English Laurel Hedge: Everything You Should Know

English Laurel Hedge: Everything You Should Know

Overview of English Laurel Hedge

The English Laurel, or Prunus laurocerasus, is a widely-used plant for creating dense and vibrant hedges. With its evergreen foliage and rapid growth rate, it consistently provides both privacy and aesthetic appeal.

Characteristics of English Laurel

English Laurel - Prunus Laurocerasus - Pulled Nursery

The English Laurel hedge is recognized by its glossy dark green leaves and the capacity to reach substantial heights. It is distinct for its:

  • Leaf structure: Broad, dense, and evergreen.
  • Growth:
    • Rate: Fast-growing.
    • Height: Can reach up to 6 feet or more, with typical growth of 1 to 2 feet per year.
  • Flowering: Produces white blossoms that are often fragrant, followed by berries.

Benefits as a Privacy Screen

English Laurel serves effectively as a privacy screen due to its:

  • Density: Thick foliage blocks visibility.
  • Height: Tall growth provides substantial barriers.
  • Year-round coverage: Evergreen leaves ensure continuous privacy.

Plant Hardiness and Adaptability

Prunus laurocerasus demonstrates high adaptability and can thrive in a range of conditions:

  • Zones: Hardy in USDA zones 6 through 9.
  • Soil: Adapts to different soil types but prefers moist, well-drained conditions.
  • Sunlight: Tolerates full sun to partial shade.

Its resilience makes it a hassle-free choice for diverse landscapes.

Planting and Growing English Laurel

When establishing an English Laurel hedge, careful attention is needed for site selection and soil preparation to ensure healthy growth. The planting technique and ongoing moisture management are critical for the plant's success.

Site Selection and Sunlight Requirements

English Laurel flourishes in full sun but can also tolerate partial shade. Sites with at least six hours of sunlight daily are ideal, but these plants will adapt to less light if necessary. The chosen location should allow for the mature size of the plants, potentially preventing the need for extensive pruning later on.

Soil Requirements and Preparation

The right soil is essential for the health of English Laurel. They require well-drained soil to prevent root rot. Before planting, it's best to prepare the soil by adding organic matter to enhance drainage and fertility. This hedge plant can adapt to a variety of soil types, from clay to loam, as long as they are well-drained.

Planting Technique

Planting English Laurel should be done properly to ensure optimal growth:

  1. Dig a hole: Make sure it is twice as wide and the same depth as the root ball.
  2. Position the plant: The top of the root ball should be level with the surrounding soil surface.
  3. Backfill the hole: Use a mixture of native soil and compost, then firm it up around the plant without overpacking.
  4. Mulch: Apply a layer to conserve moisture and reduce weed competition.

Watering and Moisture Management

Newly planted English Laurels require consistent watering to establish their roots. Typically, deep watering every 10-14 days is adequate, but this may vary based on weather conditions. Once established, they can withstand short dry periods but thrive with occasional deep watering, encouraging deeper root systems and improved drought tolerance.

Maintenance and Care

Proper maintenance and care are critical to ensuring the health and aesthetics of an English Laurel hedge. This section will focus on the best practices in pruning, nutritional requirements, and addressing common diseases and pests, all of which are key to sustaining a vibrant laurel hedge.

Pruning Practices

English Laurel should be pruned once a year in late spring or early summer to maintain the desired shape and density. They can tolerate heavy pruning, but it's generally best to:

  • Trim back any overgrowth to keep the hedge in line.
  • Remove any damaged or diseased branches promptly to prevent further issues.

Nutrition and Fertilization

To thrive, English Laurel hedges require:

  • Fertilization: A balanced fertilizer should be applied in early spring to support lush foliage growth.
  • Organic Matter: Incorporating organic matter into the soil can improve soil structure and provide nutrients.
  • Mulching: A layer of mulch helps retain moisture and reduce weed competition. Apply annually, taking care not to pile against the stem.

Common Diseases and Pests

While English Laurels are robust, they can be susceptible to certain diseases and pests:

  • Diseases: Look out for signs of powdery mildew, root rot, and leaf spot, which can be managed through improved air circulation and keeping foliage dry.
  • Pests: Common pests include aphids and borers. They can often be managed with horticultural oils or insecticidal soaps.

Regular inspections of the hedge will help in the early identification and treatment of these issues.

