Maintaining Your Mountain Laurel Shrubs
Mountain laurel shrubs are one of the better known flowering shrubs whose flowers have a stunning and unique shape. The leaves of this evergreen shrub make it one to be cherished as it easily lends life to whatever setting it is planted in throughout the year. Flower colors range from pink to red to white with mixed shades often arising. Blooming usually begins in the late summer. The downside of this beautiful shrub, however, is that the leaves and flowers are toxic. The plants need moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soils. You can improve on soil drainage by adding peat moss or sand before you plant the shrubs. This will encourage healthy growth, with resulting strong and sturdy shrubs. Following are some maintenance guidelines.
The shrub requires adequate sunlight but also tolerates shady conditions. Intense heat is not ideal for the plant and may result in dehydration setting in. When temperatures get too hot, as in the summer, it is best to limit the plant's exposure to sunlight. Avoid subjecting the shrub to the afternoon heat. It is better to have it take in the morning sunlight for about 4 hours before you transfer it to a more shaded area. Laurels are ideal shrubs to grow underneath larger trees where they can experience both the sunlight as well as shade alternately.
In the initial planting phase, you need to water generously to encourage healthy growth. Once the plants are established you can cut back on the watering. However, be careful not to let the soils dry out during dry weather periods.
The shrubs will benefit from a light application of fertilizer once a year either early in the spring or in late fall. It is best to use a slow release timed fertilizer. Fertilizer promotes good health of the plants and helps keep the foliage vibrant and rich in its green color. Healthy blooming is also encouraged by the application of fertilizer. Avoid applying too much fertilizer as this will cause the plant to become strained. Bloom development will also be disrupted.
Your laurels will benefit from regular mulching which can be done in the summer and winter. You will get the best results if you use an organic mulch. Mulch helps in retaining the soil moisture so that not too much is lost through evaporation. Mulch also helps in keeping the soils cool which is important for the shrubs. The mulch releases nutrients into the soil which boosts food availability for the shrubs. Beneficial bacterial organisms are also added into the soil through mulch which helps in improving the soil ecosystem. Apply 3 to 5 inches of mulch onto the soil.
The plants require minimal pruning. However, it is a good idea to snip off the seed heads when blooming is over as this encourages better blooms in the next season. The shrubs can grow fairly tall, even attaining up to 12 feet in some cases, so if the height exceeds your flowering arrangement needs, it is best to cut them back considerably. Most of the varieties however are slow growing and will not get too tall.