Cherry Laurel is one of those functional plants that does what it’s supposed to and looks good while 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.”ย  (It sounds like what a plant would request with a dating service. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

Cherry Laurel ‘Otto Luyken’ is the variety I’m referring to.ย  Its characteristics consistently meet the requirements 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.ย  This is such a useful shape and size in planting design.

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.ย  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.ย  Moist does not mean wet, and well-drained means…well-drained!

Cherry Laurel does not like wet, heavy soil.ย  So check out the soil condition.ย  Amend it if you have to.ย  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.ย  Plant higher if in doubt, and leave room for mulch.

Here’s 2 other qualities worth noting:

  1. Cherry Laurel has been found to be deer resistant.ย  Now this may vary depending on where you are because we all know this “deer resistance” thing is not an exact science.ย  In my area (northern NJ) the deer won’t bother it.
  2. Cherry Laurel will also tolerate salt spray for you shore area designer / gardeners.

Use and design.

This picture shows Cherry Laurel used “en masse” as an understory to an old stand of Canadian Hemlock.ย  Notice the filtered light they’re getting.

We used 5′ spacing allowing them to eventually touch.

In the first picture (at the very top) it’s another setting (and property) with filtered light.

You can see again how well they “mass”… in this case as a group of 3.

The pachysandra groundcover fills in space without competing with the laurel.ย  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.ย  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.ย  Just make sure the conditions meet its cultural requirements.

  • Seth B.
    8:38 PM, 22 February 2012

    What are a few native to northeast US alternatives to this cherry laurel, which is native to england?

    • Roger
      2:10 PM, 23 February 2012

      Hi Seth,
      Unfortunately I don’t generally focus on a plant’s origin, although I respect the merits of using native plants.

      Yes, Cherry Laurels originated in Asia and Europe. And as I mentioned in the article, it’s got some great qualities both aesthetic and horticultural.

      The one native to North America that somewhat resembles Cherry Laurel and comes to mind is Mountain Laurel. Weston Nurseries in MA has done a lot with the specie in terms of cultivars. Here’s their webpage that talks about Mountain Laurel.
      No doubt there’s a compact variety that might work for you.

      Good luck. Let us know if you discover other native substitutes for cherry laurel.

  • Cindy
    7:17 PM, 4 April 2012

    Hello, I was wondering if you can recommend an alternative to the otto luyken? They are pricey and I just wasnt all that impressed with the plants look. They will be arranged with Van Houtte spirea. Thanks!

    • Roger
      10:28 PM, 4 April 2012

      Hey Cindy,
      The Vanhoutte Spirea has that beautiful fountain-like shape, and gets quite large (8-10′ wide). So you want to make sure you space any new plants generously away from the spirea.

      The mounded form of cherry laurel would work well with the spirea, plus it’s evergreen so when the spirea is leafless the laurel has some presence.

      For another similar plant I’d recommend Azalea ‘Poukhanense’. Don’t confuse this azalea with many of the other common azaleas. It has a wider than tall habit (like Otto Luyken) and is tough as nails. It’s one of the few azaleas I use in my designs. In this post you’ll see in the picture I planted it beneath and to the right of a birch.

      It’s considered semi-evergreen and does lose a significant amount of its leaves in the fall/winter. I don’t really mind this and frankly think it helps with the hardiness of the plant. In the spring it flowers a pinkish-lavender. I rarely prune them because, given the room, their natural growth and shape is beautiful.

  • Anne
    11:23 PM, 4 June 2012

    I love the Cherry Laurel! Photos do not do this shrub any justice. I planted them as a foundation row 1.5 years ago and they look amazing. I didn’t see any growth the first season, but this year they have taken off and are just beautiful. For those who do not want to trim a hedge and prefer a natural look, this is your shrub. The leaf is a beautiful shiny green and my row of 9 plants looks uniform and neat, even though I have never touched them. I’m in Southern Maryland and planted them in deep shade on a slope, so they stay well drained.

