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Advice on how to get laurel plants to grow


I am as far from green fingered as you can find, so any advice will be gratefully received.

A gardener planted 18, 5/6 feet tall laurel plants near our fence last July.    Soon after planting we noticed that a number of leaves had turned yellow.  We live in a new build property and now suspect that the gardener may not have prepared the soil properly before planting. 

We have lost a lot of leaves and the plants are showing no sign of growing despite adding fish, bone and blood to the soil and also doing a weekly seaweed root drench.  We also ensure that they are well watered.

We got these plants for privacy and are concerned that they will not grow.  From looking at previous posts, the possible solution would be to cut the plants back but we are unsure how much to cut them back by.  Any advice on this would be gratefully received.

I have posted some pictures of the plants to give you an idea of their size etc.

Many thanks


  • JennyJJennyJ Posts: 8,879
    At the moment they're putting their energy into flowering! They look healthy and there is green growth at the base, although they're maybe a bit close to the fence.  After the flowers go over they'll want to continue putting energy into seed production, so to encourage bushy growth from lower down I think if they were mine I'd cut back to somewhere just above the middle horizontal bar on the fence, taking off most of the flowering parts, but other people may say cut more, or less. It's not a precise science, but generally speaking shrubs will put most of their growth near the top and will tend to bush out most from just below where you cut. Probably not what you want to do after paying out for tall plants, but it will make a better hedge in the long term.
    You could reduce competition from the grass by bringing the edge of the lawn in a bit, and make sure they are watered well in dry spells. An organic mulch of well-rotted manure, garden compost or some other type of organic soil improver will help retain moisture and improve the soil gradually.

    Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Soil type: sandy, well-drained
  • GardenerSuzeGardenerSuze Posts: 4,299
    @jackieaitken26 I agree with @JennyJ It may seem strange but a small laurel will 'take'  quicker and grow faster than a larger one.
    With every cut you make it will send out two new shoots and that is how to thicken it up. Don't worry about the yellow leaves that is normal especially in April and May.

    BROWN IS A COLOUR   Piet Oudolf
  • Silver surferSilver surfer Posts: 4,460
    They look just fine.
    Perthshire. SCOTLAND .
  • UffUff Posts: 3,199
    They do indeed silver surfer and if they were growing in my garden I'd be pleased with them. 
    SW SCOTLAND but born in Derbyshire
  • SkandiSkandi Posts: 1,678
    Remember they are still growing roots. Shrubs won't grow much in the first year you plant them and they will grow slowly in the second year, but after that you'll be on here asking how to slow them down.
  • Thanks all for your advice and reassurance. I think we will follow your advice @JennyJ and @GardenerSuze and prune the tops of the bushes in the hope more leaves appear. 

    Should I be okay to prune them just now whilst they are flowering?

    Many thanks once again.
  • JennyJJennyJ Posts: 8,879
    RHS says prune in late spring or early summer, so I'd give it another month or six weeks. I assume that's so that when it makes soft new shoots, they aren't damaged by a late frost, which is possible until late May here but take into account your local conditions.
    Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Soil type: sandy, well-drained
  • GardenerSuzeGardenerSuze Posts: 4,299
    If they do catch the frost now or in the future they will quickly put on new growth and it won't be a problem.

    BROWN IS A COLOUR   Piet Oudolf
  • @JennyJ many thanks for replying and pointing me in the right direction. 
  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,158
    Prune them back by a half.  In my experience they'll double in size.

    We had one, by the front door of a house we rented while house hunting.  It mugged us every time we tried to enter so I chopped it.  Grew back with a vengeance.
    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
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