Mountain laurel is a shade-tolerant shrub that gives out beautiful flowers in late spring and early summer. These flowers bloom from white to pink to deep rose and the mountain laurel tattoo is distinguished by its symmetrical purple dots or streaks.

Mountain Laurel
Mountain Laurel

The bell-shaped blossoms have their stamens arched, with the tips resting below the rim of the bell. Usually, when a bee comes to collect the nectar, it’s interesting to notice how from the weight of that bee, the stamen jumps off the pollen.

Which enhances the rate of cross-pollination as the bee gets covered with pollen. It is a closely related species of rhododendrons and azaleas that makes it a perfect choice for a shady garden.

How To Grow Mountain Laurel?

Mountain-laurel belongs to the heather family, Ericaceae. Rhododendrons are also a part of this family, and just like them, mountain laurel prefers moist and acidic soil.

  • Mountain laurel is ideally planted in moderate to partial shade. However, in deep shade and fully sunny areas, they don’t produce many flowers and manage to barely survive.
  • Plant these shrubs 4 to 6 feet apart, but not too deep. While planting a mountain laurel farm, you must make sure the shrub’s crown is not buried or else they will rot and die.
  • These shrubs prefer acidic soils and don’t thrive in heavy clay soils. To adjust the ph level in your soil and make it suitable for the shrubs, you can improve the drainage and try adding organic matter.
  • You must water your plants well especially in extreme summers as this shrub has shallow roots that prefer to stay cool.
  • You can also apply organic fertilizers in spring to boost mountain laurel flower production as this is a shrub that appreciates acidic soil.

It is better to keep the soil moist initially as afterward they develop good tolerance to drought as well. But for Mountain laurel to thrive, keep the soil cool and provide shade during warmer months.

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How To Care Mountain Laurel?

More than a thousand mountain laurel seeds come out of an individual shrub each year. That is why gardeners often remove the flowers after they have blossomed so that the plants can focus more on flowering rather than reproduction the following year.

Mountain laurel grows at a slow pace and reaches an average of 6 to 15 feet in height and width upon maturity. Even though in the wild, the Texas mountain laurel tree reaches a height of 20 to 40 feet, it needs little pruning.

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Those branches which are dead or broken can be removed at any time. In gardens, it is better to opt for shaping pruning in the spring, just after blooming is finished.

If the plant does get too tall for the garden, it can survive strict pruning until a few inches from the ground.

In a suitable environment, this shrub needs little maintenance beyond regular watering. But it is important to note here that this shrub can get affected by the whitefly, lace bugs, blights, scale, and borers.

Is Mountain Laurel A Tree Or A Bush?

Mountain Laurel is regarded as an evergreen shrub with an average height of 15 to 20 feet. The leaves are 3 to 12 cm in length and almost 1 to 4 cm wide.

It mostly grows in large thickets and often covers huge areas of mountainous forests. Although it becomes almost as big as a tree in North America but is a shrub further north.

Toxicity Of Mountain Laurel For Animals

People find it hard to believe but Mountain Laurel bush does carry a deadly poison within. Most parts of this plant can harm dogs as well as grazing animals including goats, horses, and sheep.

Although gardeners are careful when they are growing this shrub perennially, animals should not be allowed near these shrubs.

Some varieties of this shrub supposedly have diterpenoids (grayanotoxins), which upon ingestion can severely affect the skeletal and cardiac muscles.

This can further lead to vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drooling, arrhythmias, tremors, coma, and death.  

Common Problems With Mountain Laurel

As mentioned earlier, Mountain Laurel shrub can get severely affected by the whitefly, lace bugs, blights, scale, and borers. In areas that have heavy soils, their roots are susceptible to rotting which unfortunately cannot be cured.