    • Roger
      8:18 PM, 5 June 2012

      Hi Anne,
      I’ll bet they look great. Using them together in the foundation is good design – it’s a unified look that softens the foundation, but does not distract from the home. Well done!

      Giving plants the proper space and cultural conditions they prefer lets them develop to their full potential. So often people crowd their plantings and make them a collection of all types of plants.

  • Greg
    3:03 PM, 26 August 2012

    Hi Roger, is there a cherry laurel which doesn’t flower? My mother doesn’t like the flower turning brown. Thanks.

    • Roger
      9:48 PM, 27 August 2012

      Without doing a thorough bit of research, at this time I don’t know of any laurel that doesn’t flower. Some flowering is considered less conspicuous than other flowering, so relative to Cherry Laurel there would no doubt be other laurel (and other similar broadleafs) that have smaller less conspicuous flowers.

      Flowering is just part of its cycle. Today I was on a job that had existing cherry laurel. They were beautiful and without any remnants of their flowering early this season. You could also “deadhead” the spent flower heads off the plant after the flowers fade. That could be more work than you’re willing or have the time to do.

  • Steve Brown
    12:05 AM, 14 September 2012

    Will this plant thrive in Louisville, KY in an almost all shade area in front of house? We want something hardy low-maintenance that would look good and top out at 3 to 4 feet in height. I saw this plant at a local store….wondering about it.

    • Roger
      11:20 PM, 16 September 2012

      I’d give it a go. Your planting zone (6B) is the same as ours here in northern NJ, and ‘Otto Luyken’ does pretty well here.

      If you’re able to, I’d plant them in spring rather than the fall. Planting in the spring would give the laurel the rest of the growing season to root and establish before the winter.

      If you plant this fall I would give them winter/wind protection in the way of applying an “anti-transpirant” and or erecting a wind screen (e.g. burlap). Also, check to see if the nursery you’re buying them from offers a guarantee of any kind.

  • Claudia
    11:42 AM, 16 November 2012

    Hi. We have 4 beautiful cherry otto luyken laurels in front of our Virginia home that have been infested with “scale”. The question is, should we treat them or remove them entirely? They form a nice hedge at the front of our house and form a nice back-drop to our landscaping. They are 7 years old, and have done very well up to this point. We are not sure whether to undergo a formal treatment program or just remove them and start with something new? Please provide your comments/suggestions.
    Thank you,

    • Roger
      8:07 PM, 18 November 2012

      Hi Claudia,
      As you’d expect it’s very hard to advise on a condition like this without seeing the plant(s) and the environment they’re in.

      The fact that they’ve done well up to this point and now have scale makes we wonder if the environment and conditions have changed. Very often in situations like this the plant(s) are stressed by something (e.g. overly wet soil, excessive mulching (or extra soil added) underneath them, overhead trees removed to change the exposure, etc. Scale and other pests will then be able to take advantage of the plant’s weak condition – sort of like what happens to us and our health when we are stressed, tired, etc.

      Can you see or recall anything that would have changed the general health and vigor of the plant (and weakened its defenses)? If so, can you correct the condition?

      If you decide to treat the plant you can use a horticultural oil. This would be less harmful to the beneficial insects.

      There are also systemic insecticides (taken up into the plant’s vascular system) that are also effective. Michael Hirsch our plant health care advisor suggests a product called Merit. This is a systemic insecticide with imidaclorprid as the active ingredient.

      I hope this helps.

  • Carrie
    10:30 PM, 9 April 2013

    Hi Roger,
    Thanks for all the great info. I’m in zone 7 (central VA) and have kept a stand of bamboo at bay (from the neighbor’s yard) and am looking for something to plant on in a bed that runs along that side of the yard. I was considering planting a few cherry laurels because I know they’re hardy. Do you think they’d survive? If not, do you have another recommendation? We’ve got variegated liriope growing there now edging the bed and I wanted to plant some shrubs behind that to fill in the beds. Thanks!

