Although the name cherry laurel tree has established itself as the name for Prunus laurocerasus, it is misleading. It is not a laurel species, but an evergreen relative of cherries and plums. Therefore the name laurel cherry is more meaningful, although it is not so widespread – even in tree nursery catalogues there is mostly talk of the cherry laurel. the wild species originates from Asia Minor, its natural range reaches as far as the Balkans. North of the Alps, the shrub was not competitive in the wild due to its frost-prone evergreen leaves. In the meantime, however, the seedlings of garden plants have spread in places as so-called neophytes, because the garden varieties are usually harder to freeze than the wild species and the climate has become milder in recent decades.
While the wild cherry laurel can grow up to seven metres high at home locations, even the most vigorous garden varieties rarely grow to more than four metres without pruning.
The evergreen shrub or small tree has whole-edged, shiny green leaves which are darker on the upper side than on the underside. They become between 5 and 15 centimetres long and are oblong to inverted ovoid, pointed at the front. The edge is often slightly bent.
In spring, from May to June, cherry laurel bears creamy white, candle-like upright inflorescences.
Until August, the flowers of the cherry laurel produce grapes with small red stone fruits that are black when fully ripe. Their shape is conical to spherical, sometimes ovoid. They are toxic in their raw state.
In very cold regions with cutting easterly winds, you should plant your cherry laurel in semi-shade to shade and sheltered from the wind, otherwise the winter sun can cause leaf damage. Locations under trees are no problem – the highly competitive deep roots even grow in the dense root network of birch and Norway maple.
The cherry laurel makes hardly any demands on the soil: it prefers clay soils rich in humus and nutrients, but also thrives without problems on moderately dry, sandy soils. Here it is even slightly harder to frost, as the annual shoot lignifies earlier in autumn. There are also hardly any restrictions regarding the pH value – the soil can be moderately acidic to alkaline. The cherry laurel, on the other hand, does not tolerate compacted soils and accumulating wetness. Excessive leaf fall is a first warning signal for unfavourable soil conditions.
When planting cherry laurel, the soil should be deeply loose. Cherry laurel is usually sold as a container or bale plant. This means that you can basically plant the plants all year round. However, we recommend planting in spring or autumn. The planting hole may be generous so that the root ball has sufficient space. As a rule of thumb, the diameter should be twice as large as the root ball. Carefully insert the plant and fill the pit with a mixture of the excavated soil and some organic material. Then press or kick the soil firmly to avoid voids. Cherry laurel is poured on thoroughly. A layer of bark mulch on top keeps the moisture in the soil and provides the plant with nutrients right from the start.
Cherry laurel needs no special care. As with all shaped shrubs, cherry laurel hedges should be supplied with horn meal and compost or with a fertilizer supply every year at the end of March. Fertilizer with Patentkali is advisable at the end of August because the nutrient potassium makes the leaves more frost-resistant. Additional watering is only necessary in extremely dry summers.
Cherry laurel hedges are shaped once a year at the end of June – preferably with hand hedge shears, because electrical appliances do not cut the large leaves of the plants cleanly. With a pruning shear, stronger pruning is possible in spring, since cherry laurel can easily sprout again from branches as thick as arms.
Use of the
In mild winter regions, cherry laurel with its dense, evergreen foliage is virtually predestined as a hedge or border plant. For example, it fits very well into Mediterranean gardens, as it looks similar to laurel, which is often used in the Mediterranean. Cherry laurel is not only suitable as a hedge, but also as a shaped wood for the individual position, for example as a large ball and cuboid cut. Low-growing cherry laurel varieties such as ‘Otto Luyken’ or soil-covering varieties such as ‘Mount Vernon’ can also be used very well for underplanting problem trees with intolerant roots. The cherry laurel also cuts a fine figure as a component of mixed free-growing privacy borders – after all, the evergreen shrub does not necessarily have to be pruned. The seeds of the cherry laurel contain prunasin – a glycoside from which prussic acid forms in the stomach during the digestive process. The poisonous substances are destroyed by cooking, so the fruit can be used to make jam or jelly, for example. In Turkey, the fruits of the cherry laurel are even collected and eaten dry, similar to raisins.
The wild cherry laurel Prunus laurocerasus has been selected and crossed over time to produce a wide variety. The different cultivars differ clearly in height and habit and also their foliage is very variable – there are very large-leaved varieties like ‘Rotundifolia’, but also cultivars with small narrow leaves like ‘Otto Luyken’ or ‘Zabeliana’. Another big difference lies in the winter hardiness – the selection of varieties that can survive the hard frosts without significant damage to the leaves is still the most important breeding goal. Genolia’ has a columnar growth and grows up to four meters high. Compared to other varieties, it is considered to be particularly frost hardy. Novita’ becomes just as high, but reaches a growth width of up to two metres. The variety ‘Herbergii’, on the other hand, “only” reaches a height of 2.5 metres. Etna’ shows a particularly beautiful shoot colouring.
Cherry laurel can easily be propagated by cutting or sowing. The propagation by cuttings goes however substantially faster. Large quantities of cuttings are produced during the annual pruning of the plants in June/July. Use green shoot tips as head cuttings or basal cuttings from last year’s wood as so-called cracklings. If you want to extract cherry laurel from seeds, take the seeds from the ripe fruits in autumn and let them dry. The cold germs must swell for several weeks at about four degrees Celsius. They are then placed in a sowing container in a mixture of sand and garden soil at constant cool temperatures. A refrigerator or an unheated staircase are now the ideal environment. After germination, the plants can move to a cool but bright place. Once the seedlings have reached a size of several centimetres, they are placed in normal potting soil and later in their own small pots. In autumn you can put the cherry laurel in the garden.
Cherry laurel in the MEIN SCHÖNER GARTEN-Shop
Diseases and pests
Cherry laurel is only infested by a few plant diseases and pests. The so-called shotgun disease is relatively common: a fungus called Stigmina carpophila mainly causes circular yellow to brown spots on the young leaves. The affected tissue dries up and detaches itself from the leaf so that over time circular holes form in the leaves. The fungal disease can be combated well with commercially available fungicides such as Ortiva Universal fungus-free or Ectivo fungus-free. It is best to use two different preparations alternately and inject three to four times every week as soon as the first symptoms become visible. Although the perforated leaves are only repelled over time, as soon as the new shoots remain healthy, the disease is defeated. A widespread cherry laurel pest is the weevil. The larvae of the weevil live in the soil and feed on the roots, while the adult beetle causes a typical feeding trace on the leaves – a clear indication is that the leaf edges are eaten like waves or bays. It is difficult to control the adult snout weevil, but the larvae in the soil can easily be decimated with HM nematodes. Corresponding order cards are available from specialist dealers.