A laurel bush is an evergreen flowering shrub that grows primarily in temperate regions. These bushes are suitable to many soil and lighting types. The laurel bush is abundant in the wild in the Northeastern United States, and is used extensively around the world as a low-maintenance garden border and hedge. Some common varieties are the mountain laurel and the English laurel, also called cherry laurel or common laurel.
Laurel bushes have large, dark, shiny leaves. The leaves are oval-shaped, coming to points at the ends, with a thick leathery texture. In the spring, laurels send up long spikes of pink or white flowers. The laurel bush is often confused with the laurel tree, but they are quite different plants. Laurel trees are small Mediterranean trees which are the source of culinary bay leaves. Laurels are related to rhododendrons and azaleas, and their leaves, buds, seeds, and flowers are poisonous to humans and most animals. Although some birds eat laurel berries, the taste is so strongly bitter that children or pets are unlikely to ingest them. There is a risk that herbivorous pets might eat the leaves.
The laurel bush grows quickly and lushly, and is considered low-maintenance and drought-resistant. The shrubs' thick undergrowth makes them choke out weeds, reducing the amount of care they need. The flowers are valuable in gardens because they attract beneficial insects. Mountain laurels can grow up to eight feet (2.5m) tall while cherry laurels can reach 20 feet (6m), and they take about ten years to mature. The height of these plants makes them useful for privacy hedges.
Although the laurel bush doesn’t require much care, it should be pruned once a year to even out growth and maintain strong branches. A machine pruner may be used. Many gardeners opt to finish the job with a small set of hand shears because laurel leaves that have been cut turn brown, which makes the plant look unhealthy. Pruning should normally be performed in the dry months of summer. The number of flowers can be increased from year to year by pinching off the seed pods left by spent blooms. If a bush has grown very large or out of control, the plant can endure drastic cutting down to the bottom branches, and will grow back its shape and foliage within a fear years.