The Schipka Cherry Laurel is a large evergreen shrub that will grow to 18 feet, but it is usually grown as a screen or hedge. It can easily be pruned or trimmed to form an extremely dense, evergreen screen or wind-break, creating a private space in your garden. It is hardy, easy to grow and grows two feet a year, so it rapidly produces the tall dense screen you need to create privacy and hide an ugly view. This is an extremely tough plant that will tolerate poor and dry soil, shade and air pollution. If you need a fast growing plant for a dense screen, that will take harsh conditions of heat, drought and shade, Schipka Cherry Laurel is your first choice.
- Hardy to minus 10 degrees
- Fresh, glossy evergreen foliage is attractive all year round
- Easily grown even in difficult urban conditions
- Can be clipped into hedges and screens
- Drought and deer resistant
The Schipka Cherry Laurel has smaller leaves than the common form of this plant, so it makes a neater plant, especially when clipped, and it will fit well into any size of garden. It is also hardier than common forms of Cherry Laurel, so it is an ideal choice for gardeners in cooler areas. It will grow in almost any soil and although it will reward you with more rapid growth if it receives water and fertilizer when young, mature plants can be left to fend for themselves and are quite drought resistant. It has no significant pests or diseases and looks attractive all year round
Privacy is a valuable thing in every garden, but it can be hard to achieve quickly when you need it. It is especially difficult to find tough, fast-growing plants that will tolerate shade and dryness while still producing a dense hedge. If you need a plant like that, the Skip Cherry Laurel is the ideal tree for just those situations. You can grow a ten-foot hedge in four years from planting, with fertilizer and regular watering.
As the hedge matures, it will become so solid that nothing can get through. Yet this tree needs very little attention once established. It will grow in full-sun or shade, tolerate drought, has no pests or diseases and needs no special care at all. The more you trim it the denser and more beautiful it will become. Tall or short, rounded or square, it is easy to create hedges of all shapes and sizes with Skip Laurel.
As well as making great hedges, this is an excellent choice for foundation planting around your property, as a background shrub in a larger garden, or indeed anywhere you want rounded or upright shrubs – clipped or unclipped – to give your garden that mature, traditional look. If you leave it to grow without clipping, your plant will grow into a rounded tree perhaps 18 feet tall and 10 to 20 feet across, making an attractive background plant in a large garden.
In most gardens however, its main value is in making hedges and screens, which it does with speed and ease. Because this selected variety of Cherry Laurel has much smaller leaves than common forms of the same plant, it makes a much neater, more compact hedge than the original form, while still growing vigorously to any size needed.
Skip Laurel will easily grow 2 feet a year. If left untrimmed it will reach 10 to 18 feet in height, so it is easy to achieve a hedge of almost any size. Yet it can also be maintained at just a few feet tall for years and years. It has glossy dark-green leaves that always look lush and healthy. This is such a tough plant that even if you just push it into the ground and forget it, it will thrive and do well.
Growing Location for Skip Laurels
Plants that thrive in both sun and shade are hard to find. Yet most gardens have many shady areas and the garden boundaries, where hedges are most needed, are often in the shade beneath trees. Skip Laurel is an outstanding plant exactly because it does thrive in all light levels, without yellowing in the sun, or growing weak in the shade. If part of your hedge is shaded, it will be just as strong as the part in the sun. You won’t have to look at hedges with thin, straggly areas wherever there is some shade. In full sun, in partial shade, or even in complete shade, you can be sure this plant will do its job for you.
Because it is resistant to air pollution and dust too, this is a great tree for those tough, urban conditions found in town gardens. With its dense growth, it also makes a terrific noise and dust barrier, so for screening in urban areas it is hard to beat.
Skip Laurel Hardiness
Skip Laurel is well known for its hardiness. Other varieties of Laurel will brown in winter, with those lovely glossy leaves turning brown and ugly. If you live in cooler areas, such as zone 6, be careful to choose this variety for your garden. In those areas it will always go through the winter without browning, coming into the spring looking as healthy and fresh as it did in fall.
Not only is this tree hardy right down to minus 10 degrees, it thrives in much warmer areas, all the way through zone 9. It doesn’t matter if you live in a hot, dry area, or a hot, humid area, this plant will flourish in your garden and be a great addition, wherever you live. Even if you live in warmer parts of zone 5, this tree will grow well, with perhaps just a few brown leaves from winter, which will be replaced quickly by new spring growth.
