The Tree Center

FREE SHIPPING ON ALL ORDERS OVER $199

Elf Mountain Laurel

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How are the heights measured?

All tree, and nothin' but the tree! We measure from the top of the soil to the top of the tree; the height of the container or the root system is never included in our measurements.

What is a gallon container?

Nursery containers come in a variety of different sizes, and old-school nursery slang has stuck. While the industry-standard terminology is to call the sizes "Gallon Containers", that doesn't exactly translate to the traditional liquid "gallon" size we think of. You'll find we carry young 1-gallons, up to more mature 7-gallons ranging anywhere from 6 inches to 6ft.

How does the delivery process work?

All of our orders ship via FedEx Ground! Once your order is placed online, our magic elves get right to work picking, staging, boxing and shipping your trees. Orders typically ship out within 2 business days. You will receive email notifications along the way on the progress of your order, as well as tracking information to track your plants all the way to their new home!

Why are some states excluded from shipping?

The short & sweet answer is: "United States Department of Agriculture Restrictions." Every state has their own unique USDA restrictions on which plants they allow to come into their state. While we wish we could serve everyone, it's for the safety of native species and helps prevent the spread of invasive disease & pests. We've gotta protect good ole' Mother Nature, after all.

About Me

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Zones

If you have acidic soil in your garden, then you are probably already familiar with rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias – you are perhaps already growing these lovely plants. There are many other plants that grow in acid soil, and one stands out as just as beautiful as those lovely bushes – the Kalmia, or Mountain Laurel. This wonderful native plant is beautiful in the wild, but dedicated breeders have also given us outstanding garden varieties that bring months of beauty to acid-soil gardens, and can also be grown in pots if you aren’t fortunate enough to have the right garden soil. With more and more of us gardening in small spaces, pride of place has to go the the Elf Kalmia – a shrub whose beauty is much greater than its size. If you don’t know these great shrubs, start small and discover how very special they are, by growing this terrific bush in your own garden – falling in love is always easy.

Growing the Elf Kalmia

Size and Appearance

The Elf Kalmia is a rounded evergreen shrub that grows steadily, reaching about 3 feet tall and wide within 10 years. It has many branches that grow from the base, which in time becomes thick and gnarled, with peeling bark, giving a wonderful look of maturity and permanence. When young the growth is vigorous, slowing down as it matures. The small leaves are leathery, about 2 inches long, with a smooth glossy surface and a rich green color that stays all year round. Out of flower this plant is as attractive as any foliage evergreen, and it always looks great.

Of course it is the blooms that are the big attraction, and these begin to be visible even in fall and early winter. Clusters of buds develop at the end of every branch, looking at first like a cluster of tiny curled fingers, and then developing through winter into pink buds, shaped like many-sided cones. These add lots of interest and color, really extending the time of special interest. By the end of May and into June – after the first flush of spring blooms is over – these buds open, and the Elf Kalmia is smothered in pure white, like a summer snowfall. Each bud opens into a white flower an inch across, shaped like a 5-sided cup, holding within it a prominent star of tiny stamens. The blooms of Kalmia are unique and extraordinary, and if you don’t know them you are in for a treat. The combination of pink buds and white flowers as the first ones open is especially charming, and blooms stay attractive for several weeks.

Using the Elf Kalmia in Your Garden

Think of the Elf Kalmia as an evergreen for garden structure, that has the bonus of gorgeous blooms. Use it around your home in the foreground of your foundation planting. Grow it at the corners of your beds, or along a path. It fits perfectly into any garden bed, beneath trees and in more natural wooded areas. It even makes an attractive potted plant with a unique look.

Hardiness

This bush is hardy in all the mild and warmer parts of the country. In zone 5 water deeply just before periods when the ground freezes, to protect from foliage burn.

Sun Exposure and Soil Conditions

Every garden has shady places, and that is where the Elf Kalmia loves to be – it’s a combination made in heaven. A spot with morning sun and shade in the afternoon is perfect, or in continuous light shade, such as the shadow of a building or fence, or in the light, open shade beneath deciduous trees. Good drainage is the secret to success with kalmia, and clay soils are usually not suitable. Open, more sandy soils are preferred, but ordinary garden soil enriched with lime-free organic material is great. The soil must be acidic, with a pH of 6.0 or less, with 5.5 to 4.5 being ideal. If you don’t have suitable soil (and you can test it easily), the simplest answer is to grow it in a pot, using potting soil for acid-loving plants.

Maintenance and Pruning

Very little care is needed to grow this superb shrub. It generally has no pests or diseases, and deer don’t bother with it, as all parts of this plant are poisonous. Don’t trim or prune, as this will stop flowering. The only care you might do is to remove the spent flower heads, cutting or snapping them out as you might do for rhododendrons, without removing any leaves. This prevents seeds developing, and increases blooms for the next year.

History and Origin of the Elf Kalmia

You will find the mountain laurel, Kalmia latifolia, all through the east, from southern Maine to northern Florida. Wild plants are found on mountain slopes and beneath the trees in forests, and they can be up to 15 feet tall. Among wild plants there are some that have small leaves, and these are called myrtifolia, which means ‘leaves like myrtle bushes’. It was plants like these that Richard A. Jaynes used to develop compact small varieties of kalmia. Jaynes is a professional geneticist and breeder, who worked at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven. There he bred some of the world’s best kalmias, and became an authority on these wonderful plants. He created the variety he called ‘Elf’ in the 1970s, and released it in 1982, shortly before he set up the Broken Arrow Nursery in Connecticut to specialize in his great love – the mountain laurel.

Buying the Elf Kalmia at the Tree Center

Plants like this rival the best of the azaleas, and no acid garden should be without them. Order now, because the demand is always huge, and these plants are hard to reproduce (but easy to grow), so supplies are always very limited.

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Elf Mountain Laurel