Firewise Initiative: Tips for Pruning a Mountain Laurel

Hasn’t the Mountain Laurel been glorious this year!!! 

Now that it has just about finished blooming, it is time to prune.  If you wait until late fall or winter, you will diminish the amount of blooms that will appear the following growing season.  Remember that mountain laurel is an extremely flammable plant, so cutting it back away from your house is a very good idea!

Tools

Simple hand tools will suffice, unless you plan to prune only the tops of very tall plants.  For the most part, a set of loppers for larger branches and hand clippers for small branches will do nicely.  If you plan to cut it down to the ground, then some branches might be so thick that you will need a saw.

Pruning

You may not have to prune very much off of your mountain laurel, but you can prune it all the way back into a leafless wood that is 2 to 4 feet off the ground. This can take 2 to 3 years to fully grow back, but the result is a beautiful and full bush. By the next growing season, new shoots will begin to form as long as the plant is healthy and well maintained.

You will otherwise need to use a thinning and renewal method on your shrub. Remove dead branches to improve the light infiltration which will bring out the actual exquisiteness of your mountain laurel.

Heading

Shaping shrubs consists of simply shortening each individual branch in a method known as heading. This involves pruning the branch right above a bud or even another branch. To ensure that your evergreen will be able to rejuvenate, be sure to leave some kind of foliage when thinning.

Beware of dead zones of leaves that have withered away on the inside of your mountain laurel. These leaves have not gotten the right amount of sun to flourish.

Please send Nancy Midgette a quick email (midgette@elon.edu) to report the work that you did and the hours that you spent doing it!  We report these hours every year to update our Firewise Status with the N.C. Forest Service.

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