    • Roger
      12:26 PM, 19 May 2013

      Hi Carrie,
      Sorry for the late response. It’s a this time of year in this business you wish you could clone yourself. ๐Ÿ™‚

      If the bamboo you’re dealing with is the “running” or “spreading” type, a barrier of some sort is the best way to keep it in check (permanently).

      Cherry Laurel would make a nice, medium foreground plant, especially ‘Otto Luyken’ as it grows wider than tall. Those forms would really complement each other. Even keeping (or moving) the liriope in front of the cherry laurel would be nice.

  • David H
    12:31 PM, 22 April 2013

    I am looking to plant either an Otto Luyken or Schip laurel to create a hedge. I need it to grow to 6 feet high and 14 feet wide. Which would you recommmend and how many do I need?

    • Roger
      9:18 PM, 27 April 2013

      Otto Luyken will probably not give you the 6′ height you’re looking for, but does get wide (6 – 8′). Schip or ‘Skip’ Laurel, as it is sometimes called, will easily get to 6′. It will want to get taller (I’ve seen it 8’+), but you could control it by pruning. For a space 14′ wide, I would probably specify 3 Skip laurel; they would be 4′ high at installation so the 3 would look substantial in that space. Remember to always think mature growth and size when spacing.

  • sis s
    8:03 PM, 18 May 2013

    We have three of these plants that were planted last fall.they have yellowing on quite a few of the leaves on all of the plants. Any idea why? They get watered at least every other day. We live in kansas. Thanks for your help

    • Roger
      5:13 PM, 19 May 2013

      It’s not unusual to have some yellowing leaves, especially towards the interior of the plant. But I’m also concerned that they are kept too wet with your watering schedule. And yellowing leaves are often a sign of overly wet soil.

      They do not need nearly that much water. I would stop watering them and allow them to dry out. Like most broadleaf evergreens they prefer moist (not wet), well-drained soil. Once a plant is established (yours were planted last fall), they don’t need regimented watering…certainly not that frequently. In fact, you’re better off letting the soil dry out a bit before watering again.

  • Jack
    4:41 PM, 19 May 2013

    I am on the south coast of Massachusetts….solid zone 6b, marginal zone 7a. I planted a mound of cherry laurel otto luykens under a sourwood tree about 10 years ago. They have filled in beautifully. And the blooms smell so sweet…especially on a sunny warm humid day. My planting is exposed to strong NW winds in winter so I do give them an application of wilt pruf–usually during the Thanksgiving weekend–to prevent burn. They have experienced just about everything winter in my area can throw at them and they are doing great. I also planted cherry laurel schipkaensis in a different spot. It has a different habit—more upright and less wide. It has grown very tall—about 8 feet. It is a great large shrub. And I believe it is a bit hardier than otto luykens, so maybe folks in zone 5 could give it a shot??

    • Roger
      5:26 PM, 19 May 2013

      Hi Jack,
      Thanks for your comment.

      It’s so interesting to get your comment because I’m using Skip Laurel (schipkaensis) more and more on my projects. I’m finding them hardier than I originally thought. There is, however, a good amount of these plants coming from the west coast, and we have found that these must be planted in the spring (here in the northeast) so that they can root and establish before winter. Otherwise we’ll have trouble with die-back and plant loss.

      And you’re so right on the shape and growth habit, i.e. more upright. For the natural border where you’re looking for a broadleaf plant to screen, it’s great.

  • Jack
    8:58 PM, 19 May 2013

    I have another skip laurel….my biggest…..that blizzard (Nemo) in February didn’t break any branches….it uprooted the entire plant! I was pissed to say the least. It was way too large to deal with so I cut it all the way back to stumps and then replanted it. It is resprouting all over the hard woody stumps so I don’t think it will take too long to fill out.