Do you want to get rid of common bugs present in the garden, check out all the tips and tricks How to get rid of common Gardening Bugs

  1. Broadly, this shrub can get affected by weather injuries and fungal or bacterial infections. While some of these causes are individual incidents, others can spread rapidly to more plants if not given proper attention at the right time. 
  2. The most common problem with mountain laurel is the damage from extreme weather conditions. As this is an evergreen shrub that carries foliage during winters, it can get damaged by harsh cold temperatures.
  3. Also in extreme winters with heavy snow and winds, you can observe broken branches and signs of browning leaves.
  4. It is essential at this point that these broken and dead parts of the shrub be removed at the earliest to prevent any disease from pests. So, the plants should be cleared so that they can recover themselves in spring.
  5. On the other end of extreme weather, Mountain laurel shrub is also susceptible to drought. Drooping or browning of leaves and sometimes cracked stems can be observed in dry weather.
  6. Drought-stressed plants can get even further affected by parasitic organisms. Therefore, it is advised to water mountain laurels properly throughout the growing season.
  7. These shrubs can also fall victim to fungal infections and blight. Gardeners often look for leaf spots which are the occurrence of dark “spots” on the leaves.

Although the infected leaves mostly fall of the plant, they need to be removed from the garden to prevent further spread of the infection. With proper garden maintenance with regular inspections and clean-ups, the leaf spot problem can be easily kept in check.

When Does Mountain Laurel Bloom?

The blooming season of mountain laurel depends on elevation and latitude. Lower the elevation and latitude, the earlier you observe them blooming.

These shrubs usually bloom between mid-Aprils to the end of the summer solstice. In Deep South of USDA zone 8, blooming usually begins in mid-April and peaks just before the first week of May.

In zone 7, blooming begins around the first week of May and peaks in the second week. However, in higher elevations north of zone 6, blooming peaks in middle to late May, and well into early June in areas at an even higher elevation.

The precise timing of mountain laurel blooming depends on seasonal weather trends every year. Although average flowering time can be estimated for different regions, a cool, wet, and cloudy spring can delay the flowering period by one or two weeks.

On the other hand, unexpectedly warm spring with too much sun can bring the flowering season early by one or two weeks.

Once these shrubs begin flowering, the ideal temperatures between 50 and 75 F make them last for long. Warm weather and wind and heavy showers shorten the blooming span of flowers.

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How Big Mountain Laurel Grows In Size?

As mentioned earlier, the Mountain laurel plant grows at a slow pace and reaches an average of 6 to 15 feet in height and width upon maturity. The dwarf mountain laurel peaks at a height of only 3 to 4 feet.

Even though in the wild, this plant reaches a height of 20 to 40 feet, it needs little pruning and maintenance as it is tolerant to most weather conditions.

Mountain Laurel Tree Care Tips

Though this shrub can adapt to most weather conditions, we still have some tips to create a more suitable environment for the mountain laurel tree:

  • Plant them in well-drained, moist and acidic soil to enhance their flowering season
  • Ensure proper drainage to prevent them from rotting. You can even opt for planting them in raised beds if drainage is an issue.
  • Mountain laurel grows best in partial shade. It produces limited flowers in too much shade while the too-bright sun can result in scorching of the leaves.
  • Immediately removing spent blooms will significantly enhance the following year’s flower production.
  • Though mountain laurel required limited pruning, if your plant does tend to overgrow, you can prune it just after flowering down to few inches from ground level. It will grow again but at a slow pace over a few years.

Mountain Laurel vs. Rhododendron

Mountain Laurel and Rhododendron (Rosebay) are evergreen shrubs spotted growing close to each other in forests of the eastern United States. When they are not blooming for most of the year, how can you identify them?

Though the oblong leaves are common to both, you will notice that the underside of the leaves creates the distinction. While Mountain laurel leaves are smooth and a paler shade of green compared to the top side, Rhododendron’s leaves have an additional brown fuzz to their paler shade of green.

Another distinction observed in mountain laurel pictures is that their leaves curl upward along the edges, while Rhododendron’s leaf edges are downward.

Lastly, one more distinction is that Rhododendron leaves are longer when compared with Mountain laurel leaves.

How Poisonous Is Mountain Laurel?

The poison of the mountain laurel is in every part of the plant (especially in the young shoots and leaves) so it is recommended to keep them away from children and animals.

The gorgeous flowers of this shrub attract the children with a sweet aroma. Children often suck on the sweet liquid in the nectar which can lead to vomiting, stomach pains, and a runny nose.

The mountain laurel leaves are equally harmful as the flowers and can make the animals severely ill and even lead to death if they feed on it. These leaves can cause convulsions, difficulty with breathing and drooling in animals such as goats, horses, or sheep.

