Pruning cherry laurel: instructions & expert tips


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
Favourite vegetables: courgettes, broccoli and cucumbers

Properly pruned, the cherry laurel can provide a dense and lush growth. But what is the correct time and method for pruning cherry laurel?

Cherry laurel shoot and leaves
To ensure that the cherry laurel retains its dense growth even after years, regular pruning is recommended [Photo: TMsara/]

Cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus, Syn.: Laurocerasus officinalis) is one of the most popular ornamental plants in gardens and parks. Despite the fact that the lush-growing shrub bears this name, in reality it has no relation to the real laurel. Many garden owners value the plant as a privacy screen and therefore attach great importance to the fact that the shrub does not spread too much but grows nicely and densely. We have summarised below what you should bear in mind when pruning your cherry laurel.

Cherry laurels with their enormous growth quickly provide an impermeable barrier that protects you from prying eyes. But once the desired dimensions are reached, at least one proper pruning a year becomes mandatory to keep the annual growth of up to 40 centimetres in check and help the green property boundary to grow densely and branch out.

When is the best time to prune cherry laurel?

Cherry laurels are very pruning tolerant shrubs that should be cut back once or twice a year depending on how vigorous they are. As a rule, it is enough to trim the cherry laurel once immediately after flowering. This stimulates new shoots and keeps the shrub in shape. For varieties that sprawl quickly, it is advisable to cut the plant back twice a year. It is best to prune the first time in spring around the end of February. The second pruning is after flowering in late June. By this time, the first year’s shoots are complete and nesting birds have usually fledged. Nevertheless, you should proceed cautiously.

Cherry laurel plant with flowers
You should prune your cherry laurel a second time after flowering [Photo: FMB/]

Also, never prune in frosty weather, and preferably choose a slightly cloudy day without rain. This way you minimise the risk of sunburn and fungal infections. If you find it difficult to decide between one or two prunings a year, as a rule it is better to cut twice carefully than once more radically. If it is really necessary, you can also cut another time in autumn although it may then fail to bloom the following year, since the cherry laurel puts on its buds for the next year immediately after flowering. However, this can also be desirable, because without blossoms, the small, red cherry laurel fruits, which are poisonous to humans and animals, do not form either.

Pruning cherry laurel

For orderly growth, pruning once a year proves useful. If you still want to cut the cherry laurel (also known as “common laurel”) a second time in the year, you should bear a few things in mind. Therefore, proceed as follows during the year:

What to consider when pruning cherry laurel

  • Even if it takes a little longer, you should prefer a hand hedge trimmer to the motorised version. By hand, you can be more careful when Pruning. This way you avoid hurting the large foliage leaves. These injuries are open wounds, just as they are in humans, and are therefore ideal entry points for pathogens of all kinds. In addition, the leaves turn an unsightly brown on the cutting surfaces.
  • Cherry laurels are poisonous. Therefore, wear gloves when pruning to avoid skin irritation.
  • The shoots to be shortened are cut off just above the leaf base.
  • Diseased plant parts should be removed immediately after discovery. If your cherry laurel is more heavily infested with pests or marked by disease, you can cut the plant off close to the ground.
  • If you want to prevent the formation of poisonous berries without endangering the flowering next year, you can carefully remove the flowerheads after flowering.
  • The cuttings can subsequently be put in the compost heap unless diseased plant parts have been removed. These are then better disposed of in household waste to prevent infection of other plants.
Cherry laurel plant with berries
Pruning can stop the chery laurel berries from forming [Photo: Iva Vagnerova/]

Maintenance pruning at the end of February

Prune the cherry laurel for the first time in the spring before the leaves shoot (February). Here you are welcome to reach for the pruning shears. Proceed as follows:

  • Remove any diseased shoots and shoots that have been injured (e.g. by frost damage) until you reach healthy wood.
  • Remove any inward-growing and excessively long shoots.
  • Rejuvenation pruning: if the growth is very dense, it is advisable to remove a few branches directly on the trunk. This allows more light to enter the inside of the hedge again. Pruning into the old wood is tolerated without problems and even promotes new shoots.

Topiary pruning end of June

After flowering, you can once again shape your cherry laurel with a light pruning. This is especially recommended for vigorously growing varieties. Regular maintenance pruning is also necessary for specimen plants that have been pruned into shape. After all, these tend to lose their carefully trimmed figure after the first annual shoots. Also, before pruning, check thoroughly to see if there are any nesting birds still inside the plant. After that, you can carefully bring shoots that have grown too long to the correct length.

Tips for hedge pruning: Before pruning your cherry laurel hedge, it is best to stretch strings that will serve as a guide for a straight cut. When pruning your hedge, start at the sides and make sure the shape of the hedge tapers slightly toward the top. This allows more light to reach the lower leaves and reduces the risk of snow breakage in winter.

Pruning cherry laurel for compact and dense growth

Since the cherry laurel in the gardens in this country is particularly appreciated as a natural privacy screen from neighbours or the street, the main thing is that the plant grows densely and compactly. To achieve this, be sure to perform a vigorous pruning in early spring, during which you are welcome to generously cut stronger shoots. Cherry laurel grows very quickly and tolerates heavy pruning well. In the first few years after planting, about half of the new shoots of young plants should be shortened.

Cherry laurel hedge
You should prune your cherry laurel hedge regularly for dense growth [Photo: nnattalli/]

How to prune cherry laurel with brown leaves

The leaves of the cherry laurel do not fall off in winter, as is the case with deciduous trees, but nevertheless, brown and withered leaves tend to appear on the shrub. Most often, these are diseased parts of the plant or those damaged by frost or pruning. Check the plant regularly and remove these spots generously. However, yellow and brown leaves can have other causes – such as disease, improper care of the cherry laurel or fertilisation of the cherry laurel.

Tip: To avoid brown leaves and frost damage, you should provide your cherry laurel with optimal nutrients. Our Plantura All Purpose Plant Food is ideally suited.

All Purpose Plant Food, 1.5kg
All Purpose Plant Food, 1.5kg
star-placeholder star-placeholder star-placeholder star-placeholder star-placeholder
star-rating star-rating star-rating star-rating star-rating
  • Perfect for a variety of plants in the garden & on the balcony
  • Promotes healthy plant growth & an active soil life
  • Long-lasting fertiliser that is free from animal products - child & pet friendly

More on the subject of yellow and brown leaves on the cherry laurel and how to combat them can be found here.

Subscribe to the Plantura newsletter