Laurels grow in a wide variety of forms, textures, heights and widths. These evergreens can be shaped and pruned into dense hedges with foliage that lasts year-round. From low-growing shrubs to tall trees, each type of laurel has its own maximum spread, or width that a plant reaches at maturity. When planting laurels in your landscape, determine the amount of spacing each specimen needs based upon the specie's maximum spread.
The English laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) grows up to 20 feet tall and spreads from 6 to 10 feet wide. English laurels have shiny, dark green leaves and produce aromatic white flowers in spring followed by purple-black berries. They grow in a variety of cultivars, including the "Otto Luken" cherry laurel (P. laurocerasus "Otto Luke"), which grows to 4 feet tall with a 4- to 8-foot-wide spread. It has dark green foliage and produces white blossoms on ascending panicles. The "Zabel" cherry laurel (P. laurocerasus "Zabeliana") also grows to 4 feet tall and spreads up to 8 feet wide. It has narrow, shiny foliage and produces black berries. All are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 to 8 and prefer moist, enriched, well-drained soil and sun to partial shade.
Some laurels belong to the Kalmia genus. These include the mountain laurel (K. latifolia), which grows to 15 feet tall with a 3- to 5-foot-wide spread. It is hardy in USDA zones 7 to 9 and thrives in moist, acidic soil and sun to partial shade. This evergreen tolerates dry sites and drought. It blooms with clusters of white, pink and rose flowers in spring and has red-brown bark. The sheep laurel (K. angustifolia var. caroliniana) grows to 3 feet tall with an equally wide spread. This slow-growing evergreen has blue-green, whorled foliage and blooms with clusters of pink and purple blossoms in early summer. It grows well in sun to partial shade and acidic, well-drained, moist soil. Sheep laurel shrubs are hardy in zones 5 to 8.
Cherry laurels belong to the Prunus genus. They include the Portugal laurel (P. lusitonica), which grows up to 20 feet tall with a 10- to 12-foot-wide spread. This evergreen has lustrous dark foliage and produces long racemes of fragrant white flowers in summer, followed by purple berries. It is hardy in USDA zones 7 to 9 and prefers sun to partial shade and moist, well-drained soil. The Carolina cherry laurel (P. caroliniana) grows from 20 to 40 feet tall and spreads from 15 to 20 feet wide. It has glossy evergreen foliage and blooms with aromatic white blossoms in late winter. Carolina cherry laurel grows well in sun to partial shade and moist, well-drained soil and is hardy in zones 7 to 10.
The Alexandrian or poet's laurel (Danae racemosa) grows slowly to 3 feet tall with an equal spread. This broadleaved evergreen has shiny, tapered foliage and produces bright orange-red berries in autumn. Alexandrian laurel is hardy in USDA zones 7b to 10 and grows best in partial to full shade and fertile, well-drained, moist soil. The bay or sweet laurel (Lauris noblis) grows to 12 feet tall and spreads to 10 feet wide. It has leathery, fragrant evergreen foliage and produces glossy black fruits. Bay laurels grow well in sun to partial shade and moist soil. They are hardy in zones 8 to 10.
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