Laurel Varieties and Selection

When selecting a laurel for hedges or landscaping, it's crucial to understand the characteristics of the English Laurel and how it compares to other species. The right choice depends on climate adaptability, aesthetic preferences, and maintenance expectations.

English Laurel Characteristics

The English Laurel, Prunus laurocerasus, stands out for its glossy, dark green leaves that maintain their vibrant color throughout the year. This evergreen shrub is native to regions around the Black Sea and is often preferred for its robustness and the privacy it provides. Typically, it can grow tall, reaching up to 40 feet if left unpruned, yet it is commonly maintained at 10 to 12 feet to create an effective hedge. Moreover, the species exhibits drought resistance—a quality that contributes to its reputation as an accommodating plant for various U.S. climates.

Characteristics Detail
Leaf Type Broadleaf, glossy dark green
Growth Habit Dense, can grow up to 40 feet in height
Climate Sunnier climates, drought resistant
Maintenance Prune in late winter or early spring

Other Laurel Species

While the English Laurel, also known as Common Laurel, is a popular choice, landscaping may also employ a variety of other laurel species. For example, the Bay Laurel or Laurus nobilis, though not a true laurel, is another evergreen that features in gardens, valued for its aromatic leaves used in cooking.

Each species of laurel has distinct qualities, and when choosing a laurel plant, gardeners should consider growth patterns, leaf texture, and overall care requirements. It's essential to evaluate the space and environmental conditions to ensure the chosen variety thrives and meets the desired aesthetic and functional needs.

Design and Landscape Use

English Laurel, as a fast-growing shrub with evergreen foliage, provides gardeners and landscapers with a robust option for creating structured designs and enhancing biodiversity in gardens.

Using English Laurel in Garden Design

The versatility of English Laurel allows it to assume various roles within a landscape. As a hedge, it offers a dense screen that can protect a backyard from wind and noise, while also maintaining privacy. Gardeners typically appreciate its fast growth rate, which rapidly delivers the desired effect of a full, mature hedge. Moreover, when utilized as foundation planting, it creates a consistent backdrop that complements seasonal flowers and other ornamental plants. The plant's ability to be pruned into different shapes lets it fit into formal garden designs seamlessly.

Ideal Planting Conditions for English Laurel:

  • Light: Partial to full sun
  • Soil: Well-drained, enriched with organic matter
  • Spacing: 4 to 6 feet apart for a dense hedge
  • Pruning: Best in the late spring to early summer, after flowering

Companion Planting and Biodiversity

Introducing companion plants alongside English Laurel can enhance the overall biodiversity of a garden. English Laurel pairs well with a variety of flowering plants, which can be planted in front to soften its solid façade, or between the shrubs for a mixed hedge effect. This kind of companion planting not only adds aesthetic value but also supports local ecosystems by accommodating different species.

Companion Plants for English Laurel:

  • Flowering Plants: Rhododendrons, Camellias, Azaleas
  • Ground Covers: Vinca, Pachysandra
  • Tall Perennials: Ornamental Grasses, Ferns

By incorporating these companion plants, gardeners also encourage pollinators, which are vital for a healthy, thriving garden. Additionally, English Laurel itself contributes to the garden's ecological balance by providing shelter and food for birds and beneficial insects throughout the year.

Propagation and Growth Expectations

Propagating English Laurel is a straightforward process with options for using both seeds and cuttings. They exhibit a speedy growth rate, becoming lush and expansive with time.

Seed and Cuttings Propagation

Seeds: To propagate English Laurel from seeds, one should harvest fully mature berries and extract the seeds after removing any adhering pulp. These seeds benefit from a 24-hour soak in water to break down the hard seed coat, improving germination rates.

  • Select ripe berries
  • Clean seeds thoroughly
  • Soak seeds for 24 hours

Cuttings: Propagation by cuttings can also be effective. Specifically, 4-6 inch semi-hardwood or hardwood cuttings work well. It's important to strip the lower leaves and, if using, dunk the cutting generously into rooting hormone before planting.

  • Take 4-6 inch cuttings from healthy plants
  • Remove lower leaves
  • Use rooting hormone for better results

Growth Rate and Mature Size

Growth Rate: English Laurel is known for its fast growth, typically adding several feet to its height and spread each year under ideal conditions. This rapid growth rate means that a lush, established hedge can form within a few years.

