Growing Bay Leaves: Planting and Caring Tips

growing bay leaves

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Bay leaves tree is a perennial evergreen and is native to the Mediterranean. They are a slow-growing plant but if the conditions are right can reach up to a height of 60 ft.

Bay leaves are easy to identify. They are famous for their shiny, dark green oval-shaped leaves. If you tough the leaves you will feel the leathery texture. The leaves are very popular in kitchen seasoning.

How To Grow Bay Leaves/Bay Laurels

Size of The Plant:

A mature bay leaf plant can grow up to 10 to 30 feet tall and 5 to 20 feet wide in their native environment.

Site:

Choose a spot that has either full sun exposer or at least partly sunny. Bay leaves can be a good addition to your kitchen garden since you will need them frequently in your recipes.

Soil:

The ideal soil for growing Bay leaves is slightly acidic soil. If your soil is particularly alkaline in nature, use these steps to make it suitable for the plant’s needs.

Water:

Bay trees have a very shallow root system, so watering should be frequent, especially during summers. Between two watering give time for the soil to dry up.

Temperature:

Bay trees cannot tolerate cold weather. It is only hardy in USDA hardiness zones 8 through 10. They also cannot tolerate extreme heat. So if you live in a warm climate, arrange some shade for your bay tree.

If you are growing bay leaves in containers you can control the temperature easily. But remember if you bring the plant indoors for the winter keep the humidity level high by using a humidifier like this or simply use a mister to mist the plant with water.

growing bay leaves in container

How to Propagate Bay Leaves:

You can propagate bay trees in 2 ways:

1. From Seeds:

To propagate bay trees from seeds first separate the bay seeds from the flesh of the berry, and plant it. If the seeds are not fresh, soak them in warm water for a day before planting.

Keep the soil moist and maintain a temperature around 70 F. You can use a soil thermometer to get an accurate measurement. If the temperature is around the ideal mark, it usually takes 10-20 days for the seeds to germinate.

2. From Cuttings:

The best time to propagate bay trees from cuttings is in late summer and early autumns.

Select young side shoots that are about 10-15cm long. Then cut them off from the main plant.

Remove the lower leaves and any trailing strands of bark from the shoot.

Now plant those bay tree cuttings in a good quality growing medium and keep the cutting in a place where it does not get any direct sunlight.

When to Plant Bay:

The best time to plant a bay saplings is in the fall or early spring. This will give them the chance to get settled before the heat of the summer.

How to Plant Bay Trees:

Before planting the tree add compost with the soil. This will not only increase the fertility of the soil but also improve drainage.

Dig a hole as deep as the root ball. Give enough space for the roots to spread out.

Plant the bay tree, and gently fill in and tamp the soil around it. Add water thoroughly.

Fertilizer:

Fertilize your bay tree with a good organic fertilizer. Apply the fertilizer twice a year, once in the spring and once in the summer.

Growing Bay in Containers:

You can also grow bay leaves in containers. In containers, the quality of the soil is very important to grow any plant. So when you grow bay leaves in containers, use a good quality potting mix.

Water the plant regularly so it does not die out of thirst. Apply an organic liquid fertilizer from time to time to feed the bay tree.

Every couple of years repot your bay leaf tree. While repotting mix a handful of good quality compost with the soil.

During the cold winter cover the pot with insulative materials.

Flowers and Leaves:

bay flowers

The bay plant is unisexual, which means they produce male and female flowers on separate plants. The pale yellow-green flowers are borne in pairs beside the leaves. They start appearing in springs matures over the summers and form blackish-purple fruits in the fall.

Each fruit contain a single seed.

The bay leaves are glabrous, 6–12 cm long and 2–4 cm broad, with an entire (untoothed) margin.

Bay Leaf Varieties:

Though there are many varieties of bay trees available not all are suitable for edible purposes. if you plan to use the leaves for cooking and eating only plants Laurus nobilis.

Some of the most common varieties of bay leaf trees are:

Laurus nobilis ‘Angustifolia’:

They are narrow, pale green leaves with wavy edges. These leaves are also a bit hardier than a common bay.

Laurus nobilis (Common bay):

Common bay have dark green, aromatic leaves.

Laurus nobilis ‘Aurea’:

These are showy golden leaves and slightly hardier than common bay.

Bay Leaf Tree As A Hedge:

Though Bay trees are used as culinary herbs for their aromatic leaves, they are also fine evergreen hedge or topiary plants. A little bit of pruning in the summer will help you keep the hedge in good shape.

As there are various varieties of bay leaf plants, the actual number for creating a hedge will depend on the variety.

Bay tree hedges can survive the winter only if they do not get any frost.

Pruning Bay Leaves:

Pruning is very important for bay leaf trees. If you do not prune the tree, it can become a giant (60 ft tall). Pruning keeps the plant to a manageable size, with selective pruning it can grow to a beautiful ornamental plant. Use proper pruning tools so the plant doesn’t get damaged,

Harvesting Bay Leaves:

You can harvest bay leaves at any time. Though it is best to use bay leaves fresh, you can dry the leaves for future uses. You can keep the leaves for a year (after that they tend to lose their flavors) in airtight containers.

Common Pests and Diseases:

Followings are some of the common problems of growing bay trees.

Yellow Leaves:

The bay leaves turning yellow are usually a sign of waterlogging or the effect of cold weather. Sometimes lack of nutrients can also cause the leaves to turn yellow, especially in container-grown bay trees.

Trim off damaged branches and leaves. Make sure the drainage is good for the soil. Improve the nutrients of the soil by adding a general-purpose organic fertilizer every two weeks until August.

Bay Leaf Spots:

The main issue with this is soil waterlogging or wet weather. If you are growing the bay in a container, try to repot it. This usually solves the problem.

Ensure containers have a thick layer of drainage material at the bottom of the pot, and enough drainage holes for excess water to easily flow through.

Peeling of Bark:

This is quite common in harsh winters. If the plant is growing normally you don’t need to worry too much about this problem. Once the weather improves the problem will go off.

Brown Leaves:

The browning of bay leaves is mainly due to environmental problems. Improve the drainage of the soil, recheck your watering schedules.

Plant Leaves Curling With Pale-yellow/ Brown Edges:

The main reason the leaves start curling and look discolored is they may have affected by grey white insects. Check under the leaves for those insects. Pick them off and dispose the affected leaves.

Horse Chestnut Scale:

Bay trees are often get infested with horse chestnut scale. You will find these insects on the underside of leaves or on stems.

To remove these insects use predatory insects. They will reduce the insect population. Even if you don’t do anything, the growth of the bay will hardly get affected.

Edible Uses for Bay Leaves:

You can use bay leaves fresh or dried. Dried leaves generally have a stronger flavor than the fresh ones.

Bay leaves are an integral part of the french cuisine. The leaves are used in combination with other herbs and spices throughout the world.

Conclusion:

Bay trees are not only beautiful they are very functional. They are easy to take care of and have very few pests and disease problems. You not only get leaves that have culinary and medicinal uses but also a houseplant that will add to your aesthetics.

The right amount of light, temperature, and moist soil moist and you are ready to grow bay leaves.

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growing bay leaves

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prasenjit

Hi there! My name is Prasenjit and I’m an avid gardener and someone who has grown a passion for growing plants. From my hands-on experience, I have learned what works and what doesn't. Here I share everything I have learned.