Below are our frequently asked questions about planting maintenance and care for Leylandii products.
Planting and Growing
When is the best time of year to plant laurel hedging?
Container-grown plants (those grown in a pot) can be planted at any time of year. Those planted in the growing season (March to October) will have to be watered more than those planted in the late autumn, winter or early spring.
Rootballed plants can be planted from November to March when the plants are not growing.
How far apart should I plant laurel plants to form a hedge?
All types of laurel should be planted between 2 and 3 feet (60-90cm) apart. If you want a quick screen then plant your laurel hedging plants at 2ft apart but if you are willing to wait a bit longer, you will get just as dense a hedge by planting at 3ft apart. Often a good compromise is 2’6″ apart.
How do I plant a laurel hedge?
Planting your laurel hedge properly is essential to ensure they survive and grow quickly. See our page on Planting Laurel for detailed guide of how to do it.
How fast do laurel plants grow?
The growth rate of all plants will depend on your location in the country, soil type, whether they are in sun or shade, whether they are in a windy or sheltered position as well as other factors. Under ideal conditions for growth such as a sheltered site in full sun, with a good fertile soil and plenty of water, the different types of laurel will grow as follows:
Cherry or Common Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus ‘Rotundifolia’) up to 60cm (2ft) per year
Portugal Laurel (Prunus lusitanica) up to 45cm (18 inches) per year
Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis) up to 40cm (16 inches) per year
We achieve the above growth rates when growing laurel on our nursery.
Do laurel prefer sun or shade?
Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) and Portugal Laurel (Prunus lusitanica) are probably the best hedging plants to grow in shade. They tolerate shade well and are often planted under tree canopies in large estate gardens. All types of laurel will also grow well in full sun.
How close to a wall or fence can I plant a laurel hedge?
If you have enough space, plant 3-4ft (90-120cm) from a wall or fence so you can access the other side of the hedge to trim it if necessary. If you do not have much space, then you can plant as close as 18 inches from a wall or fence but it may be necessary for you to trim off branches on the fence side as it could push into and damage the fence as it is establishing. Once the hedge has become dense, light will not get to the fence side of the hedge and it will stop growing so will not cause a problem. You may need to trim any hedge protruding over the top of the wall or fence, however, as when it reaches the light, it will grow over the fence or wall into your neighbours garden.
Is it better to plant smaller laurel hedging plants or will larger ones take?
Larger laurel plants take well if planted properly and will form a hedge much quicker than smaller plants.
Can I keep a laurel hedge narrow?
Trim your laurel hedge every year and you can keep your hedge as narrow as 18 inches (45cm) wide. Portugal Laurel (Prunus lusitanica) is easier to keep narrow than Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus)
Will my laurel hedge be dense right down to the ground?
Yes, as the hedge is establishing, trim a few inches off the tops of any branches (shoots) and laurel will respond by producing 3 or more new branches for every one you trim off. Laurel likes being trimmed and bushes out as a result of trimming.
Is it best to plant bare-root, rootballed or container or pot-grown Laurel hedging plants?
Bare-root laurel are grown in a field in the soil and are dug up during the winter when the plants have stopped growing. The soil is then shaken or washed off the roots. We do not recommend planting bare-root laurel plants as there are usually a high proportion of losses when planting bare-root laurel. Bare-root laurel hedging plants can only be planted from November to March (i.e while the plants are dormant over the winter).
Root-balled laurel are dug from the field with a ball of soil around the roots. This ball of soil is then wrapped in a piece of hessian or jute that holds the soil and roots together. Laurel hedging plants are ideal for rootballing as they do not produce new leaves until well into spring, this gives the roots a chance to become re-established in the soil when they are re-planted before the tops of the plants start growing. We pot up hundreds of rootballed laurel plants each year and rarely lose any of them. Rootballed laurel hedging plants can only be planted from November to March.
Container-grown laurel are plants that have been grown in pots and can be planted at any time of year. Sometimes they are grown from cuttings in pots and potted up every year as they get bigger. Some plants are dug from the field and potted into a pot. Once the plant has rooted through the pot, the plant has been ‘containerised’ and can be planted at any time of the year as long as they are watered if planted during the growing season.
What are the alternatives to a Laurel hedge?
Laurel and Portugal Laurel make excellent evergreen hedges and screens but if you would prefer to look at the alternatives please see our Alternative to Laurel page.
When should I prune my laurel hedge?
Trim your laurel hedge in late spring or early summer as the hedge will produce new shoots very quickly at this time of year to cover up any leaves that are left looking “tatty” after using a hedgetrimmer . You can use secateurs on a small hedge or a hedgetrimmer on a larger hedge.
Do not prune your hedge during hot or dry periods.
How often should I trim or prune a laurel hedge?
A laurel hedge only needs trimming once a year. The best time to prune is late spring or early summer.
I have a laurel hedge that is over 8ft tall. How can I trim it safely?
We recommend either reducing the height of the hedge to a manageable height by pruning it in late spring/early summer or by using a safe platform such as a Henchman Hi-Step.
I have moved into a house with a large laurel hedge, can I reduce the height of it?
Yes, prune it hard back in late spring or early summer and it will re-shoot quickly. You can reduce the height and width of all types of laurel. Don’t prune it back hard if the soil is very dry or the weather is very hot.
Will Laurel grow back if I cut it back hard?
Yes, in general, you can cut Cherry Laurel, Portugal Laurel and Bay Laurel right back to the stump and it will re-shoot. If you just want to trim the sides back hard then this will also re-shoot. It is best done in late spring when your Laurel is starting to grow again as any brown branches will soon be covered in new shoots if you do it at this time of year.
