Kalmia latifolia
Common Name: mountain laurel 
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Ericaceae
Native Range: Eastern United States
Zone: 4 to 9
Height: 5.00 to 15.00 feet
Spread: 5.00 to 15.00 feet
Bloom Time: May
Bloom Description: Rose to white with purple markings
Sun: Part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer


Best grown in cool, moist, rich, acidic, humusy, well-drained soils in part shade. Mulch to retain moisture and keep root zones cool. Plants tolerate a wide range of light conditions (full sun to full shade), but are best in part shade (morning sun with early to mid-afternoon shade) in the St. Louis climate. Raised plantings should be considered in order to promote better drainage. Plants do not grow well in heavy clay soils. Remove spent flower clusters immediately after bloom. Prune lightly after bloom to promote bushy growth.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Kalmia latifolia, commonly called mountain laurel, is a gnarled, multi-stemmed, broadleaf evergreen shrub or small tree that is native to Eastern North America (New England south to the southern Indiana, Louisiana and the Florida panhandle) where it is found in a variety of habitats including open rocky or sandy woods, cool meadows, balds, mountain slopes and woodland margins. It is noted for its excellent spring flowers and quality year round foliage. It typically grows as a dense rounded shrub to 5-15’ tall, opening up and developing gnarly branches with age. Notwithstanding its usual shrub habit, mountain laurel will rarely grow as a small tree (particularly on slopes in the Appalachian Mountains) to as much as 30’ tall. Flowers appear in terminal clusters (corymbs to 6” across), typically covering the shrub in late May-June for several weeks with an often exceptional bloom. Each flower (to 1” across) is cup shaped with five sides and ranges in color from rose to white with purple markings inside. If not deadheaded, flowers give way to non-showy brown fruits (3/16” dehiscent capsules) that persist into winter. Elliptic, alternate, leathery, glossy evergreen leaves (to 5” long) are dark green above and yellow green beneath and reminiscent to the leaves of rhododendrons. All parts of this plant are toxic if ingested. Kalmia latifolia is the state flower of Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

Mountain laurel has acquired a number of different common names over time including ivy bush, spoonwood, calico bush and American laurel. Linnaeus named the genus herein after Swedish botanist Peter Kalm (1716-1779) who explored plant life in parts of eastern North America from 1747 to 1751.

Genus name honors Pehr Kalm (1715-1779), Finnish pupil of Linnaeus, who was sent by the Swedish government in 1748 to report on the natural resources of North America.

Specific epithet means broad-leaved.


Susceptible to leaf spots and blights. Also susceptible to borers, scale, white fly and lace bugs.


Superior flowering shrub for groups or massing in shrub borders, cottage gardens, woodland areas or wild/naturalized areas. Hedge. Foundations. Compliments rhododendrons and azaleas.