Bay Laurel is an evergreen tree or large shrub with green leaves. This flowering shrub falls to the family Lauraceae. Native and freely growing in the areas of the Mediterranean. This shrub has been famous worldwide and is also cultivated due to its aromatic leaves that can be used in cooking and as a therapeutic oil. Let's take a closer look at how to grow a bay laurel Tree, also known as Laurus nobilis. Here is your complete guide for growing sweet bay.
Buying a Bay Laurel Plant
I usually prefer to grow our plants from seeds, but when it comes to bushes or trees, it's best to buy one that is already established. I spent weeks going to and calling gardening stores to try and find a bay tree locally with no luck. With a little hesitance, I decided to buy off Amazon. I was happily surprised to find several available from different sellers on Amazon.
Bay Laurel Basics
- Botanical name and family: Laurus nobilis is a member of the Lauraceae or laurel
- Origin: Bay is native to the Mediterranean.
- Type of plant: Bay is a woody evergreen perennial shrub or tree that can grow from 10 to 60 feet tall, depending upon circumstances. It can be grown in a container from a seedling to 5 feet tall in about 5 years.
- Growing season: Bay is an evergreen perennial that can grow wherever temperatures are greater than 25°
- Growing zones: Zones 8 to 10.
- Hardiness: Bay is hardy to about 25°F in the ground; bay is less hardy if growing in a container. Bring container-grown bay indoors when temperatures near freezing.
- Plant form and size: Bay can grow as a multi-stemmed shrub or it can grow as a single or multi-trunked tree. Bay grows 5 to 20 feet tall in a container depending upon growing location and circumstance. Bay can grow to 60 feet tall in a garden or the wild. Bay often grows from several shoots or trunks; it can be pruned to one trunk.
- Flowers: Bay has small, inconspicuous, creamy yellow flowers that develop into dark purple-black berries from ½ to 1 inch around.
- Bloom time: Bay blooms in spring.
- Leaves: Bay has oval, leathery, glossy, dark green leaves that grow 2 to 4 inches long with slightly wavy margins growing alternately on branches. New growth is purplish-brown.
- Requires full to partial shade of sunlight either planted in the yard or in a container.
- This plant does not prefer any specific soil, as long as you provide it with well-draining soil together with correct plant care, your bay laurel will grow healthy.
- Do not let your Bay Laurel sit in wet soil; weekly deep watering is preferable to help your plant develop good and strong root growth. Always allow the soil to dry between watering.
- The best time to fertilize your Bay Laurel is Springtime. Use a general-purpose fertilizer to feed your plant.
Where to Plant Bay Laurel
- Best location: Plant bay in full sun in well-drained soil. Shelter bay from harsh winds. Bay is susceptible to frost and cold damage so grow plants in containers that can be moved indoors in cold-winter regions.
- Soil preparation: Bay grows best in humus-rich, well-drained soil and prefers a soil pH of 6.2 to 6.6.
When to Plant Bay Laurel
- Seed starting indoors: Propagate bay from cuttings or shoots in spring. The seed is slow to germinate; start seeds indoors any time of the year for transplanting out to the garden in spring.
- Transplanting to the garden: Set rooted bay plants in the garden in spring or summer.
- Outdoor planting time: Plant young bay trees in the garden in spring. You can purchase young bay trees in one, three, and five-gallon containers.
How to Plant Bay Laurel
- Planting depth: Set container-grown plants at the depth they were growing in the pot, not deeper.
- Spacing: Bay trees will grow to 20 feet tall and half again as wide if allowed to grow to maturity. Space trees accordingly.
- How much to plant: One established bay tree will supply all of your culinary needs, but it will take time to become established, starting from a small cutting. If you want to be able to harvest, dry, and store your bay leaves, I'd suggest starting with two or three plants.
Watering and Feeding Bay Laurel
- Watering: Keep the soil just moist, not wet, especially bay plants are getting established. Bay requires only occasional watering once established. Make sure the soil drains well and is never soggy or wet.
- Feeding: Fertilize bay in spring with an all-purpose organic fertilizer; sweet bay is a slow grower; do not over-fertilize bay. Aged compost is a good soil amendment and so is bone meal.
Bay Laurel Care and Maintenance
- Care: Prune away growing tips to keep the plant bushy. Repot container-grown bay plants to larger pots every three years or so (or root prune the plant to stay in the smaller container).
Container Growing Bay Laurel
- Container and winter growing: Bay plants grow 10 to 12 inches each year; a one-gallon plant will grow to about 5 feet tall in five years. You can keep container-grown bay pruned from 2 to 5 feet tall. Grow bay in a rich potting mix; transplant plants to larger pots as they grow. Container growing is the best course in cold-winter regions. Plants can be set outdoors from spring to fall and brought indoors during freezing weather. Indoors, over-winter bay in a warm, sunny spot away from cold drafts. Choose a container that can be moved on casters or on a wheeled dolly. Trim away roots from pot-bound plants and add a new organic potting mix to stimulate new growth.
Container Growing Bay Laurel Indoors
The good thing about this aromatic plant is that it can be grown inside your house in a container. Place your indoor bay laurel near the window and let the aromatic scent spread all over your home, providing a calming effect.
Bay Laurel Pests and Diseases
Bay is susceptible to scale. Control scale with horticultural oil or remove scale with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol.
Bay Laurel Propagation
- Grow bay from seed, cuttings, or transplanted suckers. It’s easiest to start with a 1 to 3-gallon plant purchased from the garden center; you can begin harvesting leaves the first year.
- Seed: Seeds are difficult to start. Keep the soil temperature at 75° Seeds may germinate in as few as 28 days but they sometimes can take up to a year to germinate.
- Cuttings: Taking cuttings from fresh green shoots. Cuttings can take 6 to 9 months to root; keep cuttings in moist soil.
Bay Varieties to Grow
- Sweet bay or Laurus nobilis is grown for culinary use.
- California bay, Umbellularia californica, is a different plant; it has a strong, rank flavor and is not a substitute for sweet bay.
Harvesting Bay Laurel Leaves
There's no specific time or season to harvest the leaves of your plant, you can do it any time of the year. But, the flavor and fragrance are much stronger when the plant begins to bloom. As an indoor plant, bay laurel provides a more flavorful scent during summertime.
How to harvest: Cut mature bay leaves as needed with garden snips or scissors; mature leaves have the best flavor.
How to use Bay Leaves
Since that bay laurel provides its most robust fragrance during summertime, you can pick the largest leaves or just how many leaves you prefer to harvest and let that dry but be sure to do the picking in the morning after the dew has evaporated to be sure that the leaves you harvested won't wilt, since that cooking with bay laurel requires dry leaves to be used. You can try these steps.
HOW TO DRY BAY LEAVES
1. Paper towels & Baking Sheet - Simply cover the baking sheet with a paper towel (be sure to cover the sheet FULLY). Spread the leaves correctly without them being on top of one another. Place the leaves you prepared in a warm, dry room with enough ventilation. Note that you should avoid any kind of light to dry your bay leaves correctly. This drying process may take up to 2 weeks.
2. Microwave oven - if you just need a few leaves to dry, simply use a microwaveable plate and scatter the clean leaves without them being on top of each other. 30-sec sessions and after every 30 sec be sure to flip or turn your leaves. Repeat the process for about 4 to 6 sessions or until you noticed that the leaves are all dry and brittle.
GROW YOUR GARDENING KNOWLEDGE
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