Gardening notes on growing Kalmia – mountain laurel

Adding gardening notes from

Mountain laurel plants can be grown in zones 5-9 and will reach 5’-8’ in height. Their cup-shaped, speckled flowers range in color from white (useful in moon gardens) to pink.

Although many people try to propagate them by transplanting mountain laurels from the wild, you are far more likely to have success if you purchase them from a nursery. Digging up wild plants usually causes sufficient root damage to thwart your efforts at saving a buck. Your chances of success will increase significantly if you buy aballed and burlapped plant from a nursery.

Soil is another factor to keep in mind in growing mountain laurels. Your soil should be moist but well-drained. This combination is not always easy to achieve. But adding peat moss, humus and sand before planting is a step in the right direction.

The pH of the soil should be on the acidic side. Consider acidity even when choosing a mulch for mountain laurel. Mulching will help retain some of that moisture the plant needs. The mulch will also keep the soil cool, which mountain laurels like. But organic mulches eventually break down into the soil, and in doing so affect soil pH. Some make the soil more acidic, others “sweeten” it (make it more alkaline). Thus for acid-loving plants like mountain laurel, rhododendron and azalea, pine needles or wood chips make excellent mulches. Upon decomposing, both make the soil more acidic. In either case, apply a 2”-6” layer of mulch. To learn more about mulching choices, consult Selecting the Proper Mulch.

When planting mountain laurels, do not plant too deeply. Make sure the mountain laurel plant’s “crown” (where its trunk meets its roots) is not buried. Buried crowns will suffer from rot, and your shrub will die.

Mountain laurel plants rarely need to be pruned, although pinching off the seed heads after blooming time is over seems to promote better flowering for the next season. Should your mountain laurel plants get too tall for your landscape design plan, cut them back almost to ground level. These tough shrubs can take a severe pruning when necessary. From stubs just a few inches above the ground new foliage will arise, and your plants will mature into large shrubs once again in about ten years’ time


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