early spring: around March or April
    • Mid-summer: after the blooms are gone

Fertilizing is especially important in the first few years they're in the ground.

How to Prune an English Laurel
To keep your plants healthy, pruning is required. There are two good choices and one bad choice for pruning:

    • Cut the tallest stems back slightly: this method will give your hedge an even look, while keeping things from getting out of hand.
    • Select the tallest spikes and cut them all the way to the ground every year: do this if you want to create a less-dense hedge or screen.
    • Take to the plant with zeal and a hedge trimmer: in addition to giving your hedge a "buzz-cut" look, it makes the outside of the plant grow extremely dense, which prevents light and air movement.

Even if you're after a taller bush, pruning out some of the interior branches and keeping air moving around promotes healthy growth.

When to Prune
Fertilize and prune together.

An early or mid-spring prune envigorates your laurels. If you're trying to encourage growth, carefully take a few inches off most branches. This encourages new growth when the weather warms a bit.

If you're trying to control huge, mature laurels, you can prune in the springtime, and again in the middle of summer when all the year's new growth is on. This will not encourage them to put out new growth.

You can also prune a few tall spikes all the way to the ground to encourage the plant to stay "open" and not get too dense.

English Laurel Pests, Diseases and Concerns
If you allow your laurels to grow too dense, they become susceptible to aphids. You can tell if your bushes have aphids by looking at the leaves: if the leaves are curling up and have a white powdery substance on them, it's likely the mildew that follows aphid damage. Spray with a fungicide and keep an eye out for tiny white, green or red aphids.

Die-out
Sometimes branches just die on mature laurels. This can happen even when the plant is generally healthy. Prune out the whole dead branch. The laurel will fill in the empty space within a few seasons.

Drought and summer watering
While English Laurels are fairly drought resistant, they're not bulletproof. During exceptionally hot stretches in the summer (a few days of 105 degrees or more) your laurels might need watering (a soaker hose nestled along the trunks does the trick well), and a little shade during the hottest part of the day. If shade is a no-go, be prepared to see some burn marks show up on your plant. Burned leaves will be yellow and quickly turn brown.

Scorched leaves and/or branches can be pruned off, and the plant should be just fine. If it looks like your laurels are wilting on very hot days, it might not be your eyes playing tricks on you. Try watering overnight and see if they perk up by morning.


Comments (9) Subscribe to this comment's feed

Water!
morning.glory
I planted english laurels, and watering lots makes a huge difference. Mine grew through the summer with plenty of regular watering. They're well on their way now!
morning.glory , May 14, 2011
English Laurels Starts or Plants
John C
Hi,
I would like to buy some
English Laurels Starts or Plants.
Please e-mail OregoneJohn@GMail.com
Thanks smilies/shocked.gif)
John C , February 20, 2012
Hi J
Todd
Hi John,

Are you located in the Southern Oregon area? If you are, there are a variety of nurseries around that carry laurel bushes at different stages of development. You can browse our business directory to find some near you.
Todd , February 26, 2012
English laurel sprouting up
Tania
I have 9 eng. laurels. About 5 ft. away I found a little baby laurel sprout I did not plant. I had no idea laurels shot off to other areas of the yard? Can you tell me how to prevent them from growing in an area you donor want them in?
Tania , September 24, 2012
...
Todd
Hi Tania,

Great question! It's important to throw aware any trimmings, and also be aware the English Laurels will spread through seeds and new roots. They can be tough to control and I'm not aware of any easy way to keep them from spreading under ground without some negative impact.

You might find these other articles helpful

http://www.ehow.com/info_8743256_do-laurel-hedges-propagate-growth.html
http://www.kingcounty.gov/environment/animalsAndPlants/noxious-weeds/weed-identification/english-laurel.aspx
Todd , October 13, 2012
Re: laurels
Tania
I thought there was a reply button on the right hand corner of your comment and accidentally reported your comment, sorry. Now to my question. How do you collect seeds from laurals? Is it from new growth? I have a couple of spots I would love uther to growsmilies/smiley.gif
Tania , October 14, 2012
...
Todd
Hi Tania,

Sorry for the delay in the reply. Here's what I know:

You can propogate English Laurels. Best not from trying to use seeds, but rather from cuttings. You are on
the right track in thinking the new growth is the place to look for propagating stock. I have never seen a better description of the process of propogating from cuttings than is provided (and specifically to laurels) by the National Gardening Association. I refer you to them:
http://www.garden.org/searchqa/index.php?q=show&id=19480&ps=5&keyword=cuttings&adv=0

Hope that helps!
Todd , October 18, 2012
...
Bert
I have several 3ft spindly laurel bushes which appear to have been nibbled by rabbits.
Well drained soil and plenty of manure, why are they so poor?
I have laurels (4ft x4ft very healthy) 10ft from these and are thriving.
Please can you advise?
Bert , March 06, 2013
Need some more info!
Todd
Any chance you could provide a bit more info? Here are some questions it would be helpful if you could answer:

What color are the leaves?
Are the leaves dropping?
When and how were they planted? (Manure in soil amendment or topically added?)
Have they been pruned at any point? If less than two years old, have they been watered during any dry periods?
Any other fertilizer applied?

Thanks!
Todd , March 11, 2013

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