Cherry laurel plants (Prunus laurocerasus) are attractive evergreen shrubs that produce dainty white flowers in the spring. They are part of the prunus genus, which also includes plum, peach, and almond trees.
These large, fast-growing shrubs are known for their sweet-smelling flowers and ability to attract birds thanks to its red, cherry-like fruits (which turn black when they've fully matured). They are also a favorite amongst butterflies, bees, and other pollinators The hardy and resilient cherry laurel can blend in perfectly with hedges of any shape thanks to its dark green, opaque foliage and distinctive white flowers.
An attractive addition to any landscape, potential cherry laurel growers should know that they do have some downsides.
Native to southwest Asia and southeast Europe, these plants tend to be somewhat invasive due to their dense growth that can overtake other native plants in forests, parks, and outdoor areas. They can easily spread by the seeds of their fruit, which are widely dispersed by birds.
The berries are also toxic when ingested in large quantities, so they aren't ideal for gardens with greedy pets.
On the upside, cherry laurels are shade tolerant and rapid growers that can be ideal for privacy shrubs in a garden setting. They are resilient and quite easy to care for, especially when already well-established in the garden.
|Botanical Name||Prunus laurocerasus|
|Common Name||Cherry laurel|
|Plant Type||Evergreen shrub|
|Mature Size||Up to 25 feet tall, 30 feet wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full shade to full sun|
|Soil Type||Fertile, well-drained|
|Hardiness Zones||4-9, USA|
|Native Area||Southwest Asia, Southeast Europe|
|Toxicity||Toxic to people and pets when consumed|
Cherry Laurel Plant Care
When planting cherry laurel, it's best to aim for October to March (although fall is best) to allow for the opportunity for root development before winter. If you do choose to plant these shrubs in the warmer months, keep in mind that they will need more frequent watering.
It's also among the fastest-growing shrub varieties --they can reach heights over 25 feet when mature. Dwarf varieties are available, and they can also easily be given more of a tree-like form by progressively pruning the lower branches as the shrub grows taller.
The cherry laurel is fairly low maintenance when it comes to its sun preferences. It tolerates a range of light conditions; from full sun to partial and even full shade. However, these shrubs will grow best with more sun exposure in cooler climates, and more shade in warmer regions.
Proper drainage is crucial for the survival of the cherry laurel plant. They also prefer fertile, slightly acidic soil.
For optimal growth, you'll want to water your cherry laurel frequently enough that the soil stays moist, but don't allow it to become too soggy.
Temperature and Humidity
Although cherry laurel plants can thrive in almost any condition, they will not survive frost. Most cherry laurels will grow best in temperatures between 59 and 68 degrees.
You can boost your cherry laurel's growth by using fertilizers formulated for ornamental trees, as well as evergreen fertilizer.
Is the Cherry Laurel Toxic?
The leaves of the prunus laurocerasus are technically poisonous, as they contain hydrogen cyanide. If ingested in large amounts, this toxin can deplete a human or animal's nervous system of oxygen and even cause death. They may also produce harmful fumes when their branches are pruned away from the plant.
Varieties of Cherry Laurel
Some popular cherry laurel cultivars include:
- Otto Luyken: Compact plant typically grown as a hedge, grows three to four feet high
- Schipkaensis: A spreading, upright shrub with narrow glossy leaves that grows up to 10 feet tall.
- Zabeliana: Grows to about four feet high (but with a 12-foot spread); slow growing and popular choice for smaller gardens as a groundcover
When pruning cherry laurel plants, timing definitely matters. Aim for either the late spring or early summer, after it has bloomed. They are easy to prune, especially when planted as part of a hedge. However, you'll want to exercise caution when pruning due to the toxicity of the leaves.
Propagating Cherry Laurel
Cherry laurel plants can be propagated through stem cuttings. The cuttings can be planted and watered in a sheltered spot in the garden for best growth. Animals can also spread cherry laurel via the seeds from their fruits.