How to cut cherry laurel properly

cherry laurel
cherry laurel © Jan Van Bizar / Pixabay

Cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) is a popular hedge plant because it grows quickly and quickly forms opaque hedges. To keep it in shape, you should cut it back heavily in late winter or early spring.

How much to cut the cherry laurel?

The rapid growth of the cherry laurel is pleasing when a dense privacy screen is needed quickly, but it can easily become a problem if there is little space in the garden. The annual growth of cherry laurel is 20 to 40 centimeters (8 to 16 in), so the plant must be pruned in time. Also, to ensure compact growth, young plants should be heavily pruned in the first few years.

Pruning by half of the new shoots is recommended here. But don’t worry, the cherry laurel is very tolerant of pruning and will tolerate pruning without further ado. Pruning older branches will encourage it to sprout new growth, making the shrub grow nice and dense again. Sometimes, however, a laurel cherry stands as a specimen shrub. As such, the shrub does not need to be pruned, provided that it has enough space. However, it can be given a topiary with hedge shears, for example, as a ball. This can look extremely decorative, but requires a lot of care, because then regular maintenance pruning is necessary.

The advantages of a cherry laurel hedge

Cherry laurel planted as a hedge forms a good alternative to opaque coniferous hedges. The evergreen foliage shines elegantly and looks very similar to the real, but not hardy laurel (Laurus nobilis). Growing up to three meters (10 ft) high and wide, deciduous shrubs are suitable for hedges one to two meters ( 3 to 6 ft) high.

How to cut cherry laurel? Electrically or manually?

Cherry laurel bears large leaves, so it is recommended to cut it with manual hedge shears. Blade bars of electric shears cause severe damage to large-leaved trees and shrubs because they literally shred the foliage. They leave injured leaves with unsightly, brown dried cutting edges. Especially in the case of evergreen hedge shrubs such as cherry laurel, these damaged leaf parts are only slowly shed and replaced by new foliage. Therefore, the hand shears provide here for a visually more balanced cut. The manual hedge shears are used to cut the shoots to be pruned slightly above the leaf bases. Wear gloves when pruning, as cherry laurel is poisonous and can cause skin irritation.

When to cut cherry laurel?

Cherry laurel is usually pruned once a year. If your plant is bare or has grown too large, it’s best to prune right away during a frost-free period in mid to late February. Otherwise, late June is the ideal time for a thorough hedge trim. By June 24, the hedge plants’ first growth spurt is complete. This is to make sure that any birds nesting in the cherry laurel have escaped and the plant has not yet begun its new sprout. For very vigorous growing specimens, further pruning in the fall may be advisable, but then it is possible that flowering will fail the following year. Avoid pruning in wet weather to prevent fungus. Also, do not prune in strong sunshine, so that the plant does not get sunburn.

Rejuvenation pruning for cherry laurels

Older cherry laurel shrubs often have very dense foliage. Since the light cannot penetrate into the interior of the plant, the shrubs begin to bald from the inside out over time. In this case, it is a good idea to completely remove a few stronger branches right at the base to provide better light and ventilation to the plant. The cherry laurel also usually tolerates pruning into the old wood without any problems and can thus also be easily transplanted.

Cherry laurel pruning for damage and disease.

Cherry laurel is susceptible to powdery mildew. Shothole disease (or Coryneum blight) is also common on the leaves. The first measure in case of infestation is to cut off the diseased leaves and branches. Here you should not be too timid and rather cut out diseased shrubs generously and dispose of the cuttings immediately. If the infestation is very severe, you can put the whole plant on the stick, i.e. cut it off completely near the ground. Frost damage is also often observed on the cherry laurel and should be thinned out vigorously.

Where to put the cuttings?

Cherry laurel has quite thick-fleshed leaves that decompose very slowly. So if a thorough pruning results in a lot of leaf litter, you should not put the cuttings in the compost, but dispose of them in the organic waste garbage can.

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