Planting Portuguese Laurel for a Hedge: What You Need to Know | Hedging UK

Portuguese laurel, scientifically known as Prunus lusitanica, is an evergreen shrub or small tree native to the Iberian Peninsula, particularly Portugal and Spain. It is a popular ornamental plant in gardens and landscapes due to its attractive appearance and versatility. Portuguese laurel is a very popular choice for hedges due to its dense foliage, attractive appearance, and suitability for formal or informal designs.

Below is some useful information about using Portuguese Laurel for hedges, or take a look at our Portuguese Laurel Hedging Plants for sale.

Portuguese laurel Description:

Growth Habit:

Portuguese laurel is an evergreen shrub or small tree that can reach a height of 3 to 7 metres (10 to 25 feet) if left untrimmed. When used for hedges, it is typically pruned to maintain a more compact size.


The leaves of Portugal laurel are dark green, glossy, and oval-shaped, measuring around 5 to 10cm (2 to 4 inches) long. They have a leathery texture and provide a dense screen when planted closely together.

Flowers and Fruits:

In late spring to early summer, Portuguese laurel produces small white flowers in erect clusters. These flowers are followed by small black fruits, but they are not usually significant ornamental features of the plant.

Sunlight and Soil Requirements:

Portuguese laurel thrives in full sun to partial shade. It prefers moist, well-drained soil, but it can tolerate a range of soil types, including clay, loam and even chalky soils. However, it is important to avoid waterlogged conditions.

Hedge Pruning:

Portuguese laurels responds well to regular pruning and can be shaped into formal hedges or trimmed into less formal shapes. It is recommended to prune Portuguese laurel hedges at least once a year, preferably in late spring or early summer after flowering.


While Portuguese laurel is generally a low-maintenance plant, it benefits from occasional feeding to promote healthy growth. It is also important to water young plants regularly until they establish a strong root system.


Portuguese laurel plants are fully hardy in the UK and can tolerate temperatures down as low as -18°C. Plants in containers may require some protection over very cold winters.


One thing to note is that the berries of Portuguese laurel are toxic if ingested, so caution should be exercised if planting it in areas frequented by children or pets.

Where is the best place to plant a Portuguese Laurel Hedge?

The best place to plant a Portuguese laurel hedge is in a location that meets its preferred growing conditions. Here are some guidelines to consider:

Light Requirements:

Portuguese laurel plants thrive in full sun to partial shade. Therefore, choose a location that receives at least a few hours of direct sunlight each day. However, it can tolerate shadier conditions as well.

Soil Type:

Portuguese laurel prefers well-draining soil but is adaptable to a range of soil types, including clay, loam, chalky and sandy soils. Ensure the soil is not constantly waterlogged, as this can lead to root rot.

Space and Size:

Consider the mature size of Portuguese laurel when planning your hedge. It can grow up to 3 to 6 meters in height and spread. Allow sufficient space between plants to accommodate their size at maturity.

Protection from Harsh Winds:

While Portuguese laurel is known for its windbreak capabilities, young plants may benefit from some protection against strong winds. Planting them near a natural windbreak, such as a fence or existing shrubs, can provide initial shelter.


Consider the accessibility of the hedge for maintenance purposes. Ensure there is enough space to manoeuvre around the plants for pruning, watering, and other care tasks.

What time of year do you plant Portuguese Laurel?

The ideal time to plant Portuguese laurel (Prunus lusitanica) is in the early Spring or Autumn, specifically during the cooler months when the weather is mild. Planting during these seasons allows the laurel to establish its root system before facing the challenges of extreme temperatures or dry spells.

Here are a few considerations regarding the timing of Portuguese laurel planting:

Early Spring:

Planting in late Winter, early Spring, just before the active growing season, provides the laurel with ample time to establish its roots before the warmer months. It allows the plant to take advantage of the favourable growing conditions and reduces the risk of stress associated with extreme heat.


Planting in Autumn, typically from September to November, is another suitable time for Portuguese laurel. The soil is still warm from the summer months, enabling root development, and the cool temperatures and increased rainfall during autumn support healthy growth.

It’s important to note that planting during periods of extreme heat, such as the peak of summer, is generally not recommended as it can stress the laurel and hinder its establishment. However, if planting during the summer months is unavoidable, take extra precautions to provide sufficient water and shade to protect the young plant.

How far apart to plant Portuguese Laurel plants for a hedge?

When planting Portuguese laurel (Prunus lusitanica) for a hedge, the spacing will depend on the desired density and size of the hedge at maturity.

Here are some general guidelines for spacing Portuguese Laurel plants in a hedge:

Understanding how far apart to plant Portuguese Laurel plants will give you a better idea of how many plants to purchase in the first instance. This spacing depends 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 Portuguese Laurels close together (so they are almost or just touching) will create a dense hedge in a shorter 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 planting Portuguese Laurels would be 30cm apart. If you have purchased bigger plants then this can be increased anywhere up to 1 metre or even further 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.