  • Drew Hart
    1:33 AM, 21 July 2013


    I want to line a fence with a laurel, I have many of them so I know they grow well in our area. I’m having trouble cloning my existing plants (buying established plants is too expensive!) Can you give me some tips on cloning laurels?

    Thank you so much!


    • Roger
      12:29 PM, 21 July 2013

      I wish I could give specific advice on plant propagation, but that’s an area I don’t have much experience in. One of my college courses was on propagation, but that was over 30 years ago. ๐Ÿ™‚ But I remember the many intricacies. It’s truly a science unto itself.

      You could do more of a specific search online, and even try contacting growers and nurseries of broadleaf evergreens. The industry as a whole has some great people in it that would probably be happy to give some advice. Perhaps you could visit a nursery that propagates and see what techniques they use. I remember that the smallest condition and/or ingredient can make a significant difference in results.

  • Daniel Harris
    9:58 PM, 17 August 2013

    Is there a difference in the shrub and tree or is the cherry laurel tree just an overgrown shrub? I have read of, and seen, cherry laurel well over 30 feet tall. I also noticed you made no mention of it being highly poisonous so I thought I would throw that in for you.

    • Roger
      11:41 PM, 31 August 2013

      Hi Daniel,
      Common Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus), of which ‘Otto Luyken’ is a cultivar, can get quite large.
      I’m not aware of a specific “tree form” of the plant. But I would imagine that as it grows to mature sizes of 18′ and above, it could very easily take on the look of a low branched tree.

      And thanks for letting us know the plant is poisonous – leaves and all. I read where it would be easy to mistaken a cherry laurel leaf for a Bayleaf (used for cooking).

  • Jon
    11:36 AM, 22 August 2013


    I am looking for a fast growing hedge and I love the idea of the cherry laurel. I know they can grow particularly dense, but I ideally only want my hedge to be about 2 feet deep/wide. Is it possible to maintain this width of hedge using the laurel? I’m hoping for an overall height of about 4 – 5 feet.

    Thanks so much.

    • Roger
      12:22 PM, 22 August 2013

      It’s really good you’re researching this planting you have in mind. Most homeowners (and many landscape installers) don’t take the time to learn what the characteristics of each plant are – mature size being one of them.

      It’s a misnomer that plants can be trained and “contained” to whatever shape & size you want. There is some control we have through pruning, but only with consideration for what the plant “naturally” aspires to do.

      The cherry laurel can not be maintained at a 2′ width. It will not tolerate that degree of control/pruning.

      A 2′ width is limiting and there will not be many plants for you to choose from, especially with a height of 4-5′. Often this narrow and taller plant type is a “columnar” or “fastigate” version of a plant, i.e. it’s been cultivated to stay more narrow relative to height. Dee Runk Boxwood is an example of cultivar created to grow narrow.

      Perhaps if you visit plant nurseries in your area you’ll find a few possibilities in this category. And remember to consider other plant characteristics such as light requirements, soil preference, etc. that match your planting area.

  • Ruby Shih
    4:38 PM, 9 September 2013

    after reading your cherry laurel posting, I’m interested in using them for shady hedge flanking both sides of my front door ( about 12 feet long x 4 feet wide each side) bordered by a sidewalk.
    Is there enough width for growth. if not, can you recommend another shrub for front of house flanking front door that’s mostly shade. I live in Queens, NY. zip 11415

    Ruby S.

    • Roger
      9:59 AM, 18 September 2013

      I would not try and restrict cherry laurel in a 4′ space. Eventually the plants will either overgrow and win the battle ๐Ÿ™‚ or decline in health from the aggressive pruning you’ll need to do.

      If there are no low windows in these areas you could consider a small-leafed rhododendron, such as Rhododendron ‘PJM’ or Rhododendron ‘Olga Mezitt’. They both characteristically will grow more upright than wide. And with “selective pruning” after flowering each year, you can keep them within bounds fairly easily. I would say a 4 – 5′ height is reasonable to maintain. I have an ‘Olga Mezitt’ on my property that I’ve kept approximately 6′ high for many years, and it’s within a 4′ space.

