Danae Racemosa - Alexandrian Laurel or Poet's Laurel
The small evergreen shrub Danae Racemosa, also called the Alexandrian Laurel or the Poet’s Laurel, sports lustrous emerald green foliage year round. It flourishes in even the deepest shade where other plants often struggle. The shrub’s graceful appearance is quite picturesque. Its canes arise directly from the ground and arch upwards before sweeping downward. Interestingly, the Danae Racemosa is related to the asparagus.
The Alexandrian Laurel grows to a height of less than 1 metre. Its width averages 1.5 meters. The shrub readily spreads utilizing its rhizome roots, but does not easily grow from seeds. Seeds often take five to seven years before they successfully germinate.
In the spring, Danae Racemosa produces inconspicuous yellow flowers that rarely garner any attention. During the summer months brilliant orange-red berries start to appear and persist into the winter months. The marble-sized berries grow in clusters of two to five and are quite eye-catching set against the backdrop of the shrub’s evergreen foliage.
In 1713, the Alexandrian Laurel or Poet’s Laurel was first introduced to England from its native habitat in Iran along the Caspian Sea and along the northeastern side of the Mediterranean Sea in Syria. It quickly became a favorite garden plant across the country. By the 1820s, it was a popular shrub plant and could be found in virtually every garden in England where it flourished. As time progressed, the shrub fell out of popularity but today is experiencing a resurgence in British gardens.
The Danae Racemosa grows best in evenly moist soil. It tolerates a wide array of soil types but prefers slightly acidic soil. Once established, it can withstand short periods of drought that last three or four weeks without suffering adverse effects. It grows at a relatively slow pace but is amazingly hardy and requires very little care to flourish.
The canes of the Danae Racemosa live for approximately three years before dying back. Once the canes die, they can be pruned down to the ground to encourage new growth. The Alexandrian Laurel tolerates some pruning to maintain its shape or to harvest its evergreen canes which are widely used by florists in flower arrangements. When cut, the shrub’s foliage will last in water for months.
If you are looking for a small shrub to grow in a deeply shady location where other shrubs fail to thrive then look no further than the Poet’s Laurel. The shrub’s year round green lance-shaped foliage and brilliant berries will add colour to any garden.