Laurel grows well in all kinds of soil, from sandy soils to clay. The only thing it does not like is soil that is often wet or flooded. It also grows well in both acid and alkaline soils, so for almost every garden, this is an ideal plant that will adapt to whatever you have to offer it.
Dryness is always a problem in the garden, so it is nice to meet a tree that doesn’t care. Laurel is very hardy and looks great after weeks of heat and drought – so you can save your time for something more useful.
You should always give water to any new plants in your garden, and Skip Laurel is no exception. For the first growing season or two, water weekly during hot weather. Once established, things will be different, and your plants will take care of themselves, staying fresh and green even during long and dry periods. We do suggest that while you are growing your screens and hedges you water and fertilize them, as that will give you the strongest and fastest growth. However, once they are tall and dense, they will take extended periods of drought without any problem at all.
Pests and Diseases
Another great thing about this tree is that pests and diseases don’t bother it at all. Even under stress, it stays healthy, so you will not see nasty pests spoiling the look of your trees. Even if you live in an area with deer, you will be fine, because deer know this tree is poisonous, and they stay right away from it.
About the Schipka Cherry Laurel
The Cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus), also called English laurel, grows naturally around the Black Sea, as well as in Turkey and in Iran. The wild tree is usually a large shrub, but it can grow into a tall tree, even rarely over 50 feet tall. It has large, thick glossy leaves that are evergreen, so it looks attractive all year round. These oblong-shaped leaves are up to 6 inches long (only 4 inches long in the Skip Laurel) and up to 2 inches across.
Attractive clusters of white flowers appear in spring, like upright candles, up to 5 inches long. These flower clusters are rarely produced on plants grown for hedges, but they are a spring feature on unclipped plants. Clusters of black, cherry-like fruits follow the flowers. Despite its name, the black ‘cherry’ fruits should not be eaten by humans, although birds love them. The leaves are also toxic, so do not use this plant for a hedge if livestock can reach it.
Introduced into gardens across Europe hundreds of years ago, and brought to America by the settlers, cherry laurel has proved it worth in gardens for many, many years. The Skip Laurel, however, is not from those original introductions. This unique tree was found growing wild near the Shipka Pass in Bulgaria, and introduced into European gardens about 1886.
Once its virtues were noticed it was brought to America in the 20th century, where it has become a hedging standard. Unlike the wild tree, which has very large leaves, this hardy form, with its smaller leaves and rapid growth, is much easier to prune, and so very much more desirable and suitable for gardens than other varieties.
Skip Laurel will grow in almost any soil, and it tolerates poor soils, clay and urban air-pollution. However to produce a strong healthy hedge in the quickest time add organic material like compost, peat-moss or rotted manure to the soil when planting and give plenty of water during the first few years. Once established and grown to a suitable height this plant will tolerate and even thrive on total neglect, never needing watering or fertilizing at all.
Finding the Right Cherry Laurel
When it comes to Cherry Laurel, there are many different kinds available. In colder areas, for smaller gardens, for easy to maintain screens and hedges, there is just one ‘best choice’ – the Skip Laurel. This specially selected form cannot be grown from seed, so avoid cheaper plants, which are often seedlings of unknown origin and uncertain growth.
Our trees are grown by experts – from trees directly derived from that original plant – so you know you are getting exactly what you want. Because every plant is identical, your hedge or screen will be perfectly uniform with no variations in color, leaf shape or vigor. It always pays to get the best.
Making the Perfect Screen or Hedge
Skip Laurel is the ideal choice for a privacy screen or hedge, in sun or shade. Left alone to grow naturally, or clipped a little or a lot, this is a very responsive plant, and it can be cut as hard as necessary. Unlike many conifers (needle-trees) which will not re-sprout from bare wood, if your laurel trees become too large, you can cut them right back to the trunks and they will re-sprout quickly. So even if you neglect them for several years, they will not be lost. You can quickly reduce them in size and start again.
Using Skip Laurels as an Informal Barrier or Screen
Often we need a big thick screen to block out an ugly view, give us privacy, or block noise, dirt and drifting snow. Laurel is the ideal choice. It grows rapidly in sun or shade and had a graceful form when left unclipped. To create a privacy screen, plant your trees between 3 and 10 feet apart, depending on how quickly you need screening, and how dense you want it to be.
