laurels are native from Louisiana to Indiana northward to Maine
and all states southward.
laurels are blooming in the South adding to what has been an
incredible spring. No doubt under Mother Nature’s watch full eye the
mountain laurel bloom will progress northward in amazing fashion.
Stunning is a
word I often use to describe a particular plant but today that word is
reserved today for the apparent lack of utilization of the wonderful
large shrub or small tree that is native from Louisiana to Indiana
eastward to Maine and then down to Florida.
With that huge
geographical range, we hopefully have answered your first question, no
you don’t have to have a mountain to grow it. Yet you’ll find them
along mountainous roads, and a wide variety of habitats. In fact, if
you grow azaleas, rhododendrons or blueberries you are a prime
candidate for a mountain laurel, and I say let it happen.
speaking the mountain laurel is known as Kalmia latifolia. When you
first see it in full bloom you start to think could they possibly be
some kind of rhododendron. They indeed are in the Ericaceae family so
they are related.
them in some of the most spectacular scenery in our country. My wide
Jan and I were doing a little mountain laurel hunting with the camera
and found breathing taking old specimen hanging over the gentle rapids
of Palmetto Creek in Harris County, GA.
in the Blue Ridge mountains tell of seeing them hanging over the
Toccoa, Chattooga and Nantahala rivers. You’ll find them in
residential areas too so you do not have to have a river either.
Morning sun and
afternoon shade is the common joke around my house. While that would
be perfect know that you’ll find them in more shade and more sun
too. They can reach 15 feet in height and look dazzling at less than
six feet. That can be their spread as well.
notice on older specimen is gnarling, curving trunk with branches that
look as though they have a story to tell of times past and things they
have experienced. This stout wood was once used for handles of tools.
If you ever have
the chance to stand in front of an old timer in bloom you’ll leave
feeling as though you have just experienced something grand in the
world of plants and that perhaps you have just been taught a lesson on
beauty, patience and perhaps a persevering spirit.
So, in the home
landscape we recommend the mountain laurel to be planted in fertile,
humus rich acidic soil that drains with fervor. If you have tight
heavy soil don’t fret plant in raised beds.
In one of my
favorite spots along a smaller moving creek I can see rose pink, light
pink and white native ones all growing with mere feet of each other. A
search on line shows you the rich colors that are available.
The flowers are
so exotic in their design. They are borne in terminal clusters, each
measuring up to an inch and giving the distinct look of being a
five-sided cup. As I mentioned ours are blooming now in late April but
in your area your bloom could be June.
Wouldn’t it be
fun to just follow the mountain laurel bloom across the county
finishing in Maine? It would probably be even more rewarding to plant
some at your home that your children and grandchildren would
experience over the years. Then someday whether your descendants, or
someone else’s, they would look with amazement and learn a lesson of
perseverance with the gnarly branches and beautiful flowers.