Evergreen hedges are a great way to create a privacy screen, a windbreak, or even a ‘green wall’ to use as a backdrop for a selection of vibrant, colorful selection of shrubs and perennials.
One of the challenges to creating a good hedge here in the Rogue Valley is that you’ll want an evergreen shrub that is both relatively fast-growing AND deer resistant. And one of the very best options we’ve found for meeting both of those criteria is Portuguese Laurel (Prunus lusitanica).
Portuguese Laurel has dark, glossy, leathery leaves that contrast nicely with its wine-red stems. In spring, plants are covered with 6-10” long spikes of tiny, fragrant white flowers, which are extremely popular with bees and other pollinators.
The flowers are followed by berries that start out red, and ripen to dark blue-black. These berries are a big treat for wintering songbirds, but should be avoided by humans - like many members of the genus Prunus, their seeds contain cyanide. Want to avoid the berries altogether? Do your main pruning in early summer once the plants have finished blooming.
Left untrimmed, mature Portuguese Laurels can reach between 20’-30’ tall and will get about 10’ wide. These plants tolerate pruning well, though, and can be kept to 10’ or so with regular pruning. Ideally, they should be planted around 10’ apart. But if you’re in a big hurry to not see what’s on the other side of your hedge, they an be planted as closely as every 6’. Plants generally grow about 18” or so per year, although this is variable and dependent on the type of soil they’re growing in - plants in clay soils tend to grow slower than plants in loamy or sandy soils.
Portuguese Laurel grows best in full sun, but will also tolerate a bit of afternoon shade. They do prefer well-drained soil; if you are planting in clay, you’ll either want to plant them with a high crown or on a slight mound. During the first year or so, they’ll prefer a good, deep soaking once a week. Once established, they are relatively drought tolerant and will only need deep watering a few times a month.