Otto Luyken English laurel (Prunus laurocerasus 'Otto Luyken') originated in the Mediterranean, according to Sheri Davis, master gardener at the University of Idaho Extension. The low-maintenance shrub needs little fertilizer generally. The shrub produces evergreen, glossy leaves, fragrant white or yellowish flowers and purple berries in the fall. Grow it as a specimen plant, a hedge or even a topiary.
Otto Luyken laurel is related to azaleas and rhododendrons and has similar fertility requirements. No additional fertilizer is needed in well-amended, fertile soils, but gardeners may apply a few tablespoons of a slow-release, granular fertilizer (10-10-10) in the spring or fall, according to the U.S. National Arboretum. The plants have shallow roots and are easily burned by fertilizer; spread fertilizer several inches away from the base of the plant.
Soil amendments are preferable to granular fertilizers except in the poorest soils, because they pose less of a risk of burning the plant. Spread three or four shovelfuls of well-rotted manure or humus at the base of the shrub every spring. These amendments break down slowly, providing nutrients as they improve soil texture.
Mulches and Acidic Fertilizers
Mulches conserve moisture and prevent weed growth, but they also play a role in fertilizing Otto Luyken laurels. These shrubs prefer slightly acidic soil and benefit from pine bark and pine needle mulches, which lower the soil pH. Some fertilizers also add acid to the soil, lowering the pH level temporarily. When the soil pH level is high, the leaves become yellow (chlorosis) due to an iron deficiency. Alkaline soils bind up iron, making it unavailable for plants.
Otto Luyken laurel grows in sun to partial shade in USDA plant hardiness zones 6 to 8. It needs regular watering and is not considered drought-tolerant. The plant grows 3 to 5 feet high and benefits from pruning after flowering. Shearing to form hedges mutilates the leaves, advises Washington State University Clark County Extension. Instead, prune individual stems.
Otto Luyken laurel is an invasive plant in some areas and is listed as a "plant of concern" by the King County, Washington, government. It spreads easily through seeds, layering and suckers and may outcompete native plants in moist climates. It is also difficult to eradicate.
All parts of the shrubs are poisonous, including the seeds, leaves and stems, and may be fatal to humans and livestock if eaten.
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