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KALMIA latifolia

Image of Kalmia latifolia

James Burghardt

Family

Ericaceae

Botanical Name

KALMIA latifolia

Plant Common Name

Mountain Laurel

General Description

Mountain laurel is a broadleaf evergreen shrub or small tree that produces beautiful, intricate flowers early in the season. It is a native of the mountainous regions of the eastern United States (from Florida to Maine) and favors the same growing environments as its close relatives, rhododendrons and blueberries, so acid soils are a must. It's quite hardy and versatile in the landscape. There are many dwarf cultivars ideal for small garden spaces as well as taller forms appropriate for large planting areas.

The glossy dark green leaves of mountain laurel look great year-round. In late spring and summer it sets large, round clusters of small crimped flowerbuds. These open into chalice-shaped flowers with crimped edges. Each crimped edge holds a tiny stamen that releases and flips upward when pollinators enter the complex flowers. The blooms may be red, pale, pink, rose, maroon or white, and many bicolored cultivars are available. The clusters are along the tips of branches and create a very pretty effect.

Mountain laurel needs acid soil that is high in organic matter and well-drained. Partial sun to partial shade is ideal. Too much shade can result in a less uniform growth habit and reduced flowering. Prune lightly, if at all, as this plant is very slow to recover. Fungal leafspot is a common problem as is sunscald and leaf desiccation due to winter winds.

Mountain laurel looks at home in a large rockery or shrub border with rhododendrons. There are many cultivars to choose from. 'Yankee Doodle' has yellow-green foliage and flowers that are white with a maroon ring in the throat; 'Ostbo Red' has red bud that open to pale pink and 'Minuet' is a dwarf with pink buds opening to maroon-ringed white flowers.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    9 - 5

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    5 - 9

  • Sunset Zone

    2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 16, 17

  • Plant Type

    Shrub

  • Sun Exposure

    Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    6'-10' / 1.8m - 3.0m

  • Width

    8'-10' / 2.4m - 3.0m

  • Bloom Time

    Late Spring, Early Summer, Summer

  • Native To

    Mid-Atlantic United States, Southeastern United States

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam, Sand

  • Growth Rate

    Slow

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Oval/Rounded

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    White, Red, Pink, Light Pink, Rose

  • Flower Color Modifier

    Bicolor

  • Fruit Color

    Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Dark Green

  • Bark Color

    Red, Brown, Sienna

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Exfoliating

  • Usage

    Alpine, Feature Plant, Foundation, Mixed Border, Rock Garden / Wall

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Butterflies

  • Self-Sowing

    No