Planting a Laurel Hedge? Here’s Everything You Need to Know
When it comes to finding an evergreen hedge that’s easy to look after and maintain, laurel hedging is a very popular choice. The best hedging plants are usually the ones that grow well in most conditions with minimal problems and ease of maintenance. And in the laurel family, these have always been some of their most enduring features.
Not only is the laurel hedge able to offer you greater privacy in your garden, but it can also grow in challenging conditions such as heavy clay soils. Laurel plants will also grow well in the shade and have a faster growth rate than many other types of hedging. This hardy plant is able to endure bitterly cold Winters and can tolerate temperatures as low as -20C
But how do you go about planting Laurel hedges? And how do you know when to plant this hedge in UK climates? How can you ensure they grow well and establish themselves in your garden complementing your other garden features?
As long as they’re planted and cared for correctly, you should have no issues at all with these thriving plants. So, how do you plant them in the right way? Here’s what you need to know.
When Should You Plant a Laurel Hedge?
In an ideal world you would plant a Laurel hedge between Autumn and Spring. This would give the plants time to develop new roots before the typically hotter and dryer periods of the late spring/early summer seasons. With container grown and potted plants the planting season is extended as these can be planted throughout the year, they will just require watering until the roots are established. The more time the plants have to develop their roots before Summer, the less supplemental watering they will require during the Summer. When planting a hedge during the Autumn, the soil is normally still warm enough for the plants to produce new roots and the ground is still workable enabling easier planting.
If you are planting bare-root laurel, this wants to be completed between Autumn and Spring from as soon as the plants become dormant but before they start growing again in the Spring. The first growing season after planting is a crucial stage to monitor the establishment of the hedge. Make sure they get plenty of water during those peak growing months between March and October.
Is it too Late to Plant a Laurel Hedge after those Months?
This depends on the laurel hedge in question. As stated above, bare-root laurel needs to be planted from November to March, before the spring and summer.
However, container grown laurel hedging can be planted year round. Our container grown laurel plants in 10 litre pots or our 90 Litre Instant Laurel Hedges are available for planting throughout the year according to stock. A container grown Laurel hedge will have no disturbance to the roots as they are grown in a pot as opposed to a bare root or rootballed laurel plants which will of been grown in a field and lifted when they are dormant. Any newly planted laurel hedge, (whether it is potted, rootballed or bare root laurels) will require frequent monitoring to check they are getting sufficient water until the roots are fully established in the ground.
How far apart Should You Plant Laurel Hedging?
Understanding how far apart to plant laurel plants will give you a better idea of how many plants to purchase in the first instance. This spacing will depend on several factors.
- The size of plants initially purchased,
- The eventual height the hedge will be
- The time it will take to create dense hedge at that spacing
- Budget constraints.
Planting laurel plants close together (so they are almost or just touching) will create a dense hedge in the shortest time period. Find out what size and width the plants are and work back from this. The bigger the plants are initially the further apart this spacing will be. If using really small plants then it is best to give them enough room to grow into and not overcrowd them. The minimum spacing we would recommend for small laurel plants would be 30cm apart. If using bigger plants this can be increased anywhere up to 1 metre apart. Leaving a gap between the plants will just take more time for the plants to fill out as a hedge. The bigger the gap the longer this will take. If a really tall laurel hedge is required then the plants should be spaced at around 75cm – 1 metre apart.
We provide recommended planting densities for all the laurel plants listed on our website. Our recommendations are based on planting at a density that the plants will start to join together as a hedge after 1 full growing season. This is only a guideline and please use more plants to reduce this timescale or less plants per metre if you have time to wait.
How to Plant Laurel Hedging: Step by Step
The process of planting laurel hedging is pretty simple and easy to accomplish. Below is a five-step process to give your laurel hedge plants the best possible start.
Step One: Clear the area where you’ll be planting laurels
Any perennial weeds or grass should be removed before planting to reduce competition and give your hedge enough space to grow. To be on the safe side, you should aim to leave a 30cm gap between your hedge and grass or other plants for the first two years after planting, as this will ensure that the hedge has the space it needs during the crucial establishment period.
The use of a systemic herbicide (containing glyphosate) will kill any weeds down to the roots. Make sure you apply this before you start planting a hedge so that the soil is prepared in advance. Additionally, weed killer sprays such as ‘Roundup’ require a dry spell of at least 4 hours once applied to do their job, which means you need to allow enough time for the weed killer to work before planting.
Alternatively, the removal of weeds etc can be done manually but the weeds and their roots will need to be removed to prevent them coming back.
Step Two: Digging out the hole/trench
If digging individual holes for the plants then these need to be roughly twice the width and slightly deeper than that of root ball of your laurel shrubs. Then, the soil in the bottom of the hole wants to be decompacted by digging with a spade and/ or garden fork so that the soil beneath the rootball is loosened to enable the roots to get into the soil.
If you are spacing the laurel hedging plants closer together then digging a trench is preferable to holes. Be sure to break up the soil in the bottom of the trench to help the root system penetrate into the soil. Whether using a digger or making your trench by hand, be careful not to compact the bottom of the trench as this can prevent your trench from draining properly in wet weather.
In general, the easier it is for your hedge plants to get their root system established in the soil, the more likely this will lead to faster growth of your newly planted laurel hedge.
Step Three: Placing the laurel plants in the hole/trench
It’s important to place the laurel plants into the holes or trench in a way that the lower branches are pointing into the gaps. These branches will grow into and fill any lower gaps in the laurel hedge. Ideally the plant rootball wants to be about an inch below the finished surface level of the soil so that the roots can be covered with an inch of soil and prevent them from drying out. It would be best to put all the plants in the trench and check for orientation and an even spacing before backfilling.