  • Donald King
    6:52 PM, 22 September 2013

    We are in San Antonio, TX. Our soils are fairly heavy, clay loam, with some caleche, Ph above 7, area is part sun/part shade, medium drainage.
    We just purchased, to be delivered/planted ON THURSDAY 9/26, 3- 30 gallon compact cherry laurels. We did more research after returning home and are beginning to have second thoughts about such a large purchase ($1,000.00). We have read entries about these trees being fine for 7 years and then declining. We can still change our purchase order. Please advise us soon. Thank you.

    • Roger
      8:31 PM, 22 September 2013

      I’ll presume you’re talking about Prunus laurocerasus and a particular cultivar.
      My experience with cherry laurel is here in northern NJ (Zone 6) where soil and other environmental conditions will likely be different than by you in TX.
      I’ve learned to not use cherry laurel in poorly drained soil. For that reason alone I’d probably choose another plant more tolerant and adaptable to your clay-like, “medium” drained soil. This could likely be the reason for declining plants after 7 years (as you’ve read).

  • Carole Biskar
    9:51 AM, 27 September 2013

    I purchased 8 ‘otto luyken’ laurels to use as a hedge and then discovered they could be poisonous to pets. I have two dogs so I am concerned. I see them in many places so I was surprised. Am I overreacting or should I plant them?

    • Roger
      4:12 PM, 30 September 2013

      Yes, they are potentially poisonous. Do your dogs tend to chew on the plants? I do have clients w/ cherry laurels that have dogs and I’ve never heard of an incident of poisoning. I don’t have information on the degree of toxicity of the plant, but I appreciate your concern. Our pets are like our kids, right? ๐Ÿ™‚

      I don’t know if your investigating has turned up more complete information, but if you have any doubts as to whether they’ll chew on the plants, perhaps you should change to something else. Unfortunately, I don’t have a list of non-toxic plants. And not every plant reference and profile includes that information. To be thorough you’d have to individually research each plant on whether they’re poisonous or not. Perhaps your local agricultural extension office can help provide a list.

      Here’s the link to the national website.

  • Susan
    4:47 PM, 11 October 2013

    I absolutely love cherry laurels, both “Otto” and “Skip” as I affectionately like to call them. I first saw them at Colonial Williamsburg, I believe at the visitor center, as I had been eyeing traditional planting s for our “new to us” old stone home in Maryland (almost Mountain region ~zone 6). I planted “Ottos” nearly 10 years ago as young ones on the sunny southeast side of our home and they are now nearly the 4′ height and6′ spread that is referenced. They are gorgeous green year round. I love their leaf shape and I always thought the flower scent was pleasant.
    I also planted some “Skips” on the southwest side of the home as more of a screen from our window view of the road, as they were referenced to grow much taller. A few years ago a heavy snow broke many of the branches from the bushes. I trimmed the dead ones out in spring;they all survived and filled out nicely.
    We have now added onto our home and I just purchased more young cherry laurels since they are so reliably good looking and maintenance free. They are well worth the price.

    • Roger
      8:55 PM, 13 October 2013

      Thanks for sharing your experiences with “Otto” and Skip”. ๐Ÿ™‚

      In the broadleaf evergreen category cheery laurel is definitely one of my “go to” plants.

      I like the way you pruned out the broken branches from the snow and let the plant rejuvenate. Nicely done!

      Good luck with your new house addition and cherry laurels.

  • Louise
    1:50 PM, 26 November 2013

    We live in Eastern Pa. We planted two 4 1/2 ft. tall Skip Laurels this past Spring. They are doing really well and have grown at least a foot taller. I plan to trim them within the next two weeks and wondered if I can include the cuttings in a mixed green holiday wreath for use outdoors. Do you know how quickly the leaves dry out after pruning? I tried to search the internet for the answer but wasn’t successful. Thank you.

