Skip laurel – Prunus laurocerasus ‘Schipkaensis’ – is a hardy, dense-growing evergreen shrub commonly used for hedges and as cut greenery in floral arrangements. Also called schipka, schip and cherry laurel, skip laurel’s foliage and appearance are very similar to bay laurel (Laurus nobilis). Native to areas bordering the Black Sea, skip laurel grows in temperate zones 6-8 and tolerates full sun to fairly deep shade.
Most skip laurel is cultivated for hedges and living garden screens because it is cold-durable and attractive. Skip laurel grows 10- to 12-feet high and has 2- to 6-inch leaves about an inch wide. The crushed leaves smell of almond. It needs only moderate watering and two prunings a year. Its foliage can withstand most pollution and salt in the soil. Because deer don’t eat it, skip laurel is a good choice for suburban and rural gardening.
A good backdrop for showy plants, skip laurel can also be a centerpiece because it produces flowers and fruits. Clusters of sweetly scented white flowers in late April and May yield small purple-black fruits similar to cherries in late summer.
While birds can eat skip laurel fruit, the seed and the rest of the plant are toxic to humans because they contain cyanogenic glycosides, which form free-hydrogen cyanide, and amygdalin, which breaks down in the gut and can also create cyanide.