Cherry Laurel – A Useful, Attractive, Reliable Broadleaf

Design, Plantings · Written by Roger


cherry laurel 'otto luyken'Cherry Laurel is one of those functional plants that does what it’s supposed to and looks good while it’s doing it.

How often we look at a situation and think, “I just need a mounded-form plant that’s nice and full; that I can rely on.”  (It sounds like what a plant would request with a dating service.)

Cherry Laurel ‘Otto Luyken’ is the variety I’m referring to.  Its characteristics consistently satisfy the needs and wants in my designs.

Qualities and characteristics.

Hardy in zones 6 to 8, this Cherry Laurel has a compact spreading habit with lush, glossy, dark green leaves.  It usually grows to around 3 – 4′ high and 6 – 8′ wide.  This is such a useful shape and size in planting design.

cherry laurel 'otto luyken'The white flowers show in April and May for a couple of weeks depending on weather and geographic location.

Although there is a small, purple – black fruit after flowering, it’s hard to find within the thick foliage.

As far as exposure goes, I’ve used Cherry Laurel in sun and it has stood up well.  Given the choice the plant will generally prefer partial shade to shade.

Most broadleaf evergreens like rich, organic soil that’s  moist, but well-drained.  Like I’ve said many times before (I can’t help it – this is so important), moist does not mean wet, and well-drained means…well-drained!

Cherry Laurel does not like wet, heavy soil.  So check out the soil condition.  Amend it if you have to.  Be conscious of planting in low areas where water might collect.  Planting height is always a concern so make sure the top of the ball is slightly above existing grade.  Plant higher if in doubt, and leave room for mulch.

Oh, here’s 2 other qualities worth noting.  Cherry Laurel has been found to be deer resistant.  Now this may vary depending on where you are because we all know this “deer resistance” thing is not an exact science.  In my area the deer won’t bother it.

Cherry Laurel will also tolerate salt spray for you shore area designer / gardeners.

cherry laurel 'otto luyken'Use and design.

This picture shows Cherry Laurel used “en masse” as an understory to an old stand of Canadian Hemlock.  Notice the filtered light they’re getting.  We used 5′ spacing allowing them to eventually touch.

In the first picture at the top it’s another setting with filtered light.  You can see again how well they “mass”…this time it’s a group of 3.  The pachysandra groundcover fills in space without competing with the laurel.  This strategy works well when the planting is young and you might have alot of open space to deal with.

Foundation plantings, borders, you name it.  On a slope it can work well too because the spreading habit conveys a horizontal to downward feeling which diminishes the slope.

If you haven’t tried Cherry Laurel ‘Otto Luyken’ give it a go.  Just make sure the conditions meet its cultural requirements.  For those who have used the plant, please let us know how in the comments.  And if it’s been in the ground for awhile, “How’s it growing?”

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    53 Responses to “Cherry Laurel – A Useful, Attractive, Reliable Broadleaf”

    1. Roger Says:

      The Otto Luyken will want to get much wider than the space you have.

      That’s a challenging spot when you consider the space and exposure. And although pruning can help “persuade” a plant, you still want to be realistic with what size & shape the plant naturally aspires to achieve.

      How about an Upright Plum Yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Fastigiata’)? And don’t confuse this genus (Cephalotaxus) with the Yew genus Taxus. Rather than describe all the plant’s characteristics, just Google it.

    2. Roger Says:

      If you think about a substitute that’s similar in form, size and cultural requirements, I would suggest you check out Korean Azalea (Rhododendron yedoense ‘poukhanense’). I often refer to it as Poukenense Azalea when I purchase it for my projects.

      It’s an extremely hardy plant that grows in a beautiful mounded form. In our northern area (NJ) it’s semi-deciduous, so it will lose some of its leaves during the winter. And then in the spring it flowers a pinkish lavender, and pushes new foliage. In your area it will probably keep all its leaves.

      As with the cherry laurel, make sure your soil is well-drained. This plant does not like heavy, wet ground either.

    3. Roger Says:

      I’m seeing a lot of what you’re describing with your laurel. This winter was brutal on plants.

      It sounds as if most of the damage on your plants is to the leaves, and the stems & branches seem to have life in them. In cases like this I always give the plant the benefit of the doubt and wait to see what happens during the spring.
      Before long you’ll see quite clearly what’s living and what needs to be pruned back.

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