The Shrub Workhorse: Prunus laurocerasus ‘Otto Luyken’

April 4, 2012 by

A friend came to me with a problem. Chain link fences separate the houses and yards in her neighborhood and she wants to hide hers. What can she use? She wants "evergreen, low maintenance, not subject to pests and it would be nice if it is attractive."

'Otto Luykens' to the rescue! As a member of the English Laurel genus, it meets all the requirements she lists and several others not realized. And You Can Grow That!


The Workhorse Shrub: 'Otto Luykens'


Because her neighborhood is on a hill, it is also important that no views be blocked. 'Otto Luykens' stays on the shorter side, usually topping out at 5' and 5' in width. However, if it gets too tall, it is easy to prune.

In addition, my friend needs a plant that will tolerate salt-water spray, as she is only four blocks from the beach. Again, 'Otto' is right there.

Attractive? In early summer, and again in early fall, 'Otto Luykens' blooms with upright spikes of fragrant white flowers followed by small black berries. When not in bloom, the very dark green waxy leaves provide a nice background for blooming perennials and annuals.


The spikes that look bare will soon be fragrant off-white flowers


'Otto Luykens' is hardy in USDA zones 4-8, grows well in sun to light shade, requires minimal water after the first year, and is an all-around great plant for hedges, backgrounds, and screens with minimal requirements and pests. My friend is now a happy gardener. Moreover, the chain link fence will be barely visible in a couple of years. Problem solved.


How to Cover a Chain Link Fence

It won't be long and the fence will be hidden


  1. Forest Keeper

    Great plant placed in the right spot! I love planting with a purpose. Glad to have found your site!

    • Jacqui

      Thank you! I just learned a lot from your site and will be sure to check those references. I didn't know Euonymous alatus is invasive.

  2. Jane Gates

    Thanks for the profile of this handy plant. Covering unwanted views, ugly fences and a wealth of other items that need hiding is always a challenge to make a garden look its best.

    • Jacqui

      Thank you! I especially appreciate comments from designers such as you!

  3. Ed Temple

    I would like to grow prunus laurocerasus in dappled shade beneath some tall oaks to block a view. Is it hardy here and how tall will the 'species' grow? Thank you very much

    • Jacqui

      Hi, Ed! Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I'm usually quicker. Dappled shade is fine. But I can't tell from your email where "here" is, but Otto is hardy to zone 6. According to my books Otto can get to 10 ft high and 12 ft wide, but I'll be honest. I've never seen it that big! However, if it was super happy and did, it would be easy to prune it. I've seen many kept as 3' wide hedges and sheared (yuck).

      Now, your note asked about the species and not Otto which is one of my varieties. The species is a lot bigger, could get really tall in a good situation. Known here (In Seattle area) as English Laurel, it's often a very tall trimmed hedge. We had a really bad ice and snow storm this year. The English laurel hedges that had been pruned and shaped survived quite nicely, as did all of the Ottos. Many of the English Laurels that were growing free-form are becoming firewood this summer as the ice broke the crotches. It is hardy to zone 6.

      I hope that helps? Again my apologies for being slow!

      • Ed Temple

        Thank you for your reply. I am hoping to plant the 'species' in my Cape cod garden ---zone 6 or maybe 7 since we are getting warmer here. It will have summer shade from tall oak trees, but fairly bright winter light. I am hoping for it to reach 20 feet. I would be very pleased with that. I will plant 2 or three of them maybe 10 feet apart. THANKS AGAIN. REALLY APPRECIATE IT!!!!

        Ed Temple

        • Jacqui

          Not a problem. It will take quite awhile to reach the 20' mark. Remember, these guys also get wide, but, as you're aware, they are easily trimmed and shaped. Here in Seattle, there are many very tall hedges with the English Laurel. They're very clean, nice color and undemanding. Good luck!

          • Ed Temple

            Thanks. I noticed a posting above about burning bush, euonymus alata----It is so invasive on Cape Code that I am constantly pulling or in some case digging it out.

            Ed Temple

          • Jacqui

            Another person had commented on the article and I went to their website. At that site they had a listing of invasive plants. So my comment was that I didn't realize the euonymus was invasive. There's always something new to learn!

  4. yazz

    I just planted 12 Skip Laurels in my backyard. They get some morning sun, shade in the early afternoon and sun from 3pm to sunset. The nursery delivered them and installed a drip line for irrigation. Does anyone know how long I should run the drip line and how often? I know newly planted shrubs need extra care. The guy that installed them told me to run the drip line for 10 minutes every day but considering how low the pressure is I'm wondering if that is enough. The nursery told me a quart of water a day? They are about 3.5 feet tall.
    I'm wondering because another nursery I spoke with (which I didn't buy from) said to use a soaker hose for 1 hr a day....I'm new to this and I don't know the difference of water flow between a soaker hose and drip line so if anyone has advice regarding a drip line I'd appreciate it. Also they were installed Sept 1st, I'm assuming I water less a temperatures get cooler? I have a layer of mulch so I'm not sure how to tell if the soil is wet enough ( or too wet). They look beautiful and I'd hate to mess things up.
    The nursery said they use slow release fertilizer so I shouldn't fertilize until the spring - I was going to use Hollytone. Any advice would be appreciated regarding watering them.

    • Jacqui

      There are so many variables when it comes to watering...temperature and type of soil make a big difference when trying to determine "how much." I'd suggest running your system for 10 minutes...then do "core samples" around the plants or row of plants. This core will tell you how deep the water percolated and you'll get an idea of the spread when you compare the core samples. A piece of PVC piping could serve as your core driller. Then you may decide to let the system run for less or more time. Newly planted shrubs do require more water as their small rootlets are often damaged during the transplanting. Also, watch the plant...often the leaves will start to droop if more water is needed, then you can either increase the frequency or length of watering time. Hope that helps.

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