Mature Size: At full maturity, English Laurel can reach substantial sizes, often tower up to 15-30 feet in height and 10-15 feet wide. Its dense foliage creates a solid, green barrier when maintained correctly.

Growth Characteristic Specification
Growth Rate Fast, several feet per year
Height at Maturity 15-30 feet
Width at Maturity 10-15 feet

English Laurel's growth requires pruning to control and encourage lush new growth, helping maintain the desired size and aesthetically pleasing shape.

Wildlife and Ecological Considerations

English Laurel hedges serve a dual role in gardens: they are both an aesthetic feature and a boon to local wildlife. However, certain aspects of this plant may also pose environmental challenges.

Attracting Birds and Pollinators

Birds are particularly fond of English Laurel, often using its dense foliage as nesting habitat. The white flowers that bloom in spring are not only visually appealing but also attract a variety of pollinators necessary for a healthy ecosystem. Moreover, the red berries that follow are a source of food for birds, making English Laurel a valuable addition for gardeners looking to support wildlife.

  • White flowers: attract bees and butterflies
  • Red berries: provide food for birds

Toxicity and Environmental Concerns

Despite its benefits for wildlife, English Laurel contains substances within its leaves and seeds that are toxic to humans and many animals when ingested. Gardeners should be aware of the potential hazard to pets and children. Additionally, the plant's fast growth rate and tendency to spread can make it invasive in some environments, threatening native biodiversity.

  • Toxicity: leaves and seeds harmful if consumed
  • Environmental concerns:
    • Potential invasiveness
    • Threat to native plants

Seasonal Care and Challenges

Maintaining a healthy English Laurel hedge requires attention to specific seasonal needs and proactive measures to combat common challenges.

Winter Protection

Heavy Shade: In winter, English Laurel hedges can suffer in areas of heavy shade. They may become susceptible to root rot if the soil remains too wet. To protect them, it’s important to ensure proper drainage. One can achieve this by amending the soil with compost or grit at the time of planting.

Root Rot: Root rot is a risk during periods of wet winter weather. Monitoring the soil's moisture levels and avoiding waterlogging by spacing watering appropriately can help prevent this issue.

Summer Care

Drought Tolerance: English Laurel is notably drought-tolerant once established, able to withstand brief periods of dry weather. During long spells of dryness, supplemental watering maintains plant health. Water deeply and less frequently to encourage strong root development.

Powdery Mildew & Aphids: These plants may encounter powdery mildew and aphids in summer. To manage aphids, regularly inspect the undersides of leaves and apply insecticidal soap if necessary. For powdery mildew, improving air circulation by thinning out the hedge and applying a fungicide can be effective.

Dealing With Extreme Weather

Early Spring: An unexpected late winter or early spring frost can be damaging. Protect your laurels by covering them with burlap or a frost cloth when frost is in the forecast.

Extreme Heat: In instances of extreme heat, providing a layer of mulch around the base will help retain moisture and keep the root system cool. It is crucial to water the plants either in the early morning or late evening to reduce water loss due to evaporation.

Aesthetic Aspects and Sensory Appeal

The English Laurel hedge is widely acclaimed for its lush greenery and aromatic presence, making it an exceptional choice not only for privacy but also for its sensory appeal.

Floral and Foliage Features

English Laurel, or Prunus laurocerasus, showcases glossy foliage that adds a vibrant texture to gardens throughout the year. The leaves are a lustrous dark green, contributing to the shrub's dense and visually appealing nature. This evergreen also boasts clusters of white flowers in the spring, which not only add to the visual appeal but also emit a subtle, pleasant fragrance. These features draw visual attention and support a thriving ecosystem.

  • Leaf color: Dark to bright green, glossy
  • Flower: White, fragrant

Shape and Texture Considerations

The shape of the English Laurel is characterized by its ability to form a thick screen or border, serving as a natural architectural element in landscape design. Its ability to be pruned into various shapes allows for creative sculpting as hedges or arches, catering to diverse aesthetic preferences. The texture of the foliage, combined with the solid form, makes the English Laurel an ideal candidate for structured garden designs.

  • Preferred use: Screen, border, arch
  • Texture: Glossy, dense foliage

Practical Tips for Home Gardeners

Proper spacing and arrangement, managing overgrowth, and container planting are essential practices for maintaining a healthy and attractive English Laurel hedge. These tactics ensure the plant's vigor and aesthetic appeal for small to large garden spaces.

