Featured Plant: Mountain Laurel

Yesterday, I was doing my best to have a real day off.  Most of the family (missing the one off at college!) was home so we cranked up the woodstove against the damp chill and sat around. I did some knitting but then true to form got restless and had to head outside. Bundled up, I walked through the back and out around the edge of the turf fields. Then up along the side of one pond and away from the road to head to the edge of another pond deep in the woods. Most of this area between the ponds is filled with Mountain Laurel. What a beautiful plant! With so many trees bare of leaves, this lovely evergreen shrub with twisting branches really stood out in yesterday’s dull overcast light.

kalmia latifoliaKalmia latifolia is an Ericaceous plant native to the eastern United States, from Maine to Florida. In my mind it is associated with Rhododendrons (and they are closely related), but Mountain Laurel generally grows at higher elevations and tolerates drier soil.  It is a slow-growing understory shrub here, although farther south it does reach tree size. Kalmia flowers in late May/early June, often heavily. The flowers  of the native species range from white to pink, with variable red markings.

kalmia latifolia

photo courtesy of Connecticut Botanical Society

kalmia latifolia

photo courtesy Janet Novak

Spring time and flowers are far off, but even in winter, I find Kalmia beautiful. As the PlantFinder says, it’s a

…”Superior flowering native shrub for groups or massing in shrub borders, cottage gardens, woodland areas or wild/naturalized areas. Compliments rhododendrons and azaleas.”

In any area with acidic soil, some moisture, and a bit of shade, it will do well. In the swampy woods of southern Rhode Island, it’s a treat to see even on the greyest day.

mountain laurel

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3 thoughts on “Featured Plant: Mountain Laurel

  1. uribg Post author

    I have only propagated Kalmia by digging rooted pieces, or laying a branch to the ground, pinning it down, and covering with soil until it roots. Notoriously difficult from cuttings or seeds!

    Reply

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