The Q&A Archives: Spotted Leaves on Cherry Laurel

Question: I have a Cherry Laurel bush about 6-7 feet tall planted in a 1/2 barrel on my eastern facing terrace on the 12th floor. There is a lot of new growth with many very small maroon flowers coming out at each bud and a few red berries which appear healthy and some which are rotting. Many of the large older leaves have light colored spotting and appear to be dying yet there is a lot of new growth leaves surrounding the flower buds.

I received the plant last year from an established garden which was being leveled for construction and have no idea what to expect from the plant, how to fertilize, when to prune it etc.

Answer: Prunus laurocerasus (Common Cherrylaurel or English Laurel) is a large, potentially tree sized, shrub. It prefers a fertile, well drained yet moist and acid soil and is fairly flexible about light requirements. It is best pruned in early spring and is often sheared when used as a hedge. Otherwise, it can be shaped (it has a naturally mounded form) by removing only wayward shoots. Since it is growing in a barrel with a restricted root run you will probably find it necessary to restrict its size in order to maintain an adequate soil moisture level. Fertilizer at a 3-1-2 ratio is suggested, although you would not want to overfeed it and stimulate excessive growth. The foliage problems may be caused by low soil moisture combined with winter sun and wind, or might be caused by a soil imbalance. Be sure it is in an acid mix and try fertilizing with a product containing "micronutrients" and/or topdress with compost. You might also check the roots and see if it needs to be root pruned and repotted or moved to a larger container.

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