We provide recommended planting densities for all the 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 do I plant Portuguese Laurel?

The process of planting Portuguese Laurel hedging is pretty simple and easy to accomplish. Please refer to our planting guide for more details.

How far to plant Portugal Laurel from a fence?

When planting Portuguese laurel (Prunus lusitanica) near a fence, it is generally recommended to provide adequate spacing to allow for proper growth and maintenance of the plant. The specific distance will depend on the desired size of the hedge, the available space, and the dimensions of the fence.

As a general guideline, it is suggested to plant Portuguese laurel about 2 to 3 feet (60 to 90 centimeters) away from the fence. This spacing allows room for the plant to grow and spread without being too close to the fence, which could restrict its growth or make maintenance difficult.

By providing sufficient space between the hedge and the fence, you allow for proper air circulation, access for pruning, and easier maintenance of both the plant and the fence. Additionally, the space will help prevent the hedge from encroaching on the fence and potentially causing damage over time.

How fast do Portuguese laurels grow?

Portuguese laurels (Prunus lusitanica) are considered to have a moderate growth rate. Under ideal conditions, they can grow approximately 30 to 60cm 1 to 2 foot per year. However, growth rates can vary depending on factors such as climate, soil conditions and how much feed and care is provided.

Another significant factor to plant development is soil compaction. A plants roots will always struggle to establish in very compacted soil and will result in poorer performing growth above ground as well.

Regular side pruning can help shape the laurel hedge and promote a denser hedge and increase vertical growth. Pruning also encourages branching and can help maintain the desired height and shape of the hedge. With proper care and maintenance, Portuguese laurels can form a dense and attractive hedge within a few years.

How big does a Portugal Laurel get?

Portuguese laurels (Prunus lusitanica) have the potential to reach heights of 3 to 7.5 metres (10 to 25 feet) if left untrimmed. However, when used as a hedge or for ornamental purposes, they are typically pruned and maintained at a smaller size.

For hedges, Portuguese laurels are commonly kept at a height of around 1.8 to 3 metres (6 to 10 feet), although the height can vary depending on personal preferences and specific hedge design. The width of a Portuguese laurel hedge is usually maintained at 60cm to 2 metres (2 to 6 feet) or more, depending on the desired density.

It’s important to consider the available space and the ultimate size of Portuguese laurels when planting them. Adequate spacing should be provided to accommodate their potential growth and ensure they don’t become overcrowded or outgrow the intended space. Regular pruning and maintenance will help keep the Portugal laurel hedge at the desired height and width.

Is Portuguese Laurel hardy in the UK?

Yes, Portuguese laurel (Prunus lusitanica) is generally considered hardy in the United Kingdom. It is well-suited to the UK climate and can tolerate the typical weather conditions experienced in many parts of the country.

However, it’s worth noting that extreme cold temperatures, particularly in northern and inland regions of the UK, can potentially pose a risk to Portuguese laurels. In such areas, it’s advisable to provide some protection during severe cold spells, such as wrapping the plant with horticultural fleece or situating it in a sheltered spot.

Can you keep Portuguese Laurel small?

Yes, Portuguese laurel (Prunus lusitanica) can be kept small through regular pruning and maintenance. By consistently pruning and shaping the plant, you can control its size and prevent it from outgrowing the desired space.

To keep Portuguese laurel small, follow these pruning guidelines:

Regular Pruning:

Prune the hedge at least once a year, preferably in late spring or early summer after flowering. This timing allows the plant to recover and regrow before the cooler months.

Size Control:

When pruning, trim back the new growth to the desired height and width. Remove any excessively long branches or shoots to maintain a compact shape.

Shape Maintenance:

Trim the sides of the hedge to maintain a neat and uniform appearance. You can use hedge trimmer or shears to shape the laurel into the desired form, such as a formal hedge or a more informal shape.

Prune for Density:

Regularly prune the hedge to encourage branching and promote denser growth. This will help create a fuller and more compact appearance.

It’s important to note that regular pruning is necessary to keep Portuguese laurel small and well-maintained. If left unpruned, the plant has the potential to grow taller and wider, so consistent pruning is key to controlling its size.

By following these pruning practices, you can effectively keep Portuguese laurel at a smaller size and ensure it remains well-suited to your space requirements.

Can Portuguese Laurel be cut back hard?

Yes, Portuguese laurel (Prunus lusitanica) can be cut back hard if needed. However, it’s important to consider a few factors before deciding to perform a severe or hard pruning on the plant:


It’s generally recommended to perform hard pruning in early spring or late winter before new growth begins. This timing allows the plant to recover and regrow during the active growing season.

Vigour and Health:

Ensure that the Portuguese laurel is in good health and vigour before undertaking a hard pruning. Healthy plants have a better chance of recovering and regrowing after a severe cutback.

