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The narrow plots typically found behind most brownstones and row houses get little light due to neighboring trees and adjacent buildings, so using showy plants that require hours of full sun is not realistic.


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One often overlooked option is mountain laurel Kalmia latifolia. This shade-tolerant North American shrub has gorgeous flowers that bloom in late spring and early summer.

Kalmia latifolia - Wikipedia

Even in the coldest winter weather, when rhododendron leaves have curled in on themselves, mountain laurel remains bravely open to the elements. In addition to being tolerant of shade, Kalmia latifolia produces exquisite clusters of delicate, fused-petal blossoms that resemble tiny origami rice bowls. When the buds burst open in May or June, the branches are virtually obscured by blooms. They can range from white to pink to deep rose and are distinctively tattooed with symmetrical maroon or purple dots or streaks.


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  • The bell-like flowers have a very unusual way of dispensing pollen. Their stamens are arched, with the tips held under the rim of the bell. When a bee or other pollinator lands on the flower, the weight of the insect releases the stamen, which flings up the pollen like a catapult.

    Mountain laurel is a member of the heath or heather family, Ericaceae. This family includes rhododendrons, azaleas, blueberries, and cranberries, all of which are woody shrubs that thrive in moist, well-drained acidic soil.

    Mountain Laurel: A Shade-Tolerant Native With Beautiful Blossoms

    Mountain laurel will grow in USDA Zones 5 to 9 in deep shade to full sun, but it does best in moderate to partial shade. In deep shade it won't produce as many flowers and can become spindly. Too-bright sun can cause scorching of the leaves.


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    • If you have typical Brooklyn clay soil in your garden, you'll want to create a nurturing environment for mountain laurel by improving drainage and nutrient content with organic matter such as compost. This shrub needs its shallow roots to stay cool, so mulch and keep your plant well-watered, especially during very hot, dry weather.

      If you are not sure what you are looking for, try the Combination Search or our Recommended Species lists. The broadleaf evergreen mountain-laurel is usually a ft.

      Plant Database

      Evergreen, many-stemmed, thicket-forming shrub or sometimes a small tree with short, crooked trunk; stout, spreading branches; a compact, rounded crown; and beautiful, large, pink flower clusters. Its flowers are very showy. They are bell-shaped, white to pink with deep rose spots inside, and occur in flat-topped clusters.

      The leaves are oval, leathery, and glossy, and change from light-green to dark-green to purple throughout the year. Mountain Laurel is one of the most beautiful native flowering shrubs and is well displayed as an ornamental in many parks. The stamens of the flowers have an odd, springlike mechanism which spreads pollen when tripped by a bee.

      Why Is It So Special?

      The wood has been used for tool handles and turnery, and the burls, or hard knotlike growths, for briar tobacco pipes. Linnaeus named this genus for his student Peter Kalm , a Swedish botanist who traveled in Canada and the eastern United States. View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

      Mountain Laurel - Kalmia latifolia - with Dick Jaynes - Part 1 of 3

      Flowering and evergreen shrubs for landscape in Indiana May 29, I live in Southern Indiana and we are getting ready to redesign our front landscape. Currently, we have some yews and other shrubs that are unruly and require a lot of pruning and care. Plant identfication October 21, Hi Can you please identfy the tall, evergreen shrub with purple plum-colored foliage that I have noticed in winter locally?

      Hope so, need he color! THX view the full question and answer. From the Image Gallery Bloom Information Bloom Color: