If you’re an avid gardener looking for a flowering plant with pizzazz, you can’t go far wrong with beautiful Mountain Laurel. Raised for its distinctive umbrella shaped blooms and attractive, evergreen foliage, this species – also known as kalmia latifolia – is an asset to flowerbeds, borders and foundation plantings and can even thrive in partially wild, varied species groupings In parts of the eastern United States, it’s common to see the Mountain Laurel plant growing happily among other low maintenance species (like the rhododendron and azalea). The point is, it’s not a fussy plant. Nor is to difficult to raise. Technically, Mountain Laurel is a shrub, rather than a traditional bed flower, but we highly recommend it to anybody wanting more personality for their outdoor space. Keep reading for practical tips and advice on growing the Mountain Laurel Plant in your garden.
Getting to Grips with the Basics
Mountain Laurel is a variety of flowering evergreen shrub which produces bright blooms and deep, dark leaves with a glossy surface. In fact, if you’ve ever raised rhododendrons, the appearance and texture of its leaves should be familiar – the two species share some visual similarities. This species is fond of shade and, if kept in optimum conditions, will produce gorgeous groupings of white or pink flowers. When in full bloom, Mountain Laurel flowers are flecked with pretty purple markings. As summer loving blooms, they appear sometime between the latter half of May and the first half of June. It’s worth noting Mountain Laurel plants may require deadheading in the winter. For the most part, this comes down to personal preference. The plant will continue to grow without it but, as winter approaches, it’ll develop clusters of plain looking brown fruits. Most gardeners deadhead because they prefer the look of their Mountain Laurel without these fruits.
How to Successfully Grow Mountain Laurel
The Mountain Laurel plant is a hardy spring shrub. It struggles to tolerate colder winter temperatures. Therefore, it should only be planted outside if you’re confident the last of the frost is gone. Sow in earth that is easily drained but suitably damp. Ideal conditions can be found in spots that are partially shady, cool and slightly acidic. Generally speaking, Mountain Laurel will grow in full sunshine, but you may notice it’s a little harder to raise a large, hearty looking plant in such conditions. When selecting a home for your plant, avoid windy areas. Where possible, space seeds around 4-6 feet apart and plant them relatively close to the surface.
One of the biggest – and often overlooked – dangers for Mountain Laurel is incorrect planting. Once the shrub is thriving and starting to grow well above ground, its crown cannot stay covered with earth. The crown is the point at which the trunk meets the roots. This area of the plant needs to be exposed (not buried) or your plant will likely rot and die. It’s very important to remember this whether raising seeds or planting young shrubs.
During the early stages, young shrubs need to be watered regularly and kept comfortably moist without the risk of waterlogging. The ground should drain well. Many gardeners use wood chips or evergreen bark mulch to trap moisture in the earth and prevent their young plants from drying out.
Some Additional Tips and Advice for Gardeners
To give vulnerable young shrub-lings a helping hand, apply a plant food formula that is specially designed for acid loving species. It’s best to do this shortly after the shrubs emerge in spring or early summer. For a thick and voluminous plant, don’t forget to prune now and then. Ridding your shrubs of some flower clusters immediately after they bloom is an easy way to promote extra growth and health.
Mountain laurel likes soil that is relatively cool, and it will do fine in the warm months provided the soil remains shaded. It normally does not like the high temperatures and dense humidity of southern coastal climates, but some cultivars are somewhat more tolerant of these conditions.
Mountain laurel is treasured because it performs wonderfully in partial shade, but deep shade may reduce its flowering and cause leaf spots. In full sun, the deep-green leaves may turn yellowish.