Gradual Approach:

If possible, it is often better to avoid a single severe pruning and instead opt for a gradual approach. This involves cutting back the plant incrementally over multiple years to minimize stress. To do this only cut back one side of the hedge leaving the other to continue to provide some protection whilst also reducing the stress on the hedge as a whole. Once one side of the hedge has been restored then you can address the other side.


Understand that severe pruning will result in a significant reduction in size and foliage. The plant may take some time to recover and regrow to its desired shape and density.

When performing a hard pruning, you can cut the Portuguese laurel back to a few inches above ground level or to a desired height, depending on your goals. However, keep in mind that the plant may take several growing seasons to fully recover and regain its desired size and shape.

It’s also worth noting that hard pruning should be followed by proper care, such as regular watering and feeding, to support the plant’s recovery and regrowth. Monitoring the plant’s progress and adjusting the maintenance practices accordingly will help ensure successful rejuvenation after a hard pruning.

How do you thicken a Portuguese laurel hedge?

To thicken a Portuguese laurel hedge (Prunus lusitanica), there are several techniques you can employ:


Regular pruning is essential for thickening a laurel hedge. Prune the hedge annually or as needed to remove any leggy or sparse growth. Concentrate on selectively pruning the tips of branches to encourage lateral branching and stimulate new growth. This helps create a denser and fuller hedge.


Use hedge trimmers or shears to trim the Portuguese laurel hedge. This involves trimming the outer layer of foliage to shape the hedge and promote lateral branching. Shearing encourages dense growth and contributes to a thicker appearance.


Apply a balanced slow-release fertiliser formulated for shrubs or hedges in early spring and again in late spring or early summer. This provides the necessary nutrients to support healthy and vigorous growth, which contributes to a thicker hedge.


Ensure the Portugal laurel hedge receives sufficient water, especially during dry periods or while it establishes itself. Consistent watering promotes lush foliage and encourages the hedge to fill in any sparse areas.


Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of the laurel hedge, leaving a gap around the stems. Mulching helps retain soil moisture, regulates soil temperature, and suppresses weed growth. This can contribute to overall plant health and encourage thickening of the hedge.

Thinning and Renovation:

If the laurel hedge has become too thick or leggy, you may need to thin it out. This involves selectively removing some branches from within the hedge to improve airflow and light penetration. Thinning allows for better growth throughout the hedge and promotes denser foliage.

Remember to adjust the maintenance and care routine based on the specific needs and conditions of your laurel hedge. Consistency is key, and regular attention to pruning, trimming, feeding, and watering will help thicken the hedge over time.

Which grows faster Cherry Laurel or Portuguese Laurel?

In terms of growth rate, Cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) tends to grow faster than Portuguese laurel (Prunus lusitanica). Cherry laurel is known for its rapid growth and can put on several feet of growth per year under favourable conditions.

Cherry laurel is capable of growing at a rate of approximately 60-90cm (2 to 3 feet) per year when provided with adequate sunlight, water, and nutrients. It can quickly establish a dense hedge or screen.

On the other hand, Portuguese laurel has a more moderate growth rate. Under ideal conditions, it can grow about 30-60cm (1-2 foot) per year. While it may not grow as fast as Cherry laurel, it is still considered a relatively fast-growing evergreen shrub.

It’s important to note that actual growth rates can vary depending on various factors such as climate, soil conditions, pruning, and overall care. Both Cherry laurel and Portuguese laurel can be effective choices for hedging, but if you require faster growth and quicker establishment, Cherry laurel may be a more suitable option.

Do Portuguese laurels lose their leaves?

No, Portuguese laurels (Prunus lusitanica) are evergreen plants, which means they do not lose their leaves in the typical manner like deciduous plants. Evergreen plants retain their foliage throughout the year, providing year-round greenery and privacy.

Portuguese laurels have dense, glossy, dark green leaves that remain on the plant even during the winter months. This characteristic makes them popular choices for hedges, screens, and ornamental plantings, as they maintain their lush appearance throughout the seasons.

However, it’s important to note that while Portuguese laurels are generally evergreen, they may experience some leaf drop or browning of older leaves under certain conditions. This is a natural process and usually occurs in response to stress factors such as drought, extreme temperatures, or poor growing conditions. With proper care and maintenance, Portuguese laurels should retain their leaves and continue to provide an attractive evergreen presence in your landscape.


Overall, Portuguese laurel is a popular choice for its lush, evergreen foliage, dense growth habit, and versatility in landscaping. It adds a touch of elegance and privacy to gardens and can be a visually appealing addition to various outdoor spaces. Portuguese laurel is widely cultivated in the UK and is popular for hedging and ornamental purposes. It can thrive in a range of soil types and is adaptable to different light conditions, from full sun to partial shade. Regular care, including proper pruning and maintenance, will help ensure the health and longevity of Portuguese laurel hedges in the UK.