Learn more about the Laurel flowers and you might just understand why one of these types was made the state flower of Pennsylvania.
One type of the laurel flowers, the mountain laurel, is the chosen state flower of Pennsylvania since the 1930s. It’s not actually a flower but an evergreen shrub that can grow 6-10 feet tall crowned with an umbrella of red, pink or white blooms. Native Americans made spoons out of the bark of the mountain laurel. Thus, the spoons were called “spoon wood.”
Mountain laurel flowers are related to the rhododendron and originated in Europe. It was introduced as an ornamental plant in the America during the 18th century.
California Bay Laurel (Umbellularia californica)
Growing from 2 to 16 feet high, this laurel is native to the mountains of Oregon and California. Hardy in zones 7-10, it thrives in full or partial sun, and it produces small yellow flowers in the Spring. It can be either a tree or a shrub, and it has fragrant, lance-shaped leaves that can be used instead of sweet bay leaves, producing a much stronger flavor.
Carolina Cherry Laurel (Prunus caroliniana)
This plant can get quite large – up to 20 feet high and 40 feet in width, which is why it is sometimes used as a privacy screen by training it to grow on more than one trunk. It blooms in the Spring and has white flowers that are sometimes difficult to see, just like the Cherry laurel, but unlike this plant, the Carolina Cherry laurel is drought-tolerant and therefore thrives in dry soils.
Caucasica (Prunus laurocerasus)
A fast-growing plant, the Caucasica prefers full sun or partial shade and soil that is moist but well-drained. It grows a little faster than other laurels, and it maintains its beautiful dark-green color throughout the Winter, which means it will boast a beautiful color all year long. It produces white flowers in the Spring and red berries in the Fall, which the birds will love.
Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus)
Also known as the English Laurel, this is a hardy laurel that is very popular in the southern part of the United States. Best when grown in full sun and moist but well-drained soil, the Cherry Laurel has small white flowers that are sometimes hidden behind its leaves, which are broad, leathery, and can get up to 5 inches long and 2 inches wide. A spring-blooming shrub, this laurel produces tiny black berries in the Fall.
Crotonifolia (Aucuba japonica)
A type of spotted laurel, it prefers the shade over bright sun and has dark-green leaves with large patches of gold. These types of laurels have either male or female flowers, and the male flowers that are deep-purple in color.
Elf Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)
Best when grown in zones 5-9, this laurel is a dwarf plant that only gets up to 3 feet tall and 4 feet in width. It has large pink buds that open up to nearly white flowers, and it is the first dwarf mountain laurel to be introduced.
Etna (Prunus laurocerasus)
A very dense evergreen, the Etna has dark, glossy foliage that is an orange-bronze color when brand new. It prefers full sun or partial shade, and one of its advantages is that it can be grown in a variety of soils, including soil that is chalky or has clay in it. It gets spikes of creamy-white flowers in the Spring and glossy black berries in the Fall, making it an attractive plant all year long.
Golden King (Aucuba japonica)
This variety is very similar to the Crotonifolia, because it has male flowers and patches of gold on its dark-green leaves. It prefers the shade and not full sun, and it has very large, attractive leaves.
Laurel or Sweet Bay (Laurus nobilis)
Compared to other laurels, this one is considered small, growing up to a maximum of 12 feet in height. It is a narrow evergreen tree that has dark-green, wavy leaves and tiny, insignificant flowers. If you take its fragrant leaves and dry them out, you can use them as a spice, and it prefers full sun and rich, moist soil that is also well-drained. It is hardy and easy to grow, and many people grow them just for the sweet bay laurel herb it can produce.
A dwarf variety, this laurel grows no higher than 3 feet, and has soft-pink buds that open to flowers in a beautiful shade of pink. It also has large, dark-green leaves that are spot-resistant and therefore beautiful all year long.
Maculata (Aucuba japonica)
Also called the Variegata, this type of laurel has female flowers and leaves that are green but have large yellow speckles on them. It is a round evergreen shrub with beautiful large leaves that are certain to catch your attention.
Minuet Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)
This shrub has light-pink buds and pink flowers that have a beautiful red band on them. Growing up to 3 feet high and 3 feet wide, it does best when grown in zones 5-9.
Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)
Native to the United States, this laurel has very showy flowers and gets to 15 feet in height. It does better in acidic soil and the flowers are either white, pink, or red in color. They are often planted with azaleas and rhododendrons, because like the latter, the Mountain laurel has the same care requirements, and even looks a lot like rhododendrons. They grow naturally along streams and on rocky streams.
Olympic Fire Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)
Best when grown in zones 5-9, this type of laurel has beautiful red-pink buds that open to flowers which are dark-pink in color. It is one of the largest mountain laurels, growing up to 10 feet high and 10 feet in width, making it quite striking.
Native to the Northwest, this one has red buds that open up to pink flowers and a hardiness that can tolerate more sun than other varieties. It has wavy leaves that are smaller than other types, as well as the ability to grow up to 6 feet high, sometimes taller as it ages.
