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GardenSMART :: 5 Reasons Why You Need a Portuguese Laurel Hedge

5 Reasons Why You Need a Portuguese Laurel Hedge

By Stephanie Pratt, InstantHedge
Photographs courtesy of Instant Hedge

For dense evergreen hedges with a lush, leafy look, people often reach for English laurels like the species Prunus laurocerasus or the Schip laurel. These hedges are useful in situations that need a fast-growing hedge and have a fair amount of space to fill, but sometimes a smaller, more manageable type hedge is needed. This is where their lesser-known cousin, Portuguese laurel, saves the day! It is a different species, Prunus lusitanica, native to the coast of Portugal and Northwestern Africa. Read on for five reasons why you might need a Portuguese laurel hedge of your own.

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GardenSMART Article Image

1. Appearance – Portuguese laurel has rich, deep green leaves that are long and slender with pointed tips. Whenever new growth pushes, they display bright red petioles behind the leaves, creating a lovely color contrast. Newly expanded leaves can also display pink and red tones. In June, the Portuguese laurel hedge will burst into bloom, with long, elegantly drooping flower spikes with tiny white, fragrant flowers. Later in the summer, they will develop into shiny, nearly black fruits that birds love.

2. Deer Resistance – All cherry laurels have significant deer resistance, and Portuguese laurel is no exception. Deer will avoid it generally, but even if they do nibble, it will quickly grow back and fill in. This is also a great option for growing as a hedge around an area full of deer-susceptible plants for protection. Deer don’t like to jump over things they can’t see through, so a dense evergreen hedge will be a great deterrent.

3. Disease Resistance – While Prunus laurocerasus varieties are susceptible to a disease called Shot Hole fungus, especially if growing in a shady, damp location, Prunus lusitanica is completely resistant. It is also a great substitute for Photinia, which has many disease issues that can make it impractical to grow. Portuguese laurel does well in full sun and partial shade.

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4. Heat and Drought Tolerance – With the native range being a warm, dry, coastal climate, Portuguese laurel does well in heat and drought conditions. It is hardy to zone 6b and grows well through zone 9 and in some zone 10 areas. If you are on the West Coast, you can use the Sunset Western Garden Climate Zones to determine more accurately if it will grow in your area; Portuguese laurel grows in zones 4-9 and 14-24.

GardenSMART Article Image

GardenSMART Article Image

5. Compact Size – While English laurel can grow 2-3 feet per year and can be difficult to maintain at a size of 6 feet tall or less, Portuguese laurel grows about 1-2 feet per year and has a much denser habit, making it easier to maintain at a smaller size. You can start with a pre-finished Portuguese laurel InstantHedge to get privacy right away.


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Photos courtesy of Suntory Flowers

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