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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    97 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.

    4. Ruth Says:

      The deer ate every leaf off of my cherry laurels this winter!

    5. Kathie Says:

      I live in Central PA. I’m looking for plantings to put under a maple (therefore shady and lots of surface roots). Grass won’t grow in this area. Our landscaper suggests Laurel Cherry Otto Luyken and variegated lirilope. Do these seem like good suggestions? If not, what would you recommend?

    6. Roger Says:

      More testimony that there simply is no exact science to deer resistant plants. What’s deer resistant in one area is grazed in another. In my area I’ll have one plant untouched at one home, and grazed at another less than one mile away.

    7. Roger Says:

      This is one of those challenging landscape situations where there isn’t an absolute solution other than simply mulching throughout the area.

      The fact is that maples (as you probably know) have extensive surface roots that compete for water & nutrients – and usually win. :-)

      I would not attempt regrowing grass, nor try a woody plant like cherry laurel. Depending on circumstances, your best bet would be a tough groundcover of some kind. Liriope spicata, packysandra, english ivy, etc. can work. Depending on your time frame, you could experiment by trying several of them in that area for a season, and see how each does.

      Adding soil can help with planting and establishing a groundcover. But in no-time the maple’s roots will grow into that new layer of soil. The trick is to get one of these tenacious groundcovers established and hope it will compete successfully with the maple. A sprinkler system that operates regularly over the area will certainly help.

    8. Ruby Says:

      Hi, My acuba bushes died from winter freeze. I chose them for the shady area under
      eaves of house ( not too much sun). The soil is dense, prob doesn’t drain well. I’m wondering if I should replace with Cherry Laurel or Acuba.

      R S

    9. Steve Says:

      I just had some luyken laurels planted in front of my house in Georgia, and I have been watering them every night per instructions from the landscaper. However, some of the leaves are turning yellow. Am I watering too much?

    10. Lilian Ko Says:

      Pls help.
      My English Laurels are getting tiny holes on their leaves.
      some of them are brown.
      yet it’s blooming w/ lots of white flowers.
      I also noticed new leaves coming out.

      Are they ok or dying? What should be done?
      I planted them last summer.

      Thank you in advance.

    11. Roger Says:

      Cherry Laurel will probably get wider than the Aucuba. And cherry laurel does not like dense, heavy soil. I think I’d give Aucuba a go again. Many plants suffered from winter damage this year, including the laurels.

    12. Roger Says:

      You could very well be over-watering – and laurels do not like wet ground.

      When I give watering instructions to a homeowner I always explain that these are “rough” guidelines. The best indicator is the soil itself.

      You can pull the mulch back from around the plant and dig down a little bit (3-4″) with a small trowel to see how moist the soil is. Alternatively you can take a metal rod or long screwdriver and push it into the ground (6-8″) near the root ball. When you remove it, look to see if the rod is wet or muddy – if it is, stop watering for a while.

    13. carolyn Says:

      Does cherry laurel lose its leaves during winter?

    14. Sandy Says:

      Follow-up: Just wanted to say “Thank you” for the advice. I thought my Otto Luyken’s had been trashed by the winter. But a little patience, some water here and there and added some Holly-Tone and they are all recovered!!

    15. Lee Says:

      I have 5 cherry laurels (Otto Luyken) along the foundation of the front of my house. They are very healthy and are around 3-4 ft. tall and wide. During the summer, I have put colorful annuals in front of them, but I would like to plant another shrub or perennial (likely in the fall) in front of the of the cherry laurels for year-round aesthetics. Can you recommend something that will go well? Perhaps something with a different shade of green or foliage that is another color? If it helps, the cherry laurels border the house to the right of my front door, but I also have a garden in front of my porch to the left of the door, which has a nandina domestica, 3 harbor belle nandinas, 3 hollies (don’t remember the variety, but they are relatively small and mounded), and 5 liriope.

    16. Roger Says:

      No, cherry laurel does not lose its leaves in the winter. It’s an evergreen.

    17. Roger Says:

      It sounds like your laurels have “shot-hole”.

      Here’s a short article and pictures to help explain the condition.

    18. John Says:

      I’m completely landscaping the front and side of my house. My landscaper suggested three cherry laurel’s on one side that cover an are of about 20′. Is this too many cherry laurel’s for this location? Is there another option to consider. I’m in N. West Virginia near the Ohio River.

    19. Caydee Says:

      My cherry laurels are full of peach scale. I have tried chemicals, oils and water. Some of the branches have died back. I live in North Carolina. Since there is no good control measure, I am thinking about replacing them. Any suggestion on controlling scales or a good replacement plant?

    20. marvin may Says:

      Roger, Which cultivars (ie, varieties) of cherry laurel grow between 7 to 10 feet high, provide good sight block, and are deer resistant?

    21. Roger Says:

      I would suggest checking out the many varieties of Heuchera – typically considered a perennial. If you enter Heuchera into Google and click on “Images” up top, you’ll see pics showing all the different foliage colors. They do have a period of flowering, but I use them mostly for their beautiful foliage.

    22. Roger Says:

      3 laurels to cover 20′ sounds about right. Each should get 6-8′ wide. Does a mature height of 3-4′ work well in that spot?

