Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.

Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.
The purpose of this blog is to provide information on using native plants in the landscape, issues related to invasive exotic plants, urban wildlife management, and wildlife damage management. It is my intention that this information will assist you in deciphering the multitude of information circulating around the web and condense in some meaningful method as it relates to Kentucky. In addition, I hope to highlight a native plant that can be used in the landscape.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Plant of the Week: Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)

This is one of a handful of evergreen shrubs found in Kentucky and it has dark green glossy leaves that appear like small rhodendron leaves and are quite leathery to the touch. This species is quite common in eastern and western Kentucky on dry, exposed, and often rocky soils. The key to growing this species in the garden is to never plant it in heavy clay, only well drained and if possible sandy soils, with a pH of around 4. While exceptionally drought tolerant, it should be mulched to retain moisture when placed in full sun. One of the best methods of growing this species is in raised beds where the soil drainage and moisture can be adjusted as needed. While the species will grow and flower profusely in full sun, the best location is for the plant to have some late afternoon shade and in the winter, if it can be protected it will look better. Usually plants grow up to 10 or 12’ tall but they have been seen in some southern locations to grow up to 40’. The flowers of this species are spectacular and range in the amount of pink or red contained in them, often depending on one of the more than 40 named cultivars. Of course this is such a wonderful plant that Pineville hosts the Mountain Laurel Festival each year around the first of June and crowns the annual Mountain Laurel Queen. In the past this species would typically flower in June, but with a warming climate, it has been flowering, sometimes as early as mid-May. The flowers generally last for a couple of weeks. Remove the dead flowers as soon as they are done blooming. This species grows quite slowly so the best planting advice is to purchase as large of nursery stock as you can get. This works well in a wildflower garden with azaleas, rhdodendrons, sweet mountain pepperbush, and evergreen trees. Mountain Laurel is susceptible to leaf spots, blight and lace bugs.

1 comment:

  1. Another beauty. There are a couple of hemlock cliff/ravine sites in southern Indiana (where we live) that harbor these. It's remarkable to imagine the preglacial plants that prosper in these microclimates. Thanks for posting one of my favorite plants. My wife, daughter and I love to see these in the Red River Gorge when we visit down there!