The Q&A Archives: Overgrown Mountain Laurel

Question: How do you recommend that I prune a ten foot high Mountain Laurel that is very stalky with leaves and flowers that grow only toward the top two feet of the bush? Ideally, I would like to cut it back to within a foot or two from the ground and hope for new growth to appear.


As a rule, laurels are vigorously growing plants. However, if you cut back more than one-third of the live plant material in any one growing season you'll put your plant under lots of stress. If it's healthy and happy now it may recover from a severe pruning, but if it were mine, I'd plan on a 3 year timeline for renovation.

Some selective pruning now will encourage new shoots and stems in the center of the plant. If you don't mind sacrificing some bloom you can prune now, taking each branch back by a third. New stems will develop behind the cuts, helping to fill in the bare center of the shrub. If you want flowers this year, wait until after flowering, then prune your laurel. New stems will develop this growing season and flowering will begin next year.

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