Creating a Laurel Hedge

by Nancy Penrose

Natural hedges are one of the best and economical ways to increase privacy and reduce noise. One of the most popular plants used for privacy trees or hedges is a laurel. A laurel hedge can be extremely attractive. Some variations even flower during the summer. The broadleaf evergreen has soft, overlapping leaves and can grow up to 40 feet tall. When properly maintained, they can live for hundreds of years.

There are several factors that will influence a laurel’s growth, including, light, water (humidity), soil conditions and weather.

Laurels that are well-suited for the Pacific Northwest include the Schipka laurel (Prunus laurocerasus ‘Schipkaensis’) and Portugal laurel (Prunus lusitanica).

The Schipka laurel will grow up to 10 feet tall with a 5 to 10 foot spread, and can remain hardy in temperatures below zero degrees. It does well in sun or part sun with a moderate growth rate. Schipka laurels have a low tolerance for wet soil. Too much water can result in “shothole”, a type of fungus. Generally, the plant has very few insect problems. The plant has white flowers that bloom in the Spring.

The Portugal laurel is a somewhat drought tolerant plant that is native to France, Spain and Portugal. Portugal laurels can also be found in Morocco and Macaronesia. The plant is related to the cherry and is sometimes called the cherry bay. It can grow up to 20 feet tall. Like the Schipka laurel, the Portugal laurel has small white flowers that start blooming during the Spring. The plant’s bark is a dark, almost black-brown. The tiny fruit of the plant is a deep purple.

You’ll rarely find the Portugal laurel in the wild. When you do, it is mostly along mountain streams.

To create a hedge, plant laurels approximately 3-5 feet apart (depending on how large you start with) and 3 to 5 feet away from a wall or fence. Both the Schipka laurel and Portugal laurel will grow around 2 feet in height per year.

Your hedge will need to be trimmed annually. When you trim the hedge while it is establishing, more new branches will grow and increase the plant’s density. The best time to trim your hedge is in late spring or early summer. You can trim to reduce both height and width. While both the Schipka and Portugal laurel can be kept fairly narrow, maintaining a narrow shape is easier with the Portugal laurel.

If you are considering a hedge for your property, a big tree supplier can tell you what type of laurel will work best for your planting environment. A big tree expert will also show you how to maintain the hedge, and keep the laurel healthy.

Nancy Penrose is owner of Big Trees Inc. (, (big trees Snohomish, WA), one of the largest Seattle tree nurserys (see inventory at, specializing in large trees for sale and tree transplanting. See our video at