Although Otto Luyken laurel (Prunus laurocerasus ‘Otto Luyken’) are well-liked and extremely popular with landscape professionals (they make great evergreen foundation shrubs and hedges), these background beauties are less familiar to the general public because they’re not exactly flashy. They don’t scream, “Buy me! Buy me!” at the nursery (well, not so that I can understand anyway) when you’re surrounded by all the showier hydrangeas, knockout roses, and peonies. They are more what you might call a workhorse shrub.
Covered in dense, glossy, narrow dark-green leaves, Otto Luykens, also referred to as cherry laurels, are compact, medium-sized, and spreading evergreen shrubs with full foliage all the way to the ground making them a great choice for screening. Many designers like to use them to conceal the foundation portion of a building where the ground meets the outer walls. Upright flower spikes with bottlebrush-like blooms appear every spring between April and May, while dark red to black cherry-like fruits attract local bird populations mid-summer. Fruits, however, are not edible for humans. Severe stomach upset can occur when eaten, so it’s good to be careful when letting small children play nearby.
Otto Luyken Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus ‘Otto Lukyen’) grows best in zones 6-9, reaches a height of 3-5 feet with a spread of 6-8 feet, grows slowly (it can take 16-20 years to achieve full ultimate height), prefers moist well-drained soils (acidic soils are best), flourishes most in full sun to partial shade, blooms in late spring, is salt tolerant, and creates nice, dense evergreen hedges and screens when planted en masse.