Demystifying Laurel Growth Rates – A Guide for Gardeners

Also known by the Latin Prunus laurocerasus, Cherry Laurel is an evergreen shrub with glossy dark green leaves. Strangely, Cherry Laurel isn’t a true Laurel and actually comes from the prunus genus. Its name comes from the fact that its leaves and fruit look a lot like those of the Bay Laurel and the Cherry Tree.

Cherry Laurel hedging provides year-round interest for humans and wildlife. In spring, it produces racemes of small creamy-white flowers with a delicate sweet fragrance. These are a magnet for bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

The flowers are followed by shiny dark red fruits that appear in autumn. The cherry-like berries turn almost black in the winter, and birds and small mammals eat them.

Cherry laurel is one of the most popular hedging plants in the country because it grows quickly, is easy to care for, and forms a dense hedge. You may also hear this plant called English Laurel or Common Laurel, but they all mean the same thing.

With their lush evergreen foliage and ability to quickly form an attractive, protective hedge, laurels are a popular choice for many gardeners. But if you’re impatient to see results, you may wonder – how fast do laurels grow once planted?

Growth rates can vary quite a bit among the different laurel species and cultivars. The time to reach maturity also depends on growing conditions and care In this article, we’ll examine the key factors that affect laurel growth to help you understand what to expect from these classic hedging plants

An Overview of Laurel Growth Rates

Laurels are grouped into two main genus – Laurus and Prunus Here are some approximate growth rate guidelines

  • Laurus nobilis – Bay laurel, 12-24 inches per year when young

  • Prunus laurocerasus – English cherry laurel, 12-24 inches per year

  • Prunus lusitanica – Portuguese laurel, 18-36 inches per year

  • Prunus caroliniana – Carolina laurelcherry, 12-18 inches per year

Once established, most laurels grow 1-2 feet annually. But growth can be faster with pruning, fertilization, and ideal conditions.

Factors That Accelerate Laurel Growth

Several key factors play a role in achieving the fastest possible laurel growth:

  • Pruning – Regular pruning encourages new growth and a bushy habit.

  • Fertilization – Applying an annual spring fertilizer provides nutrients for growth.

  • Ideal planting site – Laurels thrive in moist, acidic, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Insufficient light or water stresses plants.

  • Lack of exposure – Shelter from drying winds helps laurels retain moisture for growth.

  • Warm climate – Most laurels grow faster in USDA zones 7-9 than in cooler northern zones.

  • Vigorous cultivars – Select cultivars described as fast-growing, such as ‘Etna’, ‘Zabeliana’, or ‘Novita’.

  • Immaturity – Young plants tends to grow quicker, slowing down as they reach maturity.

When to Expect Maximum Growth

Laurels grow steadily when conditions are right, but the peak period for growth is generally spring.

  • Spring – Fast flush of new growth begins in late winter through early summer. Flowering in some species.

  • Summer – Slower growth in heat, focus is on foliage development.

  • Fall – Last burst of extension before going dormant for winter.

  • Winter – Little to no active growth.

Plan for the most rapid increase in size during the moist, mild days of spring when soil temperatures rise but before heat sets in.

Timeline to Reach Maturity

Most laurel hedges take 3-5 years to fully establish and reach their mature size. Here are some general timeframes:

  • 1-2 years – Plants establish roots and reach 2-4 feet in height

  • 3 years – Hedge is filled in and may be 5-8 feet tall

  • 4-5 years – Fully mature at final height, can shear for formal hedge

  • 10+ years – Majestic evergreen wall of foliage up to 15 feet tall

Trimming and shearing annually once the laurel is established will promote bushiness and accelerate hedge formation.

Growth Rate Comparison to Other Hedging

How do laurel growth rates stack up against other hedging plants?

  • Slower than arborvitaes or Leyland cypress which can grow 3+ feet per year

  • Faster than boxwood, which grows 4-12 inches annually

  • Similar to photinia and holly, which also grow 1-2 feet per year

For a relatively fast-growing evergreen hedge, laurels are excellent performers. With proper care and pruning, they establish quickly.

Tips to Maximize Growth Rate

Follow these tips to ensure your laurel hedge grows vigorously:

  • Select a suitable planting site with full sun, well-drained soil, and shelter

  • Water 1-2 times per week for the first year while roots establish

  • Apply balanced organic fertilizer each spring

  • Mulch around the base to retain moisture and suppress weeds

  • Prune frequently in the first 2 years to promote bushy growth

  • Plan for mature size – don’t plant too close to structures

With the right care, laurels will reward you with reliably fast growth. Be patient in early years as plants focus on developing strong root systems before surging skyward to form a mature evergreen hedge.

How Long does Cherry Laurel Take to Grow?

Cherry Laurel typically grows between 30 and 60cm per year, which is relatively fast. It has an ultimate height of up to 8 metres. If left untrimmed, the hedging will reach this height in around 20-50 years.

The shrubs can spread up to around 8m, so you need to take this into account when planting. Place Laurel plants in the ground with spacing of around half a metre between them.

It grows quickly, which makes Cherry Laurel a great plant for blocking views and blocking wind. A dense hedge can be grown quite quickly.

Can I Speed Up Cherry Laurel Growth?

If you want a thick hedge to grow quickly, you might want to speed up the growth a bit. Taking good care of your Cherry Laurel plants is the best way to make sure they grow as fast as possible.

Should you want your Cherry Laurel hedge plants to grow a little faster, try giving them good fertilizer. Both new and established plants will benefit from the added nutrients, which promotes healthy growth.

It may sound counterproductive, but regular pruning is essential for encouraging fresh new growth in Cherry Laurels. Use secateurs to prune Laurel and remove any dead or damaged branches, twigs and leaves. Garden shears or loppers can be used for the hard pruning of mature hedges. Pruning in late spring or early summer will result in a thicker, bushier Cherry Laurel shrub.

How to plant a Laurel Hedge

How fast does a laurel hedge grow?

Depending on the species, laurel hedges grow between 15-60cm per year, but if your laurel isn’t growing quick enough for your garden, there are some ways you can speed up the process. You can see more about how fast laurel grows here. There are many tips and tricks that can be used to make laurel grow faster and encourage laurel growth.

How fast do laurels grow?

We found that you can generally expect most laurel varieties to grow slowly. Expect about 6-12 inches yearly for most laurels, while some varieties, like English, Schip, and even Rotundifolia, can grow 2-3 feet with the right conditions.

How big does a laurel grow?

It’s a relatively fast-growing shrub and can reach a height of 5m or more with a similar spread, although it can be kept much smaller with regular pruning. A common question among gardeners is the difference between laurel and cherry laurel.

How long does a laurel live?

Usually, a laurel will live more than 50 years on average, although this can depend on its conditions. That said, you could see a laurel live much longer if you have it growing in a sunny, unbothered place. This will all come down to your maintenance and the health of your evergreen.

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