Cherry laurel brown and yellow leaves: causes & tips for prevention


I study plant biotechnology and often find myself confronted with the serious consequences that lack of knowledge and misinformation can have for nature. That is why I am so passionate about bringing people and nature closer together again.

Favourite fruit: raspberries, strawberries and pineapple
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We have compiled here what the reason may be if your cherry laurel has brown or yellow leaves – as well as tips on how to avoid them.

Cherry laurel with yellow leaves
The leaves of the cherry laurel can turn yellowish or brownish [Photo: flaviano fabrizi/]

Cherry laurels (Prunus laurocerasus) impress year-around with their light to dark green leaves, which provide a pleasant privacy screen even in winter. However, this rich green foliage shows only when the cherry laurel is healthy and comfortable.

If the plant suffers from a disease, is stressed or undernourished, it will directly affect the evergreen sea of foliage. The leaves then turn yellow or brown. The causes for this are just as varied as the possibilities for avoiding the unsightly discolouration’s. Prevention is therefore always the best measure.

Causes of brown and yellow leaves on cherry laurel

  • If the leaves of the otherwise evergreen cherry laurel turn yellow or even brown, this may be due to a variety of reasons. Whether it is improper care or a disease, we provide information about the ten most common causes of yellow and brown leaves on the cherry laurel.
  • Although the cherry laurel is considered extremely site tolerant, you should avoid stagnant moisture at all costs. This can occur when the soil is compacted, and aeration is insufficient. Usually, yellow leaves appear quite early after planting as a result of waterlogging due to the location.
  • A location that is too sunny combined with an insufficient water supply can also lead to yellow leaves. Sunburn then occurs, in which the leaves turn yellow irregularly. Young plants that have been grown in the greenhouse are particularly at risk here. These are not yet accustomed to the intense sunlight. Then, in winter, additional dangers lurk. Thus, in bare frost, as a rule, the leaves of entire sections of branches turn yellow.
  • Whether drought stress or too much water is present in a sandy soil, both can ultimately lead to yellow leaves. The problem with this is that the symptoms only become visible at a late stage, i.e., sometimes even when the water supply is working well again.
  • Fungal infections can also cause yellow leaves. Shot hole or leaf spot disease, caused by the fungus Stigmina carpophila, results in yellow marbled leaves with holes. Shoot and tip drought caused by the fungus Monilinia laxa in turn results in yellow, wilted leaves.
Cherry laurel with brown leaves
If the leaves of your cherry laurel turn brown, this can have many reasons [Photo: Gabriela Beres/]
  • If the nutrient supply is not correct, the green colouration of the leaves also decreases. In the event of a nitrogen deficiency, the entire leaf – including the leaf vein – turns yellow. In the case of iron deficiency, on the other hand, the leaf turns yellow except for the leaf veins.
  • A change of location when transplanting or planting is pure stress for plants and unfortunately can also lead to yellow leaves.
  • Although the cherry laurel is also very tolerant of soil pH, too much lime in the soil inevitably leads to chlorosis (i.e., discolouration due to a lack of chlorophyll) because certain nutrients can no longer be absorbed.
  • If the cherry laurel is fertilised again late in the year with a nitrogen-heavy fertiliser, the newly formed shoots can no longer lignify until winter and are therefore very susceptible to frost damage, which manifests itself in a browning of the leaves.
  • A cherry laurel should be pruned once or twice a year. If the timing is wrong or the leaves are injured in the process, this will also result in an unsightly brown colouration.
  • If you have chosen a pot culture for your cherry laurel, you need to provide enough space because the plants grow quickly and have deep roots. If the space in the container is too sparse, the leaves slowly but surely turn yellow.

Avoiding brown and yellow leaves on cherry laurel

For some of these causes, it is enough to simply cut off the yellow leaves and give the cherry laurel time to recover. However, other reasons call for targeted countermeasures. These mentioned in the following are numbered and refer to the causes mentioned above.

  • If the soil is heavily compacted, the plant is dug up and half of the soil is loosened with sand. Otherwise, it is enough to loosen the soil in the root zone with a fork. However, always be very careful not to damage the roots.
  • You should water the plant sufficiently as soon as the soil dries out on the surface. This not only applies to the summer, but also to the winter. Therefore, water in winter on frost-free days and shade young specimen plants with a fleece.
  • Water the plant thoroughly when the top layer of soil has dried. Avoid waterlogging by placing a drainage layer and loosening the soil well at the time of planting.
Cherry laurel with one yellow leaf
A few yellow leaves are no problem. Only if the discolouration gets out of hand should you look for the cause [Photo: Gabriela Beres/]
  • If you notice diseased regions, you should immediately remove them down to the healthy wood. Dispose of plant material in household waste – not compost – or you will spread the infection throughout your garden. Young plants should be additionally treated with a fungicide. For older plants, on the other hand, it is enough to spray with a more environmentally friendly sulphur preparation.
  • In the event of deficiency signs, fertilise with a quickly available fertiliser such as our Plantura Liquid Houseplant Food. You should also adjust the annual fertilisation. If you previously fertilised only once a year, you should switch to fertilising twice a year. Also check the soil pH and lower it if necessary. This alone can lead to your cherry laurel being able to absorb enough iron again.
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  • After a move, you can initially only wait until the root system is established and the yellow leaves have grown back.
  • To make it easier to wash the lime from the soil, the soil is loosened, and sand is mixed in. If this does not help, the entire soil must be replaced. Mulching with acidic pine needle compost also helps to lower the soil pH again.
  • Fertilise for the last time no later than June. In late summer, you should only fertilise with potash to make your cherry laurel more frost tolerant.
  • Prune before new shoots appear in February or immediately after flowering. To avoid unsightly brown edges, you should also use hand scissors instead of electric ones.
  • If the container is too small for your cherry laurel, the only thing that will help is to repot it into a larger one.
Bright green leaves of the cherry laurel
If the leaves of your cherry laurel shine in a rich green, you as a hobby gardener have shown a skilled hand [Photo: a9photo/]

Prevention still remains the best measure against yellow and brown leaves. In our dedicated article you can find information on the best choice of location when planting your cherry laurel.

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