Portuguese Laurel

Portuguese Laurel

Portuguese laurel, also known as Prunuslusitanica, is an attractive evergreen plant that forms a thick hedge.

It has a dark green color which gives it a classic and luxe look. Its leaves are smaller in size when compared to those of Cherry laurel.

The young shoots of Portuguese Laurel contrast perfectly against the dark green leaves. The shrub produces small, fragrant flowers on longer slim racemes in June. The flowers, which usually change to berries, attract birds, bees, and butterflies.

However, the berries and leaves of Portuguese laurel are poisonous to animals and human. So, you need to be careful when cultivating them.

Growing Portuguese laurel

The contrasting leaf and stem color of this plant create an amazing visual effect and its ability to grow in difficult conditions makes it the perfect option when compared to the tradition Cherry laurel.

What type of soil will it grow?

Portuguese laurel grows well in any soil as long as it does not get water-logged. It also grows in shallow chalky soil where the ordinary cherry laurel will refuse to grow

Why you should grow Portuguese laurel

  • Portuguese laurel was honored with the Award for Garden by Royal Horticultural Society
  • The beautiful, dark green leaves are perfectly located on the end of the bright maroon stems. Its multicolored foliage produces the perfect contrast for administrating a focal point in a garden design 
  • It has a fast-growth rate which can have a positive impact to a landscape within a satisfactory period of time
  • It is the ideal plant to grow in exposed coastal gardens. Its hardy nature can withstand the intense sunlight, freezing winter temperatures and salt laden winds
  • Portuguese laurel will bring color to dull areas of your garden as they can grow well in fully shaded areas
  • You can also obtain this plant any time of the year as they can be accessed in containers and other root types
  • Portuguese cherry laurel provides all-year-round cover. It produces small fragrant flowers in summer, followed by red berries that turn black in winter
  • Its amazing features are not only appreciated by gardeners as it has proven to be popular with a number of wildlife creatures. Both the berries and flowers are adored by bees, butterflies and birds while its compact and dense evergreen leaves offer protection to small animals during winter
  • Portuguese laurel is amazing as a stand-alone plant, but it is much better than other shrubs when it comes to creating a tapestry style hedge

When is the right time to plant Portuguese laurel?

You can plant a pot-grown Portuguese laurel at any time of the year. If you plant during summer months, March to October, then you must be prepared to provide them with sufficient amount of water until the end of October. If you plant them between November and February, you may not need to water them as they will likely establish before the dry season comes. However, it is still important that you keep monitoring them to ensure that they are getting enough water during the first year.

How to plant a Portuguese laurel

Portuguese laurel is a hardy plant that will tolerate temperatures of up to -16°C.  It also grows well in a fairly heavy shade or full sun. Here are the steps for planting a Portuguese laurel:

Step 1: Clear the planting area

Remove any stones, weeds, grass or other plants from the area where you want to plant the Portuguese laurel hedge. You can actually spray the area with a weed killer. Ideally, this should be done a few weeks before planting since most week killers take some time to work. With that said, provided the weed killer has dried the weed or grass, it does not have any residual effect in the soil; therefore, it will not harm the roots of the Portuguese laurel. Alternatively, you use a garden fork to remove the weeds.

Step 2: Dig the trench

Dig the trench about two times the width and same height as the clod. It is important that break up the soil at the bottom of the trench to at least another spade depth so that the roots can penetrate easily

If you’ll be using a digger to dig the trench, ensure that the bottom of the trench is dug to a depth of about 30cm. If you are not careful, diggers can compact the bottom of the trench and this can prevent the soil from penetrating or the trench draining water when it rains.

One thing to note is that if this plant can get its roots into the soil easily and quickly, then it is likely to survive and will grow to form a thick hedge; therefore, take your time to ensure that you plant properly

Step 3: Put the plant in the trench

Place the plant in the trench carefully and ensure that the top of the clod is 2.5 or 5cm below the ground surface. In short, it should not protrude above the top of the trench

Step 4: Backfill the soil into the trench

Use a shovel to fill the soil back into the trench and tamp it down to compact it around the plant.

Water the plant every time the first few centimeters of the top soil dries. However, you should avoid overwatering because Portuguese laurel doesn’t grow well on waterlogged oils.

How tall will the Portuguese laurel grow?

You can keep a Portuguese laurel hedge to any size, even at 91cm tall. If it is left untrimmed, the plant can grow between 457 and 609cm tall

How fast will the Portuguese laurel hedge grow?

The Portuguese laurel has a growth rate of 45.7cm per year; therefore, it is not as fast-growing as a laurel tree, but it will still form a good hedge within a reasonable period of time.

Spacing

Portuguese laurel should be planted 61 to 91cm apart. If you want a quick hedge, then plant your laurel 61cm apart, but if you are patient enough to wait a bit longer, plant them 152cm apart. Generally, you should plant 2 to 3 Portuguese laurel plants per meter.

Care for Portuguese laurel

Watering-Young Portuguese laurels don’t need watering except during initial planting and in late fall before the ground starts freezing for the winter. Established old laurels need watering during the drought season only. When rain becomes scarce, water the plants every week for 30 minutes each time. Water the soil under each plant down to 25cm. Use a layer of organic mulch over the roots to slow down evaporation from the soil.

Mulching-Add 12 to 17cm of organic material on the soil over the roots of the Portuguese laurel to protect them. It helps to retain moisture, protects the plant from injury and discourages weeds. Use shredded bark, wood chips or chopped leaves.

Pruning

Portuguese laurel responds well to shearing. You need to prune away diseased or dead branches. Shrubs that are widely grown or neglected can be pruned back to almost ground level so that they can rejuvenate. It is important that you do this at least once a year in late spring or early summer, although it can be pruned at most times of the year.

Fertilizing

Portuguese laurels require feeding only once a year. Apply a handful of granular general purpose fertilizer under each shrub in the fall.

Pros

  • The plant has multi-colored foliage which gives your landscape a beautiful look
  • It makes dull, covered areas look attractive
  • Its flowers and berries attract birds, butterflies and bees
  • Can be grown as a stand-a-lone plant or it can be used to make a beautiful hedge
  • Require little maintenance
  • It is an all-year-round plant. It produces small fragrant white flowers in summer followed by red berries that turn black in winter
  • Grows well in most soils
  • Can be maintained in any size, including large 457cm or small 91cm
  • Can survive temperatures of up to -16°C
  • Can be grown in pots or containers
  • Has dark green leaves and attractive red stems

Cons

  • It is highly poisonous to humans
  • Does not grow quickly
  • It is susceptible to fungal diseases

Conclusion

Portuguese laurel tree produces small white fragrant flowers which attract bees, butterflies and birds. This means that it is not only benefits humans but also wildlife. The plant remains evergreen throughout the year and the best thing about it is that it can withstand extremely low temperatures that other laurel cannot.

It grows on most soils and you only need to water during the dry season, not to forget the fact that it requires little maintenance. You only need to prune once a year if you are growing it as a hedge. But you can also grow it as a stand-alone. Despite being poisonous to humans when consumed, it goes without saying that this is the perfect plant you can choose for your hedge.

If you are looking for high quality and affordable Portuguese laurel plants for hedging, feel free to contact us. We will provide you with fresh plants from the ground and advice on how to grow the plant.