Laurel rose, Kalmia latifolia - Location and care of mountain laurel

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In nature, the mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) grows, which is also called laurel rose because of its pretty flowers, mainly in the mountain forests of North America. There, the evergreen shrub becomes over five meters tall. But he does not reach this stately height in our latitudes. Its dark red buds form from May in dense umbels on the shoot tips and are already a feast for the eyes. During the flowering phase, the cup-shaped flowers change between different shades of pink to a strong red or bright white.


The beautiful laurel rose from the family of heather plants does not need much space, because the shrub grows mainly upright and also very slowly. In addition to some varieties, which are up to three meters high in our country, there are also a variety of variants that remain compact and reach a maximum of one meter in height. Therefore, these are especially recommended for small gardens. A mountain laurel loves half-shaded locations and can be perfectly combined in the garden with rhododendrons or azaleas, whose flowering it almost seamlessly connects. But it also grows in full sun or in shady places. However, avoid the blazing sun in combination with reflective light, for example, from large windows on south or southwestern walls. In the shade, the enchanting flowers lose their bright colors.
  • Light requirement: sunny to partially shaded
  • sheltered
  • in individual position or as group planting suitable
  • beautiful in combination with azalea or rhododendron
  • Also suitable as a container plant


The attractive blossom shrub is not particularly picky about the nature of the garden floor. A humus-rich, permeable and slightly acidic soil is usually sufficient for healthy growth. However, the shrub is not particularly adaptable to extreme soil conditions. An important factor in good growth is a damp, well-drained soil. Drought tolerates the otherwise undemanding plant just as little as waterlogging. If rhododendrons are already growing in your garden, the mountain laurel will thrive without any problem.
  • moist fresh
  • humus and moderately nutritious
  • well drained of water
  • acid soil
  • pH value: 4.5 to 5.5
  • not lime compatible
  • does not grow well in clay or sandy soils
Tip: If you do not know the pH value of your garden floor, you can buy test strips in the trade (garden center or pharmacy) and easily check your soil with them. Calcareous earth does not tolerate the laurel rose.



The laurel rose is especially good in individual position. It can also be used as a hedge plant. Azaleas and rhododendrons are highly recommended as combination partners. In their flowering phase the mountain laurel connects seamlessly in May and thus provides additional splashes of color in the garden. Best planting time for the shrub is either the spring or the fall. If the soil conditions are not optimal, they should be improved before planting. For this purpose, an area of ​​at least one square meter and 50 cm deep must be dug up and mixed with the respective components. Plant several mountain lobster bushes right away and change the soil throughout the bed. The shrub needs a lot of organic, humus soil in which it can spread its roots.
  • Time: Spring (April / May) or Autumn (September / October)
  • Dig well on heavy soils, loosen up and mix with sand, peat moss and compost
  • enrich sandy and barren soil with humus or compost and peat moss
  • Planting hole: at least triple bale width and twice the depth
  • first fill high quality plant substrate
  • Substrate: humus or compost, sand and peat moss
  • Water the roots well before planting
  • Insert bales and fill with substrate
  • Planting depth: as before
  • should not be planted too deeply
  • the point where the trunk hits the roots must be above the ground level
  • create a pouring edge of garden soil around the planting hole
  • easy to compete
  • water well
Tip: In order for the Kalmia latifolia to grow in well, it needs frequent watering at first.

potted plants

Especially the small-sized mountain berber species such as 'Nani', 'Ostbo Red' and 'Peppermint', which grow very slowly and only reach a growth height of up to 1 m, are particularly suitable for cultivating in a plant pot. The bush is only relatively shallow, but still needs a large pot to thrive vigorously and healthily. The most suitable are clay pots with coasters, because the material regulates well the moisture balance in the root area. Make sure that these planters are frost-proof.
  • use high quality tub substrate
  • must be humus and well drained
  • On the other hand, it should be able to keep the moisture well
  • perfect are mixtures of humus or compost, peat moss and sand
  • alternatively azalea or rhododendron earth
  • Planter should be at least 10 cm larger than the root ball
  • first create a drainage of clay, lava granules or similar
  • fill with substrate
  • Insert plant and fill gaps with substrate
  • water well



