Peppermint Mountain LaurelKalmia latifolia 'Peppermint'
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Kalmia latifolia 'Peppermint'
Outdoor Growing zone
The Peppermint Mountain Laurel is a compact, densely-branching evergreen shrub growing to 4 feet tall and 3½ feet wide. It has handsome dark-green glossy leaves, with a firm leathery texture, and it is always attractive. Color shows early, with the pink buds developing from late winter through spring, until flowering begins in May or early June. The flowers open white, but each one has a starburst inside, with 10 dark red lines radiating up the sides. This stunning effect makes a great show in your garden. Use this native tree anywhere, from wild gardens to the most formal settings, and in planter boxes too.
Partial shade is ideal for the Peppermint Mountain Laurel. Grow it with morning sun, or in the dappled shade beneath deciduous trees. The soil should be rich, moist and well-drained, and sandy soils are more suitable than clay. Slightly acidic soil is best and avoid alkaline conditions. Grow in pots or planters if you don’t have suitable soil. Pests or diseases are rare, and the only care needed is to remove spent flowers. You can prune after flowering for shape, if you wish to, but it is not necessary.
If you love azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias, and have suitable soil and garden conditions for them, or enjoy growing them in containers, then you truly should have the Peppermint Mountain Laurel growing among them. Blooming later than most rhododendrons, this gorgeous plant extends the flowering season, and adds lots of interest and color all through spring. Even the buds are large and attractive, and this plant is tougher and easier to grow than rhododendrons. Its compact form, handsome foliage, and rugged bark are winners, and it looks just as good around your home as it does in a woodland garden. A native plant, it satisfies the request for our own American plants that will brighten your garden, and these beautiful shrubs deserve a lot more attention for their easy-care manners and charming colorful blooms.
The Peppermint Mountain Laurel is a rounded evergreen shrub with glossy, dark-green leaves that are 2 to 3 inches long, with a smooth surface and a leathery texture. This plant is dense and well-branched, forming a compact mound of foliage right to the ground, and reaching 4 feet tall and 3½ feet wide within 5 to 7 years of planting. Older plants develop a woody base, with attractive reddish-brown, slightly peeling bark. It looks attractive and appealing all year round, even when not in bloom.
We first see the flower buds in late fall, as tiny clusters at the ends of the branches. These are pink, and over the winter months and especially through spring they develop steadily, already looking attractive by early spring. The clusters of pink buds are large and showy long before flowering begins around the middle of May or early June. The flower buds are unique and charming, looking a little like those decorations of piped icing seen on cakes. When the blooms open they are stunning. Each one is a 5-sided bowl, very pale pink to white inside, retaining the darker pink outside color of the buds. There is an explosion of beauty inside, with 10 bold dark-red stripes shooting up the inside, making a striking contrast. They do indeed look a lot like those old-fashioned red and white striped peppermint candies.
This shrub is an excellent background plant for smaller beds or planted as a natural hedge. It fits perfectly as a specimen in a smaller bed or planted in groups of 3 or 5 in larger beds. Plant it beneath trees, among your foundation plants, or among azaleas and rhododendrons in a woodland garden. As a native shrub it is perfect for wild and natural gardening too, adding a great touch of color. Plant on shady banks and slopes, or near water, but not in wet soil. With its fibrous root system, it will live for many years in planters and pots as well, which is ideal if you don’t have suitable soil in your garden.
The Peppermint Mountain Laurel is hardy from zone 5 to zone 9. Soak the root zone in late fall in zone 5, to reduce the risk of winter-burn on the foliage.
Partial shade is perfect for the Peppermint Mountain Laurel. Some morning sun and afternoon shade is ideal, or in the light, dappled shade beneath trees. Avoid deep shade, such as beneath dense evergreens, while locations under deciduous trees are ideal. The east and north side of a building are also suitable. In zone 5 it will take more sun. Although easier to grow than them, this plant enjoys similar soil conditions to azaleas and rhododendrons. The soil should be rich, moist and well-drained. Slightly acidic soil is perfect, but neutral soils are tolerated well, if you enrich the soil with lime-free materials such as rotted leaves. Avoid heavy clay soil. Once established it has some drought resistance to normal summer dryness, but regular watering is recommended.
Pests and diseases are usually not a problem with mountain laurel, and these are easy-care shrubs if they have suitable soil conditions. Use potting soil and fertilizers for acid-loving plants when growing in planters, which should have drainage holes. No pruning is needed, but you can trim a little immediately after flowering if you wish, to encourage extra-bushy growth. Remove the flower heads once they have faded, to prevent seed production, which can reduce flowering the following year. Do not trim in summer, or flowering will be greatly reduced.
The Peppermint Mountain Laurel was created by Richard Jaynes, a plant breeder and geneticist with the Connecticut Agricultural Experimental Station in New Haven. He began breeding mountain laurel, Kalmia latifolia, in 1961, and continued it after he retired in 1984, at his Broken Arrow Nursery in Hamden, Connecticut. The wild plant grows in mountainous areas from Maine to northern Florida, and it can reach 15 feet or more in height, with white flowers. Jaynes collected unusual plants he found growing wild, and bred them together, breeding again from some of the seedlings he grew that were unique and interesting. He made the crosses for the variety he called ‘Peppermint’ in 1984, but he didn’t release the plant until 1991, after extensive testing. All Jaynes’ plants have been carefully studied for quality, and they are not ‘quick-release’ gimmicks, but quality plants you will love to grow.
The use of tissue culture in laboratory greenhouses has revolutionized the growing of mountain laurel, which was always limited by difficulties in propagating large numbers. Today we can offer you superb young plants that are genetically identical to Jaynes’ original seedling, quite different from inferior cheap seedlings. These plants are catching on, and demand is high for the best varieties, so order your plants now, while we still have stock available.