What time of year is best to trim Laurel Hedges in the Willamette Valley (Albany/Corvallis). We have the typical large Laurels from local nurseries. I trimmed them back 3 feet on top and about 2' on the sides Nov. 2013 and they have now filled out and have sprouts going up between 1 and 2 feet. What do I need to do and when to contain the shape of the hedge?
Hello and thank you for your question. Laurel hedges are quite popular for privacy and in some cases are used as a windbreak. They are also notorious for growing vigorously. Normally the rule of thumb for pruning flowering shrubs is to prune them right after they bloom. I have included photos of the English Laurel a variety of Prunus laurocerasus a variety that is commonly seen here, it is also known as a cherry laurel. This is a fast growing shrub that can attain heights and widths of 15-30 feet so pruning is a must if your space does not allow for it to attain its full size. The birds can eat the fruit and deposit the seeds elsewhere and spread the shrub, making pruning it right after it blooms a good idea. This will keep the fruit from developing into a mature seed that can be spread by the birds. Pruning these plants can turn into major task due to their size. I found one article that suggested not pruning them in months where there is a lot of direct sunlight as the bark can sunburn. Since you did not say how large yours is but rather indicate that you are interested in ‘containment’ I will suggest doing it after it blooms. Unfortunately this can develop into a major annual task. You could mitigate the task somewhat by trimming one side per year but this will of course leave the fruit on one side to be spread by the birds.