Step Four: Backfilling the hole/trench with soil
Backfill the soil into the hole or trench again. Make sure there are no big gaps by firming the soil in. To keep the root ball in the right position, it is best to hold the plants straight and then firm the soil around the sides of the roots with your heel to ensure everything stays where it should.
Step Five: Staking the plant
Preventing the wind from dislodging or snapping the new roots of a laurel hedge during their development is essential. Therefore, if you’re planting a larger hedge (anything over four feet tall) and the new laurel hedge is in an exposed location. It would be advisable to stake the plants and tie the plants to the stakes to keep them from rocking in strong winds and damaging the new roots.
Any stakes used should ideally be driven into the soil so that the top end of the stake faces the main direction of the wind. This will lessen the likelihood of the wind drawing the stake back out of the ground. Installing the stakes at an angle to the ground (something like 45 degrees) will provide extra strength in strong winds.
Planting Laurels: Commonly Asked Questions
All gardens are different with different soil types and conditions. Receiving differing amounts of sun, shade and exposure. Because all gardens will vary depending on their location it’s important to find out more information to decide if laurel plants are the best choice of hedge for your garden. Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about planting a laurel hedge.
What are the most popular kinds of laurel plants?
Cherry Laurel (Common Laurel/ Prunus laurocerasus) and Portuguese Laurel (Portugal Laurel/ Prunus lusitanica) are the two most popular options for planting a laurel hedge. But which one works best for you and your plant needs?
The Cherry Laurel, also referred to as common laurel or Prunus laurocerasus, has thick and vibrant green leaves. This fast-growing evergreen will provide shelter, reducing noise pollution and protecting your garden from strong winds. Cherry laurels are great for privacy and security as they form a dense hedge relatively quickly.
Unlike the Cherry Laurel, a Portuguese Laurel plant has smaller, more pointed, dark green leaves with plum/pink coloured stems. Portuguese laurels are slower growing and make superb formal hedges. They can still grow as tall and dense as a common laurel hedge, just at a slower rate. Portuguese laurels are also more tolerant of chalky soils.
Do laurel plants grow best in the sun or the shade?
All types of laurel hedging will grow well in full sun, so if you are lucky enough to receive lots of sunshine in your garden then a laurel hedge should grow very well. Laurel hedging plants will also grow in more shaded areas, they just won’t grow as fast as in full sun.
If you’re looking for the best laurel hedge to thrive in partial shade, Both Cherry and Portuguese Laurels will grow in shade but the Cherry Laurels will grow faster.
How long does it take for laurel hedging to grow?
Any hedge will require the right conditions to thrive. If conditions are favourable then you can expect a hedge growth rate of around two feet per year with laurel plants. Of course, this will vary depending on the type of soil you have, where the laurel hedging is placed and whether they are fed and watered through the growing season. As long as your hedge has some shelter from strong winds and plenty of water, laurel tends to thrive.
Can laurel roots cause damage to my house?
The root system of a hedge is typically proportionate to the height and width of the hedge. The bigger the hedge the bigger the root system has to be to support it. The majority of laurel hedging isn’t going to have a root system large enough to damage homes and other properties. As long as your hedge is kept at a fair height, there shouldn’t be an issue with laurel roots. However, we would always recommend against planting a laurel hedge right up to an external wall of a house.
Laurel Hedging and Aftercare
Once planted in the ground, make sure that you continue to take care of your laurel hedge to help it thrive and establish.
- To help plan your watering schedule, begin to understand your soil and take note of how quickly it dries out in warm weather. Soil that retains moisture will require less watering. Conversely, soil that is very fast draining will require more water, more frequently.
- Water your hedge at regular time intervals. Watering during the evening or early morning will reduce the amount of water that is lost to evaporation on hot days. Evaporation can also be reduced by using a good mulch around the base of the hedge.
- Each watering of your laurel hedging should be a thorough drenching to penetrate down into the root system. Simply sprinkling a bit of water around the base will do little to nothing.
- Continue to check your soil at regular intervals throughout the year to monitor how moist it is and water accordingly.
- Any mulching should be placed around 3 inches deep around the base of your new hedge. Ideally apply the mulch straight after planting or in the early springtime before new growth begins and when the soil is nice and moist.
- Mulching your laurel hedging helps to prevent weed growth in the newly planted area. It will also provide some nutrients to the laurels as they grow and retain moisture in the soil.
- Fertilising young plants before and after planting can encourage them to grow faster into a mature hedge with a well-established root structure. We recommend the use of controlled release fertilisers.
- Controlled/ slow-releasing feeds are generally considered best as they provide a steady release of nutrients over a longer period of time. The best time to feed a Laurel hedge would normally be in the spring just as the new leaves start to break through. On the nursery, we would follow this up with a late spring feed and also at least one in the summer.
- In general, you’ll only need to trim and prune your laurel once per year. The trimming and pruning of Laurel hedging is best carried out in the spring just before the plants have started growing again, or in the autumn when their growth starts to shut down for the winter.
- It is possible to use hedge trimmers for pruning your Laurel hedge, but as Laurels have quite large leaves, some of these leaves will be sliced through by the hedge trimmers. These cut Laurel leaves will crisp up and go brown at the edges as they heal. If this is done in spring, then the new foliage coming through will cover these older leaves, which will eventually fall after being replaced by the new leaves coming through.
- Many people suggest cutting a Laurel hedge with secateurs to avoid slicing through the leaves. However, in practice on the nursery, we simply use hedge trimmers for the main trim and follow up with secateurs to tidy up and remove any shredded leaves.
As with planting any type of hedge, knowing when to plant, how to plant and care for your new hedge can make all the difference.
With a bit of effort and the right amount of care and attention to detail, you’ll soon be able to enjoy the benefits of your very own laurel hedging for years to come.