How to Plant Laurels

Updated February 21, 2017

Evergreen plants of three different species carry the common name of "laurel." Prunus laurocerasus, known as English or cherry laurel, is a 20-foot-tall shrub. Laurus nobilis, simply called laurel or sweet bay, is a short tree with grey bark and black berries. Cooks use its leaves as a spice for bean and meat dishes. Kalmia latifolia -- mountain laurel -- is a flowering, acid-loving shrub that has the same growing requirements as azaleas. Laurels have basic planting techniques in common but there are a few specifics to know.

Break the ground to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Select a site that receives full sun or partial shade. Spread a 2-inch layer of manure on the surface. Incorporate it into the soil with a shovel to improve water drainage and add nutrients to the soil. Rake the area to make a smooth bed.

Dig a hole twice as wide as the shrub's root ball. Keep it at the same depth the plant has been growing. Space holes 4 feet apart for multiple English laurels forming a hedge.

Plant the English laurel in the centre of the hole and backfill with topsoil. Tap the surface around the plant's base to firm it. Irrigate it to the root zone.

Break the ground in a site that is in full sun or only slightly shaded. Blend 2 inches of manure with the topsoil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches to increase fertility and improve drainage. Rake the surface to smooth it out.

Dig a hole in early summer that is twice as wide as the sweet bay's root ball. Make the hole as deep as the nursery planter.

Plant the sweet bay tree in the centre of the hole. Refill it with the topsoil you dug. Walk around the sapling to firm the surface and remove air pockets. Irrigate the sweet bay to the root zone.

Scout around the yard for a site that provides morning sun and afternoon shade. Pine tree canopies, for example, create an ideal spot for growing mountain laurel, as they filter the sunlight without creating total darkness.

Break the ground and incorporate composted pine bark into the soil. Use the amendment at the rate of 20 per cent pine bark, 80 per cent topsoil. Mountain laurel thrives in acidic environments with a pH that ranges from 5.0 to 5.5. Pine bark helps to maintain the ground's acidity while improving drainage and adding nutrients. Rake the surface to smooth it.

Dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball and slightly shallower than the nursery container. At planting, position the shrub's root crown just above the soil line.

Mix the topsoil you dug to make the hole with a complete organic fertiliser, such as a 10-10-10 analysis. Apply it at the rate of a half cup per 3-gallon nursery plant.

Plant the mountain laurel in the centre of the hole and backfill with the improved topsoil. Tap the surface around the base to firm it. Irrigate the shrub to the root zone.

Build a 3- to 4-inch-deep mulch ring with pine needles around the base of the mountain laurel. Start the pile 2 inches from the trunks and extend it to the plant's drip line, the reach of its outermost branch.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Manure
  • Rake
  • Composted pine bark
  • Complete organic fertiliser
  • Pine needles
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About the Author

Emma Watkins writes on finance, fitness and gardening. Her articles and essays have appeared in "Writer's Digest," "The Writer," "From House to Home," "Big Apple Parent" and other online and print venues. Watkins holds a Master of Arts in psychology.