Otto Luyken Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus)
Growing up to 4 feet in height and 6 feet wide, this type of laurel is shade-tolerant and prefers moist but well-drained soil. It is a low-maintenance shrub that makes a perfect low hedge or background shrub. They can also be used a low foot-traffic barrier, and it has beautiful leaves that stand out among other plants.
Peppermint Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)
The flowers on this laurel are unique because they are white in color and contain dark-red streaks that run through each petal. It grows up to 10 feet high and 10 feet wide, and it thrives best in zones 5-9.
Portugal Laurel (Prunus lusitanica)
Although a hardy species, the Portugal laurel is also slow-growing. It grows up to 30 feet in height and is a dense bush, but it is also able to survive pollution, wind, and drought. Often trained to grow on one trunk just like a regular tree, this type of laurel blooms in early-Summer with white, spiky flowers that can get up to 10 inches long. Its berries, which appear later on, range in color from bright-red to dark-purple, so it is a striking, eye-catching plant.
Purple Leaf Sandcherry (Prunus x cistena)
This plant has gorgeous purple-red leaves and is very hardy, holding their color all summer long. It can grow easily in all conditions, even in colder areas, and it grows up to 10 feet high and 8 feet in width.
Rozannie (Aucuba japonica)
This type of laurel is one of the few varieties with both male and female flowers on the same plant. It is a dwarf variety with dark-green leaves and no variegation. In late-Autumn and Winter, red berries appear that are quite large and very attractive.
A very cold-hardy shrub, it is perfect for people living in colder parts of the country, and it can grow up to 15 feet tall. If you prune it, you can make it shorter, which some people prefer, and because it is adaptable, the Schipka laurel grows well either full sun or partial shade.
Snowdrift Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)
If you’re looking for something that boasts of pure-white flowers, this is a plant you should consider. It has shiny, dark-green leaves and bright-white flowers that are nothing short of stunning. Like other mountain laurels, this one does best in zones 5-9 and grows up to 10 feet high and 10 feet in width.
Spurge Laurel (Daphne laureola)
This is a small evergreen shrub that has beautiful green flowers and striking black berries. It is found on limestone in old woodlands and is loved because of its matching leaves and flowers.
Tinkerbell Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)
Like its name implies, this is a dwarf laurel that grows up to 3 feet high and 3 feet wide. It does best in zones 5-9, and it grows buds that are deep-pink in color and which reveal rich pink flowers when open.
Interesting Facts about the Laurel Shrubs
- The English Laurel has been around since the 1500s, making it one of the world’s oldest plants. The sweet fragrance of the flowers impressed a Swiss researcher, and since that day the flowers have been used for a variety of floral arrangements, including corsages and bridal bouquets. The laurel has both a wonderful fragrance and intense beauty, so its history is not surprising.
- Laurel water is a popular drink and is made from the distilled leaves of the plant, and it can also be used as an addition to some foods, giving the foods a flavor like sweet almond.
- Many companies use the laurel’s leaves and fruit to make dyes for certain fabrics. They start by heating the ingredients, ending up with a perfect dye that comes in many different colors.
- In Greek and Roman cultures, laurel leaves were often worn in wreaths as a sign of victory. They were also used in wreaths that were worn by those who have attained the highest status in the country. In addition, the wreaths have been awarded to winners of certain games and contests; for instance, even today the wreaths are given to Grand Prix winners.
- Laurel leaves were once thought to inspire creativity and therefore, they were placed under the pillows of people who needed to be creative for their jobs or hobbies. It is thought that laurel leaves help a person come up with ideas quickly, and it all starts with placing the leaves underneath that person’s pillow.
- The words “laureate” and “baccalaureate” derive from the significance of the laurel leaves, and even today many colleges award college graduates with a laurel wreath to reward them for their achievements.
Why Choose the Laurel Plants?
- Many of these shrubs are very tolerant of both wet and dry conditions, as well as both warm and cold temperatures. In fact, many of them can be grown anywhere except in places where the soil is chalky or waterlogged, making them a very versatile and popular plant.
- Fast-growing and with leaves a beautiful shade of green, most laurels give your yard a very elegant look that is attractive to your visitors. They also do a great job of creating a type of privacy screen to shield your yard from passersby.
- The laurel has beautiful, shiny-green leaves that produce two major effects: first, the look is very aesthetically pleasing, and second, the leaves can actually reflect sunshine and make your yard warmer, which can be a real lifesaver during the cold winter months.
- Most varieties are very low-maintenance, which means you never have to worry about the shape or size of the shrub getting out of hand or too bushy and shaggy. In fact, most of the species require only once-a-year pruning, and after that you’re on your way to having a hedge that is beautiful and perfectly shaped.
- If you live near a busy street or near a highway, the laurel plants can actually eliminate some of the noise from those areas, making your home a lot quieter in the end.
- Some of the varieties have a sweet fragrance and are very attractive to bees, and the berries – whether red, black, or some other color – have a taste and an appearance that are attractive to birds, making this a plant that will draw in all the right animals.
- One of its main advantages is that there are both regular and dwarf varieties, which means regardless of the size hedge you are looking for, you can easily get it by choosing a laurel hedge.
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