How to Grow and Care for Cherry Laurel

Cherry laurel shrub branch with waxy leaves and black

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

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 to their red, cherry-like fruits (which turn black when they've fully matured). They are also a favorite among butterflies, bees, and other pollinators The cherry laurel can blend in perfectly with hedges of any shape thanks to its dark green, opaque foliage and distinctive white flowers.

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.

The leaves, stems, seeds, and berries of this laurel are toxic when ingested by both humans and pets.

Common Name Cherry laurel
Botanical Name Prunus laurocerasus
Family Rosaceae
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 (USDA)
Native Area Southwest Asia, Southeast Europe
Toxicity Toxic to people, pets

Cherry Laurel 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.

Cherry laurel shrub with dark green leaves and white flower spikes surrounded by sand

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Cherry laurel shrub branch with short white flowers spikes on branches with waxy large leaves

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Cherry laurel shrub branch with white flower spike and red butterfly on top closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

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.

Types 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 ground cover

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.

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 the best growth. Here's how:

  • What You’ll Need: Healthy laurel plant, scissors, plastic bag, soilless potting mix, containers, rooting hormone (optional)
  • Where to Cut: Cut with scissors just below a node on a soft, green stem (cutting should be about 4 to 6 inches long).
  • Maintaining the Cutting: Remove the bottom few leaves, dip the stem in water then in rooting hormone (if desired), and slide stem about 2 inches into a container of potting mix. Keep warm and moist but not soggy.
  • When to Plant the Cutting: In 3 weeks, transplant the cutting into the ground.

Overwintering

In the coldest areas of its range, the cherry laurel can suffer from winter exposure. To protect your laurel from browning or falling leaves during cold weather, loosely place a protective layer of burlap around the shrub, making sure not to wrap tightly. It's important to keep air flowing within the plant's foliage to maintain health.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

Though considered to be sturdy and disease-resistant shrubs, a cherry laurels kept in improper conditions can become susceptible to parasites such as aphids and scale insects, as well as powdery mildew and verticillium wilt.

FAQ
  • How long can cherry laurels live?

    Cherry laurels can live to be over 100 years old.

  • How fast do cherry laurels grow?

    This fast-growing shrub can grow over 25 inches per year.

  • What’s an alternative to cherry laurel?

    Inkberry holly is another shrub that works well as an evergreen hedge. It has smooth leaves, unlike other holly bushes, and dark berries that are also toxic.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Prunus laurocerasus. N.C. Cooperative Extension.