Skip Laurel vs Cherry Laurel: How To Tell Them Apart

To honor Schip Cherry Laurels, a landscape favorite for a long time, we thought we’d take a moment to praise them. There is so much to love about Skip Laurels! They have beautiful narrow evergreen leaves and pretty white cone-shaped flowers in the spring.

Skip laurel and cherry laurel are two popular evergreen shrubs often used for hedges and privacy screens. Though they share the “laurel” name and have similar appearances, there are some key differences between these plants that are good to know when selecting one for your landscape.

In this article we’ll go over

  • The botanical background of each plant
  • Size and growth habit comparisons
  • Leaf and flower differences
  • Climate and care needs
  • Uses in garden design

Botanical Background

Skip laurel is a variety of cherry laurel scientifically known as Prunus laurocerasus ‘Schipkaensis’. It was first discovered in the late 1800s on Bulgaria’s Schipka mountain pass, which gives rise to its other common name “Schipka laurel.”

Cherry laurel refers to the species Prunus laurocerasus. There are other cultivars besides skip laurel, such as ‘Otto Luyken’ and ‘Zabeliana’.

  • Skip laurel = Prunus laurocerasus ‘Schipkaensis’
  • Cherry laurel = Prunus laurocerasus

They belong to the same genus (Prunus) and species (laurocerasus) but are different cultivars.

Size and Growth Habit

One of the most notable differences between these two shrubs is their mature size and growth habit:

  • Skip laurel grows slower and generally reaches 6-10 feet tall and wide at maturity. It has a dense, compact growth habit.

  • Cherry laurel is larger, capable of reaching 15-30 feet tall and 10-15 feet wide. It has a more open, spreading form.

So skip laurel will take up less space in the landscape, while cherry laurel becomes a much larger shrub over time.

Leaf Differences

The leaves of skip and cherry laurel also show some varietal differences:

  • Skip laurel has smaller, lance-shaped leaves that are 2-4 inches long. The foliage is glossy green on top and a bit lighter underneath.

  • Cherry laurel has larger oblong leaves that are 4-6 inches long. The leaves are dark green and slightly wrinkled in texture.

Skip laurel’s smaller leaves give it a neater, more refined look when pruned into a hedge compared to cherry laurel.


Both shrubs produce similar flowers in spring:

  • White flower spikes that have a sweet, almond-like fragrance
  • Blooms are borne near the bases of leaves on new shoot growth

However, skip laurel generally has more prolific flowering with flower spikes densely coating the branches in spring.

Climate Needs

Skip and cherry laurel share very similar climate requirements:

  • Hardiness zones: Zone 6-9
  • Sun: Partial sun to partial shade
  • Soil: Average, well-drained soil
  • Drought tolerance: Moderate

They can both tolerate some drought once established but prefer consistent water. And while they grow best in part sun, they can adapt to full shade conditions.

Uses in Garden Design

The compact size and dense foliage of skip laurel makes it ideal for neat, formal hedges and privacy screens. It’s a great evergreen hedge choice for smaller spaces.

Cherry laurel works better as an informal hedge or as a specimen plant thanks to its larger size and spreading form. It can also be kept pruned to desired shapes.

Some other uses for both shrubs include:

  • Mass plantings
  • Foundational plantings
  • Screening unsightly views
  • Shading gardens

In general, skip laurel fits smaller garden designs better while cherry laurel is good for larger gardens and properties.

Care and Maintenance

Caring for these cherry and skip laurels is quite simple:

  • Water weekly until established, then only during droughts
  • Fertilize in early spring with a balanced fertilizer
  • Prune as needed in late winter/early spring to shape
  • Watch for pests like leaf miners, mites, and scale

They are relatively pest and disease resistant if given proper cultural care. Pruning for shape 1-2 times per year is recommended to keep them tidy and maintained to the desired size.

Quick Summary

Here’s a quick recap of the key differences between these two popular landscape shrubs:

  • Skip laurel – More compact in size; smaller lance-shaped leaves; profuse white flower spikes
  • Cherry laurel – Larger in size; larger oblong leaves; open growth habit

While quite similar, paying attention to the mature size, growth habit, and other subtleties can help you choose the best one for your particular garden needs.