The evergreen shrub with its leathery, glossy leaves shows good frost hardiness and very easy to care for. With only about 5 to 10 cm growth rate per year, there is little risk that the plant will become too large for their location in a short time. In addition, the Kalmie flowers at an early age, so that even with small specimens from the garden market, the flowering is not long in coming.

to water

The mountain laurel does not tolerate waterlogging or dry substrates. The wood has a very shallow root system and needs more irrigation than most other shrubs in the garden. In the bucket, a pouring is more often necessary than in the field. Humoser soil can store the water better and gradually release it to the flat roots of the flowering shrub. Keep the soil equally moist and do not let it dry out. Re-casting is necessary when the upper substrate layer is slightly dried. In semi-shade, the Kalmie shows much easier to clean, in terms of water consumption.
Tip: A layer of mulch made of bark or pine needles ensures that the water does not evaporate too quickly and at the same time prevents unwanted compaction and raising the pH to the alkaline range.


On humus substrate, additional nutrient administration is only necessary after a few years. In the case of barren soils or well-established plants, a portion of compost in spring supports the willingness to bloom and the defenses of Kalmia latifolia. It is important not to give the shrubs too high levels of nutrients, otherwise their leaves will burn and get a brown border. Therefore, do not plant a mountain laurel in the vicinity of lawns that you fertilize with products that have high nitrogen contents. Free-range plants are fertilized in spring, container plants only during the growth phase between April and early August.
  • fertilize only once a year
  • in spring with compost or horn shavings
  • Do not administer high amounts of nitrogen
  • Use fertilizer for acid soil conditions
  • only ¼ of the recommended amount of fertilizer for azaleas and rhododendrons
  • Fertilize potted plants with liquid fertilizer for acid-loving plants (once every six weeks in half concentration)

Caution toxic!

The only disadvantage of the almost perfect plant: it is very toxic in all parts. That is why she is also known in English-speaking countries as the lamb-slayer (Lambkill). In the eastern part of the USA, the bush with the extravagant flowers regularly causes the death of grazing livestock (especially sheep). Therefore, as a precaution, wear gloves when repotting or pruning the bush. It is also a good idea to dispose of the waste safely so that children or animals do not accidentally come into contact with it.


The poisonous components are found in all plant parts, but especially in the leaves. Skin contact may result in redness and rash that burns or itches. When taken orally, small amounts of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and increased salivation and dizziness. In the worst case, however, the ingestion can also lead to death in humans. Therefore, avoid cultivating the mountain laurel when infants or animals are at risk of eating the leaves of the plant.

Fumigate blooming

In order to encourage the flowering of Kalmia latifolia, withered or plucked leaves should be regularly plucked during flowering in May and June. On the one hand the shrub looks more cultivated, on the other hand the plant does not have to put its power into the production of the seeds, so that it always forms new flowers.

To cut

Otherwise, only very rarely a cut is necessary in the very slow-growing laurel rose. Only cut out dead, stunted or sick wood in winter or spring. If a young plant is only moderately branching, a bushy growth can be promoted by a restrained cut. Remember that the mountain laurel is poisonous and wear gloves as a precaution. In addition, you should dispose of the removed flowers and the cut safely. If cutbacks are desired or necessary, you should do them right after flowering in June so that you do not have to give up flowering in the next year.
  • no strong cutbacks necessary
  • cut out dry, withered and sick branches
  • possible all year round
  • all inwardly growing and intersecting branches cut off
  • reduce weak shoots at the base
  • avoid large wounds
  • Crop young plants slightly for better branching
  • best time: right after flowering
  • to shorten some unbranched branches by 1/3
  • always cut over an outward eye
If the mountain laurel is severely frosted, poorly grown or ill, you can cut back the shrub almost to ground level. However, leave at least one pair of eyes on each shoot so that it can vigorously regenerate again. This radical rejuvenation cure will survive older plants very well, even if they then take about 10 years to regain their original size.


Potted plants only need a slightly larger planter at a young age. Check in the spring, if the roots have already reached the pot edge. If a dense network is visible on the side or bottom of the bale, it needs to be repotted. The new bucket should be at least 10 cm larger than the old one. Fill in some expanded clay, lava granules or potsherds as drainage and add to the resulting space a high-quality substrate of peat moss, humus and sand. Older plants hardly need larger vessels, but should occasionally get fresh soil. Change part of the old plant substrate every two to three years.



