What is the difference between Cherry Laurel and Portugal Laurel?

Laurel vs Portugal Laurel

Laurel or Portugal Laurel? Which do you prefer? They are very different in appearance although people often assume that Portugal Laurel looks similar to Laurel. Here is some basic information to help you recognise the differences and ultimately help you choose the right hedging plant for you.


Laurel is also known as Common Laurel, Cherry Laurel or English Laurel depending on who you speak to.  Its botanical name is Prunus laurocerasus and by far the most popular and widely grown variety (cultivar) is Prunus laurocerasus ‘Rotundifolia’.  For the purposes of this blog, we will simply call it Cherry Laurel or Laurel.

Portugal Laurel is also called Portuguese Laurel. Its botanical name is Prunus lusitanica and the most popular variety (cultivar) is Prunus lusitanica ‘Angustifolia’ which is also sometimes called Prunus lusitanica ‘Myrtifolia’ – this has smaller leaves and has a much neater growth habit than straight Prunus lusitanica.

Leaf Shape, Colour and Appearance

Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus ‘Rotundifolia’) has a large oval-shaped leaf which is glossy and lush green in colour. They are great for an immediate effect or instant hedging if purchased as a mature, larger plant. The stems and branches can get quite dense and provide fantastic places for wildlife to reside in.

Laurel produces heads of white flowers in early spring which are then followed by red cherry-like fruits. Although not edible for humans, the berries are greatly appreciated by wildlife.

Portugal Laurel (Prunus lusitanica ‘Angustifolia’) has smaller pointed leaves which are dark green and are very attractive when contrasting with the dark red stems of the plant. The red stems become redder during the winter months which provides great colour interest throughout the year.

Portugal Laurel produces long spikes of white flowers in early summer that are beautiful and fragrant. The flowers are usually followed by small black berries which are also loved by wildlife.

Both Laurel and Portugal Laurel are evergreen and will retain their foliage (leaves) and colour all year round.

Where to grow

Both Cherry Laurel and Portugal Laurel will grow in sun and shade with Laurel able to grow in deep shade. For example, large estates often plant Laurel under trees to keep down brambles. Once established however, both plants are very tolerant of most conditions and temperatures, even down to -20°C .

Portugal Laurel will grow in most soils including shallow chalk soils which most plants don’t like as long as they are not waterlogged for long periods. Cherry Laurel does not like shallow chalky soils but it will grow in all other types as long as the soils are not waterlogged for long periods.

The leaf structure of Portugal Laurel also makes it a good choice for use as topiary and it is often seen in gardens at Chelsea Flower Show as balls or other shapes. It is also a better choice if you want a smaller, narrower hedge again due to its manageability, although we also have Laurel hedges near to us that are kept at 4ft (1.2m) tall, so both can be kept small. If you are growing in pots then Portugal Laurel is a better option as it keeps its colour better and is easier to maintain. However, as with all plants kept in pots, you will need to water them most days from spring to autumn and feed them regularly during the growing season. It makes life a lot easier if you can plant them in the ground!

Growth rate

Both Cherry Laurel and Portugal Laurel are fast-growing hedging plants and will make fantastic hedges reasonably quickly. Apart from some types of conifers, Cherry Laurel is one of the fastest-growing evergreen plants to use as hedging and has a growth rate of approximately 60cm (2ft) per year.

Portugal Laurel is quick-growing but slightly slower-growing than Laurel. It has a growth rate of approx 50cm (1.5ft) per year.

We recommend when using either of these as a hedge to have them cut at least once a year to encourage bushy, dense growth and prevent them from growing larger than you need. If you are using Cherry Laurel as a smaller hedge then you may want to cut twice a year as it makes it much easier and more manageable.

Planting distance

We recommend planting Laurel 60-100cm (2-3ft) apart and Portugal Laurel 60-75cm (2ft to 2ft6in) apart.  Plant closer (you can go as close as 50cm apart) if you want the hedge to “fill in” quicker and form a hedge you can’t see through.

Price or Cost of forming a hedge

Laurel usually costs less for an equivalent height than Portugal Laurel, especially for taller sizes. This is because it is slightly faster growing so takes less time to grow to larger sizes on the nursery.


Both plants have great attributes and qualities but ultimately your choice will probably just boil down to personal preference (which you prefer the look of) and/or price. The growing conditions for both plants are reasonably similar with only a few differences that probably won’t affect your choice. Just remember to bear in mind some of the following things when choosing and it will help you make an informed decision and help you pick the right plant for you.

  • Soil condition
  • Size of area
  • Growth rate and maintenance
  • Where you are planting
  • How many plants you want/need
  • How quickly you want plants/hedge to develop
  • Personal preference

Laurel, due to its larger leaves and bushy habit will quickly form a dense hedge. By choosing larger specimens you will usually get instant screen hedging, especially when planting closer (50-60cm apart). When purchasing Laurel the final cost of a hedge will generally work out cheaper than other evergreen hedging apart from Leylandii.  See our sizes, availability and prices of Laurel Hedging Plants by clicking here.

Portugal Laurel is available as individual hedging plants or as instant hedging troughs. The instant hedging have been grown in troughs and trimmed to form a hedge so will create instant screening. Just plant them in a trough, one per metre. See our sizes, availability and prices of Portugal Laurel Hedging Plants by clicking here.

To see pictures of different Laurel Hedges, please click here or to see Portuguese Laurel Hedges, please click here.

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