      Make sure they’re spaced far enough from the building/home for their mature width.

      It’s hard to make plant suggestions w/o knowing more about the space & situation. Seeing it is best. :-)

    23. Roger Says:

      In my experience scale problems are insidious. Trying to control or eradicate scale can be a never-ending task.

      Often, a plant has scale because it’s in a weakened/stressed condition. And this weakened state can be from being sited incorrectly (i.e. “wrong plant for the spot”), over or under-watering, poor drainage, heavy soil, etc.

      Without seeing the plant and site conditions it’s difficult to give absolute advice. If you replace the laurel, and that’s probably the thing to do, make sure you choose a plant that’s ideally suited to the site conditions.

      If your soil is heavy and does not drain well, stay away from broadleaf evergreens.

    24. Roger Says:

      That would be Prunus laurocerasus ‘Schipkaensis’, or Skip Laurel (as it is sometimes, commonly called).

    25. Debbie Says:

      HELP. So if cherry laurels do not lose their leaves in winter, if mine are all brown, then I should consider them dead? I see a very small amount of green and flowers on a few of them now, but they certainly are not what they looked like last fall when my professional planted them.

    26. Roger Says:

      This past winter was brutal on the laurel and other broadleafed plants. We’re replacing many. Some were even sprayed in the fall with an anti-dessicant for winter protection.

      You could give those that are showing some life more time – just to see if they recover enough for you to keep them. Of course you’ll end up pruning out deadwood that did not recover.

    27. Marvin Says:

      Hi roger,
      I am in bucks co. Pa.. I planted 13 cherrry laurel skipjenis (sp?) in early november 2014. They got decimated over the winter. It looks like 8 dead and 5 weak. They were professionally planted and watered. Supposedly they are fine in my Zone 7, but that does not seem true. Any thoughts?

    28. Roger Says:

      It was a terrible winter for all plants, particularly broadleaf evergreens. The laurels in my area (northern NJ — Zone 6) were also decimated.

      I lost 17 cherry laurel on a job that were planted in late Nov., 2014. The landscape contractor and I agreed that from now on we will not plant laurel (and a few other particular broadleaf evergreens) in the fall. Spring would be the better time because the plant then has the better part of the season to establish some roots, which would help to some degree.

      This winter was just an unfortunate “perfect storm” scenario for many plants.

    29. Jeff Says:

      I just planted a cherry laurel “otto luyken” next to my house. After planting it it dawned on me that it likes well drained soil. This part of my house gets drenched in the spring. It’s the only place in my yard I can find for it. So I dug it up and amended the soil with about 2/3 pea gravel. And replanted it. When I dug it up it was sitting in mud soup. I mean it was extremely wet. Is there any hope for this plant in this location the way I amended the soil or will it be a goner?

    30. Roger Says:

      It’s good you’re aware of the wet soil condition. And you’re absolutely right the laurel will not survive in that.

      Even with your 2/3 pea gravel solution, I hate to encourage planting laurel in that wet an area.

    31. Loveleena Says:


      I am in need of your advice. I have weeping cherry in front yard and I am looking for perennial around/underneath the weeping cherry. I live in NJ.
      I have Hypericum around dogwood (6 ft tall) and Coral Bells around Japanese Maple(4 ft tall).
      Please advice.

    32. Roger Says:

      As you might expect, there would be many suggestions for a perennial underneath a weeping cherry, such as: Chinese Astilbe, Lady’s Mantle, Ajuga, Liriope, Hakonechloa.

      I would suggest visiting a local garden center with a good perennial selection. When you see a perennial that’s interesting, read the tag to determine its characteristics to see they match your situation.

      On my designs I’ll often just specify “perennial” in a given location. When the time comes to select varieties I’ll visit nurseries with the homeowner and let them point out plants they like. I’ll then consider their choices from a horticultural standpoint and help with their final selections.

    33. Denise Says:

      I planted 4 of these 3 years ago and only 2 have survived but they have not grown at all since I planted them. They have morning sun and filtered light in the evening. The sit on a hill where it does not hold water. I want to move them because the are not growing. Any advice on where is the best place (sun or shade) and how to make them grow. They are still on 3″ tall.

    34. Roger Says:

      It’s difficult to say why 2 have died and the others are not growing w/o being on the site and seeing all the site conditions and circumstances.

      The current exposure of morning sun and afternoon filtered light sounds ideal. If you do move them, perhaps look for more filtered light and/or shade. Also, being perched on a hill could be a factor. Yes, lack of moisture might be a consideration, but they also do not want constant wet soil either. Soil should be rich in organics and well-drained — pH is certainly a factor too. Many plant types, but especially broadleaf evergreens are very particular when it comes to soil type. In fact, if I can’t figure out why a plant is languishing from just observing site conditions, I’ll take a soil sample and send it out for analysis.

      I know what you’re thinking. “I thought gardening was suppose to be fun!” :-)

    35. Tom Kieffer Says:

      I was thinking that a grouping of three Otto Luyken Cherry Laurel would be ideal for a shady foundation corner planting here near Baltimore, MD, but I recently read that every part of the plant is deadly poisonous, so much so that water dripping from the foliage poisons the soil beneath. I’ve been specifying this variety for over 30 yrs. and never ran into this claim. Can you offer any help? Please see:

      Thank you.

