If you take good care for your Laurel hedge, you will have a fantastic evergreen screen that will last years and years.
Establishing a Laurel Hedge
How to water your newly planted Laurel hedge
Once you’ve planted your laurel hedging plants, you need to make sure they get enough water to keep them alive and growing well. Usually plants only need watering from March to October. During the winter months, they use less water and normally get enough from the rain.
LAUREL HEDGING PLANTED FROM NOVEMBER TO FEBRUARY
If you plant between November and February, you may not need to water your plants much as they will have had a chance to develop a root system before the soil dries out which is normally in March but can be in February or April. Just keep an eye on them, it may be worth giving them a good soak once a week.
LAUREL HEDGING PLANTED FROM MARCH TO OCTOBER
If you plant between March and October, you will need to water your plants for the first growing season (usually up until the end of October).
WHEN TO WATER
Before you water, test the soil by digging into it with your hand or pushing your finger deep into the rootball (you need to make sure you’re not just watering the surface but right down into the soil as well). If the soil is moist, then don’t water. If the soil is starting to dry out, then water your plants. It sounds obvious, but often people water when their plants are already wet and this can result in waterlogging especially on clay soils.
WATERING WITH A WATERING CAN OR HOSE
If you are watering with a watering can or hose, you need to water the soil around the roots of the plant and when the water starts to run off, move to the next plant and let the water sink in. Return to each plant a water it again two or three times, each time letting the water sink in. This way you will make sure the water gets right down into the soil rather than just watering the top few inches of soil.W
WATERING WITH A POROUS PIPE
Porous pipe is a good method of watering your hedging plants. The water seeps out and sinks into the soil well. It can also be set on a timer and come on regularly. However, it is very easy to over-water your plants with porous pipe so our advice is to check whether the soil is wet before turning it on. Do this by pushing your finger into the rootball of the plant or digging with your hand in the soil near the plant and seeing if the soil is wet enough. You want to keep the soil moist but not soggy at all times. Obviously, if the soil is already wet enough, then don’t water your plants.
DROUGHT SYMPTOMS OF LAUREL HEDGING
The leaves of your laurel plants will quickly turn yellow and start to fall off if they are not watered enough (or if they are over-watered). Even a hot weekend in the summer can cause them to dry out so it is best to keep an eye on them every few days.
How to prune a newly planted Laurel Hedge
It is worth taking a couple of inches (5cm) off all the shoots (new branches) on your laurel plants when you plant them. Do this again in March and June until they reach the height you require.
This will ensure your plants grow bushy and not tall and thin.
Once they reach the height you require, prune them once a year to the width and height you require.
How and When to Prune a Laurel Hedge
All types of laurel hedge need to be pruned once a year. The best time of year to prune is late spring/early summer as there will be lots of new growth at this time of year to cover up any “tatty” or damaged leaves caused by trimming with a hedgetrimmer.
Laurel hedges can be trimmed using secateurs or with a hedgetrimmer. As mentioned above, if you use a hedgetrimmer, it will cut through some of the leaves. This will look untidy but if you prune when the hedge is growing, it will cover up any tatty leaves in no time. We use a hedgetrimmer to trim our laurel hedge every year.
If your hedge is on a boundary with a next door neighbour, it will need to be trimmed on their side as well. It is your responsibility under the Anti-social Behaviour Act (2003) to ensure that your hedge does not grow to a height where “reasonable enjoyment” of their property is being adversely affected.
Trim your hedge to the height and width you require once a year and you will get a dense, bushy, evergreen screen that will last a lifetime.
Diseases of Laurel
Laurel are very easy to grow and, generally, disease-free. Occasionally Laurel suffer from diseases that can spoil the look of the leaves but rarely threaten the life of the plant. Powdery mildew and Shot-hole disease are the two most common diseases of laurel and these are described below.
Powdery mildew is a fungus that can infect the new young leaves on Prunus laurocerasus under humid conditions and between the temperatures of 6 to 30oC. Rainfall or drier conditions can interrupt the spread of the disease.
Powdery Mildew will not threaten the life of the plant but may look unslightly.
A white powdery coating on the leaf, particularly the underside of the leaf.
Shrivelling of the new leaves.
Once the powdery coating dies off, the leaf will have brown patches or be completely brown and withered.
There is normally no need for chemical control as the plants will grow through the disease once the growing conditions change to become less humid.