Spacing and Arrangement

Ideal spacing for English Laurel hedges is about 5 to 6 feet apart, center on center, to provide ample room for growth and air circulation. Such an arrangement encourages a thick, lush screen, optimizing both privacy and beauty.

  1. For small gardens, consider a single row with closer spacing.
  2. For a broader, denser hedge, plant in a double staggered row.

Accurate spacing avoids the need for excessive pruning and keeps the hedge looking natural.

Managing Overgrowth

Regular trimming is crucial to manage overgrowth and maintain the shape of an English Laurel hedge.

  • Shearing should occur at least twice a year, in late spring and late summer.
  • Use hedge clippers for small tweaks and electric trimmers for larger areas.

Avoid heavy pruning in late fall since new growth may be damaged by frost.

Container Planting

English Laurel can also thrive in containers, allowing for versatility in landscaping.

  • Select maxi_clay or ceramic containers for better insulation against temperature fluctuations.
  • A sizeable container with adequate drainage encourages a healthy root system.

Remember to water container-planted laurels regularly, as they dry out faster than those in the ground.

Additional Considerations

Before diving into the specifics, it's essential for gardeners to understand two critical aspects of growing an English Laurel hedge: the long-term growth and overall investment required, and the importance of selecting an appropriate variety for their specific climate.

Long-Term Growth and Investment

English Laurels, known for their evergreen foliage, represent a long-term growth commitment. They can reach a maximum height of 15-30 feet if left unpruned, which should factor into a gardener’s planning. Additionally, they are categorized as fast-growing shrubs, capable of adding 2-3 feet per year under good conditions. This rapid growth implies a need for regular maintenance to keep the hedge at a desired size and shape. While they can thrive in fertile soil, initial investment in soil improvement might be necessary if the native soil is poor.

Soil Property Preference
Soil Type Well-drained, Fertile
Soil pH Slightly Acidic to Alkaline
Nutrient Needed Iron (for chlorophyll production)

Selecting the Right Variety for Your Climate

Selection of the right English Laurel variety should be based upon climate hardiness. These plants are hardy in USDA zones 6-9, but specific cultivars may have varying tolerances to cold or heat. For example, Prunus laurocerasus 'Zabeliana' is a variety known for better cold tolerance, while others might perform better in warmer climates. Gardeners must closely consider local weather patterns and winter temperature extremes when selecting their plants.

Climate Factor Consideration
Cold Hardiness Select varieties known for cold tolerance if in cooler climates 
Heat Tolerance In warmer regions, choose cultivars that can withstand heat without suffering leaf scorch

Troubleshooting and Problem Solving

Maintaining a healthy English Laurel hedge requires addressing issues like diseases and pests promptly and employing specific care techniques. This section will guide through common problems and offer expert advice for maintaining a robust hedge.

Addressing Common Issues

Diseases: English Laurel hedges are susceptible to diseases such as powdery mildew and leaf spot fungi. Powdery mildew presents as a white powdery coating on the leaves, while leaf spot can cause brown patches.

  • Prevention and treatment: Ensure proper spacing to enhance air circulation and avoid overhead watering to reduce humidity. Treat infections with fungicides following manufacturer's instructions.

Pests: Aphids and scales are common pests that may affect laurel hedges. They cause damage by sucking on the sap, leading to weakened plant growth.

  • Control methods:
    • Inspect regularly and physically remove pests if possible.
    • Apply insecticidal soap or neem oil for a more natural approach.
    • For severe infestations, consider stronger insecticides as a last resort.

Root Rot: Caused by overwatering and poor drainage, root rot can be fatal if not addressed.

  • Prevention: Ensure the planting site has well-draining soil.
  • Treatment: Reduce watering and improve soil drainage. Severely affected plants may need to be replaced.

Fertilization: Balanced fertilization is key to supporting a healthy hedge.

  • Recommendation: Apply a slow-release fertilizer in spring and possibly fall, following label rates to avoid over-fertilization.

Expert Advice for Specific Situations

Windbreak: English Laurels are often used as windbreaks. Proper installation and care are crucial for them to withstand strong winds.

  • Guidance:
    • Position plants with adequate space to grow a dense hedge.
    • Prune regularly to encourage thick growth that can resist wind.

Powdery Mildew in Shady Areas:

  • Management: Increase sun exposure by judicious pruning of the upper canopy to allow light penetration. Apply fungicides early to control the spread.