    • Roger
      4:15 PM, 26 November 2013

      Hi Louise,
      I don’t have experience with using the laurel cuttings for arrangements like your wreath, but my feeling is the cuttings will not last too long before discoloring. Maybe they’ll remain attractive for 5 to 7 days.

      If you just use them as a small percentage of your wreath (like accents), perhaps you could change them out with fresh cuttings when/if they discolor.

      I wish I could be more helpful.

  • Tom
    1:03 PM, 9 March 2014

    Planted about 25 Otto Luyken Laurel’s in the fall of 2012. This past winter with all the snow in Collegeville Pa. I am noticing a lot of the leaves are brown in color. Is this a bad sign or does this plant grow new leaves every year?

    • Roger
      8:26 AM, 10 March 2014

      It’s not a good sign. Otto Luyken is, of course, evergreen. No doubt the brown leaves are a sign of winter damage.

      The question is how far the damage goes. If just the leaves have winter-burn, and the damage does not extend into the stems, then it’s likely new leaves will emerge to replace the burned ones.

      You’ll have to wait until spring and the new-growth period begins to really see the extent of the damage.

      I’ve seen die-back on the ends of the plant, but live stems towards the inside. In that case you would prune back the dead ends of the plant to a point where you see new buds and growth starting.

      Fertilizing is not necessarily going to help. Simply wait and see.

  • Michael
    2:59 PM, 11 March 2014

    I’m in Maryland, zone 7b. My nurseryman recommended Otto Luyken for a spot I have, but after reading your comments I have my doubts. This is a full-shade area in front of a north-facing house under an oak tree. I’m looking for a low planting, 3′ high or so, flowering if possible; but it can’t be more than 4′ wide, and 3′ would be better. Could Otto Luyken stand those conditions? If not, can you recommend anything at all for this spot? Thanks in advance.

    • Roger
      9:50 AM, 12 March 2014

      That’s a challenging spot you describe. The Otto Luyken would overgrow that space (4′) easily.

      The north side of the house with an overhanging oak already narrows the choices. A few plants come to mind as I begin to think of shade tolerant, broadleaf evergreens that do not grow too wide.

      You have the standard Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia), which would get too big. But there are cultivars of Mountain Laurel that are small and compact. Kalmia latifolia ‘Little Linda’ is one, but there are others. You’d have to see what’s available. Skimmia (Skimmia japonica) is another possibility. Rhododendron ‘P.J.M’ is a small-leaf rhododendron that would grow too large, but there are more compact cultivars of this plant too.

      These shade tolerant evergreens by their nature are often particular about the soil they’re grown in. It must be light, high in organic matter and well-drained. And even with these requirements met the plants will likely be thinner and more open in habit because of the darkness. Also, 7B is within the zone range of these plants, but they seem to favor the more north they are.

      I wish I could be more exact with a recommendation.

  • Carla
    3:14 PM, 18 March 2014

    Hi Roger,
    Your response to Tom on 10Mar2014 was very helpful to me, as I also have several established cherry laurels whose leaves have turned brown over the winter. I’m relieved to know there’s a chance they will bounce back.

    Thank you so much for your help! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Roger
      6:13 PM, 18 March 2014

      Glad to help, Carla. And I should tell you that I’m seeing a lot of winter damage as I drive around, especially on broadleafs.

      This winter was a doozy. I’m going to mark it on my calendar to write an article on winter damage in the fall. There are things you can do to prepare and protect plants for winters like this.

      Take care, and thanks for your comment.

  • Liz
    11:53 AM, 23 March 2014

    My daugher has asked me to help with her garden in Annapolis, Md. My first challenge is an evergreen hedge as a screen for neighbors sheds, etc. I don’t know gardening in MD. but the hedge would get a lot of sun. Hence the cherry laurel may not work. I used arborvitae here in Princeton, which do well . . any other suggestions?

