I Love Prunus laurocerasus ‘Otto Luyken’

Nov 4, 2016 | Love This!

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.

Dark green, glossy foliage on a shrub that won't block your windows.

Dark green, glossy foliage on a shrub that won’t block your windows. Here’s how the shrub looks in early November. It’s a good companion for the Clethra that you see turning yellow just behind the cherry laurel. Both doing well where there is only dappled sunlight.

Here in the Northeast, Otto Luyken is covered with white flowers in late-May. The shrubs have small, dark fruit later in the summer that the birds or other wildlife seem to enjoy. (No matter how much I try to feed the birds I always end up nourishing the chipmunks and squirrels too. Sigh.)

Here in the Northeast, Otto Luyken is covered with white flowers in late-May. The shrubs have small, dark fruit later in the summer that the birds or other wildlife seem to enjoy. (No matter how much I try to feed the birds I always end up nourishing the chipmunks and squirrels too. Sigh.)

There isn't much shot-hole fungus on this but you can see how the small round holes look on the little that I have. This plant doesn't get hit frequently with water, so the little that I have isn't a visual problem. But if this plant was getting splashed every day it would be disfigured by dozens of these holes...so placement is everything.

There isn’t much shot-hole fungus on this but you can see how the small round holes look on the little that I have. This plant doesn’t get hit frequently with water, so the little that I have isn’t a visual problem. But if this plant was getting splashed every day it would be disfigured by dozens of these holes…so placement is everything.

8 Comments

  1. Sheryl Warner

    How well would “Otto” work in containers? what kind of soils and amendments should I use and what is the best fertilizer to use? I live in a zone 5 with VERY dry summers and clay soil.

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      Sheryl,
      Unfortunately this plant would not live through the winter in a container in zone 5 unless you’ll be pulling it into a cold-but-not-below 20 degrees garage for the winter. Let me know if you’re looking for a container plant for a particular area or if you’re looking for an evergreen that will be hardy in your area in the ground. Let’s talk!

      Reply
  2. mitch

    Is there any fungicide or recommendations to stop the fungus?
    Thank you.

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      Thanks for asking, Mitch, even if this was an attempt to get your business mentioned on my blog. Yes, you could use the fungicide of your choice (I use organic fungicides such as Actinovate myself) according to directions, but this is only effective if you apply it before the plant gets shot-hole fungus. Also, no fungicide works if the cultural conditions favor the fungi – so if the plant is repeatedly overhead watered, for example, it will get leaf spot no matter what you’ve sprayed with. Wishing your nursery great success!

      Reply
  3. Gloria

    how to fertilizer it?

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      Gloria,
      Scatter a light application of an organic fertilizer such as Holly-tone around the plant in May or early June. At least every other year put a thin layer of composted manure on the surface of the soil around the plant – a 1/2 to 1 inch layer under the drip line and a foot beyond is perfect. You can do this in the spring after you scatter the fertilizer, or in the fall.

      Reply
  4. Elin Hanson

    My Otto Luyken does not flower…it is in a very sunny (south facing) dry spot. How much shade can it tolerate if I decide to move it? I really want to love it as much as you do! I have 12 plants put in by a landscsper! I live in zone 7b in wake forest NC. And can I move it NOW (end of October).

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      Elin,
      You should wait to move any evergreens until the spring. Since we don’t know what kind of winter is coming up, it’ll be better for the plants if transplanting happens in early spring.

      Reply

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