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How to Prune Cherry Laurel

laurel leaf isolated image by Albo from Fotolia.com

Hardy between zones 7 and 10, Cherry Laurel (Prunus Caroliniana) grows wild in many parts of the southern United States and is used as a versatile landscaping plant. Left alone, the plant develops a mounding form between 10 to 20 feet tall. Shear it annually for a dense, evergreen hedge, or prune to one strong trunk to develop a tree. The tree's white blossoms and shiny, green foliage make it an appealing choice. Grow the plant next to a patio, though, as hundreds of seedlings sprout up in grassy areas due to the plant's tendency to drop seeds.

Shear the tips off cherry laurels each spring to a uniform height if you want to grow Cherry Laurel as a hedge. Maintain your hedge with frequent shearing throughout the growing season.

Cut out any dead wood with your hand pruners in summer or early fall. Cherry laurel is prone to canker, especially if pruned during wet winters and springs. Instead, prune mid- to late summer. Prune branches that are rubbing against each other or growing vertically. Cherry laurel, grown in its natural, rounded form, requires little pruning.

Cut back all branches except for one strong trunk if you want to grow Cherry Laurel as a tree. Allow lateral branches to grow from this trunk, but remove any suckers (small, vegetative growth that sprouts vertically from lateral branches).

Cherry Laurel (prunus Caroliniana)

Cherry laurel trees grow to 20 to 40 feet tall, with a 15- to 20-foot spread. Their simple leaves are oval-shaped with pointed tips and smooth edges, and may vary in color from deep, dark green to a light yellowish green, depending on the soil type. It has a thick, dense crown and large, vivid green leaves and grows in USDA zones 7 through 11. Cherry laurels self-seed, so unwanted seedlings can cause problems on lawns and in gardens, and their fruit can become a litter problem. Fire blight is a bacterial disease that causes the flowers and twigs to turn black and shrivel. Severe infections can kill cherry laurel trees. Cherry laurel trees are also susceptible to verticillium wilt, a disease caused by a soil-borne fungus that attacks the water and nutrient transport systems. A number of different fungi and bacteria cause canker infections that can damage the bark or kill the tree, and leaf spot diseases create unattractive spotting on the foliage.

Tip

Cut back dead branches to the ground or to healthy wood (green inside). Always make cuts 1/4 inch above an outward-facing bud. Buds are the small triangular growths on branches where new shoots will appear. Make the cut at a 30-degree angle so moisture can drain off the cut. Cherry laurel fruit and leaves are toxic. Watch pets and children around this plant.

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