There are a variety of shrubs called "laurel," but not all of them belong to the same family group. Cherry laurel, for instance, is in the same genus as stone fruits -- Prunus. The bushes grow differently from each other and have their specific requirements for water, light and soil pH. Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) is one plant that looks untidy if neglected to the point of becoming overgrown with old -- and sometimes diseased -- wood. Bring your mountain laurel back to health and beauty with a hard pruning and a dose of organic nutrients.
Dilute one part bleach in nine parts water inside a bucket. Sink the blades of a pair of pruning shears into the solution and carry the bucket to the laurel bush. Mountain laurel falls prey to fungal infections. Overgrown plants without much room for air to circulate are particularly vulnerable to the spread of spores. In case your laurel is infected, prevent transmission to healthy wood by dipping the shears in the bleach water after every cut to kill the spores.
Cut all stems back 2 to 4 feet from the ground in late winter or early spring. There should be no foliage growing on the shrub's trunk at the height you prune it.
Rake any leaves, twigs and other debris from under the laurel after you hard-prune it.
Spread a 2-inch layer of cottonseed meal or chicken manure around the base of the shrub. The organic matter releases nutrients slowly into the soil, promoting new growth over an extended period. The shrub recovers from severe pruning in two to three years.