image used as white space
MSUcares header Link to home page
Logos of MSU, Extension Service, and MAFES Links to home page of website.

Mississippi Gardens Newsletter ArchivesCherry Laurel is excellent addition to landscape
Mississippi Gardens Newspaper and Web Column - March 17, 2003

Spring is truly a refreshing time of year even when it's rainy and storms seem to follow one after the other. My yard hasn't been this wet in 5 or 6 years due to a rather consistent and over abundant supply of rainfall since last October! However, I have been pleasantly surprised at the abundance of spring blooms. Can you remember when camellias have looked as good as they have this spring? Azaleas, camellias and other spring bloomers are outperforming many previous years with a huge display of bold, showy blooms with vibrant colors seemingly unaffected by the extended wet weather.

Cherry LaurelA particularly impressive shrub caught my eye this spring and I am convinced that if more people new about it they would surely use it more in Mississippi landscapes. The plant I refer to is the Carolina Cherry Laurel (Prunus caroliniana). You may guess by the name that it is native to the U. S. from Coastal Virginia to northern Florida and west to Louisiana. It has few pest problems, a rapid growth rate and is really quite well adapted to our state.

The Cherry Laurel is widely used in many parts of the southeast as a specimen plant, hedge, and screen or as an effective windbreak. It has very attractive, glossy dark green foliage that remains year round. It can be pruned for topiary work or sheared as a hedge. Nevertheless it will look very good if left to naturally form a dense rounded shrub or tree. Often you will see the Cherry Laurel with its lower branches pruned up about 4 feet or so as a small tree with a single trunk. Give it plenty of room since left unattended it will quietly grow 20 to 30 feet tall with a spread of 15 to 25 feet! The national champion Cherry Laurel located in Lakeland, Florida is 47 feet tall and 55 feet wide!

In addition to superb foliage and multiple uses the Cherry Laurel features a white, fragrant flower in early spring. Although the blooms are not overwhelming they arrive at a time when they are a very welcome sight in the landscape. The fruit is green, ripening to lustrous black in late fall. The seed will sprout readily for easy propagation. A cultivar known as 'Bright and Tight', also called 'Compacta' is available in the market place. It has smaller leaves than the naturally occurring form and a more compact, pyramidal growth habit. If you are looking for an excellent addition to your landscape consider this native favorite. Happy Gardening!

Publications may download photographs at 200 dpi: Bloom | Shrub

These archived columns were written by Kerry Johnson<, a hobby gardener, former weekly newspaper columnist and retired Extension Horticulture Agent for 11 coastal counties in Mississippi.