By following the above expert advice, gardeners can actively manage the health of their English Laurel hedges, ensuring they remain both a functional and aesthetic part of the landscape.

Sustainability and Environmental Impact

English Laurel hedges are not only valued for their dense foliage and aesthetic appeal but also for their contributions to sustainable landscapes. They can enhance local ecosystems and support gardening practices that prioritize environmental health.

Considering Local Ecosystems

When integrating English Laurel into a landscape, it's essential to assess its impact on local ecosystems. They are not native to North America and, as such, their introduction should be done carefully to avoid any imbalance. For instance, planting English Laurel hedges can provide habitat for wildlife and support organic matter accumulation, which is beneficial. However, these hedges should not disrupt local flora, and consideration should be given to whether the English Laurel may become invasive in a particular area.

Sustainable Gardening Practices

Sustainable gardening with English Laurel involves both the setup and the ongoing care of the hedge. Water conservation practices like drip irrigation are effective in delivering water directly to the root zone, helping develop deep roots and minimizing waste. When it comes to soil, English Laurel thrives in fertile soil, which can be maintained using composting methods that enrich the soil with organic matter without relying on chemical fertilizers. Gardeners are encouraged to engage in practices like mulching, which further sustains a healthy, green hedge while conserving soil moisture and improving soil quality.

Accessories and Tools

In managing an English Laurel hedge, selecting the proper tools and decorative elements is crucial. Gardeners should prioritize tools that facilitate healthy growth and enhance the landscape while ensuring the evergreen shrub receives sufficient care.

Essential Tools for Laurel Hedge Care

Pruning Shears: Sharp pruning shears are pivotal for cutting smaller branches and maintaining the shape of the hedge.

Loppers: For branches that are too thick for shears, loppers provide the necessary leverage and cutting power.

Hedge Trimmer: An electric or gas-powered hedge trimmer can quickly and evenly shape long stretches of hedge.

Gloves: Durable gardening gloves protect hands from thorns and sap.

Garden Hose with Adjustable Nozzle: For watering the hedge, especially important for young plants that need consistent moisture.

Drip Irrigation System:

  • Delivers a slow and steady supply of water directly to the roots.
  • Reduces water waste and ensures deep watering.

Spade: A sturdy spade is necessary for planting and transplanting laurel plants.

Wheelbarrow: Helps in transporting mulch and garden debris.


  • Helps in maintaining soil moisture.
  • Suppresses weeds around the base of the hedge.

Decorative Elements

Garden Edging: Defines the boundary around the laurel hedge, enhancing its appearance in the landscape.

Planters: Strategically placed planters can complement the thick, evergreen foliage of the laurel hedge with seasonal flowers or smaller plants.

Landscape Lighting: Spotlights or path lights can illuminate the laurel hedge, accentuating its presence in the garden during the evening.

Trellises or Supports: While not commonly needed for English Laurel due to its sturdy growth, these can be used for training younger plants or for aesthetic reasons.

Frequently Asked Questions

For those planning or maintaining an English laurel hedge, clear and precise answers to common questions ensure successful growth and care.

What is the recommended spacing for planting an English laurel hedge?

The recommended spacing for English laurel plants for a dense hedge is typically 4-5 feet apart. This allows the plants enough space to grow and at the same time ensures a thick hedge.

How does the growth rate of English laurel compare to cherry laurel?

English laurel and cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) are often the same plant referred to by different names. Therefore, they share the same growth rate, which is relatively fast among hedge plants.

What are common problems associated with laurel hedges?

Laurel hedges are susceptible to frost damage, which can cause leaves to discolor and curl. Other issues may include diseases like powdery mildew or pests such as the laurel weevil.

What is the maximum height that an English laurel hedge can achieve?

An English laurel hedge can grow quite tall if left unpruned, potentially reaching up to 20 feet in height. However, they are commonly maintained at a height of 6 to 10 feet for residential and garden settings.

How quickly does an English laurel hedge grow?

An English laurel hedge typically grows 30-60 cm annually, making it one of the faster-growing hedge varieties.

What are the disadvantages of planting an English laurel hedge?

One of the disadvantages of planting an English laurel hedge is its vulnerability to frost, which can damage foliage. Additionally, if not pruned regularly, it can grow too large for the space and may require substantial cutting back.

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