European Kalmia Society - Growing Laurels

European Kalmia Society

Growing Laurels

 
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Severe pruning stimulates basal sprouting.
photo: Dr. Karl-Heinz Hübbers

The following information is given for Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) and its cultivars.
Site Selection
In places, where Rhododendron and other ericaceous plants are growing successful, Kalmia can be grown easily. They sustain more sunlight and can stand with less moisture. Hardiness is remarkable.
Kalmia latifolia and its cultivars are suitable as companion plants. They can be arranged in groups but are also fine solitaires. Because of their smaller foliage they make better hedges than most of other evergreen shrubs.
Soil
Kalmia prefer well-drained, acid and not so heavy soils. Established plants are tolerant of drought conditions but do best when soils are kept moist but not wet.
Fertilizing
Mountain Laurel and most of its cultivars can survive in very infertile soils but will thrive with moderate fertilization. Applications should never exceed the amounts recommended for Rhododendron.
Watering
It is only necessary, when plants are young or during a long drought. A good soaking every one or two weeks during dry periods is preferred to daily watering or sprinkling. Wetness has to be avoided.
Pruning
Kalmia can easily be pruned. Best time is early spring, before growth starts. A well pruned plant will get a denser and compacter habit.
Transplanting
Planting is quite easy when the soil is well-drained and acid. If the soil is too poor, humus can be added. The texture of the soil can be improved by adding pine bark, leaf mould or wood chips.
Roots do not like stagnating water. A good drainage should be made before planting. If that is too difficult, the whole site can be covered with a mix of mulching material. Break up the soil to get a good connection to the covering material.
Roots should not be dry before planting and when the Kalmia is well situated at the new place, it should be well watered.
When you are planting or transplanting Kalmias never hold the plant above the rootstock. This could cause damages at the root crown. It is better to handle the plant directly at the root ball or to operate it with the spade under the root ball.
Within five years it is quite necessary to watch the roots if they are too dry or too wet.
Fertilizing is not yet needed.
The best time for transplanting laurel is from September until Mai. Weather should not be too warm and dry. On the other hand it should not freeze. Temperatures above 40°F (4,5°C) are best.
It helps a lot, when the plants were covered with leaf mulch after transplanting.