Mountain Laurel

by Millie Davenport, Horticulture Extension Agent, Home & Garden Information Center, Clemson University, 2009



Hi, I am Millie Davenport, a horticulture Extension agent with the Clemson University Home and Garden Information Center. Today we are going to look at Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia).

Today we are looking at Kalmia latifolia, this is a Mountain Laurel. The Mountain Laurel is very nostalgic for me, because it reminds me of trips to the mountains when I was younger. You will often times see this plant kind of tucked in between Rhododendrons and Azaleas on your way up through the mountains. This is a nice native plant to South Carolina and it does have an evergreen foliage to it. The leaves are nice and leathery and thick. Now, this plant does need a moist location but it needs to be well drained. Basically, you are looking for a site that is going to be similar to what you would need for Rhododendrons and Azaleas, acidic soil, well-drained, and kind of moist and cool location. Because it needs cool soil, it also should be mulched as well. You need around a 2-4 inch layer of mulch down around the root system to protect it from our extreme heat during the summer time. Now, on this plant you’ve got some really interesting blossoms to it. These come out in the late spring months, they are bowl shaped, so they are kind of interesting that they are in a bowl shape. They are about ¾ to an inch wide individually and they come out in these large clusters of flowers that can range from 4 to 6 inches wide. The Mountain Laurel will grow to reach about 7 to 14 ft. tall. And, these flowers in the fall will actually develop into a fruit that is a small, brown, round capsule that as it dries it will actually break into five valves individually, so you can look at that. The nice thing about the Mountain laurel is that it has a really nice color to it. You’ve got this nice reddish bark, kind of grayish brown color. Also the other cool thing is crooked gnarly structure of the branches that lends itself nicely for being used for making rustic mountain furniture. There are several different cultivars of the Mountain Laurel. Two of them that we will look are ‘Sarah’ first of all. And, ‘Sarah’ has a really nice red deeper color to the flowers, especially the buds are more red and they open into a more bright pink color. The other variety is ‘Olympic Wedding’. And, ‘Olympic Wedding’ that we are looking at has a really nice white color to the flower with a broken cinnamon color throughout the flower itself. And, again, these are just something to add some different interest to the landscape other than just your straight species. Now, if you are looking for a plant to use in a moist, well-drained area amongst your Rhododendrons and Azaleas, a Mountain Laurel would make a great addition to your landscape.

For more information on gardening, landscaping, insect and disease problems on your plants, visit the Home & Garden Information Center web site at www.clemson.edu/hgic.

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