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New This Week

March 18, 2024

Plants of the Week: West Coast Skip Laurel & Otto Luyken Cherry Laurel

Prunus laurocerasus 

Broadleaf, evergreen shrub with lustrous dark green leaves and an easy-going, low-maintenance nature.  These shrubs tolerate a wide range of conditions but perform best in partial to heavy shade in well-drained soils.  Showy clusters of white blooms appear in springtime on 5” spikes near the times of stems before the season’s new flush of leaves arrive.  Flowers are highly fragrant and smell like almonds and maraschino cherries!  


Prunus is the ancient Latin name for “plum tree.”   

lauro- means “laurel” and -cerasus translates to “cherry.”  


Rosaceae -- Rose Family: A family full of showy flowers and many fruit bearing plants. Other family members include quince, pear, plum, cherry, serviceberry, ninebark, blackberry, apple, strawberry, etc.


Native to regions bordering the Black Sea in southeastern Europe and southwestern Asia.  The range starts in the west from Albania and Bulgaria and heads east through Turkey to the Caucasus Mountains and northern Iran.

Cherry Laurel was first introduced to the UK from Constantinople in 1576 and naturalized quickly, which explains the alternate common name “English Laurel.”  It is also naturalized in the Pacific Northwest, notably Oregon, Washington, California, and British Columbia, and it is in this region that Cherry Laurels are commonly cultivated and bred for nursery stock.


Crushing or bruising the leaves of Cherry Laurel emits an almond or cherry smell – this is caused by prussic acid (cyanide).  Do note that all parts of this shrub are toxic, especially the berries – keep an eye on pets and children when this plant is bearing fruit.  On the plus side, this makes the plant unattractive to deer browsing.

Bees and wasps are attracted to cherry laurel even when they’re not in flower.  Cherry laurel produces extrafloral nectaries along the petiole.  Extrafloral nectaries produce nectar to support a symbiotic relationship with ants – the sugar attracts and feeds ants while the ants act as a predatory insect that provide indirect defense against herbivores. 


Shot hole fungus can affect shrubs that receive overhead irrigation.  Continuous water droplets on leaves can create conditions for a leaf fungus that causes holes through the leaves, resembling a shotgun blast.  Cherry laurels are best watered at the base of the shrub to avoid this eye sore. 


  • SOIL:  Moist, well-drained soil supplemented with organic matter.  Does not perform well in standing water or slow draining sites – promotes root rot.  Do not over-fertilize cherry laurel.

  • SUNLIGHT:  Part shade to heavy shade

  • HEIGHT/WIDTH:  Varied, based on specific cultivars.  Dense, suckering shrub often used as a privacy hedge.  Cherry laurel responds well to pruning and can be maintained to size if desired.  

  • ZONES: 6-8



‘Otto Luyken’ Cherry Laurel – 6G at $90 , currently 2’ wide

A compact variety growing to only 3-4’ tall with a spread reaching 6-8’ wide.  Leaves are arranged in a more upward angle, about 60-45 degrees to the stem. Often used as a low hedge or groundcover–-a great plant to hide foundations or the under-deck views around homes.  It can also be used as an attractive backdrop to balance out more showy shrubs.

‘West Coast Schipkaensis’ Laurel – 10G at $160, currently 5’ tall

West Coast Skip laurel is a large and rapidly growing shrub reaching heights of 10-15’ and 5-6’ wide.  The shrub’s form is upright and vase-shaped adorned with large glossy leaves.  Works great as a privacy hedge when planted en masse.  Skip laurel is one of the hardiest laurels tolerant to cold temps down to -6 degrees F (zones 5-8).

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