Kalmia microphylla (Alpine Laurel)

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Scientific Name

Kalmia microphylla (Hook.) A. Heller

Common Names

Alpine Laurel, Alpine Bog Laurel, Bog Laurel, Western Bog Laurel, Western Laurel, Swamp Laurel, Western Swamp Laurel

Synonyms 

Kalmia glauca var. microphylla, Kalmia polifolia var. microphylla, Kalmia polifolia subsp. microphylla

Scientific Classification

Family: Ericaceae
Subfamily: Ericoideae
Tribe: Phyllodoceae
Genus: Kalmia

Flower

Color: Pink or purple
Bloom Time: Summer

Description

Kalmia microphylla is a short, perennial shrub up to 2 feet (60 cm) tall. The leaves are oppositely attached and are not deciduous. They are distinctly lanceolate in shape with rolled leaf edges, leathery texture and dark green color. Its branches and twigs are fuzzy in early growth and then during maturity become smooth and reddish brown to grayish in color. The flowers are pink or purple, bell shaped, held within five fused petals that open in the shape of a cup. The fruits are small, green and hard, 5-parted capsules.

Hardiness

USDA hardiness zone 3a to 9b: from −40 °F (−40 °C) to 30 °F (−1.1 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Mountain Laurel is hardy to zone 5. In colder areas it will need to be protected in winter with burlap barriers to block the winter wind.

Purchase plants from your local garden center. Look for the hardiest varieties for cold areas. Plant shrubs from spring, after all danger of frost has passed, to summer in well drained, moist, acidic, cool soils. Avoid windy areas, if possible. Space plants 4 to 6 feet (1.2 to 1.8 m) apart.

Keep young shrubs well watered. Keep the soil evenly moist and acidic with a layer of wood chips or evergreen bark mulch. Fertilize mountain laurel in spring with a plant food for acidic-loving plants such as you’d use for Rhododendrons.

Mountain Laurel will get spindly, develop leaf spots and have few flowers if grown in too much shade. Look for leaf spot resistant varieties if growing under these conditions. It also doesn’t grow well in poorly drained soils. It’s a slow grower that should only be pruned to shape the plant in spring after flowering. Dead, diseased and broken branches can be taken out at any time. Mountain laurel doesn’t have many pest problems… – See more at: How to Grow and Care for Mountain Laurel

Origin

It is native to North America and can be found throughout the western United States and western and central Canada below the subarctic.

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