The laurel flower is an attractive addition to the garden. It is also a versatile specimen. The laurel flower can be cultivated as either a flowering shrub or small tree. However you choose to grow them, these attractive specimens add height and interest as well as long lasting structure and greenery to a space.
Additionally, many varieties are tolerant of both wet and dry soil as well as warm and cold temperatures. This means that most gardeners are able to successfully cultivate a laurel flower. In fact most laurel flower plants grow anywhere, with a little encouragement, as long as the soil is not overly waterlogged or chalky.
This versatility has made the laurel flower a popular addition to the garden. This has been further helped by their attractive foliage, blooms and berries. This means that the laurel flower is just as popular with birds and pollinators as they are with gardeners.
The laurel flower is popular with both gardeners and pollinators.
The fast growth habit makes these plants a good, quick solution for people seeking a visually pleasing way to add interest and screen exposed areas. They can also be used as part of a living fence and, in warmer areas, can be cultivated as evergreens. Laurel flower foliage also provides much needed interest to bare gardens during winter months.
15 Laurel Flower Varieties
There are numerous cultivars currently available.The following laurel flower plants are amongst the most attractive and versatile currently available. The plants listed below are suitable for a range of planting schemes, styles and conditions.
1 Mountain Laurel Flower
Interestingly, the Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) has been the state flower of Pennsylvania since the 1930s. Capable of reaching 6 to 15 ft in height, these elegant evergreen shrubs are crowned with an umbrella of white, red or pink blooms.
This elegant plant is sometimes called the Spoonwood plant because Native Americans used the bark to carve spoons. A relative of the rhododendron, the Mountain Laurel originated in Europe before being introduced to the United States in the 18th century. Today the plants are considered naturalized to the wooded parts of eastern North America.
The attractive white blooms open from pink buds.
Popular for their showy blooms, this variety thrives in acidic soil. Spoonwoods are often planted alongside azaleas and rhododendrons. This is because the three plants share similar care needs and growing preferences. In the wild, these plants are a common sight alongside streams.
The Snowdrift cultivar is particularly attractive, producing pure white blooms against a backdrop of dark green leaves. Hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 9 Snowdrift plants can achieve a height and spread of 10ft. Peppermint is another unique cultivar producing white blooms with dark red streaks on each petal. Peppermint can grow 10 ft tall and wide. It is hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 9.
2 Sweet Bay
Popular for its narrow growth habit, Sweet Bay (Laurus Nobilis) is also one of the easiest types of laurel flower to grow. Rarely exceeding 12 ft in height, Sweet Bay can be identified by its small blooms and wavy foliage. The leaves are also fragrant and popularly dried for use as a spice.
Best planted in full sun and rich, well draining soil, Sweet Bay is a pleasingly hardy addition to the garden. Sweet Bay plants are hardy in USDA Zones 7 and warmer.
If you want to learn more about adding bay plants to your garden, we have a great in depth guide available here.
3 California Bay
The California Bay (Umbellularia Californica) cultivar is native to the mountainous areas of California and Oregon. Reaching between 2 and 16 ft in height, the plants can be cultivated as either a tall tree or, with regular pruning, a compact shrub. California Bay is hardy in USDA Zones 7 to 10. Thriving in full or partial sun positions, during the spring yellow blooms emerge from between the plant’s fragrant, lance shaped leaves.
The foliage of California Bay can be dried and used as a herb. The leaves have a more intense flavor than Sweet Bay.
Elongated bay blooms stick out from amongst the plant’s green leaves.
Popular for its fragrant white blooms, the Schipka cultivar is one of the most resilient and cold hardy types of laurel flower. These durable plants happily grow in both shade and full sun positions. They also tolerate regular pruning. If left unpruned, Schipka can reach up to 15 ft tall.
5 Ostbo Red
Ostbo Red laurel flower is native to Northwestern parts of the United States. Popular for its pink blooms that open from eye-catching red buds, Ostbo Red is a colorful addition to the garden.
More tolerant of sun than other varieties, Ostbo Red also tends to produce smaller foliage than other cultivars on our list. Usually growing to a height of 6 ft, Ostbo Red is a good choice for smaller spaces or providing screening to low maintenance gardens.
6 Cherry Laurel
Also known as the English Laurel plant (Prunus Laurocerasus) this is a hardy specimen that is commonly grown throughout the southern parts of the United States. Thriving in full sun positions and moist, well draining soil, Cherry Laurel plants produce small white blooms. These develop during the spring months and can last throughout the summer. As the blooms fade in the fall, black berries develop. Both the blooms and the berries can be difficult to spot amongst the plant’s broad, leathery foliage.
Cherry Laurel inflorescence can be difficult to see when plants are in full leaf.
7 Carolina Cherry Laurel
The Carolina Cherry (Prunus Caroliniana) is one of the largest specimens on our list. In favorable conditions these plants can reach up to 20 ft tall and 40 ft wide. This means that Carolina Cherry is a common choice amongst people looking to introduce privacy screening to their garden. Regular pruning can help to control the plant’s height and spread.
