In ancient Greece, laurel wreaths were symbols of victory and triumph regularly awarded to the winners of competitions. We are far from those days, but there’s something heroic about the image of laurel branches in old paintings. Fortunately, we have our own version here in the States: the Carolina cherry laurel tree. If you want to embrace victory in your lawn, here’s what to know about cherry laurel trees.
The Carolina cherry laurel isn’t technically in the same plant family as the laurus nobilis of Grecian fame. Even so, there are physical similarities between the two plants. Both are evergreen shrubs or trees with oval-shaped leaves that are tapered on both sides. When crushed, a Carolina cherry laurel’s leaves smell like almonds or maraschino cherries. However, the leaves and bark are toxic to humans and grazing animals. This makes them perfect deer deterrents.
Flowers and Fruit
Another similarity between the plants is that they both produce small flowers and fruit. The cherry laurel trees’ flowers are white or cream-colored, and they grow in clusters. These usually bloom in early spring. The tree’s fruit, called a drupe, grows red and then black—also reminiscent of cherries—but it’s also toxic to most people and animals. Birds are fond of them, though, especially robins, cedar waxwings, and woodpeckers.
Ideal Growing Conditions
Carolina cherry laurels grow best in direct sunlight and in moist—but not wet—soil. Even so, it’s a hardy plant that can survive in partial sun and that can withstand drought as well. That’s why you can find them across the southern part of the United States, from central Texas, east through Florida, and up to the Carolinas, which give the tree its name.
Tips for Care
Although Carolina cherry laurels are generally hardy, they don’t do well in waterlogged lawns. You can avoid this by not oversaturating the ground when you’re watering. However, some lawns naturally retain too much water. If this is the case, you can use a few strategies to improve the drainage of your lawn:
- Aerate your lawn
- Apply sand
- Dig a ditch or French drain
- Collect rainwater
- Plant a “rain garden” or “bog garden”
These trees are typically small enough to be used for hedging, but one thing many people don’t know about cherry laurel trees is that they can grow up to 35 or 40 feet tall. That’s around three stories tall. Because of that, pruning may be necessary. Pruning, especially after the last blooms have fallen off late in the summer, can encourage new bud growth. Cutting branches too deeply can damage new buds, though, so consider consulting our Austin tree pruning services before pruning on your own.