What You Should Know About Mountain Laurel Plant

Mountain Laurel Plant

A showy bush originating from North America, Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) or Ivy Bush, is one of the most majestic wildflowers out there. With delicate, pinkish fused-petal blossoms resembling tiny origami rice bowls on top of glossy green leaves.

More specifically, blossoms feature dark pink rings at the core and deep rose-tinged pockets along with petals where filaments emerge.

Like its cousin, rhododendron, Calico Bush – also called, loves acidic soils, shade, and cool, moist air. Mass plantings of the shrub are fantastically eye-catching.

Functionally, they are great for making the landscape appear natural. Most Ivy Bushes are humongous shrubs that can grow up to 15 feet tall and wide. At the same time, some dwarf varieties are less than 3 feet tall, making them more suited to small yards and gardens.

Mountain Laurel Care

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Genus NameKalmia latifolia
Plant Typeshrub, outdoor
Heightup to 20 ft
Breathup to 12 ft wide
Foliage colorshiny green leaves, pinkish flowers
Especially known forshowiness, low maintenance
Propagation methodcuttings

Caring for Your Mountain Laurel Plant

To keep your Mountain Laurel alive, plant it in well-drained, moist, acidic soil in USDA zones 5 to 9. Improve the soil with compost before planting. If there are other shrubs in the way, amend the whole bed. Add compost to fill the rubbish if you’re cultivating one or two shrubs.

Cultivate anywhere from deep shade to full-strength sunlight, but it feels happiest in moderate to partial shade. Full shade produces fewer leaves, while the over-bright sun might cause scalding of leaves. 


Mountain Laurel will perform optimally in moderate to partial shade. With full sun, it also thrives. But, if full sunlight is combined with deflected light coming from heat-reflectent southern or southwestern walls, avoid it!

When placed in deep shade, the foliage will be sparse, and it may become thorny.  Too much sunlight, and you’ll risk singeing the leaves.


Calico bush grows requires moist, properly drained acidic soil to thrive – particularly around 4.0 to 6.0. Keep your soil acidic by using wood chips or pine straw to mulch close to the bottom of the shrub. Clay soil is not good; rich humus soil is ideal. Also, keep in mind that fertilizers are not suitable for shrubs. Accordingly, don’t plant them in or around nitrogen-infused fields or lawns.

Water Temperature

Mountain Laurel germination is more successful when temperatures are between 64°F (18°C) to 71°F (22°C).

Take precautions when watering the plant. Ensure not to go overboard and waterlog the soil. Just give it enough water for a good wetting, then allow it to seep away.

Pruning and Propagating If Needed

Mountain Laurel Plant

While not often needed, pruning helps get rid of dead or damaged branches to promote aeration. Pruning is best carried out when new buds are about to develop. While Mountain Laurels can take heavy pruning, be careful not to hack down more than one-third of the shrub at a time. 

Mountain Laurel bush is draped in 4- to 6-inch clusters of pinkish-white blooms in late spring and early summer. Propagation can be done by taking hardwood cuttings when the plant is in its dormant phase.

How to Prepare Mountain Laurel Plant for Winter

Winters can be a difficult time for mountain laurel plants. To ensure that they are in top condition, protective measures to preserve the leaves should be taken. Locating the laurel in a partial shade prevents yellowing effects from the excessive sunlight. 

Low temperatures of up to -25°F can burn off flower buds. Laurel also attracts deer, who like to gnaw at the leaves and twigs because they’re having a hard time finding food elsewhere. To circumvent this, use burlap to cover the shrub. Burlap does nothing to moderate its temperature; rather, it prevents dry winds from parching flower buds.

Common Mountain Laurel Plant Pests and Disease

Many diseases blight the mountain laurel, namely fungal leaf spots, winter injury, drought injury, and chlorosis (yellowy leaves). Pests notorious for attacking the mountain laurel include rodents, deer, lace bugs, weevils, rhododendron borers, and whiteflies. 

Winter injury can result from excessive or late fertilization, late-spring frostiness, and abrupt temperature swings. The disease manifests as dieback, browny tip, or scarred bark. Sometimes, mice nibble at new sprouts of the laurel, particularly when snow masks.

Final Thoughts

Mountain Laurel is a spectacular, shade-tolerant flower of North American origin with giant balls of delicate blooms.

Flowers can range from white to pink to crimson-red rose, often etched with symmetric maroon or purple spots or veins. They create an alluring view when planted en masse. 

Generally, how well your mountain laurel will grow depends on the cultivar that thrives in your area. Speaking of cultivars, some popular ones include Elf, Tinkerbell, Minuet, Peppermint, and Snowdrift.


Where Should Mountain Laurel Be Planted?

For the best growing conditions, mountain laurel should be planted in a location with well-drained, acidic soil, though it can grow in a wider range of soil conditions. They also need a location that provides plenty of water and sun. They can also grow in sun or shade.

Is Mountain Laurel Poisonous To Touch?

Yes, all parts of the plant are toxic. They can be fatal if consumed in large quantities. If you come across this plant, do not touch it. The leaves, the flowers and the fruit are all poisonous. You should not eat the fruit of the Mountain Laurel plant.

How Big Do Mountain Laurels Get?

Mountain laurel plants can grow to be around 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide. At first, they are small and the leaves are 3- to 5 inches long. When they reach the age of 7 years they begin to grow at a faster rate. The leaves are 4 to 7 inches long and are glossy dark green on the top and pale green underneath. As they grow the leaves become wider with their tips turning up.

Is Mountain Laurel A Tree Or A Bush?

Mountain laurel usually grows as a dense, rounded shrub with gnarly branches as it ages. Growing about a foot per year, it is a relatively slow-growing shrub.

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What You Should Know About Mountain Laurel Plant
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