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Types of Flowering Laurels

A close-up of some lovely Portuguese cherry laurel (Prunus lusitanica) flowers.
laurel blossom image by Alison Bowden from Fotolia.com

Many different flowering plants are commonly known as laurels. These are largely evergreen shrubs that keep their leaves year round.

These ornamental plants bloom at different times of the year and differ in appearance as well as hardiness. Some are native to North America.

Tip

Cherry laurel shrubs can handle heavy pruning and are often used as hedges.

Types of Cherry Laurel Bushes

There are several species of flowering laurel in the genus ‌Prunus‌, which is the cherry genus belonging to the rose family, Rosaceae. These dense shrubs are very drought tolerant and can be pruned into hedges.

A large amount of cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) flowers blooming on the same plant.
SABENCIA Guillermo C├ęsar Ruiz, CC-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Cherry Laurel

Also known as the English laurel, the cherry laurel (‌Prunus laurocerasus‌, zones 6 to 8) is a broadleaf evergreen shrub native to Europe and Asia. This species produces upright racemes of fragrant white flowers that bloom in April and May, though they are often hidden behind the plant's shiny dark green leaves.

The cherry laurel typically has a height between 10 and 18 feet. It is a fast-growing species that can add up to 25 inches of new growth a year.

A few Carolina cherry laurel (Prunus caroliniana) flowers at night.
Joe Mabel. CC-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Carolina Cherry Laurel

The Carolina cherry laurel (‌Prunus caroliniana‌, zones 7 to 10) is a native species that occurs in the Southeastern U.S. It has a typical height between 15 and 20 feet.

The Carolina cherry laurel blooms in late winter to early spring. It produces racemes of small, fragrant white flowers that are followed by fruits that are appealing to birds.

A handful of delightful Portuguese cherry laurel (Prunus lusitanica) flowers.
Ecelan, CC-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Portuguese Cherry Laurel

Native to the Iberian Peninsula, the Portuguese cherry laurel (‌Prunus lusitanica‌, zones 7 to 9) is another dense shrub in the cherry genus that produces racemes of small white flowers. It has a slower growth rate than the cherry laurel and can be trained as a small tree.

Other Laurel Bush Types

Let's look at some other common types of flowering laurel bushes.

A bunch of wonderful pink mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) flowers growing near some rocks.
Fritzflohrreynolds, CC-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Mountain Laurel

Native to the Eastern United States, the mountain laurel (‌Kalmia latifolia‌, zones 4 to 9) is a broadleaf evergreen shrub that blooms in May and June. All parts of the mountain laurel are highly toxic if eaten.

Mountain laurel flowers are cup-shaped and may be red, light pink or white and often have purple markings. Each flower has a width of about an inch. The flowers grow in clusters known as corymbs that may be up to 6 inches wide.

While this plant can be grown in partial shade, full sun is necessary for best color in cultivars with red and white flowers.

Tip

The cultural needs of the mountain laurel are similar to those of azaleas and rhododendrons, so these flowering bushes can be grown in close proximity.

Also known as calico bush, the mountain laurel is the state flower of both Pennsylvania and Connecticut. It can be grown near rhododendrons and azaleas because of similar cultural needs, such as acidic soil. This species grows slowly, adding less than a foot of height a year.

A close-up of some delicate yellow flowers from a bay laurel (Laurus nobilis).
G.Hagedorn, CC-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bay Laurel

Bay laurel (‌Laurus nobilis‌, zones 8 to 10) is a broadleaf evergreen flowering shrub native to the Mediterranean region. The leaves of this plant are used as a cooking herb.

From March to May, the bay laurel shrub produces small yellowish-green flowers that are not very conspicuous.

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