Cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) is very popular. It is valued for its shiny evergreen leaves and the fragrance of its white flowers, which testify to its relationship with other trees of the genus Prunus, such as the ornamental cherry. As a bee pasture, it makes a valuable contribution to the protection of insects. Vigorous varieties of the exotic shrub also protect you and your garden from prying eyes. But what you may not have known is that the cherry laurel is quite easy to propagate. Below is a listing of possible methods and instructions on how to propagate cherry laurel.
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Propagation by cuttings
You can easily propagate cherry laurel from cuttings. This method of propagation is also used in nurseries, as it is simple and productive, and unlike propagation by seeds, it allows for guaranteed true-to-type production. At the beginning there is the selection of the right mother plant. Of course, it should be healthy and sufficiently supplied with nutrients. You need to cut the cuttings in late summer. It is very important that the selected shoots are well matured, their tips should no longer be soft. This can be achieved only if you refrain from high nitrogen applications in the summer. Thus, between August and October, you can check the firmness of the tips of the shoots and then cut them when they have become firm.
The cut is made with a sharp knife at a slight angle and should have a length of about 15 cm. Now the larger leaves are shortened to reduce water evaporation, and some you can remove, leaving a leafless bare area that can be put in the ground. The shoot is placed in a 3:1 mixture of peat and sand or in special cutting soil available at specialty stores. It is important that the cutting soil is low in nutrients, so do not use compost or fertilizer. Pots used for propagation should have holes in the bottom to allow excess water to drain away and prevent waterlogging.
Proceed as follows when propagating cuttings:
- Fill the pots to the brim with the dry soil. Raise them several times to 10 cm and drop them from this height. Repeat this procedure five times. In this way, the substrate will collapse and the cutting will later have the necessary contact with the soil. If necessary, add more soil and compact it until the filling height is correct.
- Now insert the prepared cutting at a slight angle and completely flat. If necessary, use a pricker or thin pencil to drill a hole for the cutting. A few inches of the bare stem should remain stuck in the substrate. If you feel that the cutting is too loose and almost falling out, gently press it into the soil. However, do not press it too hard, otherwise not enough oxygen will reach the cut and rooting will be hindered.
- Now water the pots well. If you notice that soil is washing away from the surface, you can sprinkle the soil a little looser.
- Now place the growing container in a warm place (above 20 °C) with high humidity; cold frames or seed trays are suitable for this purpose. If you have put the cuttings in pots, you can also use a transparent plastic bag and attach it to the edge of the pot with adhesive tape, for example. However, you should occasionally ventilate to avoid the settlement of fungi.
- Make sure that the humidity is even – there should be no waterlogging, nor should the substrate dry out. After about four weeks, the cuttings are rooted. At somewhat lower temperatures, it may take a little longer. Then separate the rooted cuttings into pots. In the spring, you can then plant out the plants as usual.
Propagating the hedge shrub by sowing seeds
If you already have a cherry laurel plant, you may have noticed that small new plants occasionally appear around it. This is because the cherry laurel reproduces independently by seeding itself. Theoretically, you can dig up these plantlets and plant them in the place where you want a new shrub. But one thing to keep in mind is that these small cherry laurel plants are created from seeds. These seeds were created by fertilization in the flower of your plant.
Also, the cherry laurel is a cross-pollinator; it cannot “self-pollinate” as some plants can (e.g., peas, potatoes, pole beans). So the small seedlings must necessarily be hybrids of your plant and another that is not genetically identical to it. Thus, they can never have exactly the same characteristics as the mother plant, and single-variety propagation is not possible in this way.
Getting new plants by separating
This method of propagation is not necessarily familiar to everyone, but it quickly provides very robust and already somewhat larger young plants. The procedure is very simple: look for a healthy mother plant that produces new shoots on its rootstock near the ground. This happens quite often. Pile these shoots up with an airy substrate mix, such as fine-crumb soil mixed with some wood chips or peat substrate. This will provide the necessary aeration and moisture for roots to form. Repeat mounding several times during the summer as the young shoot grows. The bottom 20 inches should eventually be covered with the substrate. If the summer is very dry, moisten it moderately as needed.
In the fall, the shoots should have taken root in their substrate. Separate them from the mother plant as deeply as possible with a sharp knife or rose shears. The rooted shoots must now overwinter in a protected place. That is, they are placed in a planting trough with loose substrate and possibly protected from frost with a cover. This procedure is necessary because they would probably not survive planting out. Next spring, when no more severe frosts are expected, you can plant out your new cherry laurel plants as usual.
Propagating cherry laurel in a water jar
A cherry laurel cutting can also be propagated in water without soil. For this purpose, a young shoot is selected. The container used should be darkened. It is filled with water, and the cutting is ideally fixed above the vessel so that it hangs freely in the water. Even with this method, it takes several weeks at about 20 °C for roots to form. The cuttings can be potted when the roots are a few centimeters long. They are planted outdoors the next spring.
Rooting on a shoot of the mother plant
You can propagate cherry laurel, also by rooting on a shoot of the mother plant. In this method, a healthy shoot is selected. About 15 centimeters below the shoot tip, a 1 cm wide strip is peeled off down to the cambium. The wound is coated with a rooting hormone. Then it is surrounded at this point with a handful of moist cutting soil and wrapped in foil, creating a kind of bag that is open at the top. This can also be done with cling film, which will ensure that the soil remains moist.
The bag is completely filled with potting soil. If necessary, you can water from the top, otherwise the opening should be closed with tape. You need to control the formation of roots. When there are enough roots, the shoots can be separated from the mother plant and potted. To protect them from excessive water loss, in the first days they should be in a shady place with sufficiently high humidity (cold frame, plastic bag). The next spring you can plant them out.