Cherry Laurel

Photo Credit:  Randy Lemmon
Photo Credit: Randy Lemmon

The Cherry Laurel is a versatile landscape plant.  It has demonstrated good cold weather tolerance, can tolerate full sun or filtered light, and is a an all-around good buy for the landscape. 

It can go by slightly different names such as Laurel Cherry, Carolina Cherry Laurel, Mock Orange, Carolina Cherry and even Wild Peach – which is why I recommend using the botanical name when you are shopping for it. The Latin name of the one I recommend for these parts is Prunus caroliniana.

The Cherry Laurel is a large evergreen shrub or small tree, depending on training, with dark glossy green leaves. It grows in deep, moist but well-drained bottomlands in southeast Texas. It is a fast-growing small tree, to 35 to 40 feet, that casts dense shade.

With age the bark becomes almost black. It grows in most conditions but does not like high temperatures or hot, dry locations.  It can also get chlorotic in Blackland soils, which is more towards central Texas.  If you build the beds the way I recommend, deep and loamy, they’ll do quite well.

Cherry laurel is frequently planted as an evergreen screen in East Texas and that means it requires maintenance to keep as a hedge.  Frankly, I like them kind of random looking, but when pruned consistently they can be a great replacement as a shaped tree, just like all the Japanese Blueberries we lost because of Winter Storm Uri.

Here are three negatives you should always keep in mind.  1. Ironically, they can be lost to drought but not deep freezes.  2. The leaves and fruit have a high concentration of hydrocyanic acid and are potentially poisonous. 3. If it gets really humid, and there’s not significant air circulation, they can get fungal diseases as easy as Ligustrum and Red Tip Photinias.