Common Laurel, Cherry Laurel and English Laurel

(Prunus laurocerasus and its varieties)

Common Laurel, Cherry Laurel and English Laurel are different common names for the same plant.  Its botanical name is Prunus laurocerasus.  This is a bit of a mouthful but it's useful to know exactly what we are talking about and that is why the plant classification system uses Latin, so we don't get confused with lots of different common names for the same plant.

All varieties of Common Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) will grow in full sun or deep shade and in most soils except waterlogged or very shallow, chalky soils where they may become very pale (chlorotic). They are all hardy and will tolerate temperatures down to -23oC.

Listed below are the most widely grown varieties of Prunus laurocerasus (or Common Laurel!).

PRUNUS LAUROCERASUS

Prunus laurocerasus is the original species of Common Laurel. It is a quick-growing, evergreen, wide-spreading shrub that can grow up to 18ft (6 metres) in height. This is the species of Common Laurel (aka Cherry Laurel, English Laurel) from which most of the other varieties have been developed.  Many of the newer varieties, in particular 'Rotundifolia' are now much more widely grown for hedging as they are more upright and/or more compact. New varieties are developed from the species by growing individual plants or branches that are found with a different habit of growing or a different leaf shape or colour.

PRUNUS LAUROCERASUS 'ROTUNDIFOLIA'

Prunus laurocerasus 'Rotundifolia' is a bushier and more upright growing form of Common (aka Cherry) Laurel than the species. It also has a more attractive rounded leaf which is generally half as broad as it is long, hence its name Rotundifolia meaning rotund foliage or rounded leaf.

Rotundifolia is the most popular form of Common Laurel grown for hedging and despite many new varieties being developed such as Etna, Novita and Caucasica, it still remains the best variety, in our opinion, for hedging.

Rotundifolia is quick-growing putting on about 60cm (2ft) a year under good growing conditions. Rotundifolia will grow to 5-6m (15-18ft) tall if left untrimmed but can be pruned to any height to form a dense, evergreen hedge.

PRUNUS LAUROCERASUS 'NOVITA™'

This variety of common laurel is a selection from Rotundifolia and as a result, is very similar to it. There is some evidence that it may be even hardier, tolerating temperatures of -27oC, and so it is becoming more popular on continental Europe where winters are harder than in the UK.

Novita has large rounded leaves like Rotundifolia and grows to a similar height of 5-6m (15-18ft) tall. It is also quick-growing putting on about 60cm (2ft) a year under good growing conditions.

PRUNUS LAUROCERASUS 'CAUCASICA'

Caucasica is another fast-growing variety of common laurel. It has upright growth and much narrower leaves than the species. It forms a good hedge but is not as popular as Rotundifolia.

Caucasica will grow up to 60cm (2ft) a year under good growing conditions and will grow to 5-6m (15-18ft) tall if left untrimmed.

PRUNUS LAUROCERASUS 'ETNA'

Etna was a seedling of Rotundifolia raised in Germany. It has bronze leaves when young that turn a glossy dark green. The leaves are slightly more curled at the edges than Rotundifolia.  Etna's habit of growth is more compact and as a result its rate of growth is slightly slower and its ultimate height is shorter, growing to approximately 3m (10ft). According to some reports, it will tolerate temperatures of -27oC.

PRUNUS LAUROCERASUS 'MARBLED WHITE' (ALSO KNOWN AS PRUNUS LAUR. 'CASTLEWELLAN' OR 'VARIEGATA')

Marbled White is a variety of Common Laurel with fine white markings on the leaves. It is slower growing that most other varieties of Prunus laurocerasus as it has less chlorophyll in the leaves because of the variegation. Ultimate height 5m (15ft) tall.

PRUNUS LAUROCERASUS 'OTTO LUYKEN'

Otto Luyken is a low-growing variety of laurel with narrow, dark green leaves. It is often planted en-masse by landscapers as ground cover. Ultimate Height 1.2m (4ft), Spread 1.5m (5ft)

PRUNUS LAUROCERASUS 'ZABELIANA'

Zabeliana, like Otto Luyken, is a low-growing variety with a narrow leaf, although the leaf is more rounded than that of Otto Luyken. Ultimate Height 1.2m (4ft), Spread 1.5m (5ft)

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