Both offer handsome evergreen foliage for hedges and screens, plus lovely spring blooms. Skip laurel works well even in smaller garden settings, while cherry laurel becomes a focal point shrub at maturity.

Preventing and Treating Shot-Hole On Skip Cherry Laurel Plants

Although there is so much to love about Skip Cherry Laurel shrubs, nobody’s perfect, not even the Skip. A prevalent issue with this stunning yard plant is the occurrence of a disease called shot-hole. Don’t worry, though; there are easy things you can do to keep your Laurel shrubs from getting shot holes and, if necessary, fix them.

Shot-hole is a common bacterial disease that causes small holes in a shrub’s leaves. It is also known as Coryneum blight. It’s important to remember that the disease doesn’t really hurt the plant, but it does make it look less beautiful.

The fungus is most prevalent during wet winters and warm humid springs. When shrubs are grouped too closely together and air flow through the leaves is low, the shot-hole infection can easily spread and get worse. The condition is also worsened through practices of overhead watering.

How To Plant and Care For Skip Cherry Laurels

We recommend planting your Skip Laurel shrubs two to three feet apart. For best results, plant your Laurel shrubs in partial shade. Dig a hole 2-3 times the size of the root ball, and the same depth as the container. Place your Laurel Shrub in the hole, backfill, and water thoroughly. Water your shrubs weekly until established.

Read our Cherry Laurel Planting Guide for a more in-depth look at how to plant and take care of a Cherry Laurel.

Which Laurel is Best For You? (Schip, English, Portuguese, etc.)


What is the difference between skip laurel and skip cherry laurel?

Schip laurel has smaller leaves than other cherry laurels, so it creates a neat and clean shape when pruned. The shrub grows up to two feet per year, so it can rapidly produce a tall and dense screen for privacy.

What is the difference between laurel and cherry laurel?

While both are evergreen shrubs with similar foliage, cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) is a completely different plant from true laurel (Laurus nobilis), also known as bay laurel. True laurel is often used as a culinary herb and has a different growth habit compared to cherry laurel.

How tall do skip laurel get?

This plant has low severity poison characteristics. A popular Laurel cultivar, ‘Schipkaensis’ is an upright evergreen shrub or small tree that is goblet-shaped and grows 10 to 15 feet tall and 5 to 7 feet wide maintaining its proportions of being roughly twice as tall as they are wide.

What is the best laurel plant?

PRUNUS LAUROCERASUS ‘ROTUNDIFOLIA’ Rotundifolia is the most popular form of Common Laurel grown for hedging and despite many new varieties being developed such as Etna, Novita and Caucasica, it still remains the best variety, in our opinion, for hedging.

Do cherry laurels grow faster than skip laurels?

Cherry laurels grow much larger and faster compared to skip laurels, so you may want to consider them if you need privacy hedges throughout your backyard. Cherry laurels and skip laurels are fairly easy to grow and propagate, but they originated in different locations.

What is Cherry skip Laurel?

Cherry Skip Laurel is a cultivar with the botanical name Prunus laurocerasus ‘Schipkaensis’. This shrub is fast growing and has dense, broad evergreen foliage, making it an ideal plant for creating new privacy hedges. It also produces impressive white spire-like flowers in the spring.

Is skip Laurel evergreen?

Skip Laurel has dense, glossy evergreen foliage and white candle-like flowers in fall and winter. Cherry Skip Laurel is a cultivar with the botanical name Prunus laurocerasus ‘Schipkaensis’. This shrub is fast growing and has dense, broad evergreen foliage, making it an ideal plant for creating new privacy hedges.

What does skip cherry laurel look like?

In the nursery trade, it is often observed as ‘Skipensis’ and pronounced as Skip Cherry Laurel. Glossy green leaves are dense and bear several teeth near the apex as the leaf narrows. This plant blooms in spring and has denser flowering racemes than ‘Otto Luyken’.

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