Most gardeners are careful when dealing with this shrub and the only instances of poisoning that caused mild illness is due to the ingestion of honey made by bees who fed on their flower’s nectars.  

However, if a person is already suffering from health issues, then the ingestion can lead to a quick death as well. These shrubs contain andromeda toxins which significantly lowers the blood pressure.

This leads to drowsiness and sometimes convulsions. In some severe cases, death is also seen to be preceded by a type of paralysis.

What Colors Are Mountain Laurels?

Mountain laurel is an evergreen shrub that has leaves in pale green color throughout the year. It blooms in late spring and the cluster of flowers is often observed in white, pink, and red.

Varieties Of Mountain Laurel

There are many different types of this magnificent plant. Based on their different characteristic we are dividing into below categories.

#1 Dwarf Mountain Laurel

Dwarf mountain laurel is very hardy and is often found in USDA zones 5-9. It is commonly preferred in landscaping as a hedge/border where its flowers provide a beautiful look to the area. These low-maintenance plants grow up to 3 to 4 feet and have dark pink flowers with a light pink center.

#2 Texas Mountain Laurel

Texas mountain laurel grows to a height of 15 to 25 feet. These evergreen shrubs have glossy green leaves of about 5inches in length. They bloom in Southwest zones in early spring and their flowers are deep blue to purple.

Mountain laurel Texas shrubs are uniquely different from the eastern mountain laurel in size, shape, and flower color. Texas mountain laurel seeds can be bought, and these shrubs can be easily grown from them.

#3 Elf Mountain Laurel

‘Elf’ mountain laurel was the first dwarf variety introduced. It usually begins to bloom in May with large pink buds that open up to be white flowers.

It grows 3 feet tall and 4 feet in width in the USDA Zones 5-9. Their evergreen leaves are long and narrow and this shrub is often grown in groups in the shape of a semi-shade woodland garden.

#4 Snowdrift Mountain Laurel

Snowdrift mountain laurel is an eastern native shrub preferred for its beautiful flowers. They bloom in between May to June and grow in huge white clusters resembling the shape of a cup.

It usually grows to a height of 10 feet in the USDA Zones 5-9. The leaves are oval and dark green and mostly 5 inches in length.

Why Is It So Special? Mountain Laurel Information

Mountain laurel has a strong connection with the people of the USA where it is primarily grown in USDA zones 5 to 9.

You might find this name familiar with the mountain laurel festival in Kentucky and Tennessee. Or maybe you have heard of mountain laurel lake Tennessee and Laurel Mountain Oregon (or laurel mountain ski and laurel mountain cabin over there).

Besides the laurel mountain and lake, many famous institutions are named after this plant such as laurel mountain elementary school in Texas, mountain laurel Waldorf School in New York.

  • Mountain laurel medical center in Maryland, mountain laurel family practice and mountain laurel dermatology in North Carolina, etc. This has inspired many in the tourism industry as well like mountain laurel chalets in Tennessee,.
  • mountain laurel cabins like the mountain laurel cabin rentals GA, laurel mountain cabins GA, mountain laurel cabin rentals blue ridge GA, mountain laurel chalets Gatlinburg TN.
  • mountain laurel resort such as mountain laurel resort and spa and laurel mountain ski resort Boswell, PA (Pennsylvania), mountain laurel golf club in Pennsylvania, laurel mountain inn WV, etc.
  • Not only small laurel mountain cabin rentals, but many other local businesses have been inspired by this plant such as laurel mountain ranch, laurel mountain tubs, mountain laurel designs company in Virginia, and their famous mountain laurel designs prophet and mountain laurel designs duomid tent, etc.

Another famous name associated with this plant is the Mountain laurel federal credit union. Mountain Laurel Credit Union was established in 1970. Mountain laurel FCU provides banking services including mountain laurel federal credit union online banking to more than 20,000 members all over the state.

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Conclusion

So, if you are a gardener and are looking for a hardy shrub that can tolerate most weathers with little maintenance, mountain laurel is the perfect choice for you.

These shrubs will bloom with gorgeous flowers and when planted around the fences, can also serve the purpose of an informal hedge.

So the next time you see a mountain laurel for sale sign, we recommend you to go ahead and buy this plant as it is a hardy shrub that doesn’t even require pruning.


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