Imagine: You like to cut fresh greens from around your house and use them for wreaths, swags and flower arrangements. Holly is nice, of course, but for holidays it is rather old school. It’s good to have another leaf shape and a broadleaf evergreen that doesn’t curl or dry up quickly. Thankfully, there’s a shrub that you can clip from every year that is also a low-maintenance, shade tolerant landscape plant. And if you need a low hedge around a patio or fire pit area, well that’s even better because this one looks classy and will perfume those spaces in the late-spring to boot. Let me introduce you to Otto.
Name: Prunus laurocerasus ‘Otto Luyken’ aka Otto Luyken cherry laurel or English laurel.
Type of Plant: A low-growing, broadleaf evergreen shrub that is hardy in zones 6 to 9. This plant grows well in sun and part-shade.
Why I love this: The lush, dark green foliage and shade tolerance is at the top of the list of reasons to love this plant. I’m especially appreciative of how it looks in all sorts of holiday decorations from Thanksgiving through New Years. I also love the white, bottle-brush flowers that are fragrant, and the compact height. I grew Otto Luyken for 15 years in Osterville and when I moved from that property to Poison Ivy Acres, this was one of the first shrubs I bought so that I didn’t have to be without it.
A Word to the Wise: Proper placement of this shrub is everything.
You don’t want to plant any form of Prunus laurocerasus where it will get hit frequently with a sprinkler. Frequent splashing of water on the leaves will cause shot-hole fungus. It’s also not the plant to put under a gutter that always drips down on top of the foundation planting, or underneath an air conditioner that might do the same.
I’ve also found that part shade is best for this plant – morning sun and afternoon shade is ideal, and it’s not the shrub to plant in a wind-tunnel in the winter, or on the south-side of a house where it will get dried up by direct winter sunlight.