Monday, February 9, 2015

Featured Plant of the Day: 'Bullseye' Mountain Laurel

 Kalmia latifolia 'Bullseye'
Mountain Laurel,  Calico Bush,  Ivy
Type    Shrub, woody plant
Hardy range    4A to 8A
Height    6' to 10' / 1.80m to 3.00m
Spread    6' to 10' / 1.80m to 3.00m
Growth rate    Slow
Form    Oval
Exposure    Full shade to full sun
Persistence    Evergreen

Bloom Color    Purple and white
Bloom Time    Spring

The flowers are very showy.

This plant tolerates some drought.
This plant will grow in dry soil.
Suitable soil is well-drained/loamy or clay.
The pH preference is an acidic to neutral (less than 6.8 to 7.2) soil.

Leaf Color    Green
Fall Color    No change in fall color

Landscape Uses
-    Rock garden
-    Border
-    Foundation planting
-    Specimen

Attributes and Features
-    Attracts birds
-    Persistent fruit
-    Inconspicuous fruit

Culture Notes
Mountain Laurel does best on moist, acid soils of moderate fertility and drainage and can tolerate sunny locations, if provided with sufficient moisture and not allowed to dry out. Plants in a sunny spot flower better. Mountain Laurel is not salt tolerant.  Mountain Laurel is ideally suited to natural landscapes and other low-maintenance gardens where it can be allowed to grow to its natural form and size, with pruning only to remove spent flower heads and dead branches. Provide good drainage or plants die. Like many shrubs, amending the entire planting bed, not just the planting hole, with organic matter such as pine bark or peat improves root and shoot growth. Buds on this cultivar are deep purplish-blue and new growth is reddish.

All parts of the plant are poisonous causing watering of the eyes, nose and mouth followed by vomiting, abdominal pain, and low blood pressure. Plants perform poorly in zone 8B and south. Young plants in 3 gallon containers can be forced to produce flowers in spring with spray applications of certain growth regulators. In spring or early summer, all plant surfaces need to be covered with the spray in order to be effective.  No shoot growth takes place in the growing season they are sprayed so perform any necessary pruning well before application.

Planting and establishing shrubs

The most common cause of young plant failure is planting too deep.  Plant the root ball no deeper than it was in the nursery.  In most instances, the root flare zone (point where the top-most root in the root ball originates from the trunk) should be located just above the landscape soil surface. Sometimes plants come from the nursery with soil over the root flare. If there is soil over this area, scrape it off.  The planting hole should be at least twice the width of the root ball, preferably wider.  In all but exceptional circumstances where the soil is very poor, there is no need to incorporate anything into the backfill soil except the loosened soil that came out of the planting hole.  Never place ANY soil over the root ball. If a row or grouping of plants is to be installed, excavating or loosening the soil in the entire bed and incorporating organic matter enhances root growth and establishment rate.

Weed suppression during establishment is essential.  Apply a 3-inch thick layer of mulch around the plant to help control weed growth.  Keep it at least 10 inches from the trunk.  If you apply it over the root ball, apply only a one or two inch layer.   This allows rainwater and air to easily enter the root ball and keeps the trunk dry.  Placing mulch against the trunk or applying too thick a layer above the root ball can kill the plant by oxygen starvation, death of bark, stem and root diseases, prevention of hardening off for winter, vole and other rodent damage to the trunk, keeping soil too wet, or repelling water.  Regular irrigation through the first growing season after planting encourages rapid root growth, which is essential for quick plant establishment.