Glendurgan Garden in Cornwall had a cherry laurel maze that became overgrown and woody so they cut it back to the base a number of years ago. It has now grown back to be a fresh looking maze of laurel.
Can I plant a Laurel hedge where I have an overgrown conifer hedge?
Yes, this is possible but you will need to remove the conifers including the stumps, obviously a digger is best for this, and then dig a trench 2ft wide by 2ft deep. The trench will have to be filled with good quality top soil as the soil being removed will be matted with roots and depleted of nutrients.
How long do Laurel live?
All varieties of laurel are long-lived and will survive as a hedge for hundreds of years.
The leaves of my newly planted laurel and turning yellow and falling off. What is the problem?
These are classic symptoms of drought. This can be caused by over or under-watering your plants and even a few days of drought can cause leaves to turn yellow. No other reason will make the leaves turn yellow so quickly.
Not enough water (drought conditions)
Leaves will turn yellow and fall off relatively quickly if newly planted laurel are not watered enough during the growing season (normally March to October). Check how wet the soil is by pushing your hand into the soil or rootball of the plant every few days. It should be moist at all times but not soggy. If it is starting to dry out, water the soil around your plants with enough water that will sink down into the soil. Often it is best to water the plants and let it sink into the soil before coming back and watering them again. If the plants are dry, repeat this several times. Never allow the roots to dry out or the plants can die quickly in a hot spell. Laurel planted in the late autumn, winter or early spring will have had a chance to develop a root system before the soil dries out in the spring (as long as they were planted correctly) but laurel planted in late spring, summer or early autumn need to be watered regularly for the first growing season (March to October).
Too much water (waterlogging)
The roots of a laurel plant will rot if they sit in waterlogged conditions for a period of time. You can normally smell a stagnant, rotting smell if you dig one up. If the roots rot, the plants won’t be able to take water up to their leaves and they will look as if they are suffering from drought. If the soil is not draining well due to compaction or you have been giving your plants too much water, this can result in waterlogged conditions. If the soil is compacted below the plant, it may be necessary to dig the plants up and break up the bottom of the hole, maybe adding some good topsoil and/or gravel into the hole.
If you have been over-watering your plants, then stop watering them so much. Test how wet the soil is by pushing you hand deep into the soil before you water; if it is wet, don’t water the plants; if it is starting to dry out, then give the plants some water.
Some of my newly planted laurel plants have died but some have survived. What could be the problem?
It sounds like they are be struggling to get their roots established. This could be because they were planted poorly or because they haven’t been watered correctly (too much or too little water). Even if you treat all the plants the same, if conditions are difficult, some plants will die before the others. It is important to identify and rectify the problem before more plants die. See our page on Establishing a Laurel Hedge for more information.
The new leaves on my laurel hedge have a white powder on them, what could this be?
This sounds like a disease called powdery mildew. It is not a major problem and will not kill the hedge. See our page on Diseases of Laurel for more information on Powdery Mildew.
Some of my laurel hedging plants have died and the problem is slowly moving down the hedge. What could be causing the problem?
The most likely cause is a disease called Honeyfungus that attacks most plants. Alternatively, if the roots of the plants are restricted they may not be getting enough water as they grow bigger.
See our page on Diseases of Laurel for further information on Honeyfungus.
Law and Neighbourly disputes
Do I need to get planning permission to plant a hedge?
You do not need to get planning permission to plant a hedge but some properties or housing estates have special Covenants that can stipulate whether you can plant a hedge and, if so, what type of hedge you can plant. The deeds of your property will have details of any Covenants.
My neighbour's laurel hedge has grown over into my garden. Can I cut it back?
It is often best to have a quick chat with your neighbour before trimming the plants back. They will hopefully understand your position and may trim the hedge back for you.
If they won’t trim the hedge back you have the right to prune it back to your boundary. In the eyes of the law, the trimmings are the still the property of your neighbour so you should ask them what they want you to do with them, don’t just throw them back over into their garden as it may cause problems with neighbourly relations.
Are laurel plants poisonous?
All parts of Cherry and Portugal Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus and Prunus lusitanica) are poisonous to livestock and the seed kernals will cause stomach upset if eaten by humans. However, the flowers and berries are usually trimmed off when pruning the hedge so are rarely seen. In general, there are very few problems associated with laurel hedging and humans – it is commonly planted and there are no reported cases of any serious problems. However, Cherry and Portugal Laurel hedging should not be planted where sheep and other livestock can eat the leaves.
Prunus laurocerasus and lusitanica are classed in Category C in the Horticultural Trade Association list of ‘Potentially Harmful Plants’ with A being the most harmful and C the least harmful. Other plants in category C include Ivy, Hellebores, Lobelia and Lupins. Yew, Daphne and Foxgloves are classed as more harmful than Cherry or Portugal Laurel.
Will the roots of a laurel hedge cause damage to my house?
In general, most types of laurel do not grow large enough to cause a major problems to buildings. Roots grow in proportion to the amount of leaves they have to support so the larger you let your hedge grow, the bigger the root system it will produce. Houses built in the 1950’s and on heavy clay soil are most at risk from root damage but if you keep your hedge to a reasonable height, it is unlikely that the roots of your hedging plants will cause a problem.
Are there any environmental benefits of planting laurel hedging?
Laurel make good nesting sites for birds.
Planting any hedge between your property and a road will help absorb particulates from air pollution. Air pollution has been linked to heart disease and asthma so planting a hedge will help filter out some of the particulates.
Can I buy Laurel seed?
Laurel are usually propagated (reproduced) from cuttings rather than from seed.