Mountain Laurel has a naturally open, rounded shape that requires little maintenance pruning to keep its appearance tidy. Cutting back can be done to remove any damage from the winter and to keep seed heads from forming in the summer. When the flowering has finished in the late spring and early summer, a light deadheading is needed to expose the developing flower heads for the next year.
The only time that aggressive cutting back is needed is for a rejuvenation of the overall shape in old or mismanaged shrubs. The oldest and most tired branches are removed first. Cut back all of the way to the ground.
When to Prune Mountain Laurel
Mountain Laurel blooms on the previous year’s growth and should only be pruned after the flowers are finished early in the summer. Pruning late in winter is only needed to control winter damaged branches or for major rejuvenation. Flower buds will be lost for one season, but the shrub will recover quickly through the summer. The most important rule when undertaking heavy pruning is to not remove more than ⅓ of the overall growth at one time. This reduces shock to the shrub and helps to preserve at least some of the flowers.
Why Prune Mountain Laurel
Pruning Mountain Laurel will encourage healthy flower bud formation and keep the overall structure strong and open. Air circulation is important for Broadleaf Evergreens. Many can be susceptible to mildew and fungal diseases that thrive in too much moisture and on foliage that is too dense. A heavy rejuvenation can help a shrub to survive longer in the garden or to open up an area that may be too small for the overall mature size of the shrub.
How To Prune Mountain Laurel
Step 1 - Use sharp pruning tools such as hand pruners and long handled loppers
Step 2 - Sharpen tool blades as much as needed during the pruning session
Step 3 - Cut out all dead branches to the ground
Step 4 - Cut out any growth that looks diseased, dying all of the way to a main stem
Step 5 - Look for large branches that may be crossing over each other. They need to be cut back to a main stem so that they do not rub on each other as they grow and eventually become susceptible to pests and disease
Step 6 - Reduce any branches from the top if the shrub has grown too tall for the space
Step 7 - Carefully cut off flowerheads when blooming finishes. Only do what you can comfortably reach. This is only to tidy Mountain Laurel and keep it from setting seed. Birds feed on seedheads through the winter and any remaining flowerheads will fall off on their own in the spring.
Mountain Laurel Pruning Tips
- Only cut back when absolutely necessary
- Cut back lightly when blooming is finished in early summer
- Early spring pruning of dead, diseased, dying and diagonal branches should be done before any new growth emerges
- Mountain Laurel blooms on previous year’s growth
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Author Robbin Small - Published 6-29-2022