The mountain laurel is native to North America where it grows in mountainous areas under similar conditions as ours. The plants are therefore absolutely hardy in our latitudes and require no protective measures during the cold season. Only young and tub plants are a bit more sensitive.
  • Cover young outdoor plants in the autumn with foliage or bark mulch in the root area
  • Place the bucket in a protected place
  • Put the bucket on a polystyrene plate or wooden block
  • Wrap the pot with fleece, jute or foil
  • In winter, only moderate watering and do not fertilize


It is not easy to multiply a Kalmie yourself. Since cuttings only rarely rooted and the sowing of the different cultivars is not always successful, remains for the hobby gardener only the increase over Absenker as a viable option. Only wild forms can easily be multiplied by seeds.
  • Timing for lowering: early summer
  • to bend a long, less woody shoot down to the ground
  • pull an approximately 10 cm deep, elongated channel into the ground
  • guide the shoot in the middle to the outer third into the earth
  • the shoot tip must look out at the other end
  • Cover shoot in soil with soil
  • complain the body with weights (stones etc.)
  • Lead the shoot tip upwards on a stick (otherwise crooked)
At the earliest in autumn, but certainly next spring, the shoot then has its own roots in the earth and can be separated from the mother plant. If only very few or short roots are visible during the control, you should rather let the shoot have a little more time.

Special varieties

Even from afar, the mountain laurel looks very impressive on the viewer during flowering. His whole delicate beauty, however, he shows only on closer inspection, because every bud and every single flower is a small piece of art in itself. Kalmia latifolia is available in different varieties, which differ in their stature height and flower color:
  • Growth height: up to 3 m (also known as the large mountain laurel)
  • Also available as a small variant up to 1.2 m in height
  • Hundreds of pink flowers, some with red speckles
  • especially resistant to fungal diseases
  • Synonym: laurel rose 'beacon'
  • Growth height: maximum 150 cm
  • bright red to pink colored flowers
  • pretty tough
  • also suitable for rougher areas (cold winds)
'Black Label'
  • Growth height: 2.5 m (one of the largest varieties)
  • white flowers with a dark ring
  • Growth height: 1.5 to 2 m
  • rare pure white flower
  • good resistance to leaf spot disease
  • Growth height: 1.0 to 1.5 m
  • white ground with bordeaux red polka dots
  • star-shaped flowers
  • differs greatly in the flower form of the wild mountain salmon varieties
  • Growth height: 1.0 to 1.5 m
  • bright pink rose flowers with a white border
  • Growth height: maximum 1.5 m
  • showy white flowers with intense red flower border
  • Growth height: 1 to 1.5 m
  • red-black flowers
  • Outside of the flower is white
  • very rare variety
  • Growth height: up to 2 m
  • old rose flowers
  • Growth height: less than 1 m (grows very slowly)
  • white flowers with cinnamon ribbon
  • flowers very rich
'Ostbo Red'
  • Growth height: 80 to 100 cm
  • strong bright red buds
  • open to a light pink blossom
  • is one of the most beautiful varieties
  • Growth height: 50 to 100 cm
  • slightly pinkish tinted flowers
  • red lines from the center to the edges
  • Growth height: 1.0 to 1.5 m
  • Flowers with soft pink tint
'Snow Drift'
  • Growth height: up to 100 cm
  • beautiful pure white laurel rose variety

Diseases and pests

The mountain laurel is one of the robust shrubs that rarely fall ill. Some breeding forms have been bred specifically for resistance to certain diseases. Occasionally, however - as with all garden plants - feeding marks of various butterflies or beetles and their larvae occur.
  • Brown leaf margins indicate a lack of water or too high quantities of fertilizer
  • drooping, withering shoots are often the result of waterlogging or too dark location
  • If wet, root rot can destroy the entire plant
Unfortunately, the laurel rose with its extravagant flowers is rarely found in our gardens and parks. This may be due to the toxicity of the flowering shrub. Because the consumption of parts of plants can lead to the death of humans and animals. Especially grazing animals are seriously endangered here. Even if you try to breed non-toxic plants again and again, in case of doubt you should avoid other non-toxic plants.

Video Board: How to Prune an Overgrown Laurel.

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