Mountain Laurel Is Now In Bloom

mountain laurel in woodland

Mountain Laurel in woodland

mountain laurel flowers

Native Mountain Laurel flowers

In the higher elevations around Birmingham, you can find our native Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) thriving. The ones pictured above are along the high banks of the Warrior River. I have found to grow them in your garden you need to duplicate their natural habitat as much as possible. Rich fertile soil, high filtered shade, and well drained but moist conditions foster good healthy plants. While the native plants, with flowers in bloom now, vary from almost white to almost pink, the nursery industry has selections that range from pure white to red. Be sure and buy nursery grown plants as they will be easier to establish in your garden.

Containerized Mt. Laurel. It is either a dwarf selection or has become bonsai like because of being in the pot so long

Containerized Mountain Laurel. It is either a dwarf selection or has become bonsai-like because of being in the pot so long

Close up of flowers of Mt. Laurel  in the above container

Close-up of flowers of Mountain Laurel in the above container

The containerized Mountain Laurel shown above I photographed at my friend Phil’s garden. He said it does not bloom every year, but he likes the look of the plant and its sculptural bonsai-like qualities. The leaves, while evergreen, are not the highlight of this plant. It is the beautiful reddish-brown twisted trunks and their sculptural form as they age and beautiful spring flowers. I will tell you I have grown them in my garden with little success, because I simply do not have the right climatic conditions, so I just have to hike in some of the mountainous areas of Alabama to enjoy them.

John Floyd

John Floyd has been gardening--and learning about Birmingham area gardening--for more than 30 years. In addition to his day-to-day experience, John has degrees in horticulture from Auburn and Clemson Universities and was Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living.

One thought on “Mountain Laurel Is Now In Bloom

  1. Thank you, John, for highlighting this wonderful native shrub and for emphasizing the importance of buying nursery-grown stock, rather than digging from the wild, a rule which every responsible gardener should adhere to. Surprising to me, having become acquainted with mountain laurel in the chilly northeast, is that it is native to almost every county in Alabama – even Mobile and Baldwin counties! (Distribution map here: http://bonap.net/MapGallery/County/Kalmia%20latifolia.png.) I have seen wild mountain laurel in many of its Alabama haunts and echo your guidelines about proper siting being critical for success: excellent drainage is especially important. I would add that acid soils are a must, and a little patience also helps as these gems are slow growers. Green Nursery in Fair Hope grows mountain laurel (seed-grown) from local provenance. These have much more heat tolerance than plants from northern and high-elevation sources.

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