Trimming Back Portugal Laurel
The Portugal laurel bushes that grow alongside our bungalow have reached well above roof level (20 ft.) and we want to trim them back to a more manageable size. Is early April a good time to trim them? (Before they start growing again, but after danger of frost.) And how far down can we trim them? Can we take them down to about 6 – 10 ft. without damaging them? We also want to trim them back a bit from our neighbor’s walkway, narrowing their width. What do you think?
Thank you for your question. The Portugal laurel (Prunis lusitanica) can handle relatively heavy pruning, and timing is not an issue unless you don't want to remove this year's blooms. You never want to prune a shrub below the foliage, since new growth comes from the nodes where the branches and leaves grow, either vertically (top growth) or horizontally (side growth).
This OSU article describes this naturally very large plant: https://landscapeplants.oregonstate.edu/plants/prunus-lusitanica Here is a good Extension article about pruning woody shrubs: https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/HO/HO-4-W.pdf
This OSU publication has some information on how to do the pruning: https://extension.oregonstate.edu/sites/default/files/documents/12281/pruningtreesshrubs.pdf
Hope this is helpful. Good luck!