Further Information about Common Laurel Hedge Plants (Cherry Laurel)
Alternatives to Common Laurel hedge plants
If you are looking for something a little different then there are many other popular and reliable species that will make good alternatives including:
- Photinia Red Robin
- Privet, both the Green and Golden varieties.
- Viburnum Tinus and Viburnum Tinus ‘Eve Price’
- Elaeagnus Ebbingeii
- English Yew
- Griselinia Littoralis
You might also find our evergreen hedging page useful, here you can find our entire selection of evergreen hedging species in one place.
Trimming Cherry Laurel hedge plants and regenerating old plants.
Common Laurel hedge plants can be trimmed at any time during the growing season (avoiding the coldest months of the year so the cut edges don’t get frosted). We recommend trimming in either early Spring (before the Laurel hedge is growing) or in Autumn when growth has finished but before the onset of winter, so the cut edges have chance to heal over before the frost.
You can trim your Common Laurel hedge plants with shears, secateurs or a hedge trimmer. Many books will tell you to use secateurs because Laurels have large leaves and the cut edges left by a hedge trimmer will leave them looking unkempt. It isn’t really necessary, especially if you trim in the Spring so the new growth covers the cut edges quickly. Our own long-suffering Laurel hedge at the nursery gets snipped at every Autumn for many thousands of cuttings before receiving a ‘Farmers haircut’ with the same giant tractor mounted hedge trimmer that cuts the rest of our (several miles) of field boundary hedges here on the nursery.
So don’t be afraid of being hard on your Laurel hedge, by trimming it back ‘tight’ each year you will avoid it becoming wider and wider as time goes by taking up more valuable garden than is necessary and eventually needing drastic remedial action. Regardless of when you trim your Common Laurel hedging plants we would recommend giving it a balanced feed each Spring before growth starts, ideally together with a generous mulch (applied before dry weather) to retain moisture at the roots during the growing season. Well treated Laurel hedges will make good annual growth and the foliage will be a lustrous, rich deep green. Healthy Laurels like this will tend to be trouble free because they resist pests and diseases (as well as being a splendid addition to your property!).
We are sometimes asked about large and (seemingly) hopelessly overgrown Cherry Laurel hedges or trees, on many occasions customers have asked what they can plant there instead, do they need to replace the soil etc – after the old hedge has been dug up and disposed of.
In most cases there is no need to rip the old hedge out at all. While this answer doesn’t do much to flatter the Hopes Grove Laurel sales figures, the fact is that like many hedging species, Cherry Laurels can be subjected to the most drastic surgery (right back to bare stumps) and they will regenerate with young green shoots soon after. Especially if the operation is booked in for early Spring and is followed with a convalescent feed and mulch. Even the most unpromisingly woody Laurel specimens can be coaxed back to a lustrous display of shiny green foliage within two or three seasons.
If this all seems too much to stomach in one go – then do break it down into smaller stages. Start by reducing the height of the Common Laurel hedge plants, either in one go or if you are removing more than one third of the hedge height you may like to consider splitting the reduction over a couple of years. You could then start tackling the sides the following year again spreading this out over a couple of seasons if you prefer. Cut one side back (this could be 20cm or a couple of metres or more depending on how overgrown the hedge is) being sure to remove any dead or diseased wood in the centre as you go. Try and do this in early Spring if possible and remember to give the hedge a good feed and mulch after. You should then start to see the promising new shoots soon after, certainly within two or three months. If the growths are very long and whippy then do pinch the tips out to make the new growth nice and bushy. Depending on how comfortable you are with the amount of new growth you may like to cut the other side of the overgrown Laurel hedge back the following season….or leave it another year so that the first stage is giving more coverage before you take the plunge for a second time.
So rejuvenating a very old and overgrown Cherry Laurel hedge can be a very rewarding pastime that may be addressed in one great purge, or spread over a number of years. Either way you should find these tough evergreen hedging plants remarkably resilient and will give excellent results when cut back hard.
Feeding a Cherry Laurel hedge.
Another frequently asked question: what is the best fertiliser for a Laurel hedge? The answer rather depends on which stage the hedge is at.
When you are planting Common Laurel hedge plants we always recommend using bone meal, this is a natural organic fertiliser that should be well mixed with the soil. One kilo of bone meal should be enough for approx. 15 metres of Common Laurel hedging plants. (We would also strongly recommend using Rootgrow at the time of planting. These naturally occurring native fungi form a symbiotic relationship with your new Laurel plants almost immediately allowing them to develop the large secondary root system necessary for successful growth and establishment without delay)
Once your Cherry Laurel hedge is established we would recommend an annual feed early in the spring with a balanced fertiliser such as our After-plant feed, this is really beneficial to a Laurel (or any other evergreen!) hedge if applied at the same time as a mulch (a layer moisture retaining material like bark chippings, lawn mowings or garden compost).
