Further Information about Common Laurel Hedge Plants (Cherry Laurel)

Every Laurel hedge variety has different properties, including growth speed – Cherry Laurel is on the quicker side, growing about 30-60cm a year. It’s therefore a great choice of hedging plant if you need height; it can provide shade and full coverage in no time. 

Cherry Laurels are versatile and can be planted in many conditions. They’re happy in full sun or partial shade, and as long as the soil isn’t too chalky, the soil conditions do not matter much either. Do ensure the soil is well-drained, though, as wet conditions can cause many fungal diseases to spread, and your hedge may struggle to thrive. Also, try not to plant your Common Laurel hedges on windy, exposed sites as they would find these challenging conditions. Learn more about Common Laurel hedge planting conditions here.

Alternatives to Common Laurel hedge plants

We grow and stock a complete range of Laurel plants here on our nursery including the Portuguese Laurel, Caucasica Laurel, Compact Laurel and the colourful Spotted Laurel.

If you are looking for something a little different then there are many other popular and reliable species that will make good alternatives including:

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

The best time to trim a Common Laurel hedge plant is 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 Common 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, any leaves damaged by hedge trimmers tend to be purely aesthetic, with some browning around the edges.  If you trim in the Spring the new growth covers the cut edges quickly. 

Don’t be afraid of being hard on your Cherry Laurel hedging; by trimming it back ‘tight’ each year you will avoid it becoming wider and wider as time goes, taking up more valuable garden space than is necessary and eventually needing drastic remedial action. Well-treated Common Laurel hedging will show good annual growth and the foliage will be a lustrous, rich deep green. 

Regenerating Old Common Laurel Hedging

We are sometimes asked about large and seemingly hopelessly overgrown Cherry Laurel hedges or trees – 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. 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 for early Spring and is followed with a convalescent feed and mulch. Even the most unpromising woody Common Laurel specimens can be coaxed back to a lustrous display of shiny green foliage within two or three seasons.

Restoration of an overgrown Common Laurel hedge

In order not to cause too much stress to your established laurel hedge, try breaking it down into smaller stages. Start by reducing the height of the Common Laurel hedge plants, then start tackling the sides the following year, spreading the work out over a couple of seasons if you prefer. Doing this piece should allow you to be thorough about removing any dead or diseased wood and ensuring some internal branches are removed to allow good air circulation and keep it drier in damp conditions.

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. Rejuvenating old Cherry Laurel hedges can be a very rewarding pastime that may be addressed in one great purge, or ideally spread over several seasons. 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 question we are frequently asked is what kind of fertiliser is best for Common Laurel plants. Our general rule of thumb is to give 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, but the answer also depends on what stage of growth the Common Laurel is at. 

 Before Planting Common Laurel Hedging Plants

When you first plant 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.

Rootgrow is an excellent aid to establishing a Laurel hedge

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 Cherry Laurel hedge, or any other evergreen, if applied at the same time as a mulch (a layer of moisture retaining material like well-seasoned bark chippings, lawn mowings or garden compost).

 When the Common Laurel Hedging is Mature

Older Common Laurel hedge plants can sometimes run out of steam a little, 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.

Common Diseases for Cherry Laurel Hedges

Cherry Laurels are a popular choice among gardeners because they’re relatively trouble-free, a strong and robust hedging species resistant to lots of pests and diseases, especially once fully established. Here are a couple of diseases to look out for, but note that none of the problems below are serious and the hedge can naturally recover from most them without particularly harsh intervention.

Leaf drop

Freshly planted Common Laurel hedge plants can ‘moult’ some of their many leaves after planting. 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.

Frost damage

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 from 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 becomes warmer and the days get longer.

Powdery Mildew

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.

Leaf damage to Cherry Laurel caused by Powdery mildew

Powdery mildew is often a disease seen on younger Cherry 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 spread 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.

Bacterial Shot hole disease of Cherry Laurel caused by Pseudomonas

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 Common Laurel hedge it is a wise precaution to sterilise tools after trimming and to avoid composting any diseased foliage that could be a future source of infection.