    • Roger
      4:29 PM, 23 March 2014

      You might consider Skip Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus ‘Schipkaenisis’). It’s very similar to cherry laurel, but grows more upright (approx. 5-6′ wide X 6-8′ high). I have grown Skip Laurel in full sun. It will grow in zone 7, which is Annapolis. The one thing I would watch out for is the soil – it needs to be rich in organics and well-drained. If the soil is heavy, clay-like and stays wet do not try Skip Laurel.

      Arborvitae varieties would certainly work – and they’re more adaptive to soil conditions.

  • Sandy
    9:55 AM, 30 March 2014

    I live in Louisville, Kentucky and planted several otto luyken over a year ago. They have done well although I have had the same problem with brown leaves as a result of this harsh winter. I don’t see any stem damage. Should I prune the brown leaves or leave them alone?

    • Roger
      9:30 PM, 2 April 2014

      I would wait until budding & new growth is happening so you can clearly distinguish what’s alive.

  • Carolyn
    12:13 PM, 5 April 2014

    Our landscaper recommend Cherry Laurels in our design. We have been unable to find any in smaller containers this year. What would be a good substitute. We live in the Atlanta area.

    • Roger
      11:23 AM, 12 April 2014

      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.

  • Kim
    1:41 PM, 8 April 2014

    I live in Cincinnati OH. I planted two otto luyken last spring 2013. The leaves after this horrible winter are brown, but not brittle and are not falling away. The plant on the underside is still green in places. They look terrible in my newly redone front landscape that is now all in bloom. Can I expect that they may bounce back in the next month or so?

    • Roger
      9:09 PM, 19 April 2014

      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.

  • Amanda
    8:24 PM, 9 April 2014

    My husband and I are looking to add a few shrubs to our front porch. The space we are looking at is about 10 feet long and 2 feet wide and only has a couple hours of sunlight in the morning and then in the shade the rest of the day. We live in central Alabama, so hot/humid summers and random winters. Went to Lowes to check out shrubs and am now researching what I found and I *think* I want to plant the Otto Luyken Cherry Laurel. I am looking for something that won’t get much larger than 4-5 feet, or something I can easily prune down.

    I am very new to gardening, so I have a couple questions.
    **Is this a good choice for us?
    **How many should I plant in that space?
    **Best time to plant?
    **Maintenance after planting?
    **If this is not a good choice, do you have an idea of what might work?

    I am concerned because we had some Azaleas that never got any bigger after planting, but did bloom every spring. Hard to spend a lot of money and not see what you want to happen. We’ve learned our lesson- research, research, research!!

    I appreciate any and all help you can supply!

    • Roger
      10:10 PM, 9 April 2014

      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 โ€˜Fastigiataโ€™)? And don’t confuse this genus (Cephalotaxus) with the Yew genus Taxus. Rather than describe all the plant’s characteristics, just Google it.

  • Ruth
    4:14 PM, 3 May 2014

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

    • Roger
      4:53 PM, 11 May 2014

      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.

  • Kathie
    8:38 PM, 7 May 2014

    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?

    • Roger
      6:08 PM, 11 May 2014

      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. ๐Ÿ™‚

      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.

  • Ruby
    10:44 PM, 11 May 2014

    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

    • Roger
      10:09 AM, 26 May 2014

      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.

  • Steve
    7:25 PM, 13 May 2014

    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?

    • Roger
      10:17 AM, 26 May 2014

      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.

  • Lilian Ko
    1:08 PM, 19 May 2014

    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.

  • carolyn
    12:16 PM, 26 May 2014

    Does cherry laurel lose its leaves during winter?

    • Roger
      8:08 PM, 4 July 2014

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

  • Sandy
    2:37 PM, 28 May 2014

    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!!

  • Lee
    11:30 AM, 30 June 2014

    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.

    • Roger
      10:50 PM, 2 October 2014

      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.

  • John
    12:11 PM, 18 July 2014

    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.

