Laurel is one of the easiest hedge plants to grow, it is hardy, dense and resistant to most threats. Its leaves can be used to make cyanide, but don’t let that put you off this perennial favourite!
- Genus: Prunus
- Most common variety: Cherry Laurel (prunus laurocerasus)
- Other popular varieties: Portugal Laurel (prunus lusitanica), Bay Laurel (laureus Nobilis), Spotted Laurel (aucuba japonica ‘crotonifolia’)
What Is A Laurel Hedge Like?
The cherry laurel is one of the more popular privacy hedging choices due to its fast-growing characteristics. This species of evergreen is also called the common laurel and thrives in both direct sunlight and shady conditions. You can expect about 60cm of growth annually on average.
What Colour Is A Laurel Hedge?
The leaves of laurel hedges are oblong, shiny and range from 3 to 6 inches long. The leaves are dark green and leathery on the topside and are light green on the underside.
Laurel leaves, when crushed or cut, leak hydrogen cyanide, which can be lethal when consumed. It is important to dispose of laurel cuttings properly and to avoid eating any part of it.
What Are Laurel Flowers Like?
In the late spring, English laurels are covered with cup-shaped, fragrant white flowers. These grow in spikes before opening their blooms which have a scent best described as “dainty”.
What Are Laurel Hedge Fruits Like?
Portuguese laurel hedges are an evergreen, classic hedge that develops small red-purple berries late in the year.
How Do I Prune A Laurel Hedge?
Cherry laurel is particularly forgiving of pruning mistakes and it isn’t hard to produce a great looking hedge. Early summer or late spring is the best time to prune laurel hedges, using a hedge trimmer or secateurs to achieve the shape you want.
Formative pruning is necessary for laurel hedges to become as dense as possible. These hedges grow quickly after pruning. If you prune these hedges in autumn, it won’t have a chance to cover up untidy leaves or re-grow, so early summer is the best time.
For more information on when to trim your hedge, check out my guide!
How Do I Propagate A Laurel Hedge?
To propagate laurel hedges, use semi-ripe cuttings which should be available from late Summer until the middle of Autumn.
- Select cuttings from this season’s hedge growth.
- The cutting tip needs to be soft while the base needs to be hard.
- Avoid over-vigorous, unhealthy or damaged material.
- Select horizontal shoots over ones with gaps in the leaves.
- In the spring, you can prune away unproductive plants to stimulate newer growth from which to take cuttings from later on.
- Cuttings can be from six to twelve inches in measurement.
- Dip each base into rooting hormone and replant in the soil to propagate.
How Do I Plant A Laurel Hedge?
- Clear the area two weeks before planting.
- Dig square holes twice the width of the root balls, and to the depth of the root ball plus two inches.
- Break up the soil on the hole bottom so that the roots can easily get into the soil.
- Make sure that there are two inches between the top of the root ball and the soil surface. Nothing should be protruding above the hole’s top.
- Fill the hole with soil and stake your plant if needed.
- Use a tree tie to keep your new plant stable, particularly in windy conditions.
- Give the plant a good watering, some words of encouragement and then leave it to establish.
What Are The Main Threats For A Laurel Hedge?
Laurel is generally easy to grow and tend to be free of disease. Laurel pests include bay suckers, rabbits, slugs and vine weevil.
- Control slugs by using slug pellets or nematodes.
- A systemic insecticide can be used to control bay suckers.
- Use chicken wire to fence off fences against rabbits.
- Using weevil killer is the solution for hedges with vine weevil.
Diseases when they do occur, commonly include shot-hole disease and powdery mildew.
- Powdery mildew won’t need any chemical control as the hedges tend to outgrow the disease when the weather becomes less humid. Spraying food-grade potassium bicarbonate can sometimes be used at a ratio of five grams per litre of water if you want to get rid of Powdery Mildew.
- As for Shot-hole disease, laurel hedges tend to outgrow these and won’t need a chemical control. Pest damage only occurs to smaller plants up to three feet tall or pot-grown plants.
Fun Facts About Laurel Hedges
- In the seventies and eighties, laurel was a popular decoration for Christmas, hung often in butcher shops and gift shops. Wreaths made of laurel are still used today.
- In Cornwall, the Glendurgan National Trust Garden maze is completely made out of Cherry Laurel. It is clipped three to five times annually to keep it looking neat. All the cuttings are put into baskets and carried through the maze entrance to be disposed of on. The gardeners need to know exactly where to go within the maze ..or else!
- Victorians created death jars by getting a laurel leaf, cutting it in half, popping half into the jar, catching a butterfly and putting it into the jar with the lid. The cut leaf would give off cyanide and kill the butterfly.
- Cherry laurel is used both as a windbreak, for its ornamental value and planted as a feature hedge. Plus, cherry laurel hedges reduce noise pollution and are the perfect buffer against a busy street.
- The bright green polish of the laurel leaves are not only an aesthetic feature but also reflect sunlight, increasing the amount of light within your garden.
- Laurel hedges are great for birds to build nests in. The aromatic flowers and gorgeous leaves will then have the added benefit of birdsong as the birds live in its protective branches.
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