By Jennifer Poindexter
Did you know bay leaves came from a tree? This may not be what you’d expect from an herb, but it’s true! Bay leaves come from a tree known as a bay laurel tree. This tree can grow to be upwards of fifty feet in height. It’s a wonderful outdoor addition in planting zones eight through eleven because it can handle the milder winters.
However, if you want to grow your own bay leaves, and you don’t live in these planting zones, what should you do? Move this herb indoors, of course! Don’t be intimidated about growing a tree inside your home. I’ll walk you through all you need to know to grow bay laurel indoors.
Here’s what you should know when moving this tree inside your home:
What You Might Need to Grow Bay Laurel Indoors
Bay laurel has a few needs when deciding to grow this plant. The first necessity is a large planter that drains adequately.
The plant will need to be transplanted every couple of years, so don’t feel as if you must have the largest planter you can find to begin with. Look at your plant, see the root system it has, and try to find a planter that’s large enough to support it now and in the immediate future.
Once you have the planter, the herb will need well-draining soil. This is vital to deter disease issues which can seriously impact this plant.
Finally, you need lighting. Bay laurel is a sun-loving plant. Therefore, if you don’t have a way to provide eight hours of natural sunlight for the plant, it will need to be supplemented with a grow light or other LED lighting.
If you have these three main things on hand, you should be able to develop a growing area where your bay laurel tree can not only survive, but hopefully thrive.
Growing Conditions for Bay Laurel Indoors
As previously mentioned, bay laurel is a large tree. However, it makes a wonderful indoor plant because it takes a long time for the tree to become full grown. In the meantime, you can grow it inside your home and enjoy the harvest of fresh bay leaves. What does this plant need from you to create an ideal grow space?
Bay laurel needs to be planted in a well-draining container that’s also filled with quality soil that drains quickly. Be sure that the pot is large enough to support the roots of this tree. This plant won’t be one that sits in the window.
It will be an herb which sits in a larger planter on your floor. This herb also needs full sun for a minimum of eight hours per day. If your home doesn’t receive this type of sunlight, you can supplement with a grow light or LED lighting system.
Keep in mind, for every hour of sunlight you supplement, the plant needs two hours beneath the grow light. This herb is forgiving when it comes to temperatures as well. It can grow in temperatures ranging from 32- to 90-degrees Fahrenheit. That means you won’t need to be careful about where you place the plant around your home because it can handle hard swings in temperatures.
By providing these basic necessities, bay laurel should grow well in most homes.
How to Plant Bay Laurel Indoors
Bay laurel isn’t a plant you want to start from seed. The reason being, it takes too long for the plant to grow from this form. So I recommend that you purchase a plant from a nursery and transplant it into your planter. Pick a large enough planter, which drains adequately, and fill it partially with soil. Place the tree inside the pot, add soil to the planter until filled, and press firmly around the base of the plant. This blocks air from reaching the roots.
Another method for growing bay laurel is by air layering. If you already have an established bay laurel tree growing around your home, use it to create another plant. Bend a branch on a mature bay laurel tree, stick the end of the branch into the soil surrounding the tree, and use a stake to hold the branch in the soil.
Over the next month or two, the branch should begin to develop roots. Once the branch is rooted, use shears to cut it loose from the tree. Dig up the entire plant, roots included, and transplant it into a planter as described above. These are a few options for planting bay laurel.
Caring for Bay Laurel Inside
Bay laurel isn’t a fussy plant. It has a few basic needs which should be met for the plant to thrive. If you can increase humidity around the herb, water it properly, fertilize the plant, and repot it as needed, you should have a thriving herb on your hands.
Let’s begin with how to properly water bay laurel. The deep watering method is best when watering this plant.
If the planter isn’t too heavy, set it in your kitchen sink to apply water. Keep watering until it’s running out of the bottom of the planter. Leave the planter in the sink until it has finished draining.
However, if your planter is too large for this, move it outdoors for watering. Follow the same steps as described above and don’t bring it in until the water has finished draining.
Don’t water the plant anymore until you test the soil by sticking your finger into the planter. If the soil is moist to your first knuckle, don’t add water. If it’s dry, it’s time for another watering session. Always test your soil for moisture before watering your plant.
The next step is to apply a balanced fertilizer to your plant. It should be applied once in the spring and once in early fall. Don’t fertilize after the plant has gone dormant.
Bay laurel does need humidity to thrive. You can grow the plant in a naturally humid room of your house, such as a bathroom, or you can mist the plant with a spray bottle of water multiple times per week. Putting the plant near a humidifier is also a good way to increase humidity around it. You won’t need to prune bay laurel because it grows so slowly.
Finally, you will need to repot the herb every two to three years. When repotting, follow the transplanting directions given in a previous portion of this article. Be sure you transplant up to a larger container and always plant in fresh soil. By providing these few basic needs for this herb, bay laurel should do well under your care.
Pests and Diseases Which Could Harm Bay Laurel Inside
Bay laurel is subject to a few pests and only one disease when growing indoors. The pests you should look out for are aphids, bay suckers, and scales.
They can be treated with an insecticide. If your plant looks distressed, examine it for any unwanted visitors. Watering sessions are also a great time to examine your plants for pests. By staying alert, you should be able to head off any trouble quickly.
The only disease which commonly impacts bay laurel, when growing indoors, is root rot. This occurs when the plant is growing in soil that doesn’t drain well, a planter which doesn’t drain well, or is being oversaturated. If your plant seems to be suffocating from water, back down on the amount of water being applied to the plant and transplant it into a better draining container with adequately draining soil.
Once root rot sets in, it’s hard to overcome. This is why it’s better to avoid it all together.
How to Harvest Bay Laurel
Bay laurel is an investment. It isn’t a plant that you begin to grow and start gaining the benefits within a few months. It’s more of a marathon plant. Therefore, you shouldn’t harvest bay laurel until it’s two years old. Once the plant is ready, cut the foliage from the tree using scissors to avoid any damage.
Dry the leaves and place them in an airtight container for later use. If you’re willing to invest in bay laurel, it could pay off well for you. It’s a magnificent herb to keep on hand. Though it’s a little different than many “windowsill herbs,” it’s still a nice addition to most homes and to many culinary experiences.