Older Common Laurel hedge plants can sometimes run out of steam a little, perhaps making very little annual growth and looking rather pale and chlorotic. Assuming there is no obvious cause for this (like a new concrete driveway or extension encroaching on the root run) then we would recommend a balanced specialist fertiliser to encourage both root and top growth together with magnesium to improve the leaf colour. Our Seaweed Bio-stimulant is ideal, if the root run is very dry, we would recommend gently loosening the top few centimetres with a garden fork and then watering very well after application. This action should freshen up your Laurel hedge within a few weeks, especially if undertaken in spring or early summer.
Pests, diseases and other problems of Cherry Laurel hedges.
Prunus laurocerasus ‘Rotundifolia’ is a strong and robust plant and generally they do not suffer from pests and diseases, especially when established. None of the problems below are serious and the hedge should recover naturally over time without the need for sprays or chemicals.
Freshly planted Common Laurel hedge plants (especially bare roots – and sometimes root ball plants too) can ‘moult’ some many their leaves after planting. (Often, they will turn yellow first) This is more common if the weather is very harsh during winter or turns very warm in the spring when a new hedge is planted late in the season. Leaf loss is a stress response to conserve water. If the new plants are kept well-watered and have been planted in suitable soil they should re leaf soon after the start of the growing season once the roots have become established. Leaf drop can be minimised by good soil preparation, sufficient watering after planting, mulching and the application of Rootgrow will also help the new root system to establish much more quickly.
Common Laurel hedge plants can suffer from frost damage in Autumn, Winter and Spring.
Autumn frost damage only occurs if the plants are growing very late in the season and the soft growth does not have time to ‘harden up’ and lignify before the first hard frost. This can kill several inches of the soft tips of the new growth turning them brown and necrotic, but is not serious. We do advise that the dead growth is cut off back to healthy undamaged wood to prevent infection gaining entry to the plants through the dead tissue at a time of year when the weather is cold and damp.
Winter frost damage is often associated with very cold winds leading to the browning of the leaves on exposed parts of the plant. This may be at the edges or completely over the surface of the foliage. These damaged leaves will be moulted in the Spring and fresh new foliage will appear.
Spring frost damage is more common, as with many garden plants this occurs when a late frost comes after the plants have started to grow in the spring. The new growths will often become blackened and will shrivel very quickly. Again, this is not serious as the Common Laurel hedging plants will make new secondary growths within a few weeks as the weather is becoming warmer and the days getting longer anyway.
This is a fungal disease that may be caused by one of two types (Podosphaera tridactyla and Podosphaera pannosa), both appear as a white powdery coating on the leaf surface of the younger growth at first. As the fungus develops the underlying leaf tissue will turn brown and die and the young leaves will be left with irregular holes, brown patches and ‘tatty’ edges to them. The symptoms of this fungus make the plants look more like insects have eaten the new leaves than suffering from disease.
Powdery mildew usually develops due to weather conditions that encourage it, it can make the plants look rather unsightly, but it is not serious and when environmental conditions change the plants will grow out of it. The Common Laurel hedge plants can be trimmed to remove the damaged leaves, or you could give the plants a spray with a suitable Mildew fungicide approved for use on ornamental plants, but neither is really necessary.
Powdery mildew is often a disease seen on younger Laurel plants that are growing very strongly, or very old and overgrown plants that have been cut back very hard and are making strong new growth which is susceptible. As time passes and the growth pattern settles down, so too will the disease.
Leaf spot and Shot hole diseases
These are two diseases with similar symptoms, while both can make the new growth of plants look unsightly, neither is serious and the plants will grow through the problem over time.
Fungal shot hole of Laurels
Infections of leaf spot fungi (Stigmina carpophila and Eupropolella britannica) result in brown spots on the leaves, over time the Common Laurel hedge plants will bring the infection under control causing the healthy and diseased parts of the leaf to separate resulting in the centres of these spots falling out. This leaves behind a series of irregular holes in the foliage referred to as ‘shot holes’ (because they look as if the damage is caused by shotgun pellets.) The fungal spores are spread and dispersed by rain
Bacterial shot hole disease of Laurels
Bacterial shot hole disease is caused by the bacterium Pseudomonas syringae and is spready by wind and rain causing the bacteria to enter the leaves through either damaged tissues or the natural leaf openings (stomata). The disease can be identified by light brown lesions that gradually become larger, unlike the fungal shot hole disease the lesions have a yellow halo around the edge. Again, as the plant gets the infection under control, the infected and healthy parts of the leaf separate, and the centre drops out to leave irregular holes.
Wet conditions will encourage the development and spread of both these shot hole diseases, conversely when drier conditions return the infection will be very likely to clear up without any further intervention. If either of these diseases is affecting part of your Laurel hedge it is a wise precaution to sterilise tools after trimming Common Laurel hedging plants and to avoid composting any diseased foliage as this could be a future source of infection.