Mountain Laurel(Kalmia latifolia)
Mountain Laurel is a flowering evergreen shrub that is native to the mountainous regions of eastern United States. In the spring its large white flower balls are visible deep in the forest and along roadsides. It is seen more and more as an ornamental shrub in both northern and southern residential yards and gardens. Because they offer a vigorous, dense habit, lovely foliage and stunning flowers, these shrubs are highly valued additions to the landscape.
Size: Mountain laurels grow to over 12 feet at maturity. Relatively slow growers, they may take 10 years to reach more than 4 feet. At all times they tend to be wider than they are tall, eventually spreading with several gnarled trunks as wide as feet or more. They are fairly short-lived shrubs.
Foliage: The broad evergreen leaves of mountain laurel are typically about 5 inches long, lance shaped and glossy. In the early spring they are light or yellow-green, turning darker during the summer. In the north the onset of winter cold turns the leaves a purple-green. The leaves are so attractive that they are often picked for indoor flower arrangements year round.
Flowers and Fruit: Mountain laurel flowers are among the most beautiful of all the shrubs. They bloom in clusters of small individual star-like blossoms about 1 inch in diameter. These 4 to 6 inch clusters form at the ends of the branches and have a light fragrance. The flowers are white with a pinkish tinge and speckles of deeper pink inside. Some varieties offer deep pink or reddish flowers. These flowers give way to little pale brown capsules in September. Not only do these seeds have little value to wildlife, they are poisonous to humans.
Near Boston, and in Chicago, Rochester, N.Y., and southern Vermont mountain laurel blooms in mid-June. In New York City and Columbus, Ohio mountain laurel typically blooms in early June; whereas in Philadelphia and St. Louis it is late May. Farther south in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia it blooms in mid-May and in Augusta, Georgia in mid-April. The latest bloom recorded is in Seattle, Washington, in late June.
Mountain Laurel Choices
‘Kalmia `rubra' and Kalmia `Fuscata' have flowers that are a deep pink or red.
For more information see file on Selecting Shrubs.