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Help needed please with laurel hedge issues...


Firstly just to say I am about the furthest thing from a gardener you could possibly think of, so please excuse my ignorance.

We had a line of 20  6-7ft Laurel hedge plants put in in February. They are purely for privacy and the aim is maximum growth asap, to about 8-9 ft and thick.

The soil was excavated 2ft deep and a vast quantity of grab-bagged topsoil put in so should be plenty and good quality. The plants were pot grown (at least they arrived in pots and I'm told were good strong healthy mature plants with compost already in the pots.

Within the first few weeks of being planted they had shedded at least half of their leaves. An unbelievable amount came off and some stems are now totally bare form being rather bushy. It was extremely windy during that period. They have continued to shed since, but at a much slower rate, and seem to have stabilised now (2 months).

However some plants have yellowing leaves, some have holey leaves, some have weird brown growths on them, and some have what I assume from Googling is Vine Weevil.

I'm not sure if they are under or over watered.. The soil is quite free draining by the looks of it, and doesn't seem dry or waterlogged to me. It is in Lancashire if that matters.

I'd be eternally grateful for some advice on what (if any) issues I have, and how best to go about treating it. I'm due (on the planters advice) to chop the top 6" off each stem at the weekend, unless advised otherwise. Would be happy to invest in any plant food etc if it will help. They don't look like they are dying to me, just struggling a bit for whatever reason.

Many Thanks...













  • Sounds like a water issue, with so much soil put in, it may be loose enough that the water is going straight through past the compact rootball. Get your hand down into the soil around the roots and see if its dry or wet. If its dry, give it a full watering can then leave it ten minutes and try again. If its dry, repeat.

    With a newly planted hedge, you should be keeping it watered the first few summers until the roots spread into the surrounding soil.

  • I agree jimmy. That's sound advice.
  • steephillsteephill Posts: 2,764

    By privacy do you mean hide the fence and wall behind? I would cut them down to about a foot high to encourage thicker growth. Laurel is a vigorous fast grower and responds well to heavy pruning. I have cut down much larger laurel and they always respond by growing even more strongly. Don't worry about loosing all the height you paid for, that has meant strong roots.

  • GillianBCGillianBC Posts: 121

    Laurel is pretty bullet proof under the right conditions - it pops up everywhere in my clay soil and is glossy and healthy.  I've just had some monsters pruned as they had grown too big for me.  I agree with the others - they look like they need a good soaking and a decent layer of mulch to give the roots a better chance of establishing.  A sprinkling of bonemeal might help before you add the mulch. Pruning them will fill them with a burst of vigour now the weather's warming up.  

  • hogweedhogweed Posts: 4,053

    Could be that they have dried out with a constant wind. I think a good copious water, a general fertiliser feed, a thick mulch will help. And take a couple of feet off them if you are brave enough. And keep them well watered all this year. Lots of water at decent intervals rather than a few drips every few days, is the way to go.

    'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement' - Helen Keller
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 86,138

    Yes, cut them  really hard back - I'd reduce them to 18" tall - sprinkle with Fish, Blood and Bone then water and mulch .............. and stand well back.  They'll be fine image

    Be brave - an old gardening saying is 'Growth follows the knife' - meaning if you want something to grow really well it needs cutting back first.  It will spur it into action and encourage loads of side shoots and you'll get a tall thick hedge that the blackbirds will love to nest in ... and you'll feel like a gardener! image


    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • LynLyn Posts: 22,880

    absolutely agree, chop right down, I would never have bought them in the first place, you are far better buying 3ft plants, cutting back by half on planting. If they have been grown in pots, tbere is your answer...these grow so quickly for that size tree they should have been in 2Ft pots, the root system has been starved.

    they will pick up on cutting down  you cant kill them.  being so leggy has made them  weak and vunerable to pests and leaf drop.

    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

  • befuddledbefuddled Posts: 34

    Hi all. Wow lots of replies, thanks a lot. To answer a few comments...

    Yes the idea is to grow them 2 or 3 ft over the 6 ft fence for privacy, and to hide the ugly wall. So I bought online as big as I could find, but have to say I was expecting bushier plants to make more of an instant hedge. My neighbour has done similar with 8ft conifer plants and has an instant hedge. Live and learn I suppose. Although the seller did say regardless of height the stems were good and thick proving they were mature (7 years he said).

    The soil is quite well settled as it has been down 6 months now and has sunk a good 3-4" already.  The pots they arrived in were maybe 1ft high and 1ft wide.

    I was more concerned about the leaf drop than the eaten parts. I put it down to shock of being planted and the wind.

    The planter commented that he was deliberately leaving the rootball (?) a couple of inches proud in the soil so as not to induce waterlogging. If anything I'd say the soil stays on the wet side rather than dry, but I haven't dug into it to be honest. I was spooked off watering them by reading online that it's as easy to overwater. Plus the planter said they didn't require it.

    Cut back to a foot high... really? I think I would actually cry! Even to half size would be 3.5 ft off the tallest plant. That won't have any negative effect on health or time taken to reach 8 ft?

    No idea where to get thick mulch, or indeed fish bone. Will pop into my garden centre at the weekend and pray for help. Or maybe hire a gardener. It's been a pretty big investment and I'm out of my depth I reckon.

    Thanks again, Dave.


  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 86,138

    OK, 2'6" then - have a nip of something 'strengthening' before you do it, then do the first one - that's the only one you have to be brave for - you'll have to finish the row then or it'll look odd !  You won't cry - we'll all cheer and praise you and you'll be well on your way to being a gardener.

    Fish, Blood & Bone is a slow acting organic fertiliser - you get it from the garden centre.  Follow the instructions on the pack re amounts etc.

    The sort of mulch I would use would be composted bark - in bags from the garden centre - the bag should tell you how many square metres it will cover so you can work out how many bags. 

    Honestly, if you cut it back as we say you'll get the most fantastic hedge rather than a mediocre one image

    P.S.  And a laurel hedge is so much nicer than a 'bog standard' leylandii-type conifer hedge - and much less trouble in years to come!  Good choice!

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • Jane22Jane22 Posts: 1

    Lots of very good advice given so far but just wanted to put your mind at rest. Laurels are very hardy and they can drop every leaf but they will still re shoot it is just unfortunate that it becomes a waiting game for them to look what you originally bought them for in the first place. I would not say these laurels look as mature as you have been told and also when you but laurels with are this height they would normally cover about a metre wide with there bushiness. Be careful not to over water as sometimes this can cause just as much damage as not enough water. Give them a good feed perhaps Miracle Grow when watering or as earlier discussed Blood Fish and Bone. I don't think you will lose these Laurels but I think you are going to wait a long time for them to be the hedge you so desire. Just out of interest what sort of price were they? Did you shop online or at your local garden centre.

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