If the leaves look particularly unsightly, you can prune them off with a pair of secateurs or a hedgetrimmer. Disinfect the tools before using them on other plants. Clear up any diseased leaves to prevent re-infection and burn or dispose of them. Do not compost them.
Food-grade Potassium bicarbonate at a rate of 5 grams per litre of water sprayed until run-off has been shown to control powdery mildew on many plants and is now used commercially. A number of applications may be necessary.
Shot-hole disease can affect all varieties of Prunus laurocerasus and Prunus lusitanica and is caused by a bacterial pathogen called Pseudomonas syringae pv syringae or the fungi Stigmina and Eupropolella.
Shot-hole disease tends to be more of a problem on nurseries that use overhead irrigation (sprinklers) to water their plants as the disease is spread from plant to plant by water splash on the leaves. Shot-hole is not a disease that will threaten the life of a laurel and most plants will grow out of the problem once the growing conditions change (i.e. the laurel are planted into the ground where they do not need to be watered with sprinklers or the weather becomes drier) and new leaves are produced that cover up the diseased leaves.
Brown leaf spots between 2 and 10mm in diameter that eventually drop out to leave the leaf looking like it has been shot with a shot-gun.
Chemical control is not necessary. Laurel plants will grow through the disease when the weather or growing conditions change. When the plants put on new growth, it will cover up the disease.
Do not water the leaves, water the soil around the base of the plant when watering a plant.
Pests of Laurel
Most types of laurel are relatively pest free, especially once they are established. Damage is generally limited to small plants less than 90cm (3ft) tall or, in the case of vine weevil, to plants grown in pots. Damage to larger plants tends to be superficial and cosmetic rather than harming the health of the plant.
Damage can occur to plants in pots where the larvae of the vine weevil eat the roots of the plant causing the plant to wilt and die. In general, once laurel plants are planted in the soil and establish a good root system, vine weevil larvae will do very little damage to any type of established laurel.
Vine weevil larvae can be identified as they are white maggots with a black head approximately 1 to 2cm long and they tend to curl up into a C-shape.
Adult vine weevil emerge in the summer months (July/August) and can notch the edges of the leaves of all types of laurel (and many other plants) but particularly Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus). However, this is just cosmetic damage and an indication that vine weevil are present. Adult vine weevil are usually only seen at night.
Only plants in pots need to be treated for vine weevil.
Drench the compost of the plant with either Provado Vine Weevil Killer 2 or Bug Clear Ultra Vine Weevil Killer.
Nematodes can be used to control vine weevil. Products such as Nemasys are available and should be applied in spring (April/May) or late summer (late August/early September) when the larvae are active in the soil or compost. The nematodes are mixed with water and the compost is then drenched with the nematodes. The nematodes will attack the vine weevil larvae and should kill them within a few weeks. The nematode Steinernema kraussei is most effective and as it will tolerate lower temperatures (down to -5oC) than other nematodes available.
Slugs can cause damage by eating the edges of the leaves of laurel. The damage is superficial and will not harm the overall health of the plant.
Slugs only need to be controlled on smaller plants. Once laurel plants are established, control is not necessary.
Slug pellets can be used to effectively control slugs. Products containing Ferramol (Growing Success Advanced Slug Killer or Vitax Slug Rid) are much less harmful to wildlife such as birds and hedgehogs than products containing metaldehyde.
Nematodes can be used to control slugs. Products such as Nemaslug are available should be mixed with water and applied following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Rabbits can do a lot of damage to young laurel plants by stripping the plant of its leaves.
They do not tend to be a problem once the plant has become established and is above a height that rabbits can reach, this height is usually about 1 to 1.2 metres tall (3-4ft).
Rabbits are difficult to control. The best method is to fence off the hedge with chicken wire until the hedge is established.
Alternatively, products such as Grazer claim to stop rabbits eating plants sprayed with the product. However, heavy rain can wash Grazer off the leaves and it may need to be reapplied regularly.
Bay sucker, as the name suggests, only attacks Bay Laurel and not Cherry or Portugal Laurel.
The nymphs of a tiny insect can infect Bay Laurel and suck sap from the leaves causing them to curl and discolour.
It is not a serious disease but can spoil the look of some of the leaves.
Small white/grey insects may be seen on the bottom side of the leaf or near where the leaf is curled up.
Spray with a systemic insecticide.