Laurels May Be Hardy, But Beware of Problems

By Gil Medeiros, former Fairfax Master Gardener
Laurels have become very popular landscape plants in Northern Virginia. I am referring to Cherry Laurels (of which the Otto Luyken cultivar is heavily used) and Skip Laurels. These shrubs are related to peach, plum, and other stone fruits. They are prized for their shiny deep green leaves year round, white flowers in the spring, and deer resistance. That last attribute probably put the laurels over the top here in Fairfax County where deer now visit most neighborhoods on a regular basis.

Otto Luyken Laurel

Otto Luyken Laurel

The Otto Luyken cultivars grow to a height of three to four feet and are often used as foundation plantings. Larger Cherry Laurels and Skip Laurels are often used as screening plants or placed adjacent to corners of houses where arborvitaes, deer favorites, were once heavily used.

For all of the positive aspects of the laurels, they do suffer some problems. Here are the two most common ones and what you should do about them.

White Peach Scale (WPS)

This is a serious problem. The incidence of WPS is widespread and increasing fast. Scales are tiny insects that insert their sucking mouthparts into the plant and feed on sap that is rich in carbohydrates. If enough of them feed on the sap of a plant – and the population may grow rapidly on a single plant — the plant may be seriously weakened and die.

Most home gardeners are not aware of WPS on thei