How to Grow Mountain Laurels from Seeds
While the mountain Laurel is an easy-to-grow evergreen shrub, the seed sometimes won’t germinate while inside the pods.
Start the Seeds Indoors
If you want to grow your own mountain laurel from seed, you need to collect the seeds when the flowers fade. You will see that the seed pods are gathered in clumps on individual stems. The pods usually contain one large seed though sometimes there are two. It is not usual for the pods to open and release the seed.
Collect a few of the pods because they won’t all successfully germinate.
Use seed trays or pots for seed germination. A good mix of potting soil and garden sand will give an ideal medium. Press the seed pods into the soil so that only half of each pod is visible.
The pots can be stored anywhere as long as they are protected from frost and freezing wind. Keep the soil moist until the seedlings sprout, which should be just after February.
Preparing the Ground
Mountain laurel likes well drained and slightly acid soil. Work the soil where you intend to grow them, adding good garden compost and digging it in well. If the soil is a little heavy, add some coarse garden sand to break it up a bit.
Early growth can seem to be slow and you might find that less than half of the seeds have germinated. Keep the seedlings watered until they are big enough to be transplanted. Select the strongest seedlings as your candidates for planting outdoors. When the seedling is big enough, the weather is warm enough and the danger of ground frost has passed you can plant it into the ground. Water the seedling well to settle the soil around the roots and then water daily for a couple of weeks.
The mountain laurel doesn’t really need a great deal of attention once it is safely established. A mulch of wood chippings will help keep the soil moist and will also help to maintain the acidity of the soil as it decomposes. Watering for the first year is a good idea. After the first year you will have to ensure that the rainfall is sufficient for it but be ready to water whenever the soil shows signs of drying out.
After the first year give it a liquid feed occasionally.
Although it can grow very bushy it is best not to prune a mountain laurel too much. In the first 3 years it is best not to prune it at all, but let it spread so that you will get an idea of the sort of shape you can mold it into. When the shrub starts to flower, usually after the third year you can increase the flower yield by pinching out the flowers as they wither.
To add strength to the mountain laurel don’t let it produce fruit in the first few years of flowering. Get all the energy going into stem growth.