Native to the Mediterranean, laurels are a group of broadleaved evergreen shrubs and trees that grow between 10 and 40 feet tall. They include Carolina cherry laurel, English laurel, sweet bay, Portugal laurel and mountain laurel. Used as borders, hedges, specimen plantings, screens and foundation plantings, the ornamental plants liven up the landscape with natural colour and attractive forms. The plants are generally sturdy and require basic care and maintenance so they reward you with attractive foliage.
Locate a well-draining site in your yard or garden with five to six hours of sunlight exposure. Loosen the soil to a depth of 8 inches and add 2 inches of compost, peat moss or another organic soil amendment. Till the soil so the amendments mix well and level the surface. Discard debris, stones or weeds that surface during the tilling process.
Dig a hole as deep as the root ball of the existing laurel plant, but two times as wide. Tamp the base and sides of the hole to firm the soil.
Lower the laurel plant into the hole so it rests on its root ball. Spread its roots in different directions to encourage them to spread and grow. Adjust the size of the planting hole, if necessary, so the plant falls at the same level as its nursery container. Backfill the hole until level with the surrounding soil and tamp to remove trapped air bubbles.
Irrigate the soil using a soaker hose until evenly moist. Avoid over-watering the soil or causing pools of water at the base of the plant. Once established, water the laurel when the top 1 to 1 1/2 inches of soil feel dry. Insert your finger into the soil to determine soil moisture, and irrigate if necessary.
Spread 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch around the base of the laurel to retain soil moisture and keep the roots cool. Depending on personal preference, use organic mulch such as pine bark, wood chips or pine needles. Space the mulch away from the trunk of the plant to prevent rot.
Inspect the laurel for pests such as aphids, cutworms, scale insects, whiteflies and shothole borers. Direct a gush of water from the hose to dislodge the pests or use an insecticide. Prune infested areas if pest infestation is large. Adopt proper cultural practices to prevent future outbreaks.
Prune parts of the laurel shrub infected with leaf spot or shothole disease. Symptoms of both diseases include spotted discolouration on foliage and a decline in overall health. Treat infected parts with a fungicide to prevent spread.
Grow a laurel shrub in a large container filled with equal parts potting soil and organic compost. Use a pot with adequate drainage holes. Place the pot in a sunny indoor or outdoor spot.