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.
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.