The broadleaved evergreen foliage of laurels provides year-round interest to the landscape. The large leaves remain glossy green throughout the year, making them an ideal choice for use as a hedge or privacy screen. Laurels grow quickly and tolerate heavy pruning. They work well as both formal and informal hedges.
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Most varieties of laurels work well as hedges. English laurels provide evergreen foliage but their small, white spring-blooming flowers aren't very visible. The bush reaches up to 20 feet tall but you can trim it to keep it shorter for use as a hedge. The mountain laurel provides highly ornamental flowers but is better suited as an informal hedge than a formal clipped hedge. The Carolina cherry laurel grows up to 40 feet tall and has multiple trunks that make the plant well suited to privacy hedge training.
Laurels grow well in both full sun and partial shade. Choose sites that provide some morning sunlight, especially if you want the shrubs to flower. Laurels don't tolerate soggy soil. Well-drained sites prevent the roots from becoming waterlogged. Most laurels, with the exception of the mountain laurel, need soil with moderate organic matter content, supplied naturally or from compost amendments prior to planting. Mountain laurels grow well in rocky or sandy soils with poor organic content.
Water and Fertilization
Hedges require moderate watering to remain healthy. Water the laurel hedges every 10 to 14 days and provide enough moisture to keep the top 8 to 10 inches of soil moist. Avoid overhead watering that wets the foliage of the laurel. Wet leaves are prone to fungal diseases so try and keep the foliage dry during irrigation. Laurels rarely require fertilisation. Those planted in lawn areas acquire enough nutrients from the lawn fertilisation. Those grown in individual beds benefit from light spring fertilisation or a top-dressing of compost in the spring.
Prune laurel hedges in early spring before the plants begin to put on active new growth. Laurels tolerate severe pruning to maintain the shape and size of the hedge. Use hedge shears to form the straight sides and tops of a formal hedge. Begin pruning the laurels immediately after planting to train them into a formal hedge. Mountain laurels are sometimes used as an informal hedge, so they only require light pruning to maintain their natural shape and the desired size. You can cut back an overgrown laurel to 2 feet tall in spring and begin training the shrub again, if necessary. Light pruning throughout summer keeps the hedge in shape.
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