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Cherry Laurels - How much to prune and when

Hi awesome people,

please see attached pictures of two of my 14 cherry laurels. I have marked 3 points on each of them. Can you please advise which of the three levels should I prune them at. And what is the best time to prune them. 


  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 52,116
    If you're trying to make a bushy screen, with growth at the base, you'd use the lowest level.
    They're pretty indestructible, so you can prune at any time as long as there isn't severe frost forecast.
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • JennyJJennyJ Posts: 8,853
    On the other hand if you want them to provide screening above the wall but don't need to cover it, then the high level to promote bushiness and new growth above the wall. It depends what you're aiming for.
    Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Soil type: sandy, well-drained
  • PlantmindedPlantminded Posts: 2,283
    Whatever you decide, try to get your pruning done this month before the bird nesting season starts in March.  Give your plants a feed with an organic fertiliser afterwards and they'll recover quickly. 

    I notice the proximity of your bird feeder.  I would probably choose to cut the plants at the middle position, retaining some leafy shelter for your birds to approach the bird feeder and then retreat safely to eat the seed. 

    If you cut half way, the plants will send up new shoots from both the bottom and the top.  You can easily cut lower later if you want to -  the initial half way cut allows you to reconsider!
    Wirral. Sandy, free draining soil.
  • What do you want as an end result?
    Either way pruning now is fine - although avoid cutting through leaves - Laurels can look a little untidy with cut leaves.
    Perhaps a good mulch might a good idea too.
  • Thank you all for the responses. My purpose is actually more bushy at the mid level eventually. Currently they have grown too tall - some of them 8 ft. And they look skeletal at the bottom. 

    My only concern for some of the plants which don’t have a growth at the bottom, was if I remove all the leaves - will they still survive?
  • Good point on the bird feeder. It was such a lovely and lively bird feeder. I went away for the winter for 3 months. It’s been a month since coming back and the birds have not returned.  It’s almost like they are boycotting this one in anger :(
  • UffUff Posts: 3,199
    You have new growth at the bottom so if you want to form a screen (as below) then you need to cut the thicker, woody stems out at a lower level which will force more bottom growth. You don't need to cut any of the new bottom growth at this stage as you want that to grow. The pruning may seem drastic but laurels grow fairly rapidly and you should have a nice cover by the end of the summer. I always cut mine using secateurs and a lopper, not a hedge trimmer otherwise the leaves look messy.

    SW SCOTLAND but born in Derbyshire
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 52,116
    As @Uff says, they'll grow back well after cutting back. You'll need to make sure the soil is in good order initially, by adding some extra organic matter - rotted manure, compost, etc. That will give them a good start.
    If the soil's dry, give it a good watering before doing that, and that will also help, especially as they're so near that wall - that can be a drier spot. It will depend on whereabouts you are though - some areas of the country are very wet, so that wouldn't be necessary.  :)
    Re your bird feeder - if you've been away for that length of time, and no one's been topping up the feeders, the birds will have been looking elsewhere for their food. Once you have the laurels pruned back, you can refill them, but it's always beneficial to keep feeders stocked once you start doing it. If you're intending cutting back soon, you might want to put the feeder in another spot  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • So if I get it right - you are saying go even lower than my last line at the bottom and go aggressive - let’s say 2ft from the floor on the woody stem?

    the growth you see at the bottom is not from woody stem but the roots
  • UffUff Posts: 3,199
     The woody stems with the top growth (and nothing in between) need cutting back to your lower line or just below. They will then produce new growth. 
    Basically, you're starting again with your hedge. After you've pruned it back just let it grow to the height you want it at. You can tidy the front to keep it from growing over the small wall. 
    As a reminder, don't cut the existing lower, new growth down at the bottom.
    SW SCOTLAND but born in Derbyshire
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