The Right Place
Mountain laurel is a native of mountain woodlands but is able to survive summers as far south as Georgia and winters as far north as New York State and along the Atlantic coast into northern New England (zones 9 to 4). They are hardy in areas where winter temperatures seldom dip below –30° F.
Planting Nursery Stock
While it enjoys some sun, mountain laurel can handle considerable shade. A nice balance seems to be part sun in the morning to encourage flowering with shade on the plant during the heat of the afternoon to protect foliage from winter burn. It does not mind wet soil, either, as long as it is well drained, has some humus and is acid (pH 4.5 to 6.0). Wherever rhododendrons are prospering, mountain laurel will too. Like them, mountain laurel shrubs have dense, fibrous root systems that are shallow. They grow more horizontally in the soil than deeply. For this reason mountain laurels are easy to transplant.
Plant nursery grown stock in the spring or fall. Remove burlap wrappings around the rootball or lift the shrub from the container in which it was transported. Gently spread any matted roots. Dig a hole wide enough to accommodate the spread roots and deep enough so that the rootball sits as deep as it did in the container. Put the shrub in the hole, taking care that the top of the rootball is level with the soil, and pack the hole with soil. Water generously to assure good root to soil contact. Do not fertilize until next year so that the roots are forced to reach out for food in the soil and establish themselves. Space the plant so that it is one half its spread from the nearest permanent plant.
Amendments In Planting or Transplanting
There are a number of products at the garden center that will help your newly planted or transplanted plants deal better with the stress inherent in the planting process. All healthy plants have beneficial fungi, called mycorrhizal fungi, living on their roots. You can buy these valuable additions to your plant’s ecosystem. See the file describing Using Micorrhizae When Planting.
In addition, there are a number of products such as seaweed, compost tea, and beneficial soil microbes that when added to the planting process will help your newly established plants get going faster. See the file New Technology In Plant Growth Activators
For more information see the file on Planting Shrubs. For planting tools see Hand Tools For Digging and Planting in Yardener’s Tool Shed.