Sheep laurel is an underused broadleaf evergreen shrub that I had read about as a good native plant but never seen until I was looking at O’Donal’s in Gorham for a small shrub to donate to a garden club raffle.

The sheep laurel, full of bright pink blossoms, jumped out at me, and I not only bought one for the raffle but another for our own garden.

Sheep laurel’s pink blossoms will brighten up your garden.

With the Latin name Kalmia angustifolia, it is related to the more common mountain laurel, which is kalmia latifolia. It will grow only about 3 feet tall, but, according to the website of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Texas, it can spread to almost twice as wide. That would take time, however.

The flowers, which also come in white, are small and open, but form a mass around a stem, and from a distance look a bit like lilac blooms.

Sheep laurel can grow in full shade to almost full sun, but the leaves could burn a little if it gets a lot of sun. It prefers moist soil, but will tolerate soil that is sandy and dry.

All parts of the plant are poisonous, and one of its common names is lambkill, because if grazing lambs eat too much of it, they can die. According to the Wildflower Center website, sheep laurel attracts birds and butterflies and is the larval host to the Northern Blue butterfly and Columbia silkmoth, both of which are found in Maine.

As often happens when I buy a plant on a whim, I now have to figure out where it should go in our garden.

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