    • Roger
      11:43 PM, 2 October 2014

      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. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Caydee
    4:13 PM, 10 August 2014

    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?

    • Roger
      9:32 PM, 22 November 2014

      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.

  • marvin may
    12:49 PM, 1 October 2014

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

    • Roger
      11:19 AM, 30 November 2014

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

  • Debbie
    12:52 PM, 5 May 2015

    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.

    • Roger
      10:46 PM, 5 May 2015

      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.

  • Marvin
    8:52 AM, 9 May 2015

    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?

    • Roger
      9:39 AM, 9 May 2015

      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.

  • Jeff
    8:14 PM, 10 May 2015

    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?

    • Roger
      10:05 PM, 10 May 2015

      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.

  • Loveleena
    12:11 PM, 2 June 2015


    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.

    • Roger
      11:14 PM, 11 June 2015

      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.

  • Denise
    11:02 PM, 23 June 2015

    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.

    • Roger
      4:08 PM, 27 June 2015

      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!” ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Tom Kieffer
    3:54 PM, 28 September 2015

    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.

    • Roger
      10:39 AM, 29 September 2015

      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.

  • Jack
    11:03 AM, 2 April 2016

    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.

    • Roger
      12:41 PM, 2 April 2016

      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.

  • John Williamson
    4:55 PM, 3 June 2016

    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?

    • Roger
      1:06 PM, 4 June 2016

      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.

  • Alinda
    10:04 AM, 30 June 2016

    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.

    • Roger
      9:26 AM, 9 July 2016

      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.

  • Kurt
    10:05 PM, 6 September 2017

    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…..

    • Roger
      8:11 AM, 7 September 2017

      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.

  • Christie
    10:03 AM, 7 September 2017

    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?

    • Roger
      3:13 PM, 17 September 2017

      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.

  • Kurt
    10:08 AM, 7 September 2017

    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.

  • Leslie
    7:40 AM, 14 February 2018

    Hello. We come from maryland, and the deer have wiped our 3 luykens bare. Will they grow back in the spring? Is there anythibg we can do to promote this?

    • Roger
      8:49 AM, 17 February 2018

      It’s so interesting because in our area (northern NJ) the deer don’t touch the cherry laurel. But I’ve learned that deer will eat plants that in other areas (or even at other times) they do not.

      I use many of the “deer tolerant” plant lists simply as guides. Beyond that you must observe and research what plants in your specific area they do and don’t eat. When I’m planning a new planting in an area I’m unfamiliar with I’ll drive around and look at the existing landscapes. That simple chore tells volumes about what plants to use — for the moment, anyway. ๐Ÿ™‚

      In terms of protecting your laurel from the deer, any of the sprays and other remedies may work for awhile, but it gets tiring and expensive keeping up a regimen like that. And I’ve seen that over time the deer get used to the spray and eventually start grazing again. Rotating products can sometimes help with this, but then again it gets tiring.

      The reality is a physical barrier of sorts, such as a high fence, is the only guarantee against deer grazing.

      The other day I was speaking with a landscape contractor I work with and we laughed about how simple plant selection has become in the design process. Today, in our area, there are only a handful of plants we can safely use (in terms of deer resistant). It’s actually sad and a bit funny at the same time.

  • D. Rogers
    8:45 PM, 15 November 2018

    Cherry laurel in my planting zone, 9A is horridly invasive! Would not recommend for areas with longer summers. It can grow to be 12 inches in diameter and 30 feet high! The birds love the seeds and spread it everywhere. You can cut it down and it will sprout 5 shoots! The only way to get rid of it is to dig it up. Or spray everything with herbicide!

    • Roger
      9:58 PM, 15 November 2018

      You must be referring to Common Cherry Laurel, which can get quite large, e.g. 25′ wide. And no doubt the 9A zone you’re in supports the maximum mature growth of the “Common” form with its milder climate. Thanks for your comment!

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