Portugal Laurel Prunus Lusitanica
The Portuguese cherry laurel (Prunus lusitanica), also known as Portuguese laurel cherry and Portuguese bay laurel, belongs to the Rosaceae family. As the name of the evergreen shrub suggests, it is native to Portugal, Spain, Madeira, the Azores and the Canary Islands. There the Portuguese cherry laurel occurs sporadically in laurel forests, whereby the wild form is almost extinct. Despite its Mediterranean origin and original environment, the Portuguese cherry laurel is sufficiently hardy and easy-care even in our regions.
In its homeland, the Portuguese cherry laurel can become a tree up to 20 meters high. In this country, it reaches growth heights of more than three meters at most in the winegrowing climate. The evergreen shrub grows upright and broadly bushy with an irregular, very broad, picturesque crown as it ages. The smooth bark of the branches and twigs is grey, the still unwoody young shoots are dark red in colour. The Portuguese cherry laurel grows in this country about 15 to 30 centimeters per year.
The foliage of the Portuguese laurel cherry reminds strongly of that of the real laurel. The shiny dark green, leathery upper leaves are alternate and elongated ovoid. They grow to be six to twelve centimeters long. Its edge is wavy and serrated, the petioles are usually dark red in colour.
The white flowers appear in June, standing upright in loose, 12 to 15 centimeter long racemes. They spread a light, pleasant honey scent and are heavily flown by bees and other insects.
The slightly poisonous, highly oval drupes are about eight millimetres long. They turn black-red when ripe and like to be eaten by birds.
Location and soil
The Portuguese laurel cherry thrives in sunny to semi-shade locations on moderately dry to fresh and well-drained soils, which can be slightly acidic to alkaline. The shrub is similarly adaptable to the real cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) and grows on dry substrates. Although the Portuguese cherry laurel is considered hardy, it needs a location that is protected from the winter sun and cold, dry easterly winds.
Planting and care
Since the Portuguese cherry laurel should be well rooted until winter, it is best to plant it in spring after the severe winter frosts have subsided. Depending on its size, two to three plants per running metre are planted in the soil for a hedge. After planting, water thoroughly and apply a mulch layer to the root area. Otherwise, the shrub is extremely easy to maintain and only needs irrigation during long periods of drought. Depending on requirements, mulch or lawn cuttings can continue to be applied around the wood. Outside the wine-growing climate, the crowns of outdoor plants should be covered with fleece hoods in winter, as the leaves and shoots can freeze back strongly during prolonged frost and intense sunlight.
If the Portuguese cherry laurel is cultivated as a shaped pruning or hedge plant, it needs a shaped pruning every year immediately after flowering. Since the leaves are smaller than those of the well-known cherry laurel, there is no noticeable damage to the leaves even when cut with electric hedge trimmers. Young plants should be pruned back vigorously from the beginning so that they branch out well. Once old plants have lost their shape, they can also be taken back far into the old wood – they will sprout again reliably.
Use in the garden
The Portuguese laurel cherry is often cultivated as a shaped pruning wood or as an easy-care hedge. With its evergreen and compact growth, it develops into an attractive privacy screen. It fits perfectly into Mediterranean gardens, as it looks very similar to the real laurel from afar. A decorative interplay in mixed hedges is created by the shrub with the red sprouting ‘Red Robin’. The bushes can also be kept in large plant pots as a hardy substitute for laurel.
Angustifolia’ has long, lanceolate leaves five to eight centimeters long and grows somewhat slower than the species. Myrtifolia’ has a compact growth with egg-shaped leaves three to six centimeters long. Variegata’ has small leaves with creamy yellow edges. It must be particularly well protected against frost damage in winter.
The multiplication of the Portuguese cherry laurel usually takes place via cuttings. For this purpose, half-wooden shoots about 15 centimeters long are placed in trays with growing soil, moistened well and covered with a transparent hood. The cuttings form roots quite reliably in a warm, bright location, but this process can take up to three months. You can shorten the leaves by half so that the cuttings do not take up too much space in the growing tray.
Diseases and pests
An infestation with pests or diseases is rather rare with the Portuguese cherry laurel. Commercially available fungicides help against fungal diseases such as shotgun disease. You can use environmentally friendly agents based on soft soap or rapeseed oil against aphids, wooly lice or scale insects.
Whether potted plants such as oleanders or indoor plants such as orchids: The scale insect infests the most diverse plants. René Wadas, a herbalist, will give you his tips on pest prevention and control: Production: Folkert Siemens; Camera: Fabian Primsch; Editing: Dennis Fuhro; Photo: Flora Press/Thomas Lohrer
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I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide. I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.