    36. Roger Says:

      Thanks for your comment/question and article link.

      I also have been using Otto Luyken for years and been aware of their toxicity — but only in terms of someone ingesting it.

      I can’t say that I’ve ever seen evidence of the soil being affected by water dripping off the foliage. I’ll be checking with friends & colleagues to see if others have.

    37. Jack Says:

      I want to plant Carolina Cherry Laurels as a 20′ to 25′ high dense screen as well as for sound proofing to block out a commercial building next door. The length of the hedge will be approximately 140 feet. What spacing do you recommend for this height of a hedge and the objectives I want to achieve? The property is in Northern California.

      Thank you.

    38. Roger Says:

      I don’t have experience with this particular plant, but in researching it I see the plant will mature in the neighborhood of 15 to 25′ wide.

      If you spaced the plants (measuring center of plant to center of plant) anywhere from 8 to 10′ apart I think that would be good. At that they will certainly grow into one another to make an effective hedge, but without damaging one another for being too close.

    39. John Williamson Says:

      I have a spot around my pool that I need a containerized “privacy” plant/tree which I would put in a jumbo (30″ X30″) pot. It will be in the central Texas sun most of the day. Someone recommended a cherry laurel, which on the surface would look good. However, you said they prefer filtered light so I’m not so sure this would work. I would like an evergreen to minimize pool contamination. Any other ideas come to mind?

    40. Roger Says:

      Whenever we choose a plant for a container/planter that will be for year round interest, we go with something really hardy. I’m here in the northeast (zone 6), and central Texas, I believe, is zone 7. So you’re getting similar fluctuations in temperatures throughout the seasons.

      Broadleaf evergreens, like laurel, will not be as hardy in planters as conifers. Plants like upright junipers, cypress, pines, and other conifers would be the better choice(s).

      Iseli Nursery has a great list of conifers. Click on the different categories (of conifers), and then on the individual ones to learn more about them. Realize, of course, that you’ll be limited by what’s locally available. But at least you’ll get some direction from this list.

    41. Alinda Says:

      I planted 3 Cherry Laurels about a year ago in a shaded area – well-drained – zone 6 (Western NY). They’re doing fine. I’m looking for something to add as a ground cover that will provide some color contrast. There is some sweet william slowly making itself around the bed, and there is also a mature Kousa Dogwood in the bed.

    42. Roger Says:

      It’s difficult to recommend plant possibilities without seeing the setting and all the site conditions.

      As you describe the setting the idea of a ground cover sounds ideal. It will unify the planting and, depending on what you choose, give you that contrast.

      It may be difficult to get the color contrast through flowering because most plants will not give consistent flowering. But a foliage color contrast is certainly a way you could go. I right away think of the yellow foliage plants, but there are others too. And foliage texture is something to consider as well, e.g. narrow leaves, broad leaves, etc.

      I’d visit your local garden centers to see what’s available. And if you describe the setting and site conditions to an experienced salesperson, they should be able to guide you with some options.

    43. Kurt Says:

      I am very fond of the Skip Laural as a replacement for some old knarly privot hedge we are taking out. I just cant seem to shake the idea that I’ll regret it given I am in zone 6, extreme North NJ.Am looking at a 30″ privacy hedge. Please convince me its ok to use! Also worried about the growing deer population aroun here…..

    44. Roger Says:

      I live and work here in northern NJ. Cherry Laurel is a beautiful plant, and it is deer resistant. But you have to take care where you use it. Well-drained soil is a must — as with all broadleaf evergreens. But equally important is exposure. I will only use Cherry Laurel in a north or northeast exposure — so either a building, structure or adjacent large evergreens need to be providing that protection. Sun, especially winter-sun, will damage the plant.

      If you’re using it as a screening hedge on a border, my guess is they’ll be too exposed.

      If you decide to use Cherry Laurel I’d wait until spring to plant so it has the season to establish before winter.

    45. Christie Says:

      I have full sun, s-w exposure, with lots of wind in the winter.
      Will Otto Luyken hold up, or is there a better choice with similar look?

    46. Kurt Says:

      Thanx for the quick reply. You also addressed another on-going issue and that was plant now or Spring, I’ll likely wait till Spring as you advise and try to control my impulsivness…..The row of laurel would be an extension of my house along the front yard and gets morning sun from the East, some midday sun then afternoon sun from the West as the row kind of aligns Northeast off the corner of my house.Get all that lol.Guess I get a reprieve over the Winter to think it out more. Wish the plant was a little more hardy but oh well. If you do such stuff I’d send you a rough plot plan for your opinion. Anyway thanx for the input.

    47. Roger Says:

      In my area of the northeast that exposure would be difficult for Otto Luyken. Can you use a deciduous plant? If so, look for a compact variety of viburnum. Another good choice that I consistently use would be one of the Spirea japonica varieties — and they grow in a somewhat similar mounded form like OT. Also, they’re deer resistant if that happens to be a concern for you.

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