Mountain Laurel: spacing

sherry_nyJune 1, 2004

How far apart should mountain laurel be planted so that it forms a sold laurel garden? while it is spreading to fill in, what can i plant in between to discourage weeds? thanks.

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david_5311(Z 5b/6a SE Mich)

You could space them anywhere from about 2-3' to 5'. Depends in part on the growing conditions. Kalmias will grow best with abundant rainfall, acid organic, sandy soil (pH 5.5), bright light or even some sun. Even then, they won't grow very fast. Closer spacing will mean more solid coverage quicker. Depends on whether you are using local seedling plants or named varieties too. The 'littleleaf' varieties (Elf, Minuet, Tiddlywinks) will grow slower and smaller. Seedling plants, especially field grown, will perhaps grow faster and get bigger. Everybody from the east, especially mountain areas, will tell you that they have seen laurels up to 20-30' -- I have too -- but they won't get that size in a garden in your lifetime, and probably never.

Cover the ground between with oak leaves, chopped, the best laurel mulch there is. You can also use any number of groundcover plants adapted to acid woodland soil.

Becasue you asked about laurels and they are among my favorite garden plants, I HAVE to show you a few pictures, taken yesterday, just as the laurels are really starting their 3 week display:



The incredible red buds of 'Raspberry Glow'

'Yankee Doodle' with Brunnera 'Jack Frost'

A nice Hosta 'I-forget-the-name' with Kalmia 'Little Linda'

A border of Kalmias in Michigan, zone 5, full sun, raised bed (Elf in the foreground, Olypic Fire the tall red-budded form)

    Bookmark   June 1, 2004 at 6:46PM
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Where can I purchase 3 solid white blooming kalmias?

    Bookmark   June 2, 2004 at 2:21AM
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Wonderful pictures! I purchased Carousel last year and it hasn't grown much at all, but it does have some new growth so I know it is hanging in there. Do you purchase your plants as fairly substantial specimens or have you had them for awhile? Do you do anything to kickstart your plants into growing/blooming?

    Bookmark   June 2, 2004 at 9:48AM
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david_5311(Z 5b/6a SE Mich)

Elf is a good cultivar, also Snowdrift. Elf will be smaller and has the smaller leaf form. Kalmias are not generally very available in the midwest, they are little known, have a reputation of being hard to grow (they are, somewhat, you can't just dig a hole in the alkaline clay and expect them to grow), and not hardy (untrue, the vast majority of cultivars are fully zone 5 hardy, they may suffer a bit more damage the first year or two after planting).

Try Fairweather Gardens for mailorder Kalmias, they usually have some. You will also I am sure find a few nurseries in the Chicago area that sell laurels.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2004 at 9:52AM
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thank you so much for the beautiful pictures!

    Bookmark   June 2, 2004 at 10:30AM
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david_5311(Z 5b/6a SE Mich)

The best way to buy kalmias in my experience is as field grown plants. They are unfortunately quite hard to find, especially in the midwest and away from most areas of the country where they are native. Generally you will get container and not field grown plants. I have had some for 7-8 years, but they were 2-3' when I got them, and have perhaps increased in size by 50% - slowly, at least here. They do seem to better after the first 2 years of settling in. I have had the great good fortune of being out to Broken Arrow Nursery in CT twice (Kalmia mecca, the nursery of Dick Jaynes, who selected many of the varieties in cultivation). But even better, I have gotten plants from a wholesale grower in Saugatuck MI who grows the finest laurels I have ever seen, on her acid sand. Unfortunately, she is discontinuing her production of kalmias this year. After she is gone, I do not know of any other good midwestern source.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2004 at 11:04PM
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Hi David, Thank you for your suggestions.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2004 at 10:45AM
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I have to bump this year-old post just to say how beautiful your laurels are, David! Absolutely gorgeous. I have one little 'Peppermint' from Broken Arrow and I hope it turns out half as nice as yours look. Thanks for the tip about oak leaves too, I'll have to borrow some from a neighbor.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2005 at 8:21AM
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kilgrogan(z5 OH)

I have to agree ... I have searched the internet like crazy for pictures of mountain laurel and none are even close to David's border! Are the raised beds made from sand? Any good resource to describe how to construct a raised bed for planting mountain laurel?

    Bookmark   May 14, 2005 at 7:16PM
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hooksettnhgardener(z5 NH)

It has been two years since you posted these photos, but I just found them... what fabulous photos, and great ideas for perennial plantings with the Mountain Laurels... What an inspiration!

    Bookmark   April 5, 2006 at 12:06PM
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candyinpok(5b or 6, NY)

David, are you still out there?

I've been searching the net and the garden web for information on the Minuet I planted last year. Besides the fact that I think I took the sun to full-shade label too literally and it may get too hot in late summer, it also got deer browsed this winter. Additionally there are some discolored leaves (only one small section). Should I cut back where the deer browsed? The discolored leaves? And if so, where do I cut? There's not alot of speicific information out there on this shrub and I'm new to gardening and landscape plants.

Any comments would be appreciated.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2006 at 8:08PM
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Hi!! Anyone out there who is still interested in Kalmias, as I just found this post (better late than never)and I have just been introduced to the beauty of Kalmias bigtime!! We were at a gardening friend of ours on Cape Cod during his Kalmia blooming time and it blew us away with the beauty of these mature shrubs!! I will post a few pictures of his plants, unfortunately none were labeled and he couldn't remember what varieties they were. I think I have identified a few of them.

I think this might be Yankee Doodle as we have two small plants and they look like this......

Maybe this is Bull'seye?

and maybe this is Silver Dollar or is it too pink?

Yankee Doodle Again??

This is either Sarah or Bay State, he says he has both.....

Is this Carousel??

What's this one?

He says he has Heart's Desire also, I think this may be one??

Hear's Desire Again??


Needless to say we have been searching for Kalmias and have been sucessful as the nurserys have many varieties these days and we always buy a plant with a few flowers out so we can be sure of what we get. Any help with IDing these plants would be greatly appreciated!! Thanks,


I snuck over from the amaryllis and hydrangea forums.....

    Bookmark   June 19, 2010 at 8:55AM
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