Planted closely your trees will fill in and give you a solid barrier in just a few short years. Planted further apart they will do the same in time – it just takes longer. Laurel naturally grows much wider than it does tall, so a wider spacing is an economical way to go.
Using Skip Laurels as a Formal Hedge
If you want a neat hedge you can trim into shape, plant your trees 3 to 4 feet apart for a hedge that will quickly provide privacy. For an extra dense hedge that is perfect for also screening out noise and dust, plant a double row. Space the rows 3 feet apart and the plants 4 to 6 feet apart, staggering them to form a zigzag. This will grow into a thick, impenetrable hedge that guarantees you absolute peace and privacy.
To make the perfect hedge, the best way is to dig a trench, using a tight string to keep it straight. After preparing the soil as described below, make your trench twice as wide as the pots and just a little deeper. Then line up your plants in the trench, adjusting the spacing so that they are all exactly the same distance apart, and in a straight line. For the first and last plants, space them half your chosen planting distance from where you want the hedge to begin and end. This little bit of extra work will give you the perfect hedge, so take a few moments longer to get it 100% right.
Planting Your Skip Laurel
You can plant these trees at any time of year, as long as the ground is not frozen. Because they are grown in pots there is no shock on planting and your new trees will be happy to be in their new home.
It always pays to prepare the soil well for planting, even with such a tough and hardy plant as this. Dig or till an area 2 to 3 feet wide, in a row where you are planting your hedge, or in circles for wider spacing or a single specimen. Dig the soil from 8 to 12 inches deep. Add some organic material. Anything will do, from garden compost to rotted manure or peat moss. Remove large stones but leave smaller ones – they do no harm to your plants.
Once you have prepared the soil, soak the plants in their pots the evening before planting. Dig a trench or individual holes in your prepared ground, and place the plants in the trench. Adjust the spacing until everything is as you want it, and now you are ready to plant.
Remove the plants from the pots and place them back in the holes. Push back about two-thirds of the planting soil, firming it down around the roots as you go. Once you have that soil back, flood the holes with water, filling them to the top. After the water has drained away, put back the rest of the soil. Additional watering at this time is not necessary except during very dry weather.
Caring for Skip Laurels
This low care plant is easy to grow and needs very little attention to thrive in any garden. Here are some basic tips to help make that job even easier.
Water your new trees once or twice a week for the first few weeks, until they have established and started to send out new growth. Water thoroughly once a week, or every two weeks during cooler weather, for the first growing season. After that, watering will help speed the growth of your trees, but it is not necessary at all, unless you have a very long period of heat and drought.
Putting mulch around your trees will help conserve water and keep down weeds. Use a 2 to 3 inch thick layer, spread over the root zone, but keep it a few inches away from the trunk. Renew the mulch in spring if necessary, simply covering up the old mulch without digging it into the ground.
Regular feeding with fertilizer suitable for evergreen trees and hedges will give you the quickest growth and the strongest plants. This will make a big difference during the early years, and give you the strongest plants and the fastest growth. Mature plants only need occasional feeding. Use granular or slow-release formulations and follow the manufacturer’s directions. Do not overfeed. Spring and late summer are usually the best times to feed your plants.
Pruning and Trimming Skip Laurels
Laurel is easily pruned or trimmed, because it will re-sprout, even from thick, bare branches. You can trim your trees anytime between spring and mid-fall, but try not to stimulate new growth in late-fall, to protect your trees from possible cold damage on soft new growth.
Young trees are best if pruned with pruners, rather than hedge trimmers, to avoid cutting the leaves. Later you can change to regular trimmers to save time. For an informal screen you do not need to prune while young at all, but for a hedge it is important to trim early, so that you develop a dense hedge that is not too wide. The best way to do this is to trim lightly but often, to produce plants with many small branches.
Trimming Skip Laurel Screens
Trim screens once a year if necessary, especially if you want foliage right to the ground. Laurel spread sideways and this shades the lower parts, so that a tree-like form eventually develops. To prevent this, trim the upper branches back so that the lower branches continue to receive light and remain strong and vigorous. If you live where there is a lot of snow in winter, trimming will also keep the plants dense and not likely to break under the weight of the snow.
Trimming Skip Laurel Hedges
Hedges should be trimmed two or three times a year, starting when your plants are still young. Trim the upper growth more than the bottom, so that your hedge leans inwards slightly. This will allow the light to reach the lower parts, and keep your hedge lush and thick right to the ground. Keep the top of your hedge thin to prevent thick snow building up.