During the spring, white blooms emerge. Like the blooms of the Cherry Laurel, these can be difficult to spot amongst the foliage. Carolina Cherry plants thrive in dry soils. Once established they are a pleasingly drought tolerant specimen.
The Spurge laurel flower (Daphne Laureola) is one of the smallest specimens on our list. An evergreen shrub, it is commonly found growing in woodland areas. This makes it a great choice for underplanting beneath taller shrubs and trees.
Spurge’s green blooms can be difficult to spot because they are often a similar shade to the foliage. During the fall the blooms are replaced by eye-catching black berries.
Thanks to its attractive foliage and quick growth habit, Caucasica (Prunus Laurocerasus) is a popular garden plant. Also known as Hedge Laurel, Caucasica thrives in moist, well draining soil. Tolerating both full sun and partial shade positions, Caucasica retains its dark green foliage throughout the winter months. This makes it a great choice if you are looking for plants to provide year round color to the garden.
In the spring white blooms develop. These are replaced by red berries in the fall. As well as adding color to bare gardens, the red berries are also a popular source of food for many garden birds.
Blooming is more profuse in sunny positions.
10 Portugal Laurel
A hardy specimen, Portugal Laurel (Prunus Lusitanica) plants can reach 30 ft in height when mature. Don’t let the size of these plants put you off adding one to your garden. Portugal specimens also have a slow growth habit. This, coupled with regular pruning, means that it is easily kept to a more manageable size.
The Portugal cultivar is a surprisingly hardy specimen, capable of tolerating drought, wind and pollution. This makes it suitable for planting in a range of areas and conditions. Flowering in early summer, the white spiky blooms can reach 10 inches long. As they fade, red or purple berries develop, prolonging the interest.
Etna (Prunus Laurocerasus) is a dense, evergreen variety of laurel flower. When young the glossy foliage is an attractive orange-bronze color. Further adding to the attraction, during the spring months cream-white spike blooms emerge. In the fall black berries develop, taking the place of the white blooms.
A resilient and versatile plant, Etna thrives in a range of different soils, including heavy clay soils and more chalky conditions. It can be planted in either a full sun or partial sun position.
12 Otto Luyken
Otto Luyken (Prunus Laurocerasus) is a popular low maintenance shrub. Ideal for low hedging or using as a background plant, where it provides a lush green backdrop against which you can showcase other plants, Otto Luyken rarely exceeds 4 ft in height. Despite being small in stature, Otto Luyken plants can spread up to 6 ft wide, if allowed to. This makes it an attractive groundcover option. A shade tolerant bush, Otto Luyken prefers moist, well draining soil. When in bloom white blooms stand out against the dark green foliage.
Dark green foliage helps pale, white blooms to stand out.
13 Little Linda
Little Linda is another dwarf variety of laurel flower. Little Linda plants rarely exceed 3 ft in height making it a good background plant for mixed beds or a good way to line paths and patios. The dark green leaves of Little Linda are pleasingly pest and disease resistant. During the spring months soft pink buds open to reveal soothing pink blooms.
14 Purple Leaf Sandcherry
Purple Leaf Sandcherry (Prunus X Cistena) is popular for its purple-red foliage. This attractive specimen retains its colorful foliage throughout the summer months. During the fall the foliage turns bronze or green in color.
Pleasingly resilient of cooler temperatures, Purple Leaf Sandcherry is considered hardy in USDA Zones 2 to 8. In ideal conditions a mature specimen can achieve a height of 10 ft and spread around 8 ft wide. In addition to the colorful foliage, in the early spring pink buds form. These open to reveal attractive white-pink blooms.
The final plant on our list, Tinkerbell (Kalmia Latifolia) is another mountain laurel flower cultivar. A dwarf variety, Tinkerbell rarely exceeds 3 ft in either height or spread. This makes it ideal for smaller gardens, patios and planting in containers. Thriving in USDA Zones 5 to 9, during the spring and early summer months attractive pink blooms open from deep-pink buds.
Pink blooming cultivars are particularly attractive.
Caring for Laurel Flower
Most cultivars are low maintenance specimens. This means that once planted most laurel flower plants require just a little water and pruning each year in order to thrive.
A member of the rose family, most types of laurel flower are hardy in USDA Zones 6 to 9. The plants can also be cultivated in slightly cooler climates as long as protection is provided during the winter months. Planting in a sheltered position also helps to protect your plants from light frosts and strong winds. In cooler climates REMIAWY Shrub Jackets can be used to protect more delicate specimens. Thanks to their zipper drawstring, the jackets are easy to use and remove.
