How to Grow Cherry Laurel Plants

Cherry laurel close-up of foliage and fruit

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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
Soil pH 6.5-7.5
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color White
Hardiness Zones 4-9, USA
Native Area Southwest Asia, Southeast Europe

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.

Light

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.

Soil

Proper drainage is crucial for the survival of the cherry laurel plant. They also prefer fertile, slightly acidic soil.

Water

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.

Fertilizer

You can boost your cherry laurel's growth by using fertilizers formulated for ornamental trees, as well as evergreen fertilizer.

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

Pruning

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.

Common Pests/Diseases

Though considered to be sturdy and disease-resistant shrubs, the cherry laurel can be susceptible to parasites such as aphids and scale insects, as well as powdery mildew and verticillium wilt.