Research your chosen plant before planting. While some varieties like lots of sun, others prefer a partial shade position. Ideally you should aim to plant in a light position with good drainage. Avoid planting in overly wet areas. This can lead to root rot. If necessary improve the soil by working in lots of organic material such as well rotted compost before planting. Heavy or clay based soils should also be improved prior to planting. If you want to learn more about improving clay soils, check out our guide.
Many types of laurel flower are also suitable for growing in raised beds or large pots. Either method is a great way to grow plants if your soil is particularly poor.
Most types of laurel flower are best planted in the spring, once the last frost date has passed. This gives your plant lots of time to establish itself before the winter comes.
To plant, dig a hole in the soil. When sitting in the hole the top of the root ball should be level or just slightly below the line of the soil.
After correctly positioning the plant, backfill the hole. Be careful not to sink the plant too far down as you do this. Firm down the soil, but don’t compact it, and water in well.
Laurel flowers should be spaced around 6 ft apart. Smaller specimens can be planted slightly closer together.
Taller specimens, or those planted in exposed positions may require a little extra support. A Dalen Tree Stake Kit is an easy way to ensure that young trees develop a healthy, upward growth habit.
You can also plant your laurel flowers in pots. The larger the better. Larger tree types, that can grow up to 6 ft tall, should be planted in pots around 24 inches wide. Selecting a pot with a broad base helps to prevent the plant from toppling over when it is in full bloom and top heavy.
Fill the pot about two thirds full with fresh, multipurpose potting soil. Center the plant in the pot. The top of the root ball should sit slightly below the top of the pot. When you are happy with the plant’s position, continue to add more potting soil until the pot is full. Water the plant in well.
Plants growing in pots require occasional repotting. Depending on the plant’s growth habit this can be once every 3 to 5 years.
General Care Tips
Planted in a favorable position, the laurel flower is a pleasingly low maintenance plant.
Regularly weeding around the plants is important. Fast growing weeds can absorb all the moisture and nutrients from the soil, stunting the growth of ornamental specimens.
Be careful when weeding. Many of the plants discussed here have a shallow root system. This can be accidentally damaged when weeding. A 4 to 6 inch thick layer of organic mulch around the base of the plants is a good way to smother weed growth. As the mulch breaks down it returns nutrients to the soil, further boosting your plants. When laying mulch, be careful not to let it contact the trunk of the plant.
Water regularly. During the summer months this can be as frequent as once a week if it hasn’t rained. If the soil becomes too dry the plants may start to wilt or shed their leaves.
During the cooler, damper fall and winter months the plants may require less frequent watering. Allow at least the top inch of soil to dry out between waterings. Plants that are allowed to sit in overly wet soil for a prolonged period can be more prone to diseases such as root rot.
Regular watering and an occasional dose of fertilizer encourages lots of healthy foliage to form.
Most types of laurel flower have a slow to growth habit. Despite this they still appreciate a regular dose of fertilizer. This is best applied in the spring, just as new growth emerges. Apply 3 tablespoons of a balanced or general purpose, slow release fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro Shake ‘N Feed All Purpose Continuous Release plant food, evenly to the soil. Do not allow the fertilizer to contact the trunk. Spread the fertilizer over the soil, extending to the drip line. Water or gently rake in, being careful not to damage the roots.
Plants growing in containers can also be given regular doses of organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion. This can be applied once in the spring, as new growth emerges and once again in the summer.
Dying or damaged branches should be cut away from the plant as soon as you notice them. This helps to keep plants healthy. Once flowering has finished for the year you can prune to control the size and spread. You can also prune the plants in early spring, before any new growth emerges.
When pruning, cut back any branches or stems that are rubbing against each other. If branches are allowed to contact each other the bark can be worn away creating an easy access point for pests and disease.
Laurel flower plants also tolerate shearing when grown as a hedge. Established plants respond well to rejuvenation pruning. This means cutting them down as close to the ground so that only a couple of inches of trunk or stems are visible. This prompts the plants to produce lots of new foliage. However, plants rarely flower in the first year after rejuvenation pruning.
If planted in a favorable position, the laurel flower is a pleasingly problem free plant. Regularly check the foliage for signs of infestation. While one or two pests can be picked off the foliage, for larger infestations an application of neem oil or insecticidal soap may be required. Insecticidal soap is an organic solution which is easy to make at home.
Leaf spot is usually a sign of overwatering. Improving the drainage around the plants, or reducing the frequency with which you water helps to prevent this. If you struggle to know how often to water your plants a soil moisture sensor is a useful investment.
Yellowing foliage can be triggered by a nutrient deficiency, over watering or exposure to cold weather. It is also a common sign of age. As leaves age they fade from rich green to yellow. This then falls from the plant to be replaced by fresh, green foliage.
These plants are an attractive addition to the garden.
If you are looking for a long lasting, low maintenance plant that will add greenery and floral interest to the garden, you will struggle to find a better option than the laurel flower. Easy to grow and suitable for a range of planting schemes and conditions, these resilient, attractive plants are, for many gardeners, a must have.